The enterprising and highly entrepreneurial Igbos of Nigeria are the people who have scarified more than any other ethnic group for the unity of Nigeria. They have voted for this unity with their feet as they can be found in all villages and towns in all parts of Nigeria. In any Nigerian community, next to the indigenous population, are the Igbos.
Arguably, Ndigbo is the most populous ethnic group in Nigeria. The history of the social and political organization of Ndigbo of Eastern Nigeria is replete with a well-developed homegrown republican system. The Igbo homeland is composed of autonomous small villages and towns, and each of these has well- developed administrative structures respected by all. Though latecomers in Western Civilization, their catch-up was unrivaled in the annals of human development in dynamism.
It was the emergence of Ndigbo in the Nigerian political struggle, led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abyssinia Akwaeke Nwafor-Orizu, Michael Okpara, Denis Osadebey, Mbonu Ojike, etc. that fast-tracked the independence of Nigeria. Because of their republican background and dynamism, Ndigbo have played politics of issues and openness devoid of parochial considerations, accepting everywhere they live as home.
Unfortunately, Ndigbo have been the greatest losers in the Nigerian Project. Despite their contributions to the emergence of a new Nigeria, they have occupied the office of the President/Head of State of Nigeria for mere six months; they have least number of states (5), least number of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives amongst other geopolitical zones. Despite their numerical strength and because of their tendency to migrate to every other part of the world, the national population census is always skewed such that the Igbos are now seen as minority, in fact their actual population remains unknown.
Ndigbo as original one arm of the tripod in the Nigeria’s historical geo-political structure have struggled to produce the Executive President of Nigeria in all previous democratic elections without success. With the emergence of six geopolitical structures in Nigeria and until recently, Ndigbo of the South-East and their original Eastern brothers, now of the South-South, have occupied the position of Executive President/Head of State/Government of Nigeria for mere six months. The emergence of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by act of God as President has indeed opened new vistas in the annals of Nigerian leadership balancing and no wonder the people who believe they are “born to rule” are not comfortable. They are, therefore, luring us into returning the power to them now with a promise that they will give it back tomorrow as if their words have ever been their bond. We shall never be deceived again!
B. Ndigbo and the Presidency 2011 and 2015
1. It is clear that this is the first time in the annals of Nigerian Political History and democratic elections that no person from the core Igbo States of the South-East is running for the Presidency in any of the major political parties. Why this is so has not been a result of deliberate collective decision of Ndigbo. It may be, and it is true, that those who would have been interested see President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as one of their own.
Yes indeed, Ndigbo occupy the entire South-East zone and a large part of South-South zone. The interests of Ndigbo, therefore, extend beyond the core States of the South-East. Whatever happens to South-South obviously affects Igbos in the zone. It is only logical that in the absence of any candidate from the South-East running for the Presidency in 2011, Ndigbo should support any credible and capable candidate from the South-South.
2. The above position is consistent with the 19th December, 2005 Declarations of the Conference of Governors, Legislators, Ministers, Traditional Rulers, Socio-Political Leaders of Southern States of Nigeria which took place in Enugu. That historic Declaration, in part stated “That consequent upon the political realities of this conscionable historical data, we restate and firmly resolve that cognizance must be given and indeed, the PRESIDENCY – Post 2007, – zoned to either South-South (the nation’s nest of fortune), which never tasted the plum job or the South-East, which merely sniffed it for six months” (Appendix 1).
3. Consequent on this, if any person from the South-South, including President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, runs and wins in 2011, the ‘IGBOS SHALL NEVER BE DOOMED!‘ – as that will not in any way jeopardize the chances of any person from the core Igbo zone of the South-East running and winning in 2015. This is because:
1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees every qualified Nigerian citizen the opportunity to contest the Presidency during any General Election.
2.Even by the principles of zoning and rotation of the Presidency as adopted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the contest for the Presidency in 2015 is still open to candidates from those zones which have not produced a President in accordance with the prevailing zoning and rotation in the Party.
3. Jonathan comes from a zone, namely the South-South, that has never produced the President of this country since independence until his emergence four months ago.
4. That if President Jonathan wins in 2011, by 2015 all other zones except the South-East would have governed Nigeria for a minimum of four years thereby narrowing the number of zones having similar deprivations as the South-East. This will even enhance the South-East (with only six miserable months in power by General Aguiyi Ironsi) chances and provide her claim with stronger argument. The zone should as a matter of right, equity, justice and positive action strongly bid for the Presidency of Nigeria in 2015 and not depend on one individual to “promise” what he doesn’t even have.
5. Ndigbo must begin to repair the cracks in their historical, cultural and political relationships with peoples of the South-South and indeed all other zones, an action consistent to winning their sympathy and support towards their resolute bid for Presidency in 2015. It is a historical fact that the cracks in the relationship between the two zones have been induced by forces external to both.
C. On Zoning and Rotation Principles.
1. The battle for the current six geo-political zones in Nigeria as well as for the principle of Rotation of the Presidency among these zones was led by Ndigbo during both the 1994-5 National Constitutional Conference and the period of the G-34 up to the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party.
1.The zonal structure as well as the principle of rotation was designed mainly to open up the political space for the peoples of both the South-East and the South-South who have been denied the chances of producing the President of the country as a result of the inequitable structures of the Nigerian Federation.
1. As shown in D below, since independence in October 1960, i.e., a period of Fifty (50) years, both the South-East and the South-South zones have been virtually excluded from holding the office of Executive President/Head of State/Government except as we said earlier for General Aguiyi Ironsi, who held the post for just six months and the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan who has been there for four months.
1. The zoning in the PDP Constitution never said it must rotate between North and South because there is no North and South geopolitical zones recognized neither in the Constitution of the Federal Republic nor in the Constitution of the PDP.
According to Section 7.2 (c ) of the PDP Constitution,
“In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels”.
The structural organs recognized by the PDP Constitution comprise Ward, Local Government, State, Zone (six of them) and National.
What we notice is that a lot of people have become economical with the truth on issues concerning zoning. Whenever it suits them, they talk about zoning as if it is a North/South thing vice versa. Even our confused brothers are leading the campaign that the North in 2007 was given eight (8) years and that with the demise of Yar’adua that the remainder of 4 years must be given to them. Whatever that means, it is sheer fabrication.
The major organs of the PDP include six geo-political zones, each with zonal congresses, zonal executives and zonal working Committees. There is no Northern or Southern zone recognized by the Party constitution. That Obasanjo did eight (8) was based on the constitutional provision which allows every Nigeria four years in office as President with chances of another term of four years and no more. That was not PDP constitution and as such notable Northerners like Late Abubakar Rimi, Chief Barnabas Gemade as well as our brother Alex Ekwueme contested the 2003 PDP Party Primaries with him.
And because there is no order in the rotation of the Presidency recognized by the Party, in 2007, candidates from almost all the zones contested with President Umaru Musa Yar, adua
The PDP Rotation is among the six geo-political zones and the section of PDP constitution quoted above or any other section in the constitution does not provide “the order of rotation”. This had hampered the implementation of Zoning/Rotation Principles in the past. Thus, all previous PDP Presidential primaries in the past have been contested by people from both the North and South of the Country.
1. It is, therefore, our summation that any person or group that does not consider it wise to allow either of these two zones to occupy the seat of President of Nigeria in 2011 is not sincere with the People of the two zones and may not be abiding with the spirit of the zoning and rotation Principles in the PDP Constitution and on the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (amended).
D. Former Executive Presidents/Heads of State/Government since independence in1960.
I Nigerian became an independent Federation in 1960. Since those FIFTY (50) years, the occupation of the position of the Presidency/Executive Head of State/Government of the Federation is as follows.
1.South East (General Ironsi) 1966 (Jan)–1966 (July) – 6 months
2.South-South(Dr. Jonathan) 2010 (May-date) – 4 months
3.South-West (Gen. Obasanjo) 1976 (Feb.)–1979 (Oct) 3 Yrs 8 ms “ (Chief Obasanjo) 1999 (May)–2007 (May) 8 Yrs
“ (Chief Shonekan) 1993 (Aug)-1993 (Nov.) – 3ms
1.North-Central (Gen. Gowon) 1966 (July)–1975 (July) 9 Yrs
“ (Gen. Babangida) 1985 (Aug.)–1993 (Aug) 8 Years
“ (Gen. Abubakar) 1998 (June) -1999 (May) 1 Year
1.North-East Tafawa Balewa 1960 (Oct)–1966 (Jan) 5 Yrs, 4ms
2.North-West (Gen. Mohammed) 1975 (July)-1976 (Feb) – 7 months
“ (President Shagari) 1979 (Oct.)–1983 (Dec) 4 Yrs, 3 ms
“ (Gen. M. Buhari) 1984 (Jan)–1985 (Aug) 1 Yr. 7 ms
“ (Gen. Sani Abacha) 1993(Nov)–1998 (June) 4 Yrs 7 ms
“ (Umaru Yar’ Adua) 2007(May)–2010 (May) 3 Yrs
2. In Summary, we have the following situation.
1. i. South-East 6 Months
2. ii. South-South 4months
3. iii. South-West 11Years 11 Months
4. iv. North Central 18 Years
5. v. North-East 5 Years, 4 Months
6. vi. North-West 13 Yrs
3. The summary above nakedly explained the lopsidedness in occupation of the seat of President of Nigeria since independence. One obvious fact is that the longest occupant of the Presidential Villa is asking for another four years and urging the least occupant to wait for another four years to have a taste of the action. This is the case of a well-fed person asking the hungry person to surrender his food to him and wait for another ration. What then is the guarantee that when that ration comes he will indeed surrender it? Never shall we be deceived again!!
E. Has President Goodluck Jonathan the Constitutional, Political and Moral right to contest the 2010 Presidential Election? And should he contest?
President Goodluck has the moral, constitutional and political right to contest for the Presidency of Nigeria in 2011 for the following reasons:-
1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees every citizen above the age of 40 years the right to contest subject to other qualifications which we believe Dr Goodluck Jonathan has abundantly, having been adjudged qualified to run with the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua in 2007.
2. The principle of zoning and rotation which have been key principles of politics in contemporary Nigeria justifies his running for President at this point in our history as he comes from a zone that has never before him, produced the President of Nigeria.
3. We should consider the peculiar situation of the zone form which he hails. He is from a zone (the South-South) that has never produced a Head of State/President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since the existence of this country until his emergence. He is from the zone from where the nation derives its main source of survival.
4. The fact of his being Vice-President to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, his Presidency is a constitutional continuation of that Mandate.
5. As a seating President who has been in office for just four months, President Goodluck is constitutionally permitted to run
6.President Jonathan, as Governor of Bayelsa State, was a signatory to the Declaration of the historic Conference of Governors, Legislators, Ministers, Traditional Rulers, Socio-Political leaders of the entire Southern States of Nigeria which took place in Enugu on the 19th December 2005 which demanded the Presidency of Nigeria to be ceded to either the South-South or the South-East from 2007 as a minimum and equitable condition for a united, peaceful, democratic and Equitable Nigerian State. This same document was also co-signed by some of our brothers who are asking us to return back power to an earlier occupant of the seat. His running for the Presidency was therefore in fulfillment of that resolution. Whatever has changed necessitating in the change of stand by some of the signatories to the historic Conference remains to be explained(marked asterisks in Appendix 1).
1. F. President Jonathan’s performance so far in office as President of Nigeria.
1. President Jonathan’s performance so far since he was sworn in as Ag. President and later President of Nigeria, shows him to be indeed a different pedigree from what we are used to.
1. He communicates and listens; he is humble to change his position in response to popular demand by the people as was the case in the INEC appointments.
2. He has exhibited unique qualities of leadership – lack of undue ambition, great humility, sense of balanced judgment and patriotism, indeed, a new leadership style and thereby has greatly inspired confidence of Nigerians in governance.
3. He has made spectacular achievements within a short space of time: – Look at the current fuel situation in the country (price stabilized, no queues, etc!); look at the power situation, it is like a miracle, look at his moves to protect our national interest in the oil sector, look at the security situation and how aggressively he is handling the situation, look at his popular democratic style, the first President that communicates with his people through the internet, look at the rating of our Airport internationally etc, etc.
4. We should consider the peculiar circumstances of his emergence on our political horizon as leader at a very critical moment in our history; it may well be an act of God and indeed an act of divine intervention.
5. Our acceptance and support for President Jonathan is a test case to demonstrate whether this country belongs to all; indeed a test case for not only the unity and stability of this country but also for the survival of Nigeria.
6. Igbo-land which includes the entire South-East territory and a large part of South-South belongs to the zones of the country that produces the wealth which sustains this country and yet the territory and the rest of the South-South are the most deprived politically and economically. We believe that President Goodluck Jonathan is eminently capable of successively addressing our peculiar problems as he is currently addressing our common national problems.
G. President Jonathan and Ndigbo
It is rather sad that the enemies of Ndigbo are gradually branding President Jonathan as another “Igbo heater” in just four months of his Presidency. They have carried such propaganda that President Jonathan has removed Igbo Sons and daughters from juicy positions and replaced them with non-Igbos. Let it be clear that apart from the controversies that arose over the conduct of the 2007 General Elections, which resulted in the general clamour for the removal of former Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, (Professor Maurice Iwu) and then the removal former Inspector General of Police (Ogbonna Onovo), all other removals/appointments took place long before Jonathan became President and in active control.
The data below explains:
(i) Central Bank Governor (CBN) Prof Chukwuma Soludo – June 2009
(ii) National Agency for Food and Drug Administation and Control (NAFDAC) Prof Dora Akunyili (elevated to Minister) – June 2007
(iii) Director General (Nigerian Stock Exchange) Not Govt. Agency – Replacement is yet to be appointed, occupant on Acting capacity.
(iv) Chairman Police Service Commission (PSC) Chief S.N Okeke- 2007
(v) National Insurance Commission – -2009
(vi) Nigerian Maritime Commission (NIMASA) – 2009
Conversely, under President Goodluck Jonathan:
1. All Ministers of Igbo origin are of Cabinet rank, unlike in the past where some are just Ministers of State.
2. The Ministries under Igbo sons and daughters are Interior, Aviation, Information and Communication, Women Affairs, Health, Labour and Productivities. None of these Ministries by any political calculation is a lesser Ministry.
3. The strategic Chief of Army Staff has for the first time in over forty-four (44) years is now occupied by an Igbo son.
4. The Comptroller-General of Immigration is occupied by an Igbo daughter.
5. The powerful Strategic Committee on Power is headed by Igboman, etc
The above notwithstanding, Ndigbo should ask tangible questions and pursue more tangible issues that can produce sustainable development in Igbo-land, fight poverty and eradicate kidnapping and armed robbery. They should emulate their peers in the other zones who never ask of individual appointments but policies that will benefit them in long terms. Issues like implementation of Nigeria Transport Master-Plan which will open up the South-East because of its population density, Nigerian Industrial Master-Plan which will fast-track development in Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi etc, Power Projects including the rehabilitation of Oji River Power Plant, Refinery Projects, dredging of the River Niger and establishment of Export Free-zone, dry ports in Igbo heartlands, etc., are very relevant and it is better that Ndigbo stampede any President with these than to dwell on appointments. Nevertheless most appointments are on merit and the appointee is responsible to the President and not to his/her people. That may indeed be the reasons why most Igbos are disappointed with their own in Government. Recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo made fun of Ndigbo when they came to thank him for appointing their son, Chukwuma Soludo as CBN Governor and their Daughter Okonjo-Iwuala, Finance Minister amongst others. That should not be allowed to repeat itself. President Jonathan is alive to his duties and all appointments meant for Ndigbo shall be given to them.
H. The So-called Agreement Between The North and Ndigbo.
We have read the purported agreement between the North and Ndigbo on the cooperation towards the proposed ‘dashing’ of Presidency to Ndigbo in 2015 (attached as Appendix 2). We are surprised that some respected Igbo sons read and even allow such to be signed.
The question we are asking them is – Who signed the agreement on the Northern side and on the side of Ndigbo? What is the pedigree of the signatories? Who executes such agreement? What are the consequences of non-implementation of the agreement? Does the agreement have any force of law? Let us not intentionally deceive ourselves and our people and further take them into servitude!. Historically, such agreements are observed more in breach.
Such examples were:-
1. i. The agreement of the leadership of the National Party of Nigeria for Dr. Alex Ekwueme to contest for Presidency in1987. That was botched with a Military coup early in the 2nd term of Shagari/Ekwueme Presidency on 31st December 1983.
2. ii. The appointment of the then Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of General Staff and Number Two (2) citizen of Nigeria, but further denied him promotion suitable to that appointment thereby frustrating him. His demotion from second to fourth position led to his early retirement.
3. iii. The quest for Ekwueme to become the Nigerian President in 1999 and in 2003. On both occasions, early agreements were never respected leading to his loss to President Obasanjo on both occasions.
These are events of few years back and today our brothers want us to pursue the same pathway. Never again shall we be deceived! The earlier they know this, the better for them.
I. Support for President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by the President Ambassador Ralph Uwechue has on behalf of Ndigbo declared a total support for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Prominent Igbo sons and daughters have done so and the entire Ndigbo have declared absolute support for Jonathan. President Jonathan’s Presidency shall usher in a new season of growth for Nigeria and for Ndigbo in particular, provide enabling environment for development of our entrepreneurial spirit and for re-enactment of the can-do spirit of the Igbo man.
President Jonathan has promised to ensure the insertion of the principles of Zoning and Rotation in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This will guarantee the right of every citizen from those zones that have not produced the President to field candidates each time there is a General Election. It is the only way to give effect to the Federal Character principle in our constitution and to end our years of provocative marginalization in the affairs of our country. It will equally help us to know the genuine promoters of Zoning and Rotation of offices as well as pretenders who are catching on the phrase to take back power.
We urge you to mobilize all our people in all towns and villages to register to vote in the next election and please do not be deceived again by their sugar-coated tongues and their maradonic dribbles. Stand up to be counted and be your brothers’ keeper. Onye mara nwa-nne ya. We shall arise and soon too!
Dr. Ifedi A. Okwenna
EASTERN PEOPLES FORUM