From number three to what? 7/6/2007
The 1999 plot
THIRTY-three years after the assassination of General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, the first Igbo to assume the leadership of Nigeria (Abia State), the stage was set for the return of the Igbo to the centre.
It was in 1999. The previous year, after the death of General Sani Abacha, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was formed. Among those at the helm of leadership was Second Republic Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
In the build-up to the party’s presidential primaries, he was also a leading aspirant.
Then, things changed dramatically. Some Northern power brokers and strategists decided that a Yorubaman must succeed General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
They justified their action on the fact that since Chief M.K.O. Abiola, a Yorubaman, died in the cause of actualising his June 12, 1993 presidential election, a fellow Yorubaman should be supported to occupy Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
But, this was a plot within a plot. The real reason is that since after the 30-month civil war (July 6, 1967-January 15, 1970), there has been an apparent mindset by the Hausa of excluding the Igbo from Nigerian leadership.
The February 1999 PDP convention was fierce. General Olusegun Obasanjo was eventually given the ticket. And he won the February 27 presidential election.
Zoning of offices
It was obvious that the Igbo had been wronged. Politically, they were shortchanged, so to say. Since the South-West produced the President and the North-East the Vice President, the kingmakers decided that the Igbo from South-East must produce the number three citizen – Senate President.
Ekwueme also showed interest in the 2003 presidential election but it was obvious that he had lost steam simply because the incumbent Obasanjo was interested in second term. The January 4-6, 2003 PDP convention was a fait accompli for Obasanjo.
The Igbo once again lost out in the power calculation but still retained the number three position.
It is interesting to note that the presidency and vice presidency stayed in Ogun (South West) and Adamawa (North East) from 1999 to 2007.
The first Speaker Salisu Buhari from Kano was booted out after two months in office over a certificate scam. Ghali Umar Na’abba, also from Kano succeeded him and was in office till 2003. Alhaji Aminu Masari from Katsina also stayed in office from 2003 to 2007.
But it is a different ball game in the upper chamber.
The Senate presidency seat rotated among the five states in the South-East within eight years – Evan Enwerem (Imo), Chuba Okadigbo (Anambra), Anyim Pius Anyim (Ebonyi), Adolphus Wabara (Abia) and Ken Nnamani (Enugu).
A new order
In the build up to the April 21, 2007 presidential election, the Igbo again rose to the occasion.
At least, four former governors – Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Achike Udenwa (Imo) and Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu) campaigned vigorously for the number one position.
Some of them even struggled to be nominated as the running mate to the PDP candidate Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
To get the Igbo votes, the two leading opposition parties picked their running mates from the zone.
Senator Ben Obi from Anambra State was the running mate of the Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, the national chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) who hails from Anambra State was the running mate to Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
In 2003, Buhari also picked Okadigbo as running mate.
They could not have their way.
Now, after Tuesday’s inauguration of the National Assembly, the Igbo are nowhere being near the first four positions in the country .This is the new calculation: North-West – President; South-South – Vice President; North-Central – Senate President and South-West – Speaker.
In the present scenario compared to the 1999-2007 zoning structure, North-West has moved from the number four to the first position.
The South-West is now occupying the fourth position.
The South-South and North Central which hitherto were not in the picture have moved to numbers two and three positions.
So, where is the South-East? From number three to what?
Even the North-East which is not among the first four has produced Baba Gana Kingibe, an indigene of Borno State as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
In the first week of the Yar’Adua presidency, no Igbo man was appointed to any top position.
Deputy Inspector General Ogbonnaya Onovo was appointed to step into the shoes of former Inspector General of Police Sunday Ehindero as the most senior police officer.
Forty-eight hours later, he was replaced with DIG Mike Okiro, an indigene of Rivers State from South-South.
Lagos lawyer and activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi took up the fight of the Igbo on Tuesday when he condemned the shoddy treatment meted out to Onovo.
He wondered why the headship of the force, once again, eluded the Igbo, "despite their sterling credentials."
"If Onovo was qualified to be a Deputy Inspector General of Police, why should he not be qualified to be an Inspector General of Police? I demand an explanation from the Yar’Adua administration."
He said: "The development was a distrust of the Igbo, as a psychological after-effect of the civil war in which the rest of the federation engaged the secessionist Igbo in the eastern part of the country for three years of bloody conflict.
He warned that the trend, unless checked, constituted a threat to the unity of the country.
Many Nigerians are quick to say that the PDP has not been fair to the Igbo. But are the Igbo fair to themselves?
In 1998, the Yoruba were united in their determination to produce General Abubakar’s successor.
In fact, it was a field day for the politically-conscious inhabitants of the South-West geo-political zone as the only two candidates – Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae are Yoruba.
But are the Igbo united in their quest for the number one position?
During the 2007 presidential race, Kalu was a lone voice.
Even the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation Ohaneze was divided.
There was no central command like the Afenifere of 1998/99.
It is believed that individual interest and ambition is the albatross of the Igbo quest for the presidency.
For the next four years, they are nowhere near the first four positions. And this may last for eight years.
But now, there is a ‘future’ problem. Yar’Adua has the constitutional right to contest for a second term.
If the courts do not upturn his victory, it is believed he may be in office till 2015.
The political history of Goodluck Jonathan is a public knowledge.
As deputy governor to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, he was loyal to a fault. And "goodluck" follows him.
When he became the governor and he got the party ticket for re-election, he was suddenly given the vice presidential slot.
Today, he is the vice president. Given his nature, he is expected to be loyal to Yar’Adua and protect the interest of the Northern elite.
In 2015, the presidency will come to the South.
And naturally, he would vie for the post.
If he wins, since age is on his side, he may remain in office for another eight years.
After his tenure, the presidency will return to the North.
So, when is the turn of the Igbo?