By Dr. Johnson Greg
Igbo presidency 2023 is indeed a benchmark, though not the end destination. Before I go forward, let me make it clear that those of us who demand restructuring of Nigerian polity, of which Igbo presidency will be a significant step, are not asking for Igbo presidency just because we want the symbolic presence of a red cap chief in Aso Rock. Far be that from us. Rather, we ask for Igbo presidency because we understood the processes and mindset it took to exclude the Igbos from that office. It took active conspiracy and organized hatred to block the Igbos from ever being president of Nigeria. It will take deliberate agency and national reorientation to undo that. So, Igbo presidency is not an act of tokenism or a mere ceremonial gesture. It is a fundamental act of reconciliation after war. It is a bold and deliberate initiative to restore justice and equity to a much beleaguered nation caught up in a simmering turmoil without alternative path to a nonviolent resolution.
At present, there are several steps to achieve Igbo presidency in 2023 and these steps come with high price and sacrifice to the ambitions of several individuals.
Given the present structure of Nigerian politics, for an Igbo presidency to emerge in 2023, people like Atiku and Tinubu will never be president of Nigeria. But they will end up greater men of history by not becoming president than if they were to be president. Indeed, they will go down in history among the few that made the Igbo residency 2023 possible and they will take part of the credit for the peace, justice and equity that will bring to Nigeria.
For clarity of understanding, if the APC zones the 2023 presidency to the East, the PDP will have to also zone it to the East. Indeed, PDP with a stronghold in the East will lose its Eastern base if it says to the Igbos: “Even though the APC is willing to have an Igbo president, we in PDP are not ready for that”. That will cause the PDP to die a natural death in the East. The PDP cannot take that risk and remain a major political party in Nigeria. And if both the PDP and the APC zone the 2023 presidency to the East, that means that the presidency will be with the Igbos till 2031. By then both Atiku and Tinubu will be too old to run. That is why an Igbo presidency 2023 will prevent Atiku and Tinubu from becoming president.
Now, let’s consider the alternative scenario. If the North retains the presidency in 2023, it will take the Igbos until 2031 or 2039 to have the chance of being the president. One can say that the Igbos will not suffer the exclusion that long, having been so excluded for the past 50 years. So, clearly, there will likely not be Nigeria as we know it by then. Equally, if Tinubu becomes president in 2023, the same thing will happen.
The first stage, by way of deliberate action, is for the Igbos to come together and work with the rest of Nigerians to ensure that the presidency is zoned to the East. Let’s not preoccupy ourselves yet with who would be the Igbo man to become president. That is at the later stage in the journey, even though it should be noted that the nonIgbos will be interested in which Igbo man would become the president. Focus should be on how to convince nonIgbo presidential hopefuls for 2023 to sacrifice their ambitions. This should be the key target of negotiation. Igbos should reach out to their nonIgbo brothers and dialogue.
I am aware, of course, that some Igbos will say that they don’t need an Igbo presidency, that what they want is a Biafran sovereignty. But we know that is not a viable option. There are three possible ways to achieve sovereignty for the Igbos. First is by concession. That is, the rest of Nigerians will agree that the Igbos may leave and they negotiate the terns of relationship post sovereignty. This option is highly unlikely. The second option is secession. That is, either having failed to obtain the consent of the rest of Nigeria or realizing that such consent is impossible, the Igbos will decide to leave against the opposition of the rest of Nigeria. This option will result in civil war. The third option is that there is a chain of events within and outside Nigeria that causes the international community to intervene in Nigeria and end up supervising the break up of Nigeria and the birth of a new nation. This third option is not likely. We have that now in Libya.
Since sovereignty is not an option that is anywhere near the table, it will be foolish to dwell on that and ignore the pragmatic option of Igbo presidency as part of necessary restructuring.