Rochas Okorocha, Imo State Governor, raised the issue of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction a notch higher recently. He advised Ndigbo to be bold, re-strategise and go for the number one job.
Speaking at an interactive session with Ndigbo Lagos (NL), a group in the vanguard of defending Igbo interest in Lagos State, the governor considered it a serious business that would be achieved through strategic thinking.
Incidentally, the issue of producing a president of Igbo extraction for Nigeria has been a long standing one, since 1999 when the current civil dispensation took root. As a matter of fact, it got to a point when some people of Igbo extraction employed it as tool for political gains, only to later dump it when they had achieved their political ambitions. Events took a more engaging turn in the build-up to 2003 elections, when Ojo Maduekwe, former Minister of Foreign Affairs described the idea as “idiotic”.
Unrelenting however, more than 11 years after, the issue has not waned, but has continued to gain currency. In the current dispensation, arguments have been rife on which way to go. While a camp contend that Ndigbo should soft-pedal on agitation until it becomes clearer what the current President, Goodluck Jonathan wants to do, on the premise that it would be unfair to antagonise him, since he hailed from the same region, others consider it inappropriate to wait on a man who reportedly once promised that he would run for only a single term, but is now dilly-dallying on the issue.
However, Okorocha, who insists that it had become imperative that an Igbo man governs Nigeria in the next dispensation, noted that he was interested in having a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and not an Igbo president.
His words: “We want Nigerian President (of Igbo extraction), and there is nothing wrong with that ambition but we cannot achieve that by just sitting down, agonising, complaining and crying. Ndigbo must be fearless and bold since God does not protect a man but only protect a vision in a man.”
He averred however that before that could happen, Ndigbo must first devise a strategy to disengage themselves from the marginalisation they have been facing in the country, arguing that the so-called marginalisation was actually not induced by other Nigerians, but by Ndigbo on themselves.
Hear him: “We have about 20 million people in support of Igbo Presidency. Let those 20 million people make friends with 20 million more people, we will have an Igbo President. We must zone presidency by association and not from where you come from.”
The governor took other issues at the interaction also. For instance, he saw a need for the renewal of leadership in the country. He also expressed the view that the country was not making progress because of the failure of leadership in the country, which he saw as a result of failure of leadership at home.
He insisted that with the existence of the right leadership in the country, all other things would begin to go well, arguing that when such was not in existence, things would to go bad.
“Show me a young boy who has engaged in Boko Haram activities and young man who has engaged in kidnapping and I will show a family that has no leadership … Show me a young girl who has engaged in prostitution and I will show you a mother who has refused to bring up her child in the right direction.”
For Kalu Onuma, Administrative Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos, the Imo Governor spoke his mind because the time had come when Ndigbo must be allowed to govern the country. “I very much agree with the governor. All he said are in sync with my thinking, and his has my support,” he said.
Asked if it would not be wrong since the current President may be looking for Igbo support, he replied that it would rather be wrong for Ndigbo to begin to support what had not been asked for. “We cannot support what has not been asked; are we to cry more than the bereaved?” he asked.
Fidelis Ajumbe, Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), in Imo State, holds a contrary view. He believes it is a tall order for Ndigboto produce the President in 2015 because of their lack of unity. Apart from lack of unity, he also believed that they were rather interested in making money than in pursuing the project.
His words: “Igbo people are businessmen and so they are afraid of losing their contacts in government. That is why they would not want to do anything that will annoy people in government” he averred.