Agitation For Nigerian President Of Southeast Extraction Resonates In U.S.

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BY ROLAND OGBONNAYA*

The increasing call and clamour for a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction have been loudly amplified by participants and stakeholders in a conference in faraway United States of America.
At an international conference at the John Hopkins University, Washington DC and organised by Nextier Advisory, a multi-competency public policy advisory firm with core competencies in policy research, analysis, design and implementation, participants said a Nigerian President from southeast would engender peace, cohesion and national stability.

The conference, which also had an online audience drawn from around the world on Zoom, had as it’s themed “U.S. Policy And Nigeria’s National Decisions In The 2023 Elections.” Other organisers included School of Advanced and International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, School of International Service at the American University, and the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development at the University of Massachusetts.
The goal of the conference, according to Dr. Ndu Nwokolo of Nextier, was to ascertain how best U.S. policy can strengthen democratic institutions in Nigeria and help the country manage its perfect storm of security crises, and help affirm commitment to civilian electoral rule in Nigeria.

Participants that included Nigerians agreed that the easiest way to ensure peace in the country was to promote equity, fairness and justice.

With nationwide elections scheduled for early 2023 and tensions over who will succeed the term-limited president and governors escalating in recent months, the conferees warned the situation was sure to aggravate the already precarious security situation in the country as the nation moves toward hotly contested party primaries in mid-2022.

“Nigeria’s increasing fragility has become the subject of increasing debate and concern. The country has displayed a growing national security crisis arising from widespread kidnappings, banditry, multiple ongoing insurrections, rising secessionist movements, intensifying farmer-herder conflicts, and elite struggles over control of political offices,” the conference organisers noted.

But Prof Chudi Uwazurike, an academic and former member of the Federal House of Representatives, said the most pragmatic way of dealing with the Nigerian question was to ensure that Nigeria elects a President from the Southeast in the 2023 elections.

Prof Uwazurike’s call was echoed by Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an Abuja-based policy advocacy and research organization focusing on deepening democracy and development in West Africa.

Urging the political parties, particularly the dominant ones – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) – to zone their presidential tickets to the Southeast, both Prof Uwazurike and Idaya, a lawyer, said such a move will not only promote equity, justice, and fairness but also engender the needed peace, cohesion and national stability that will stimulate nation-building.

Prof Uwazurike, a renowned public intellectual, said: “Zoning presidency to the Southeast in 2023 will address grievances. Nigeria has a fantastic opportunity in 2023 to create a good future but there is a need to address the injustice done to the Southeast region. There is the need to ensure there is equity, justice, and fairness so as to assuage the people.

“Their request is not a radical one but a rational approach that will promote peace and national cohesion.”

Speaking in the same vein, Idayat Hassan said: “2023 will provide another unique opportunity to re-negotiate the country. If there is no justice and equity, Nigeria will collapse. We need to acknowledge the injustice that was done to the people (Southeasterners).

“Election 2023 should be seen as a time for genuine reconciliation in Nigeria by supporting a President from the Southeast region to emerge in 2023.

“We must allow inclusion, equity, justice and fairness to reign because without it you cannot deepen the nation’s democracy.”
There has been clamour for the Igbo to be allowed to produce the president in 2023 since it is the only major ethnic group that hasn’t held the position since 1999, not even the vice president.

However, a participant, Brig. General Saleh Bala, said he was opposed to the idea of zoning. Rather than rotating political positions around tribal groupings, he is of the view that since democracy is a game of numbers, the majority should have the final say.

But he was countered by Chief Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation, who reminded him that concepts like quota system and Federal Character, which was codified in the Constitution were all done to carry along certain parts of the country considered to be lagging behind for the sake of unity and inclusiveness.

In his contribution, Michael Gonzales, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, whose portfolio covers West Africa and the Sahel Region, reiterated America’s commitment to ensuring transparent and credible elections in Nigeria in 2023.

Gonzales warned that there would be sanctions for government officials who would be tempted to manipulate the 2023 elections.

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