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Etymology Of Atiku Abubakar As Stepping Stone For Igbo Presidency

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As it may be recalled, a lot of verbal missiles were hauled at Anambra state governor and former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, when he contended in a recently published article titled: “History Beckons And I shall Not Be Silent (part1)”, that nobody from the Igbo nation has a chance of becoming president of Nigeria in 2023.

“Let’s be clear, Peter Obi knows that he can’t and won’t win. He knows the game he is playing, and we know too, and he knows that we know. The game he is playing is the main reason he didn’t return to APGA. The brutal truth (and some will say, God forbid) is that there are two persons/parties seriously contesting for president: the rest is exciting drama!”

The masterpiece by Soludo was a realistic and pragmatic analysis of what l would like to characterise as the ‘Igbo dilemma.’

Whereas the frank advice should have woken up the Igbos from what can be likened to a fantastic wonderland dream of presiding over the affairs of our country from Aso Rock Villa in 2023, instead, it got a good number of them so incensed that the level of bile directed in rebuke at Soludo, was as if he committed some kind of heresy or apostasy.

In order for readers to better understand the anger of the Igbos against Soludo or any other Igbo man or woman who does not subscribe to the Igbo presidency of Nigeria in 2023, it is important that we put into context the propelling force for their quest to occupy Aso Rock Villa when the incumbent president, Mohammadu Buhari, exits next year.

The truth is that the anger of the Igbos, which culminated in the vitriolic attacks on Soludo, stems from the over half of a millennium years old determination of the tribe to regain their lost pride and glory because they were at the commanding heights of the political, economic and social architecture of Nigeria, pre-January 1966 coup by the military, which resulted in the death of the first republic (1963-66) and the crash of the Igbos from power in practically all the spheres of life in our country.

Not satisfied with their loss of power, particularly of the political hue in the Nigerian nation, the Igbos sought self-determination by engaging the Nigerian state in a civil war from 1967 to 1970 when the country failed to allow her to secede.

But at the end of the war, rather than achieve their objective of returning to the pre-eminent position that they had occupied pre-independence or before the British colonialist exited, by granting Nigeria independence from colonial rule in 1960, the region got worse off.

That is simply because a significant number of lives of the Igbo people got dispatched prematurely to meet their ancestors, just as the infrastructure in the eastern region got wantonly destroyed in the course of the horrific war and the situation has not changed much to date.

In addition, the Igbos, who lost the war, have thereafter become systematically relegated to the bottom or even got excluded from the mainstream of the political system in Nigeria. And that is evidenced by the reality that currently, the leadership power equation in the only country that the Igbos can call their own, seems to have been skewed against them, as none of them is the head of the executive, legislative or judicial arms of government, which is largely responsible for the enduring secessionist tendencies currently bedevilling the region in particular, and the whole country at large.

Arising from the above, and being a realist, l would argue that Soludo’s pragmatic assessment of the chances of an Igbo man/woman becoming president of Nigeria in 2023 as he marshalled in his published treatise: “History Beckons And I Shall Not Be Silent (part 1) was on point. But Igbos appear not to be ready to accept the inconvenient truth, hence, Soludo’s advice was discountenanced and he was disparaged and excoriated.

Before the Anambra governor’s matter-of-fact advice that elicited the ire of some Igbos that generated the firestorm that almost literally consumed him, another prominent Igbo politician, senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the current chief whip of Nigerian Senate and ex-governor of Abia state, had also admonished members of his tribe not to seek to become president of Nigeria in 2023.

Below are his reasons:
“I have no problem with an Igbo man becoming president, but we have to do it with other Nigerians.

“If you don’t do it with other Nigerians, it’s not going to work, no matter how popular you are. This is the president of Nigeria, not the president of Igbo land.”

He was quoted as basically stating that the Igbos must wait for another time when Nigerians would agree to zone the presidency to the east.

It is unsurprising that Kalu’s renunciation of the Igbo presidency in 2023 did not trigger as much storm as Soludo’s admonishment, which l would like to equate politically with an event recorded in the Holy Bible; ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which is a narrative of the teachings by our Lord Jesus Christ, during which he laid out the blueprint of his doctrine to be followed by his disciples after he must have transformed from the physical into the spiritual realms.

As the Islamic religion has lbrahimic origin, which is why Islam recognises Jesus Christ as lsah – a prophet of God and not the son of God, which is the belief of we Christians, I won’t be surprised if our Muslim brothers and sisters can identify an equivalent of such narrative in the holy Quran.

According to John R.W. Stott, “The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly, it is the least obeyed.”

So, Soludo’s solution obviously struck the wrong chord amongst not only some Igbo elites, but also a critical mass of the hoi poloi, who are perhaps living in a parallel universe and as such unable to process the reality that it is not yet time for Igbos to call the shots from Aso Rock Villa and the reason the visionary Soludo was largely misunderstood.

Perhaps, if the Igbos consider the statistics below, they would probably have a different reaction to Soludo’s wise counsel.

For instance, the total number of registered voters for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is 93.5 million and the total number of registered voters in the entire Igbo land is a paltry 11.49 million.

That makes the eastern region the zone with the least number of registered voters, followed from the rear by the North Central with 14.1 million voters.

When you compare the south-east registered voters numbers which are about half of the 22.67 million registered voters in the North-west region, it would be clear that the eastern region is a dwarf or Lilliputian politically compared to the south-west, which is a giant, since it has the largest registered voters cache in our country.

And that makes the South-west the battleground for all the leading political parties and the South-east a less consequential part of the country, for sourcing votes by politicians and therefore, on the fringe in the reckoning of political strategists.

Given the scenario described above, those clamoring for Igbo presidency should take notice of the fact that Wazirin Atiku Abubakar of PDP is from the northern region, where the bulk of the voters reside and it presupposes that he has a home base advantage.

Also by juxtaposing the South-east minuscule and the insignificant number of registered voters against that of the South-west region, which is 18.3 million, the eastern region’s jeopardy would come into greater relief.

More so, if it dawns on the proponents of the Igbo presidency in 2023 that the South-west is also APC torch bearer, Bola Tinubu’s enclave and supporters base, but the Igbos, driven by ethnic nationalism, won’t argue that Igbos, being itinerant people, are spread all over Nigeria.

As such, their voting power is more than the 11.49 million ascribed to the zone, but so are members of other major tribes – Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri, Tiv, Kalabari, Urhobo, ldoma and lbibio, lgbira, lgala, Angas etc, perhaps not as many as the Igbos that are challenged by land mass and very mercantile, hence, they are very dispersed nationwide.

Another dilemma that the Igbo nation is contending with in its quest for the presidency of Nigeria is the fact that, of the six (6) geopolitical zones in Nigeria, only the South-east, where the Igbo is the dominant tribe, is comprised of five (5) states, while all the other five (5) regions have at least six (6) states each, with the North-west region even having seven (7) states.

The realities above are the major handicaps that should compel the Igbos to seek collaborations with either North-west or South-west regions, where the critical mass of voters are located, in order for their dream of a member of the Igbo ethnic stock becoming president of Nigeria to manifest.

But rather than think critically, they have been fantasizing about an Igbo person becoming president of Nigeria in 2023, without taking into consideration the political calculus or equations outlined above.

Can those claiming that political structures would not matter in election 2023 also deny the fact that the number of registered voters in specific regions of the candidates would count and a consequential presidential candidate must have a solid voter base?

Yet, most politically naïve Igbos have elected to remain self-denial by being sentimental instead of analytical.

Without looking beneath the inherent superficialities, they are counting on votes from the youth demography and those who are discontented with government either due to a prevailing culture of nepotism or insecurity of lives and properties, as well as a high level of poverty ravaging the masses under the watch of the current administration to catapult an Igbo man into the presidency.

There is not enough space and time to put in an array all the thistles and thorns that have buffeted Nigerians in the past nearly eight (8) years of APC maladministration. But suffice it to say that while those ignoble hallmarks of misrule are significant factors that can influence some voters to desire to punish the ruling party at the polls, they are not enough to swing the presidential pendulum to the Igbos because the region lacks the critical mass of voters.

Worse still, since it has been established that most Nigerian registered voters reside in the North-west and South-west, it follows that they seldom know Peter Obi and the LP platform.

More so, because Obi and LP were basically unknown quantities nationally, until less than a year ago when the political platform and its candidate became a third force in the 2023 presidential race that was hitherto looking like a two-horse race.

To gain better insight, apart from Obi not having a political base like Atiku that practically has the entire north glued together by not only his robust political pedigree but religion and language; Tinubu controls the south-west leveraging his long political pedigree and monarchical system existent in Yoruba land, readers only need to interrogate the voting pattern of Nigerians as captured in INEC’s historical records to discover that the category of the electorate that exercises their franchise the most are folks in the rural areas.

They are not necessarily the smattering of youth and city slickers who are clamoring for Obi’s presidency and a handful of discontented adults seeking a new political order.

The category of Nigerians described above is not whom the Igbo nation should anchor their hope of being the tribe ruling the roost in Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

For crying out loud, most of our mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles in the villages are the ones who often step out to vote in throngs.

And they were likely not captured in the opinion polls, particularly the ANAP polling, which the pollsters have admitted they conducted by phone which by its nature is prone to manipulation and therefore, deeply flawed.

It is unfortunate that the pollsters seem to be ignoring those factors, either by omission or commission, hence they have ended up with their wrong calculations and false hope about the Igbo producing the next president being a realizable objective without serious collaboration or alliance with voters from any of the two main zones that are home to a significant number of voters.

Had the attempted partnership between the LP and Dr Musa Kwakwanso’s New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP, come to fruition with Obi as the presidential candidate of the coalition, the probability of an Igbo president in 2023 would have been higher, but without such an arrangement, Obi’s quest for the presidency would most likely be an exercise in futility.

The above reality is the justification for the recent comment by a prominent Igbo billionaire and power broker, Chief Arthur Eze, who reportedly stated in the media, last week, December 24 that he had made it known to the LP Presidential candidate, Peter Obi that his ambition is inordinate was emphatic that he is not part of Obi’s plan.

“I told him to drop his ambition and wait for next time. “When he told me about his ambition, l asked him the states he thinks he can win in the west and in the north, he told me, but l was not convinced. l told him he cannot win; so that he would not waste his time and money.”

Incidentally, in various opinion pieces that l have been writing and publishing in the mass media in the past two years, l had already identified and analyzed all the bogeys or stumbling blocks clogging the path of the Igbo man’s quest for becoming president of Nigeria without being propelled by the presently moribund presidential power rotation or power shift principle. They can all be found on my website magnum.ng.

By obviously ignoring the wise counsel of critical Igbo stakeholders like Chukwuma Soludo and Arthur Eze, as referenced earlier, clearly Mr Obi must be relying on opinion polls that have been forecasting that president Buhari would be handing over to him as his successor on May 29, 2023.

Another probable factor, which may be at play for the Igbos (with Obi as the arrowhead) to be nursing the false hope that they would be producing the next president would be that his strategists are likely working from the answer to the question, instead of the other way round.

Equally significant is the stunning revelation that the presidential power rotation principle, which is a gentleman’s agreement hashed out during the unimplemented National Conference held under the former military head of state, late general SANI Abacha’s regime in 1995. It was basically a political power-sharing formula that is still being relied upon by the Igbos to claim that it is the turn of some of their ethnic stock to rule Nigeria.

That principle which is not enshrined in Nigeria’s statutes book has been jettisoned by both the ruling All Progressives Party, APC and the main opposition peoples Democratic party, PDP, yet the Igbo appear to have remained fixated on it and seem not ready to purge themselves of the mindset.

Given the present dynamics of politics in Nigeria, only the APC or PDP are the political platforms that can produce the president of Nigeria.

And the Igbo is unfortunate that the two parties have no Igbo man as their presidential flag bearer.

So the chance of an Igbo man taking charge in Aso Rock Villa from May 29, 2023, is practically zero.

The conclusion above does not imply that l have not taken cognizance of the recent emergence of the Labor Party, LP, as a third (3rd) force in Nigeria’s political space with Mr Peter Obi, former Anambra state governor on the platform of APGA 2007-2014, who was also in 2019 the running mate to Wazirin Atiku Abubakar, as presidential flag bearer on the platform of PDP, which contested against the incumbent president, Mohammadu Buhari of APC.

But, since it is an inconvenient truth for the typical Igbo man that has been seeking to return to the top of the pecking order of leadership of Nigeria resulting in a destructive three (3) years civil war that is believed to have claimed the lives of an estimated three (3) million Nigerians with the Igbos as the main victims, Soludo’s kinsmen who are apparently blindsided by their legitimate, but unrealizable ambition, have chosen to deem the realistic prognosis as an art of betrayal of his people for which he was ‘roasted ‘by Igbo intelligentsia, especially the social media denizens, also known as Obidients and architects of the famous #Endsars protests that had the potentials of revolutionizing Nigeria in 2020.

Fortuitously, Wazirin Atiku Abubakar has emerged on the scene like a knight in shining armor to offer the Igbos the rescue that they have been craving by giving them the opportunity via his current quest for the presidency for one of them to be his running mate as vice president.

By so doing, he is according to the Igbos, the honor and privilege of being the stepping stone for the Igbo nation into Aso Rock Villa:

“I am going to be a stepping stone to an Igbo president in this country. I have shown it in my action because this is the third time I am running with an Igbo man. If you really want to produce a president, then, vote Atiku-Okowa ticket.”

The emotional feelings that are frequently elicited by an Igbo person not becoming president of Nigeria are so potent that when the current lmo state governor, chief Hope Uzodinma of APC, via political abracadabra (controversial court ruling) supplanted, Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP, who had earlier been declared the winner and sworn into office as lmo state governor; and Uzodinma in trying to take control of the state that was originally largely PDP as governor on APC platform, reportedly called in the military to keep the peace.

That decision which was necessitated by the rising spate of violence and breakdown of law and order in the state resulted in his country home being set ablaze with all the appurtenances including a Rolls Royce car burnt down.

Having taken into consideration the above circumstances, as far back as two (2) years ago, l had been writing a series of articles with the aim of averting the minds of Igbo people to the rough road that it has to travel to get into Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

And I had long arrived at the conclusion that it is simply mathematically impossible for an Igbo person to become President of Nigeria without having a prolific political base and aligning with people from the north-west or south-west of Nigeria to make it happen.

Mr Peter Obi incidentally is from the South-east which is a politically disadvantaged region probably as a consequence of the civil war triggered by the decision of Igbo leadership at that time to secede in 1967-barely six (6) years after Nigeria’s independence and three (3) years after becoming a republic.

Worse still, the south-east cannot be said to have a political base, simply because there is no evidence that he is enjoying the sympathy of any of the main or even fringe political parties or incumbent governors-from Anambra, Enugu, lmo, Ebonyi to Abia states.

Yes, he has the backing of the Igbo social-cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, but it is not a political machine. In fact, it is as impotent politically as Afenifere in Yoruba land and Arewa in the Hausa/Fulani part of our country.

Do the Igbos have legitimate and justifiable reasons to jostle for the presidency, the answer is in the affirmative.

That would more than any policy of government enable them to get reintegrated into the Nigerian nation after the war fought, won and lost some fifty-two (52) years ago.

But as things currently stand, only an Atiku Abubakar presidency with an Igbo man as vice president is the out-of-the-box thinking formula that can make it happen.

It is disappointing that the so-called three (3 Rs) Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Reintegration of the Igbos into the Nigerian nation, which is a policy introduced by the general Yakubu Gowon regime that prosecuted and won the war (1967-70) has been largely implemented in breach. That is one of the reasons that the polarizing fault lines of division have been widening and amplifying the exclusion of Igbos in the political leadership of our beloved country at the centre, due to actions and inactions of the incumbent regime which is exactly why the separatist sentiments of the easterners have persisted.

Having laid the foundation for the establishment of the proposition that Wazirin Atiku Abubakar would be the stepping stone for Igbo presidency, l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me to republish a relevant portion of one of the articles that l wrote and first published nearly two years ago in both traditional and online media platforms titled: “Nigeria Presidency 2023: Where Are The Igbo Candidates”

Here we go.

“The political inactivity in Igbo land with respect to the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is quite the opposite of the preparatory activities towards the forthcoming November 6 governorship election, which both president Buhari and lNEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, have vowed must hold on schedule, despite the IPOB threat.

Somehow, the quartet of Andy Uba of APC, Val Ozigbo of PDP, Chukwuma Soludo of APGA and Ifeanyi Uba of YPP, representing the main political parties have been ramping up their campaigns.

Given the scenario above, and if the Igbos are really not politicking for the presidency like their Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani counterparts, (which is evident by the reality on ground) the prospect of Igbo presidency in 2023, that may already be in peril, needs to be given a shot-in-the-arm through a strategic partnership that would provide required political structures and financial muscle.

That is what informed my proposal in the earlier referenced article: “How To Become The President Of Nigeria ln 2023” that the Igbo should align with Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate in 2023 to achieve the dream of the Igbo presidency in 2027.

My proposal is underscored by the belief that it would be unlikely that the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who has become a veteran in presidential contests since 1992 with enormous practical experience, would seek re-election in 2027 if elected president in 2023 via an Igbo alliance and PDP support.

Unless other northern contenders like Aminu Tambuwal or Bala Mohammed are willing to serve only one term and hand over to an Igbo Vice President, which is a highly unlikely scenario simply because of their relatively young age compared to the former Vice President who would be 75 years next month, Igbo quest for the presidency of Nigeria may remain a mirage.

In my view, a partnership with Atiku Abubakar as a pathway to Aso Rock Villa remains the most viable trajectory for an Igbo man/woman to become president of Nigeria in 2027 on the PDP platform. That is because Atiku Abubakar is liberal, broad-minded, business savvy and has links by marriage to all the three major ethnic groups-Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo in Nigeria. It implies that Atiku Abubakar’s presidency would likely be more inclusive than the nepotistic-a trademark of the current government in power that is fuelling the current gale of separatist movements.

The point being made here is that under Atiku Abubakar’s watch as president, separatism would be consigned to the dustbin as inclusiveness becomes a major policy plank in government. With inclusiveness becoming a centre point of public policy in Nigeria, secessionist tendencies would die a natural death in the manner that Niger Delta militancy ceased after the late president Umaru Yar’adua took strategic steps to stabilise the volatile region via his offer of Amnesty to former militants after meeting some of their demands.

The existential reality in Nigeria’s current political equation is not balanced, no thanks to Fredrick Lugard.

The truth is that the Igbos need help to actualize their quest for the presidency of Nigeria. As Atilla, the Hun advised, “choose your enemies wisely and your friends carefully.”

It should be obvious to the average Igbo that they cannot ascend the throne in Aso Rock Villa seat of power by themselves, as they lack the numerical strength and political tentacles. They must accept that their mastery of business cannot overnight be translated into the political savviness that is required for someone of Igbo extraction to become the number one(1 )citizen presiding over our country in Aso Rock Villa from 2023.

So an alliance with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, whose political fortune has been built since the time that he first contested against the late MKO Abiola in Social Democratic Party, SDP, primaries held in 1992, remains the most viable political catapult that can propel the lgbo nation into Aso Rock Villa, after Alex Ekwueme’s partnership with Shehu Shagari for the presidency of Nigeria (1979-1983).

It is disappointing that Ekwueme’s vice presidency is the last time the lgbo enjoyed worthy political significance in a country, in that they have indisputable ancestry.

Frankly, without adopting or resorting to the application of the type of cold calculations that l am advocating, the Igbo’s demand for someone from their ethnic stock as the number one occupant in Aso Rock Villa would very likely remain a mirage and mission impossible, as it would continue to be elusive beyond 2023 and even 2027.

As a follow-up article to “How To Become President Of Nigeria”, l wrote another piece titled: “A Citizen’s Guide on How To Become President of Nigeria”, also published on the back page of Thisday newspaper on October 22, 2021, and other mainstream newspapers including Daily Independence, Vanguard, as well as online platforms. The following points were brought to the attention of readers:

“Although presidential power play is largely about popularity, it also significantly utilises conspiracies and alliances as the oxygen and blood for positioning popular candidates for victory in presidential polls.”

In light of the above reality, which ethnic nationality or nationalities in the Nigerian Union is the lgbo building alliance or conspiring with, overtly or covertly? None”

So by and large, what Chukwuma Soludo was literally clobbered on the head for saying, had already been identified long ago in my articles before he articulated them more forcefully like the professor that he truly is. And before anybody levels a hasty and mischievous allegation of being anti-Igbo against me, l implore readers to obtain and read my latest book: Becoming President of Nigeria. A Citizen’s Guide(2022).

A quarter of the book, four (4) of the twelve (12) chapters, to me, is dedicated to making a case for lgbo presidency in 2023.

But after painstakingly identifying and interrogating the odds stacked against the lgbo nation in the present political structure of our country, l came to the conclusion that the most feasible pathway for the lgbo to ascend to the apogee of power in Aso Rock Villa soon is to quickly get on the PDP train and piggy-tail Wazirin Atiku Abubakar by ‘donating’ to him their votes in exchange for an Igbo person as the vice Presidential candidate that would take over from him in four(4) years time 2027 when he completes his first tenure.

The lgbo leadership did not heed my nearly two years old advice and my brother, current Delta state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, who saw the opportunity and could not resist it by letting it slip off, seized the moment.

He has identified himself as an Igbo man and no one can deny him that identity.

As it is often with contestation for political power, Okowa did not wait to be given power, he seized it.

So the rest is now history.

Incidentally, before l made a case for the lgbo to make a beeline to the presidency via a partnership with former vice president Atiku Abubakar, l never discussed it with him, even though l have had the privilege of knowing the Wazirin Adamawa over a long time, courtesy of my long association with my former boss and brother, ex-governor of Delta state (1999-2007) chief James lbori, who facilitated my sojourn into politics as a commissioner in his cabinet since 2003.

It did not surprise me that my proposition for my lgbo brothers/sisters to hinge their mission to Aso Aso Rock Villa on Wazirin Atiku Abubakar’s presidency in 2023 was tagged by my friends and critics alike as ‘Magnus formula’ and of which l received more than a fair share of knocks by the same media mobs that tried to maul Professor Soludo for telling the lgbo nation some home truth.

About two (2) years after the idea was mooted, I am delighted that the PDP presidential candidate, Wazirin Atiku’ Abubakar, has finally validated my proposition made to the Igbos several moons ago (as a typical lgbo person would put it) by personally making the pledge to them during his campaign stomp in Awka, Anambra state capital, on December 15, 2023, that his presidency would be a stepping stone for lgbo presidency of Nigeria.

Again, leaning on or drawing from the legendary lgbo wittiness, ‘ndigbo now have the yam and the knife‘ and they cannot pretend not to know what to do with the yam and knife.

By Magnus Onyibe

Onyibe is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government.*

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