For Nigeria's All Progressives Congress party to survive after Mohammadu Buhari's presidency, they might as well consider presenting an Igbo presidential candidate in 2023 elections.
The Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria is one of the three major ethnic nationalities in the country. The others are the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani. These three groups dominate and dictate who rules Nigeria, whether it is a military or civilian regime, since the country’s political independence in 1960. To consolidate this domination, the colonial government divided the country into three with each of them in charge of one. The North was given to the Hausa-Fulani, East to the Igbo and West to the Yoruba. There was no south because it will not be in the interest of these major ethnic groups.
Consequently, all the people of Nigeria who actually belong to the South were shared between the East (Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa states) and the West (Delta and Edo states). Despite the splitting of the South into these six states, as constituted today, the major ethnic groups of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba comfortably dominate Nigerian politics and dictate who becomes the president of Nigeria.
From 1960 till date, the other major ethnic groups have marginalised the Igbo from having their own people become president of Nigeria. Effectively, the Igbo have ruled Nigeria for only six months (January-July 1966 under late General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi). The Yoruba have ruled for 11 years (1976-1979 under General Olusegun Obasanjo retired; 1999-2007 under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo).
The Hausa-Fulani have ruled for 36 years (1966-1975 under General Yakubu Gowon, retired, 1975-1976; under late General Murtala Mohammed, 1979-1983; under Shehu Shagari, 1983-1985; under General Mohammadu Buhari, retired, 1985-1993; under General Ibrahim Babangida, retired, 1993-1998; under late General Sani Abacha, 1998-1999; under General Abdusalami Abubakar, retired, 2007-2010; under late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, 2015-2018 and current President Mohammadu Buhari).
The remaining 11 years were ruled as follows: 1960-1966 shared by Igbo-Hausa/Fulani under late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and 2010-2015 by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from the South.
This marginalisation has been extended to the present civilian regime since 1999. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) divided the country into six geo-political regions with six states in each. It is only the South-East Region occupied by the Igbo, that has five states and this has been at the disadvantage of the Igbo, compared to the political mathematical advantages it gives to other regions with six states.
Unfortunately, Igbo politicians and elites are not interested in reversing this disadvantage so long as it does not diminish their access to state funds for personal use. Indeed it is this group of politicians and elites that have effectively frustrated the Igbo from having access to the position of the president of Nigeria. Yet, other Nigerians cannot remove the fact that ordinary Igbo feel saddened and frustrated with this fact, which from time to time, leads these ordinary Igbo to demand for their own country called Biafra.
So, where is the solution? Which political party is in a better position to concede its presidential slot to the Igbo in 2019 or 2023? Although in politics, no one is given a political office without a fight, but at times it could be given or allowed to assuage and arrest future negative political feelings and actions. That was why the idea of rotation or zoning of key political offices was created, especially in a very hyperbolic and heterogeneous political society. Also, in some cases, some political parties may allow some groups of people to have access to key political positions in order to harvest acceptance and votes from those groups for the political survival of the party.
Looking at the key political parties in Nigeria today, the Igbo do not have any chance in the PDP to produce a president of Nigeria come 2019 or 2023. This is because the party has zoned that position to the North for 2019 and it affects 2023. For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it is likely to present President Mohammadu Buhari for re-election in 2019. Consequently, come 2023, the North under the APC, may not present a presidential candidate. Will it go to the West? The likely answer is no because they had been Vice President under Buhari. Again giving it to the Yoruba in 2023 would add salt into the marginalisation injury suffered by the Igbo since independence.
To give it to the Igbo will at least assume to heal this long inflicted injury and favour the APC. Therefore, come 2023, the slot should be made available to the East (Igbo). The most qualified Igbo politician should be Ogbonnaya Onu, the current Minister of Science and Technology. He has been the key Igbo politician in the APC, which was the amalgam of three major political parties: the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was until then, the national chairman of the ANPP. He was the first civilian governor of Abia State in 1992. He is a simple and sincere politician with lots of integrity. He is a very marketable candidate in all parts of Nigeria.
Therefore, for the APC to survive after Buhari, it will be wise to ensure that Ogbonnaya Onu becomes the party’s presidential candidate in 2023. Ensuring that an Igbo is the presidential candidate in the 2023 election will prove to the Igbo that APC is their party of hope and that the party loves them, thus countering the misinformation that the APC hates them.
If 80 percent of Igbo in Nigeria vote for Onu as the presidential candidate of the APC in 2023, and with some added sympathy votes from the rest of Nigeria including my humble self, the long dream of the Igbo to rule Nigeria especially after the civil war, will be achieved and APC as a political party will survive the political earthquake called Nigerian Politics.
* Okachikwu Dibia writes from Abuja, Nigeria