Tony Olutomiwa, an Abuja-based journalist joins the clamour for Igbo presidency in 2023, with former Imo State Governor and current senator representing Imo West, Owelle Ndigbo, Chief Rochas Okorocha as the consensus candidate
Ahead 2023 presidential election, there’s a groundswell of opinion that suggest the next president should necessarily be of Igbo extraction, a rational attempt at giving the south east a deserved equity in the Nigerian project. If this reasoning is heeded, therefore, such fundamental political leverage would be a fitting answer to the recurring sense of neglect and oppression by the Igbo with the valid view that the enterprising ethnic group should be given the opportunity to produce the nation’s president since other major ethnic groups in the North, West and Southsouth have all had a fair shot at the presidency.
However, there are those who believe that the Igbo president project cannot be given on a platter, that they have to “negotiate” it and even with some “conditions” as postulated by the likes of Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, who in a recent interview noted that: ”this time around, it would not be solely an Ndigbo affair, as all Nigerians would participate in selecting the most competent person among the Igbo that will fit the number one in Nigeria. He further noted that such person must “be someone that will bring about peace, justice and equality. He must be someone with the qualities of late Zik of Africa”. Similar postulations have also been offered especially that given by Mamman Daura, who though in a different dimension did not believe automatic preference for the Igbo but that the presidency should still be contested for in 2023 based on merit and competence.
Also the Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, through its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, while not against an Igbo president in 2023, however, averred that “we will support the South East to get the presidency in 2023 provided Nigeria is restructured.” Yet the spokesman for the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, in a statement, said “ACF believes that it is the constitutional responsibility of political parties to produce candidates. Until they do that, the forum will not interfere in that process. We shall look at the presidential candidates when they emerge and evaluate them at that stage.” However, a chieftain of ACF, Anthony Sam, was quoted as saying that “Ndigbo has the constitutional right to field a president in 2023.”
From the above positions, it is clear that the Igbo president project is now on the front burner of national discourse, stirring multidimensional perspectives but with very relevant implication to our national essence, continuity and viability. Yes, from a political interest, one would also want to ask if the former Imo State Governor and current senator representing Imo West, Owelle Ndigbo, Chief Rochas Okorocha, would be contesting the presidency in 2023. Will the Owelle run?
I ask this question because in the estimation of evolving political calculations, Okorocha stands shoulder high among other equally qualified Igbo aspirants who may be interested in contesting the crucial election and in particular with the important reference to the concern for merit and competence as the key issues in the race vis-à-vis who is likely to be considered. By most preferences, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is a distinguished personality who has a national spread and appeal that could eventually be most acceptable to Nigerians in the postulation of Balarabe and similar men of thought who support the Igbo on this political journey but crave substantive background and ability to make a difference in our national regeneration.
An original Kaduna boy, who lived most part of his life in the northern political capital and mixed so well with the major ethnic groups in the country till date, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has the charisma and intellectual depth to make a good president. He has also come a long way in thinking through the Nigerian project especially on how to make it work within the premise of ethnic co-existence and husbanding an economic model that can birth a new national economy which is modern and peculiar to our national realities and aspirations.
On the concern for national unity and cohesion, Okorocha has been at the vanguard of national unity, one leader who is at home in any part of the country because of his avowed commitment to our oneness and happiness.
Speaking recently in Bauchi at the invitation of Sheik Dahiru Bauchi for this year’s Maulud where he was also honoured as Sarkin Yakin Talakawa (Defender of the poor) by the Tijaniniya Islamic sect, the philanthropist noted that since other regions had taken turns to produce president, it is high time Nigeria got a president of Igbo extraction.
Owelle Okorocha who was also honoured with the title of the Garkwuwan Almajiri (Ambassador of Almajiris) further explained the foundation of his convictions for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction come 2023 thus:” The issue of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction for me is more like a competition, the north has produced a president, the south west has produced a president and the South-south has produced a president, let us see when the south east produce a president what Nigeria will look like, ” adding that “ talking about the presidency of Igbo extraction…will give everyone a sense of belonging and if everyone gets a sense of belonging, there is justice.”
Owelle Rochas Okorocha believes that the presidency should not be a title but a call to hard work, as the person at the helm of affairs must ensure that Nigerians are neither hungry nor suffering.
“But that is not the doing of the job. What I propose is a Nigerian president who will guarantee the unity of this nation irrespective of religion or tribe, a Nigerian president that will eliminate poverty, Nigerian president who will make education available and affordable for everybody. This is what we should be talking about more importantly,” he stated.
Of course, the important issues he raised above are not new to him, either having dealt with them as governor or carried out in private capacity via Rochas Foundation, a reputable entity that has over the years catered qualitatively for diverse concerns with priority on provision of free education to many underprivileged and gave equally free health and empowerment to people across the nation and the Africa continent with the huge interest in banishing poverty.
All said, Owelle Okorocha will be a respected and invaluable hand to represent the nation at the Aso villa in 2023 as president, one who is dedicated and capable to deliver the goods. He won’t be an Igbo president but a president for all Nigerians, affirming the sacred duty to national integration, unity and cohesion as we look forward to a new paradigm in our evolution as a modern nation state emboldened for greater possibilities.
Although there are vested interests on how the presidential pendulum swings in the next presidential election, one thing that is clear is the need for a critical evaluation of our union, the history and trajectory of leadership and power and the effect on national development. More importantly, I think it is time for a more realistic debate on the future of our country vis-à-vis power relations, so that we can continue to live together as a viable entity.
Invariably, we would have to reconcile with the reality of the Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Many are really concerned that the time for this inevitable essence is now, making us a collection of wise people who know when to make a proper compromise as a factor of our unity in diversity. Yes, I should add that Owelle Rochas Okorocha looks a good fit for this compromise in our national best interest, to critically deepen our democracy and provide solid leadership and enterprise along this cherished unity we crave and aspire to have in nation building. He is tested and trusted as a patriot. Yet, Owelle Ndigbo has the last say if he would actually run or not in spite of his fitting intellectual and moral credentials.
As recently well argued by the public intellectual, Dr. Chidi Amuta even with those penetrating insights and perspectives by the notable patriot, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah and buttressed and amplified in context and realities by Professor Jideoffor Adibe of the Nasarawa State University, we must reckon with the politics of moral consequence ahead of 2023 with Igbo presidency in focus. Many believe it’s imperative for our collective good.
However, I want to align with the Ohaneze’s mandate to negotiate the Igbo presidency with other Nigerians so that every of the ethnic groups can actually reason with them and give peace a chance as a national concession and for the greater good of our nation. We are better together.