Last Tuesday, Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha organised a Southeast mega rally to unite and fire the All Progressives Congress (APC) in readiness for the 2019 presidential election and to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election agenda.
The Igbo are not good starters. But whenever they start, they can catch it. Let me say this, 2019 is an election that will make or mar the chances of Igbo in Nigeria. I want Igbo to make a paradigm shift. We have to know that the position of the presidency is negotiable. You can argue it from the point of strength and not from the point of weakness. 2019 will determine the future of this country.”
But hidden among the stalagmites and stalactites of Mr Mustapha’s cajolery is the provocative linkage of the Igbo people’s political future to President Buhari’s re-election. Mr Okorocha probably designed the rally to prove his continuing relevance in the Southeast and national political equations, and undoubtedly to underscore his support for the president. It is also possible that the governor genuinely believes that the best way the Igbo can secure the presidency in 2023 is to lend unqualified support to the president.
It is not certain that both Mr Mustapha and the APC have not overstated their relevance and overplayed their hands. They may appreciate the Igbo support in 2019, if indeed they get it, but it is hard to see one party unilaterally determining the fate of the country, let alone its direction in 2023.
Neither the president nor the APC possesses the power to determine who wins the presidency in 2023. Such promises are therefore empty. When ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo foisted the late president Umaru Yar’Adua on his party as candidate in the 2007 presidential election, he had to support that atrocious aberration with a whole panoply of rigged ballots to make a qualified success of his political succession plan. The country is much wiser now, less inclined to tolerating political humbug, and a sitting president will need to shift the earth from its orbit to single-handedly determine which zone should produce a president.
So, how can they talk so confidently of Igbo 2023 agenda? Indeed, it is not even the responsibility of anyone, let alone the Southeast zone, to produce such a person, for the country does not want an Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa president, but a president of Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa extraction. Both Dr Obasanjo and President Buhari have shown why it is nonsensical to hanker after a president to satisfy tribal longings and zonal emotions. The opinion of the Yoruba has not changed about Dr Obasanjo, whom they regard as fundamentally at war with their values and ethos, not to say their developmental goals, despite his eight years in office. In fact they saw him as a negator in their developmental struggles. To the political elite in the North, President Buhari is viewed more as clannish and nepotistic than anything else.
To them, and because of his insularity, he is seen as a bad sell for what the North stands for, particularly the inclusive politics the iconic Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, stood for and propagated. Mr Mustapha’s subordination of Igbo presidential ambition to President Buhari’s re-election is likely to be regarded with alarm in many parts of Nigeria, especially in the Southeast. It reduces politics to a series of buying and selling of defective and inferior goods. It indicates an embarrassing desperation in the president’s camp, a desperation they are apparently willing to spread ethnic veneer on without scruples or principles.
If the Igbo were to give the Buhari presidency a hearing as Mr Mustapha solicited, they would be torn between seeing his entreaties from the prism of their 2023 ambition, assuming that ambition exists, or from the prism of what they regard as his mistreatment of the Igbo over the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) agitations. They are unlikely to be in a quandary. They have long suspected the president to loath the Southeast; it will take more than Mr Mustapha’s blandishments and Mr Okorocha’s glib rhetoric to change their view of the Buhari presidency.