Former Governor of Anambra State and Elder statesman, Okwadike Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has posited that the quest for the nation’s president of Igbo extraction in 2023 is on course, with three out of initial 11 personalities already shortlisted to fly the flag.
Speaking in Abuja at the weekend, the 81-year-old politician fondly called by his traditional title – ‘Okwadike’ – declined to mention the names of those who emerged top contenders for the race, but disclosed that mobilisation had begun in earnest.
Insisting that it was premature to make public the favoured names, Ezeife explained that Ndigbo do not intend to go on a solo effort, but would adequately and appropriately lobby, engage, and even beg other geo-political zone and stakeholders to ensure that justice is done by having a south-easterner occupy the presidential seat in the country in 2023.
Speaking to newsmen, Ezeife sounded optimistic when asked if he was getting the appropriate support for the project.
According to him: “For now, I think we are getting appropriate support and we think that by 2022, nobody will be talking about anything else, and there will be no controversy about it.
“We are not going to present 1,000 Igbo persons to go and vie for the presidency.
“As I have been told, from the 11 persons selected, three persons are being shortlisted so that there will be no confusion.
“It is premature to name these persons being considered. The Middle Belt youth went to a meeting and decided to support the quest for South-East presidency, but they wonder who in Igbo land do they prefer.
“So, they did a mock election and picked a candidate from among many names you know.
“One person won, and even now they are spreading their network without using the name of anybody. But we know who they picked.”
The former Political Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo, further averred that the need to fix and develop Nigeria can be solved by the egalitarian nature of the Igbo man, who as president, would not pay lip service to the imperative of wiping out under development, destitution and hunger in the country.
His words: “Ndigbo make Nigeria look like a nation. Wherever an Igbo person lives, he builds and develops like his home.
“That is the Igbo saying that the average Igbo man applies as his home, everywhere he goes. They are the only people that brings the greatest development everywhere they live, aside the government in that place.
“Justice demands that an Igbo should be made president. And I can tell you that this imperative of Justice, equity and food conscience resonates among all people of goodwill in Nigeria and across the world.
“The need to fix Nigeria, to develop Nigeria, raise the dignity of Nigerians and the black people on earth, compels the need to have an Igbo man as president in 2023.
“The Igbo man wants his children or even apprentice to be bigger and more endowed than him. So, that Igbo man will not want to have destitute population, or what others may call Almajiri or Talakawa. We make people grow in stature, industry and education.
“An Igbo president will apply egalitarianism and everybody will be able to look out for each other’s welfare.
“So whether you are looking for justice or effectiveness, positiveness, development, you should be looking for Igbo president come 2023.
“But we cannot stay at home and be ‘dashed’ the presidency simply because it is our turn. We have to work and unite ourselves and show the rest of Nigeria that we are united.
“We are to lobby or beg the North, North-West, Middle Belt, South-West, South-South, and extend it to all groups in Nigeria.”
Asked if the lobby to have other regions key into Igbo presidency had started, Ezeife disclosed that “every state in Nigeria has ‘Igbo For President’ organization. That is what Reverend Obiora, an Alliance for Democracy (AD) colleague is doing. I can tell you that from what I have seen, Nigeria have already accepted the message and are queuing to it.
“A Yoruba man is now president of ‘Igbo for President’ organisation, and he has been there for long. He recently gave me a list of 11 Igbo persons shortlisted for presidency, and I was amazed.
“He doesn’t flatter me but tells me the truth. He tells me that some of our people are thinking negatively, saying that ‘Nigerians will not agree’, and have therefore already given up. Some are even waiting for crumbs to be handed out to them before they start to make trouble and even to say ‘to hell with Igbo presidency’.
“A group in Kano led by one Ahmed Tukur, has been pushing for the Igbo presidency and they are not hiding it.
“So, I am happy that some people like these, including Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Edwin Clark, who wish Nigeria well, are thinking along this line.
“Mrs. Ibeleme is heading a women’s organisation as part of the overall organisation for this purpose, and with serious commitment.
“Every Nigerian has justification to be president, but if some people are more justified, we should be able to go to others and make our case to political blocs. Go to Tinubu, go to Yerima, and so on; understanding is better.
“As soon as Atiku returns to Nigeria, our delegation should be able to go and see him too. He knows how we supported him fully, but this time, we consider it our time. We want his support.”
The Igbo-Ukwu, Anambra State-born Ezeife pointed out that anything short of an Igbo president in 2023 would amount to the rest of Nigeria rejecting the Igbo, and that anyone so rejected cannot reject himself, and separate nationhoood may become the enticing option.
“We should do what is rightly expected of any group that wants to be president. We are not depending solely on the fact that it is our turn. We will do everything necessary.
“But if we finish doing all these and in the end l, merely because we are Igbo, and one of us cannot rule Nigeria, we will take it that Nigerians have rejected Igbo citizenship of Nigeria. And as you know, a person who is rejected does not reject himself.
“You cannot be in a place that you have been rejected. If Nigeria rejects the Igbo, the Igbo will look for its own country”, he stressed.