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Igbere declaration: S’East takes bold step towards 2023

IGBEAKU ORJI reports on the recent bipartisan meeting of South-East leaders aimed at charting a way forward for the geopolitical zone, especially as regards to the quest by Ndigbo to produce the next president of Nigeria



The gathering of Igbo political leadersatCampNeya, Igbere, thecountryhomeof SenateChief Whipand senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, on January 5, represents the boldest collective statement regarding the 2023 presidential ambitionof theSouth-Eastgeopoliticalzone.


The meeting was significant in many ways, no doubt, prominent political, religious and business leaders, not only from the South-East, but across Nigeria, have seen the justice of the call for the zone to produce the next president of Nigeria after the tenure of the incumbent, President MuhammaduBuhari governmentelapses, and have lent their voices in support.

The meeting, also successfully broke the age long myth that Ndigbo are too individualistic to be united for their common good as each wants what the other covets, a situation that explains why their collective struggle always end in fiasco and loss to all as none is ready to concede to another.


It is therefore significant that for the first time since the clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction began, political leadersfromIgbolandcouldburytheirdifferences andpursueacommongoal. Theactionunderscoredtheseriousnessandimportanceof the presidency to the South-East.

The meeting was declared open by the host and former governor of Abia State, SenatorKalu. He introduced the other participants and invited them inturns to address the meeting. He reminded them that the meeting was not convened for any individual but for the unity and good of the people of South-East. In his remarks, former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 is achievable.


He appreciated Senator Kalu for convening the meeting, saying: “Today, we should be able to achieve a road map that will further the aspiration of our people. Other zones have produced the president of Nigeria; it is the turn of South-East.”


Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Nkiruka Onyejeocha, in her remarks, declared that it was not only the turn but the right of Ndigbo to produce the next president of Nigeria.

Her words: “Ndigbo have decided that they should take what belongs to them. The issue that has brought South-East leaders together did not begin overnight. Our gathering here is the culmination of series of meetings and consultations, not a one day affair. The meeting today is proof that Ndigbo are united. Other zones should support us for the presidency in 2023.


In the scheme of national politics, you cannot wish South- East away. No one zone can make the president, so our brothers and sisters from other zones should support us.”


According to her, the South-East will support any party that gives its ticket to an Igbo candidate. She however, clarified that should the two major political parties choose Igbo candidates as presidential flag bearers; the zone will decide the better candidate. “In 2023, we will ensure that the South-East is in one box.


That is why we are consulting and I plead that Mr. President should use his office to support us,” she added. A former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Chuka Odom, described the meeting aslong overdue. Hesaid the zonehas been agitating for the presidency for 20 years and urged the leaders to put their political differences aside and work together to actualise the dream.


“If we do not stand on our feet now we may lose it,” he said, while reminding his colleagues that politics is a game of numbers and that political power is not given on a platter but earned. He noted that the South- East supported the South- West in 1999 as it subsequently did to others zones, and therefore, deserves a reciprocal gesture from them in 2023.


“The meeting should be the platform for action. We want the presidency as the minimum condition for us to stay in Nigeria,” he added.


In his contribution, a former Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly and presently member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal ConstituencyintheHouseof Representatives, Hon. Stanley Ohajuruka, advised on how the South-East should relate with other zones in order to achieve its dream.


“We should come upwithastrategytoconvinceotherzones. The governors should key into what we are doing here,” he said. Alsospeaking, theimmediatepastSpeaker of Abia State House of Assembly and memberrepresentingIsialaNgwaSouthstateconstituency, Hon. Chikwendu Kalu, noted that after years of marginalization, the time has come “to tell ourselves the truth.”


Before the meeting went into a brief close door session, former Senate President and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, capturedtheessenceof themeetingsuccinctly with two posers: What do the Igbos want; can they put their house in order? Anyimalsopresentedthecommunique, which encapsulated the objective of the meeting.


It was endorsed by him, Ekweremadu, Kalu, Onyejeocha and Ben Kalu, the member representing Bende Federal Constituency as well as 14 others. The communique in its preamble stated without equivocation why the presidency should come to the South-East in 2923.


It read in part: “The meeting recalled that Nigerians across political, ethnic and religious divides fought hard, long and collectively to enthrone the currentdemocraticdispensation as the surest way to engender national development and guaranteeajustandequitablesociety where every section of the country enjoys a sense of belonging.


“The meeting observed that the [residency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has rotated between Northern and Southern Nigeria and among the various geopolitical zones.


Thus, the South-West and South- South geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country have produced the president of Nigeria. Hence, as power is expected to rotate to the South in 2023, the meeting noted that the South-East is the only zone in the South that is yet to produce a President of Nigeria in the current democratic dispensation.


“The meeting further observed that the people of the South-East have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the unity and development of the country.


Not only has the geopolitical zone actively supported the emergence of Nigerian president of other geopolitical extractions, the people are also known to be major agents of development and heavy investors outside their zone and

often the next in population after the indigenes in, any state of Nigeria. Our well pronounced presence and investments in every nook and cranny of the country represent the firmest    and most practical demonstration of faith in the unity, peace and continued corporate existence of the country, for where a man’s treasure is, there his heart lies also. ”


The leaders therefore resolved to among other things, “to commit ourselves to the deepening of the nation’s democracy as the surest way of fast tracking national development and building an egalitarian society where no man is oppressed for reasons of his class, ethnic, religious or political affiliation and background.”


The communiqué further read: “We implore Nigerians across political, ethnic, religious and geopolitical divide and persuasions to support the people of South-East geopolitical zone to produce a president of South-East extraction as a mark of good faith and to promote justice and national harmony.


For emphasis, we deem this very important in giving every part of the country a sense of belonging and in promoting national unity and solidarity. It is the loudest reassurance of equality of all parts and that the country, indeed belong to all members of the Nigerian Commonwealth.


“We consequently implore all the political parties to cede their presidential tickets in the 2023 general election to the South-East in the interest of justice, equity and national unity.


To make good our demand and reciprocate such good faith, we have decided as a geopoliticalzonewithsubstantialpresencein every part of the country to give a block vote and throw our full weight behind any major politicalparty, particularlytheAPCandPDP that zones its presidential ticket to the South- East in 2023 general election.


“We emphasize that what we seek is a Nigerian president of South-East extraction; one that will work to further unite and develop every part of the country.


Such a president will be president of all Nigerians irrespective of their political, ethnic and religious backgrounds, ensuring that all citizens and every part of the country is given a sense of belonging and treated with utmost sense of justice.


Such was the dream of the founding fathers of this great nation when they declared that though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.


For the same reason, they also committed to building a just nation where no man is oppressed, so that Nigeria may be blessed with peace, plenty and prosperity.”

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