There is no gainsaying the fact that one of the most talked about issues in Nigeria’s political circle today is the need for an Igbo president of the country. Those in the forefront of this agitation are of the view that the South-Eastern part of our nation has been denied political leadership for too long. Some people have even become violent about the matter.
The scope of this line of thought has equally been broadened to include gross neglect of the Eastern region in other areas such as infrastructural development, economic and political power sharing, adequate representation in the armed forces, appointments into top civil service positions amongst others. As a result of these, radical groups in the region like the Movement for The Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) have gone ahead to begin the championing for a separate country for the Ibos. The position of MASSOB and IPOB is so fierce that if adequate care is not taken, it can lead the nation into another avoidable civil war.
While accepting these agitations as normal, it is also important to point out the fact that no Nigerian political leader has ever been given power on a platter of gold. Even though zoning has been enshrined in most political parties’ constitution, those who eventually emerge are the ones who understand the strategies for political leadership success and prepare adequately for it.
The late chief M.K.O Abiola was a very successful chartered accountant. He resigned his position as Chief Accountant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH to found the famous telecommunication company called International Telecommunication Technology Limited (ITT) in Lagos in the 70’s. He became stupendously rich through this venture. He equally expanded his friendship base in Nigeria as he offered quality job opportunities to many young men and women across tribal lines.
Chief Abiola was very generous with his money. As a result of his philanthropy, many traditional rulers in the country (including the Yorubas, Ibos, Hausas and other tribes) awarded him various chieftaincy titles.
When the ban on party politics was lifted in 1978, M.K.O pitched his tent with the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) which was seen then as a party for Northerners even though it was more national than the rest political parties of that era. He financed the NPN with his last Kobo. Abiola had his focus on national status rather than tribal. His party won the presidency in 1979. He played his own form of politics to properly project him as a future national leader.
In March, 1980 Abiola floated his Concord Newspapers which became a propaganda tool in the hands of his party men to counter the attacks on Shagari by his fellow Yoruba, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Tribune Newspaper. Abiola did not hold any political appointment. But he remained a faithful party man with friends across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
When Nigeria became so broke during the regime of Lt. General Mohammadu Buhari (1984-1985), M.K.O along with men like Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Alhaji Dantata, Arthur Eze,, Alhaji Arisekola Alao donated huge sums of money to virtually all the 19 states of the federation at that time.
When the ban on politics was lifted again in 1992, the man identified himself with the Social Democratic Party, SDP. He clinched the party’s ticket to run for the presidency. Against all odds, he won the election. He received his votes from all the zones, especially the East which produced Dr. Walter Ofonagoro as the running mate to the NRC candidate, Alhaji B. Tofa from the North.
The victory of Abiola was attributed to his political friendship base beyond the western region of the country.
In 1999, Chief Obasanjo became the first Nigerian to rule the country as a military leader and a civilian president. He was invited by politicians to contest the presidency while serving a life sentence in prison. He won. His journey to victory started in 1979. Against the wishes of his fellow tribe’s men, Obasanjo chose to remain on the path of justice and fair play as far as the presidential contest of 1979 was concerned. He willingly handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari who was declared winner of the election. He organized the election for a return to civil rule within only two years of being the Head of State and Commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces. His political acts endeared him to the hearts of the political class, not merely the agitation by Yorubas. They found a Yoruba man who was prepared enough to be trusted.
Before 1999, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was not known in politics. He became the deputy governor of his state, Bayelsa that year. He served diligently and later became the governor. He patriotically served so well that when Obasanjo and his PDP began the search for a loyal politician from the South-South region to run as vice presidential candidate to Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua he readily became the choice of majority of his party leaders. From here, he contested and won the presidency despite being from a hitherto neglected region. READ ALSO:THE INCREASING INSECURITY OF BANKS’ CUSTOMERS IN NIGERIA
In the case of Buhari, he made his mark as a disciplined military Head of state. He championed the fight against corruption. Whether or not he won this fight can only be a discourse for another day. But then, he never relented. When he veered into partisan politics, he continued to hammer on the fight against corruption in our country. He contested for the presidency three times and lost. He did not give up. And never asked to be voted for just because he is an Hausa fellow.
However, when the need arose for the opposition political parties to wrestle power from PDP, notable politicians like Rotimi Amaechi, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Tunde Fashola joined hands to fight Jonathan. When the war appeared like an uphill task, they invited Buhari to their camp despite previous hatred for him. They found in him some attributes that could be used against PDP. With the support of southern politicians, he won.
All these boil down to the fact that Igbo presidency is very possible. But a man adequately prepared has to emerge from that region.
Professor Soludo narrowly missed this opportunity to be a president from the East. This would have been possible if he remained in PDP and was allowed to be governor of Anambra state. He introduced flamboyance into central bank governorship as the first Nigerian to occupy the position without being a bank executive.
The economics professor endeared himself to the heart of President Obasanjo when he served as his economic adviser. He was appointed to this position, not because he was just an Igbo, but because of the economic policy he packaged for Obasanjo. He called it NEEDS- National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy. It was also given to states as State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy – SEED. He was already very influential among many politicians across Nigeria until he resigned from PDP and got rubbished in APGA.
Though APC says it will hand over power to an Igbo president in 2023, this may not be possible unless the political class finds a prepared candidate from the region.