With the primary elections done and dusted, and running mates of presidential flag bearers of political parties chosen, the main competition for who becomes Nigeria’s next president has just begun.
During the week, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, chose Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as running mate to former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar- the party’s flag bearer in the general elections.
This pairing means that the South East has been completely omitted in the power considerations of this same PDP which has enjoyed the unwavering support of the zone in the past. It’s more like saying the South East should lick its wounds; the PDP does not care.
As it stands, it’s not only that the South East has missed the opportunity to have a shot at the presidency through any of the two major political parties – PDP or APC, it also lost out in the vice president slot. Ever since the PDP’s presidential ticket went to the North when many people felt it should have gone to the South, specifically, the South East, there’s been a lot of disgruntlement.
This is largely because of how loyal the South East has always been to the PDP. Many people feel, in all honesty, the party’s ticket should have gone to the South East; to a candidate like H.E Peter Obi. To this end, Obiora Okonkwo, a member of the PDP, offers some explanations during an interview on Arise TV.
“There’s no doubt that there are some sorts of dissatisfaction among PDP members from the South East. And most people across the country deservedly demanding for presidential ticket of PDP from South East, was germane…but H.E Peter Obi did not see the process to the end. Who knows he would have emerged the flag bearer if he showed up at the Convention”.
Many would wonder if Okonkwo monitored events at PDP before Obi pulled out. Well, Obi is making wave as presidential aspirant under the Labour Party, and one wonders how PDP hopes to counteract lingering bad feeling in the region since the PDP failed to zone the presidential ticket to the South East.
In response, Jacob Mark, former Legal Adviser of the PDP, who was also on the show with Okonkwo said Obi would find it difficult if he is supported only by a section of Nigerians. Mark however, decried how the South East which many people from other regions stood up for, became the architect of its own misfortune.
He lamented that “The South East delegates representing the zone, didn’t even vote for their own. So, on what basis is anybody going to believe that they are going to vote for Peter Obi. It is difficult for some of us that have campaigned and sustained our support for power shit to the south, to continue to cry more than the bereaved.
I’m not from the South East but I was a proponent of that power shift to the South and particularly to the South East. But their showing during the primaries just discouraged some of us that I cannot in good conscience continue to clamour for power to go to the South East when they themselves do not believe it and do not work for it.
Nobody will put his trust, confidence and investment politically on a people who do not believe on what you are campaigning for. I will not do it. I will not commit political suicide by continuously believing in a course when the people who are immediate beneficiaries do not believe it.
“And as we talk, there are so many people from the South East, that are part of Atiku Abubakar campaign structure and they are working tirelessly to ensure he succeeds. In all honesty, I cannot be found from a particular part of the country to be campaigning more for the South Easterners when they themselves are not campaigning for themselves”.
To buttress his point, he explained that “There were 90 delegates from the South East. And there were two aspirants from the South East. How many votes did former Senate President get? Assuming that he got all his votes from the South East, out of those 90 votes he got less than 20 votes.
So there’s no difficulty calculating how much those south easterners believe in this campaign; in this clamour for power to shift to their zone. ”In the same vein, when you go to the APC primaries, the number of delegates from the South East was over 200.
We had Igbo aspirants; how many votes did they get from the South East, compared to what they gave to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and compare to what they gave to Atiku Abubakar? So, in all honesty, it appears we, from the other zones, are the ones clamouring and fighting for them, while they in principle and practice, do not believe in the agitation and it is very saddening because I know
that on this platform- Arise TV, I have spoken in the past, in support of the shift of power in 2023 to the South East.
I know I have done that before but to find political players sitting on the campaign strategy of Atiku Abubakar from the Igbo extraction; I know quite a number of big names from the Igbo extraction that I can mention that were in the strategy team of the success of Atiku Abubakar before the primaries. How do I justify my support for them when the persons who ought to ensure that their agitations succeed are actually opposed to it?
“That is the challenge that I have.” Mark’s assertion on how Igbo politicians betrayed their own is incontrovertible as it’s on record that Igbo governors like Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, led the delegation that bought and submitted form for Senate President Ahmed Lawan and also ensured that Imo delegates voted for the same Lawan.
Sadly also, former Governor of Abia State, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu who campaigned for Ahmed Lawan, has been campaigning for Tinubu since he picked the APC’s ticket. Kalu is even supporting Muslim-Muslim ticket so long as APC wins; he does not give a damn about his fellow South Easterner, Peter Obi in the Labour Party.
Also, Emeka Ihedioha former Governor of Imo State, campaigned for Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and when Tambuwal stepped down for Atiku, he supported Atiku to victory. It’s crystal clear that these Igbo political leaders are just after their personal interest, not about Igbo. “As it stands now, PDP wants to win so they’ll be looking more at someone with political value; and what the person is bringing on board”, Okonkwo said concerning choice of the party’s VP adding, “Last outing he (Atiku) obviously made the choice alone; he chose Peter Obi as running mate but South East governors then were unhappy that there were no proper consultations made.
And it had a little bit of negative result on the overall outcome of the general election result”. The betrayal by current Igbo governors didn’t start today! It’s been all about winning election and not about the people. However, it’s worthy of note that these set of delegates or Igbo politicians did not represent the Igbo; more so, the style adopted in the primaries does not represent the interest of the people.
While in agreement with a good number of points made by Jacob Mark, Okonkwo differs about the South East. According to him, “The South East did as much that needed to be done for the position of president to be zoned to the South East. They knew they had disadvantages of producing the presidential candidate in the PDP if it’s not zoned to the South East.
“So, what simply happened was that at the point that zoning was not visible, they had to think strategically not to just out of sentiment and emotion, dump their votes somewhere they will not count. “Recall that part of the things we are facing today was that in the last two elections, we blindly went PDP way and that was what made Mr President say he had less than 5 votes from South East so why would he make political investments there.
I can assure you that 80% of the people in the South East will have to go to the winning candidate. “You are right about zoning to the South but we believe in the South East. We believe the next discussion should be zoning to the South East. Going to the South is not South South or South West because they have all produced presidents.
Now, four years is what is before us in PDP and we have to take strategic decision about that”. Just like Mark, he attributes Igbo political problems to the kind of leaders handling political issues in the zone. “In the South East, our selection process for people in different political offices, from governorship to minister, has been very faulty in the last few years.
For us we need to go back to the drawing board. That’s why today even getting a vice president from the South East doesn’t look visible because we don’t have performing governors from the South East. If we have formidable governor like Wike in the South East, it would have been game over.
“The problem is that we have not produced strong and formidable leaders. Recall we had political titans like Ekwueme, Chuba Okadigbo and the rest of them. “When you talk about South, you’re talking about South East because they stood top and high above all their contestants from the South. So, I don’t think it’s about not doing the right thing.
They did the much they could within the available strength. That is why I do not still see why Peter Obi did not follow that process to the end. He could have gone in there and probably he could have won. We do not have strong leaders. We have not produced strong leaders. “And I know that those who are in the political ecosystem in the South East are not our best. The best of the people obviously do not consider it worth their time because the selection processes are faulty. It does not produce the best. Today, those people are scared, chased away”.
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