I would not have commented on the recent appearance by a group of political adventurers in Aso Villa if not for the fact that they were described as “Igbo leaders” in some sections of the media. If they had simply gone as All Progressives Congress (APC) members from the South East visiting the President and leader of their party for whatever purposes, it would have passed as a non-event (though I have not seen APC leaders from other geopolitical zones going similarly cap-in-hand for special attention of President Muhammadu Buhari).
They called their gathering South East Group for Change (SEGC), probably a name they coined just for the Aso Rock trip, as nothing of such had been heard before now. Led by Mr. Ken Nnamani, a former Senate President, some of the known names included Mr. Osita Izunaso, a former one-term senator; Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, a two-term Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Chris Akomas, a former Deputy Governor of Abia State and Chief George Moghalu. Apart from Moghalu, the rest were in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when the going was good. They owed the high public offices attached to their names to the PDP, and now that the APC has become the new party with the “knife and yam”, they have trooped over there to reap where they did not sow.
They are political opportunists, and it shocks many of Nnamani’s former admirers that he has degenerated to this level after once seeming a strong presidential possibility from Igboland. Of this lot, only Moghalu is a genuine, thoroughbred APC leader. From 1999, Moghalu has been in the movement that eventually transmogrified into the APC – from the All People’s Party (APP) to the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to the APC. He is a true party man; a genuine politician who stuck with the former opposition party through sun, rain, storms and high winds until it finally became the ruling party.
Buhari told us that the reason he violated the constitutional principle of federal character in the appointment of his inner government, was that he distributed positions to those who toiled and suffered with him over the years as a reward for their loyalty. I wonder how Moghalu could not qualify for appointment since he had been one of Buhari’s faithful point men in the South East since 2003 when he first ran for president. He was in that movement long before Dr. Chris Ngige decamped from the PDP.
Even though no communiqué or media statement was issued after that visit (Buhari, knowing them for the opportunists they were, probably had nothing tangible to tell them). I read a most annoying analysis credited to an unnamed member of the group. This fellow fraudulently claimed that Buhari emerged president last year because “some people worked” to ensure that former President Goodluck Jonathan could not get the quantum of votes he got in the South East which assisted him in winning in 2011. Why did those unnamed Buhari miracle workers fail to grab 25 per cent votes for him in any of the five South East States?
The truth was that the Igbos were even more determined than they were in 2011 to see Jonathan returned for a second term, but Professor Attahiru Jega’s Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) and his Card Reader machines were deployed to cut the quantum of votes that could have gone in the former president’s favour in the South East and South-South. There was mass failure of card readers in the two zones, though it was a great success in the Lagos area. But in the North nobody bothered with them. It was “incident forms”/manual all the way, coupled with under-aged voters. Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has openly and without shame boasted about it.
Majority of Igbos never worked for Buhari’s victory, but the auguries went in favour of Buhari, which is democracy in action. They are not asking for the lion’s share of the spoils of APC victory because they are a minority in the ruling party. All they are asking for is their constitutional rights spelt out in the federal character principle, which is the irreducible minimum of equity. Majority of Igbos are comfortable being with their South-South neighbours politically rather than the old situation of the two sides fighting each other for the North’s crumbs. They have no grudges against Buhari and his party. Like other Nigerians, they expect the President to carry everyone along since political contestations are over.
If the South East and South-South decide to work together with Buhari and his APC, it must be based on clearly identifiable indicators of good governance and willingness to give every Nigerian group a sense of belonging. It cannot be under the terms and conditions under which the so-called SEDC members are masquerading with the name of Igbo people and throwing themselves at a leader who has no use for them.
What irked people the most was that this laughable visit took place against the background of a year in which two Igbo girls were forcibly converted to Islam and married off without their parents’ blessings in the North. Buhari sent Boko Haram prisoners to a minimum security prison in Ekwulobia, Anambra. Also, Fulani herdsmen have been ravaging communities in the South East and other areas and for nearly one year, Buhari refused to say or do anything about it. Instead he mobilised the Nigerian Army (instead of the Police) to kill hundreds of unarmed protesting Igbo youth (the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB).
And under his one year in office, two Igbos have been lynched in the North for trumped up charges of “blasphemy”. Under this hostile atmosphere, all that Nnamani and his fellow PDP turncoats could think of was to go to President Buhari, to ask for what?