A renowned Catholic priest, Rev Fr. Obimma Emmanuel (Ebube Muonso), who is the Spiritual Director of Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, Anambra State, speaks on the 2023 presidential election, and the need to pacify the Southeast region.
Your view on the agitation for Nigeria president of Southeast extraction come 2023?
Equity and justice demand that this time around, the presidency should be zoned to the Southeast. This is one major step that I believe will put an end to the series of agitations. Southeast has not been elected into power as president of this country, and they need to be pacified via the 2023 presidency.
Many still think that if Southeast is given the opportunity to produce president, it will be easy for them to secede?
The Igbo man wants the unity and peaceful co-existence of this country more than other Nigerians. This is because; the Igbo have a very big stake since they have investments in every nook and cranny of this country. Again, the Igbo man is a peace loving person. If given the presidency, the Igbo will promote a unified and indivisible Nigerian nation. An Igbo man has the mindset for unity. An Igbo man does not want war or division in Nigeria, because he wants to preserve the lives and property of his people. It is, therefore, disturbing that the country they love so much; the country they work so hard to build and preserve, is marginalizing them politically.
If need for consensus Igbo presidential candidate arises, who would you suggest?
All aspirants across major political parties are all eminently qualified. However, former governor of Anambra State, and former vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr. Peter Obi, stands out.
Why Peter Obi?
He has a vision that can change Nigeria’s destiny and future. I urge all Nigerians to shun the issue of political affiliation, creed, sex or tribe, and go for excellence. Nigeria needs to move forward, and it can only move forward with a progressive mind, and people like Peter Obi represent this progressive mind.
Under Peter Obi as Anambra governor, the state was the first to commence Sub-Sovereign Wealth savings, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. At a time many governors were leaving huge debts for their successors, Obi left the equivalent of $500 million Dollars in investment; as well as local and foreign currencies, including $156 million in Dollar- denominated bonds while leaving office. Obi was recognized as best governor by the Millennium Development Goals Office (OSSAP-MDGs) and the UNDP in the implementation of their programmes in Nigeria. Under Obi, the Nigerian Debt Management Office (DMO) rated Anambra as the least indebted state in Nigeria. In spite of visible and measurable achievements recorded in various sectors, the state under him did not borrow or raise bonds for her various projects. Under him, the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria rated Anambra as the most financially stable state in the country. The state’s ground-breaking return of schools to their church owners, and subsequent partnership with the agencies in education, saw the state move from 24th position out of 36 states to number one position in National Examination Council (NECO) and West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations for three consecutive years. Obi’s government in Anambra was the first to do Poverty Mapping in Nigeria, as a guide for the effective implementation of poverty alleviation strategies. During his tenure and with his government’s support, Anambra became an oil producing state. These are few reasons that make me think he stands out.
But PDP does not seem to support the idea of zoning presidential slots to the Southeast?
The rotation and zoning principle was written into the PDP’s Constitution in 2009. Article 7(2c) of the PDP Constitution states that: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.”
In its wisdom and patriotic zeal, the PDP allowed power to rotate between geopolitical zones in the north and south, and made it both a manifesto and a constitutional matter. What this means is that going by the party constitution, the subsisting principle of rotation leaves PDP with no choice than to zone the presidency in 2023 to the appropriate geopolitical zone.
Owing to the indivisibility of the office of the president of Nigeria, the only way the federal character principle will apply to the office of the president as a political office referred to in the constitution is by rotating it. And this has been the practice since 1999; but now that it is the turn of the southeast to benefit from it, they want to change it. That is tantamount to changing the goalpost in the middle of the game.
What will be the general feeling, if Southeast is denied presidency?
The Southeast will certainly feel alienated if denied the 2023 presidency. From the scheming and permutations currently going on in the two major political parties ahead of the 2023 elections, there seems to be a calculated and deliberate conspiracy to deny the Southeast the parties’ presidential tickets.
It is necessary to remind Nigerians that Southeast is equal stakeholders and shareholders of Nigeria, and should not be relegated to the background. The Igbo have played supportive roles in the PDP and APC to other candidates from some other regions. Nigeria must understand that the reason why its economy has been on a continuous decline is simply because an Igbo man has not been given a chance to manage the economy.. I, therefore, urge other zones to sacrifice the presidential seat to the Igbo, so that the country will remain intact after 2023. Nigeria has a golden opportunity to extend the right hand of fellowship to a major part of this nation that has been visibly sidelined.
When APC came up with the policy of zoning the position to the south, politicians from the South-West, who are presently occupying the position of vice-president, and whose son, Olusegun Obasanjo, was president for eight years, started their campaign, just to ensure that Igbo man does not get it. In the PDP, politicians from the North, whose brother, President Muhammadu Buhari, will complete eight years next year, are, by recent declarations, insisting on succeeding him. What this shows is that Igbo are not important in the country’s political equation. The idea to leave the slot open for the entire southern Nigeria is not an acceptable idea. Under this democratic dispensation, the South-West has produced a president and vice president for 16 years in the last two decades; and the South-South has equally produced the president for six years and a vice president for two years, within the same period. The Southeast is the only zone in southern Nigeria that has not produced a president for the country in the present democratic dispensation, albeit, since the end of the civil war in 1970.
Southeast will continue to preach unity, equity, and fairness in the relationships among ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, including the fundamental need for rotation of presidential power in Nigeria’s polity. Structural imbalances in Nigeria have made federal character and rotation of presidential power inevitable. Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby, ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Zoning power to the Southeast is a matter of justice and equity, and not a matter of mere political gamesmanship. There will be consequences if efforts at promoting peace and unity in Nigeria through dialogue are sabotaged. This is not a threat but a natural response from an injured zone that has shown the greatest commitment and fidelity to the Nigerian nation.