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Presidency: If IPOB mars Igbo, so also B/Haram, banditry, the North – Rev Fr Ezeani

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By Sunday Elom N

Rev. Fr. Emeiena Ezeani has questioned the view that the South-East should not produce a Nigerian president because of the agitation for self-determination by some members of the region.

Ezeani, who faulted the Kaduna state governor, Nasir el Rufai who, earlier this month said that nobody stops Igbo from the presidency, “But you see, you cannot get the presidency by threats or by shouting victimhood.”

However, Ezeani, in a symposium organised by the National Forum for South East Presidency (NFSEP) in Awka, Anambra state capital on May 20, 2021 said, “There is no doubt that Igbo president is a just demand considering the fact that democracy, which Nigeria claims it is practising, means equity, equality and freedom.

“But the question is if some people, like El-Rufai hold that the Igbo people should not be allowed to produce Nigerian president because some of them are agitating for Biafra, should the Nigerian president be allowed to come from those whose sons and daughters (Boko Haram) are fighting and killing others with ultimate aim of enslaving and converting them to Islam?

“Which of the two (demands) is a more sinister evil – agitating for self-determination or killing for subjugation and religious conversion?”

It is unfortunate that, since 1967, after the breakdown of Aburi Accord, the coexistence between the Southeast, predominantly Igbo-speaking and the rest of the country, especially the north, has been saturated with derogation and hatred, sometimes degenerating dehumanising actions, including destruction of lives and property.

The Aburi Accord unanimously agreed on by both sides meant to establish a Nigeria where all the regions would have equitable access and control to the national resources and political power. That agreement was truncated by the federal government through Decree No. 8 on March 17, 1967, with excessive power vested in the centre.

This led to the civil war that claimed the lives of over 100,000 soldiers and about 2 million civilians, many of whom died of acute hunger.

Since the end of the civil war, the South East seems to have been reduced to a minority as no Nigerian head of state, under the military regime or democratically elected president, has been of Igbo extraction.

As a result, the southeast has felt short-changed and marginalised and continues to demand equality in distribution of federal powers and national resources or, in the alternative, self-determination.

According to Ezeani, what is trending in different parts of Nigeria today are the demands for self-determination, referendum, restructuring, Igbo president, resource control and maintenance of status quo. While the majority of the Igbo people opt for either self-determination, referendum or restructuring, majority of the Igbo politicians would be appeased with Igbo president.

From the background of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, the Catholic priest argued that it was the democratic right of the Igbo nation to produce the Nigeria president in the 2023 general election “but does the Nigerian state place premium on what is right, just and true?” he questioned.

He emphasised that every sensible and fair-minded Nigerian wants a just, equal, friendly and progressive Nigerian society, but that “Nigeria, as it is presently constituted, and the overtly unjust constitution, can never guarantee such a dream Nigeria society. This being the case, only restructured Nigerian state and self-determination can bring about a relatively ideal society for the maximum happiness and progress of Nigerians.”

He advised that “if the king-makers of Nigeria decide to have a change of heart, it is pertinent that Igbos front an Igbo person with genuine Igbo blood and of sound morality who would be acceptable to the generality of Igbo people and those who are truly disturbed by the predicament of the Igbo people in the present-day Nigeria, not irresponsible Igbo person who would be controlled by his masters.”

The Ohanaeze Ndigbo stand

Speaking at the occasion, the vice president of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Ogene Okeke, said that the southeast demand to produce Nigerian president of Igbo origin was not a request for favour but a demand for a right that had been denied the region for a long time.

Okeke, however, said that nobody sits at his home and becomes a president of a country, neither will anybody go to the houses of Igbos and pick someone to become a president. 

“We must come out and fight for it. It is not every time we would sit at home and criticise how a Yoruba man or Hausa man becomes the president,” he said.

According to him, “You can’t get Igbo presidency with white robes like reverend fathers. You must be prepared like the South Africans when they fought to take power from the apartheid regime. Their leader spent 27 years in the prison and he was offered everything to give up the fight but he refused. Eventually, they won against the apartheid.”

Okeke insisted that those who had been president of Nigeria were not better than the Igbo. He condemned the opinion of those who, according to him, always said that Igbo was not at peace with each other, saying they are not more peaceful than the Igbos. “People should stop dismissing our quest to produce president of Nigeria with the notion that there is no peace among the Igbo,” he said.

He encouraged the southeast to be courageous enough to move out of their comfort zones if the region must produce Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. 

“We want to taste the presidency. The three major tribes in Nigeria, the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba are what make Nigeria. If you remove one tribe, the country will not be complete. For Nigeria to be a complete country, Igbo must be fully involved.

“Let us stop excluding ourselves because we are being excluded. Let us forget what happened during the civil war and amalgamation. Those things are history. Let us move forward.  Our youths are angry with us but we can’t get the presidency by violence. Whoever that is angry for anything should calm down.”

The Ohanaeze chieftain acknowledged that, at a point, political interest made some Igbo leaders to relax but held that actions of such people should not discourage the rest from pushing forward as that will make all the efforts already made to be in vain.

“We need consistent firing. We must continue to push harder until we get there,” he advised.  

In his view, the only way Southeast can get to be Nigerian president is when it is being echoed in every part of the country, however noting that “it is a game of sense and, therefore, we must avoid violence. Igbo is well positioned to produce the president of this country and we have good population to achieve that. We have 11.5 million Igbo in 19 northern states and 4 million in Lagos state.”

He applauded the recent coming together of the Southern governors to make strong decisions concerning the three zones. “We have to support and encourage them. No one zone can make a president,” Okeke advocated.

Earlier, in his welcome address, the national president of the National Forum for South East Presidency (NFSEP), Dr Patrick Enuneku, said that Southeast region had been denied its right in the country for almost 60 years.

He maintained that, in an ideal democratic government, “as claimed to be practised in Nigeria, every region of the country has equal right to the national seat of governance, hence, the common ideology of the pioneer founders of the National Forum for South East Presidency is not for disintegration but to bring the entire nation of Nigeria to her fundamental belief of one unified and indivisible entity embedded in love, equity and peaceful coexistence.”

The NFSEP national head said that the southeasterners were “not ignorant of the irresponsible approach of our northern brothers to the governance of this nation, excluding and unjustly marginalising the Southeast.” He added that such disposition posed “a serious breach of law and agreement in our nation which, hitherto, had robbed us of our unity, love, equity and justice as a common people,” he added.

According to him, the NFSEP position was anchored on actualising the dream of a president from Igbo extraction in 2023. He reiterated that to achieve that, the group preaches peace, unity, inclusiveness, equity and fairness to all Nigerians in all geographical zones.

Enuneku said that NFSEP had come to purge the Nigerian populace of her common belief and assertion that no Igbo man from the Southeast could ever rule Nigeria in the capacity of a president and commander-in-chief of armed forces.

According to him, the NFSEP four core phases include mobilisation of people to form groups with administrative executives at national, zonal, state, senatorial districts, local government areas, wards and community levels; organisation of seminars, talk shows, rallies, consultations and visitations to stakeholders such as community, political, religious and traditional leaders; adoption of candidates for the three major political parties before the primaries and then, mobilisation and full-scale campaign for the adopted candidates.

QUOTE

“… if some people, like Nasir el-Rufai, hold that the Igbo people should not be allowed to produce Nigerian president because some of them are agitating for Biafra, should the Nigerian president be allowed to come from those whose sons and daughters (Boko Haram) are fighting and killing others with ultimate aim of enslaving and converting them to Islam?

“Which of the two (demands) is a more sinister evil – agitating for self-determination or killing for subjugation and religious conversion?”

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