Barely four months to next year’s general elections, the South East and South West zones of the country may have begun a major battle for the 2023 presidential poll.
There are indications that the power brokers will use the juicy position (presidency) to woo the two zones for votes in the 2019 poll.
On Thursday, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had urged the people of South West to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections to guarantee a return of power to the region in 2023.
But some Igbo leaders who spoke to Saturday Sun disagreed with Fashola’s advice to the South West, insisting that the South East will produce Nigerian president in 2023.
Reacting to the development, former President, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike said he was not surprised from the statement that came from Fashola.
He said a similar revelation came from the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, that former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu was angling to be the next president in 2023.
He said: “So, what Fashola said confirms Tinubu’s ambition. It dazzles many people when we hear some politicians in the South East calling the people to vote for Buhari so that he would hand over power to us, and I look at those people as hangers on in the corridors of power because they are not in the kitchen cabinet or the engine room of the party.
“I am surprised that Fashola said that because that is the real intention of APC. For those who don’t know, the APC is the gathering of people from North West and South West, even though the engine room that brought all the parties together, was an Igbo man, Dr. Ogbonna Onu, but when it came to making key decisions, he was not even there. So the South East politicians should stop deceiving our people.”
Also, elder statesman and First Republic Minister of Aviation, Mbazulike Amaechi said the way Buhari treated Ndigbo when he assumed power in 1983 with the gun, and also since he assumed power in 2015 by democratic process, should show Ndigbo that the president has no room for them.
He said: “By saying Buhari will handover power, people are still thinking of Buhari, as a junta; the man who carries the gun all along; people have forgot that the whole process is now democratic, even though they rig the election.
“It is for the people of Nigeria to save themselves; it is also for Ndigbo to save themselves. Ndigbo even though have a problem of leadership, they should learn a lesson and do something in this 2019 elections. They should stop Buhari coming back to government. If he doesn’t come back to power next year, how would he determine who succeeds him in 2023.”
But the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Mr. Uche Achi-Okpaga, said, the apex Igbo organisation has taken a position, and it is not interested in who becomes the president, vice president or any other political position.
According to him, Ohanaeze is interested in restructuring the system.
He said: “Becoming the president will only give you the privilege to enrich some privileged Nigerians. It gives you the time to look at programmes and policies that will enrich the privilege.
“So, if they are thinking that they can use the position of presidency or vice presidency to hoodwink the people, it is unnecessary, we know what we are saying, and we have been steady on that.
“Look at the people that have been presidents, have they been good to the generality of their people, except the privileged individuals, who have been in and around.
“We need to restructure the system, so, Igbo man becoming the president is not it. Restructuring involves equity, fairness, etc. Are we observing the Federal Character today? We are not. So, if you become the president, what can you do?”
The Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, disagreed with Achi-Okpaga, saying that Fashola’s statement is a wake up call to Ndigbo to vote for President Buhari.
He said Buhari is the only Northerner whose exit in 2023 is certain and that every other Northern presidential candidate can only pledge or promise four years.
“The truism is that Fashola has sounded a wake up call for Ndigbo to vote for Buhari if we are interested in president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction come 2023. Ndigbo have three advantages to clinch the 2023 presidency – equity, natural justice and good conscience,” he said.
In his reaction, a prominent Yoruba leader, and Afenifere chieftain, Senator Femi Okurounmu expressed shock at the Minister’s remarks.
Accusing Fashola of making the remarks in order to get the Yoruba to vote for Buhari in 2019, Okurounmu said:
“Honestly, I can’t understand Fashola’s logic. Fashola’s views doesn’t represent that of majority of Yoruba. Fashola should not think all Yoruba are fools. He can only deceive some but certainly not all Yoruba.
Fashola is only trying to woo Yoruba to vote for Buhari in 2019. Why should Presidency come to the South West in 2023? What about the Igbo? Are they not Nigerians? Since 1999, Yoruba through Obasanjo who was there for eight years have been in the corridors of power. Even now, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, another Yoruba man is the Vice-President. Expectations of well meaning Nigerians are that it should be the turn of the South East.”
He said Nigerians should vote out President Buhari in 2019, adding, “It is our hope that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will defeat Buhari, and then somebody from the South East should now take over from Atiku who had declared his intention to serve only one term in office.”
On his part, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) Dr. Kunle Olajide said the Yoruba are really not interested in the Presidency but in restructuring of Nigeria to ensure that the nation practises true federalism which in turn will promote good governance.
He said: “Yoruba are not interested in cheating or dominating others. Yoruba are interested in devolution of power. Offer of Presidency is not our concern now. What Fashola is saying doesn’t sell with Yoruba. He should say another thing. True federalism will promote good governance.
It will result in devolution of power. Too much power has been concentrated in the hands of the central government, and this is why there has always been bitter struggle for power at the centre.”