Barely 19 months to Nigeria’s high-stakes 2023 presidential elections, intense lobbying and permutations have heightened among political actors on who or which geo-political zone should produce the next president.
In “A Message to Nigerians,’’ released in Abuja on Sunday, elder statesman, Dr Nnamdi Onochie, wrote that the political class should “toe the path of reason above other considerations in their search for the man or woman to take over from incumbent President Muhammed Buhari’’.
Nigeria is scheduled to go to the polls in 2023 for another round of general elections, since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
He said that political parties should embrace consensus, equity, justice and fair play and give due attention to the demands of “relegated geo-political zones or ethnic nationalities that have not been given opportunity to produce a president over the years’’.
Onochie, a chieftain of the PDP, argued that it had become compelling for a politician of southern Nigeria extraction, especially from the Igbo-speaking areas to produce the president in 2023.
The former diplomat said that allegations of marginalization by Igbo-speaking people would continue to ring loud and promote national instability and disunity, unless their persistent demands were addressed.
Re-echoing the request made by southern governors last month for the south to produce the next president, Onochie said that equity, fair play and justice should serve as yardsticks in choosing the president of a heterogeneous and federal system as practiced in Nigeria.
He argued that the principle of fairness had made it compelling that the top job should be zoned to a Nigerian of Igbo extraction, whether from the Igbo heartland or from the Igbo-speaking communities in other states in the federation.
“As a leading member of the PDP in Delta State and now a PDP 2023 presidential aspirant, I began the defence of the Igbo stand on the 2023 presidency at Wadata Plaza in Abuja.
“I stood my ground that the 2019 presidential slot should be zoned to the North because it was their time. This makes it untenable for any politician from the North in the PDP to grandstand to run for the position in 2023.’’
The former diplomat said that he was delighted that PDP governors re-affirmed that position in their recent meeting on July 28 in Bauchi, recalling that the Yoruba, having also had a fair share of holding the top job should support the Igbo, to produce a presidential candidate in 2023.
Onochie also faulted arguments in some quarters that the 2023 presidency should go strictly to South East Igbos, pointing out that the position should be zoned to an Igbo-speaking person without dividing Igbo land as east or west.
“There are Igbos west and east of the River Niger and this cannot be disputed or denied,’’ he said, citing the heroic roles played by Asaba people in ensuring the survival of the Igbos, particularly the exploits of a renowned retired soldier, Col. Joe Achuzia and other indigenes of Igbo-speaking communities in Delta State during the Nigerian civil war.
“The imperfections of Nigeria today make it unacceptable, pitting millions of Igbos against each other and herding them into second-class citizens in Nigeria, where a new classification has Igbos as different from Ibos.
According to him, Chief Ralph Uwechie and Ochiaya Achuzia, a few years back served as president and secretary-general of the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, respectively with both hailing from Delta State “but in 2021 others who are Ibo from west of the Niger must now defer to the South East Igbo for the 2023 presidency.
“We are all Igbo and none is more Igbo than the other. Our resilience moving forward is to seek peace, cohesion and stability in Nigeria that must make this congenial transfer of political power in Nigeria realizable.
“Every Igbo person and indeed, all Nigerians, must seek a better Nigeria in which all citizens are equal and can prosper to be whatever they want to be.
“I am passionate that we can achieve this and I can provide that quintessential presidential leadership. We can accommodate every shade and creed of our diversity, to the glory of God,’’ said Onochie.