With the Supreme Court dismissal of the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 election, it has become clear that South East politicians who had been waiting for the outcome of the case before deciding whether to support the quest for Igbo presidency or not will now have to restrategise.
The Igbo leaders had been supporting Atiku because one of their own, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, was the running mate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2019 election.
Now the ‘wise men’ of the Supreme Court have given their verdict. The seven-man panel of the apex court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Mohammed, on Wednesday, said the panel came to an agreement that Atiku’s appeal lacked merit.
The appeal was subsequently dismissed with Justice Tanko adding that the panel had been reviewing the case for the past two weeks, explaining that the reasons for the dismissal at a later date.
Before the Supreme Court decision, top politicians from the different geo-political zones had been strategising for the 2023 general elections. The issue of which geo-political zone should produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor was already on the front burner.
While some South West political elites, especially those in the All Progressives Congress (APC), believe that considering the region’s contributions to the actualisation of Buhari’s two-term presidency, the Yoruba should produce the next president, some Northern elements believe that no region should think of being awarded the position, as they too stand a chance.
However, before the Supreme Court ruling, some Nigerians, especially tose from the South East, strongly believe that 2023 should be the turn of the Igbos considering that North, South West and South South have had their turns. They maintain that in the interest of fairness and equity, South East should be allowed to produce the next president.
Already, Eastern Union (EU), a socio-political pressure group catering for the interest of the Old Eastern Region, recently started to galvanise people of Igbo extraction on the need to prepare early for the 2023 presidential race.
In doing so, the group believes that if South East or Igbos want to produce the next president, they should begin early to search for the black goat when it is the day. To the group, the Igbos have been docile over such a crucial matter for too long.
Based on this reason, the Eastern Union commenced consultations to identify suitable people from among Igbo elites “who the cap fits”. It asked Nigerians, especially Igbos, to suggest capable hands from among the political and business elites, as it believes that there seems to be a lull among the Eastern leaders over the 2023 presidency.
Through its campaign in the social media, 18 prominent Igbo politicians and technocrats were enlisted, while more names were expected to come up as the campaign continued. Those enlisted included Chief Ike Ekweremmadu, a long-time member of the senate, who served two terms as Deputy Senate President; Chief Martin Onovo, the National Conscience Party (NCP) 2015 presidential candidate.
Others are Kingsley Moughalu, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Deputy Governor, and Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, both presidential candidates in the 2019 election, as well as Prof. Pat Utomi, a 2019 governorship candidate in Delta State.
Also included is former Finance Minister and World Bank Deputy Managing Director, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former CBN governor and member of the Economic Advisory Committee, Prof Charles Soludo; Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa.
In the list too, included former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim; Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, and Dr. Peter Obi, former Anambra State governor and 2019 Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Senate Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senate Minority Leader, is also enlisted, same as former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, now a senator, even as another former Imo State governor, Achike Udenwa, is included.
Others are Senator Hope Uzodinma; former Governor Ogbonnaya Onu, who has been in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet as Minister of Science and Technology since 2015. Also tipped is Dr Chris Ngige, former governor of Anambra State, a former senator, who has also been in Buhari’s cabinet as Minister of Labour and Productivity.
Hon. Charles Anike, the Eastern Union National President, in confirming the development, said his organisation started the move following the seeming lack of activities among the Igbo political leaders as regards the 2023 presidency, which he insisted, should be the turn of Ndigbo.
Anike said: “The main reason we seriously advocate for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is for justice and equity. More importantly, to douse tensions in our political system, and also to explore and inject Igbo ingenuity in the ways of management of national resources, which if employed, will help to change the narratives of Nigeria political development. We expect the two major political parties, APC and PDP to make Igbo man their flag bearer in 2023, the same way in 1999 in the persons of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae.”
He attributed the lull among the Igbo politicians to the belief that Abubakar Atiku/Peter Obi Presidency would have been restored by the Supreme Court, adding that the Supreme Court judgment, which did not favour Atiku, was not surprising. According to him, “It is always good to prepare for any eventuality. If the Supreme Court judgment had lingered, people would have would have continued to be kept waiting.
“Now that the judgment has gone the way it did, people should see why they should prepare on time to join the race. In some societies, people take over eight years to prepare for presidency. It is not a rush-rush affair. Igbo politicians should key into our move now.”
On the next move of his group, Anike said they would continue to reach out to the people and make them understand why they should no longer sit on the fence or waste more time, adding, “we will speedy up so that by the first quarter of next year, we would have got a proper direction on the shape the campaign will take.”
On the Atiku’s loss at the Supreme Court, Chief Maxi Okwu, seasoned politician of South East extraction and former factional National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), stated: “I am not surprised. I posted on my Facebook timeline after the Court of Appeal judgment that he (Atiku) should not give them the joy of rubbishing him further by going on appeal. The deck was stacked against him from day one. The other camp prepared well for any eventuality for the 2019 elections. Many Nigerians were of the view that Atiku and most Nigerians had been shortchanged. He should have maintained that moral high ground and not gone further. With this decision let us now all seek the alternative political platform to the APC. It is definitely not the PDP.”
Chief Martin Onovo, the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), and one of those already identified to be suitable for the race, simply stated: “If that is the Supreme Court ruling, it is not surprising.” Before the ruling, Onovo now a chieftain of Movement for Fundamental Change (MFC), had advised those canvassing for Igbo presidency to wait for the Supreme Court decision, saying then that their move was premature and diversionary.
Chief Emeka C. Kalu, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain and National Director, Special Duties of Peoples Democratic Party Youth Alliance (PDPYA), said: “The judgment will affect us because there will no more be fair play for any one. If this can happen to a Fulani man (Atiku), what makes you think that Igbo will get the presidency? It is far from it. God will show He is God.”
Comrade Festus Ogbale Obeghe, a South South activist and NCP presidential aspirant in 2019 election said: “Even Atiku himself knew that he was not going to win the election. As for 2023, there is no indication that the owners of Nigeria (north) are ready to relinquish power. Short of revolution, what can we do? Igbos are not likely to go far in their quest for presidency in 2023. Not likely. Igbos are even their worst enemies. They will never unite.”