By: Charles Ajunwa
If you go to the South-east today, the anger and bitterness resulting from the ministerial list is deep and widespread. It’s being discussed in the markets, in the motor parks, in churches, in homes and on the streets.
Even federal lawmakers from the South-east have woken up from sleep. They have joined the call for additional two ministerial slots for the South-east geopolitical zone. Those who vehemently kicked against the 48-man ministerial list, insisted that the South-east geopolitical zone was short-changed. They maintained that having no strong voice from the South-east will hurt Igbos in the immediate time but ultimately President Tinubu in particular and Nigeria in general will bear the consequences. They posit that the worst thing anyone can do to a people is to dehumanise the people with the belief they cannot do anything. Time will tell!
A prominent chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Dr. Osita Okechukwu, who was on Arise Television didn’t mince words as he called a spade, a spade by clearly putting the records straight.
Okechukwu, who denied absolving Tinubu of any blame on the nomination of five people from the South-east as members of his cabinet, said South-east leaders in the ruling APC should be held responsible as they were only interested in pursuing their personal agenda instead of collective bargaining.
The VON boss said: “I didn’t absolve President Tinubu. The framework of my message is that he should not be blamed too much as regards the South-east. Yes, my people’s grief is well captured. I’m in league with them with the grief that when Tinubu started with 20 Special Assistants and Advisers that we are scanty in that list. No group would be happy about that, and when it came to ministerial nominees that we got, we got only five. And we didn’t get the one spare that is normally given to each geopolitical zone that makes it six. To worsen the matter, we are the only geopolitical zone with five states only which we have agitated all over the years. That is the grief and I didn’t absolve President Tinubu totally.
“What I said is that if there are blame games to be laid, that it should be laid exactly where it lies on the door steps mostly on the so-called new APC leaders who I noticed while negotiations were going on were busy trying to knock off our first-eleven in the various five states. Their reason is that they might pose a danger to their own political career or their kingdom. They made the presentation that Tinubu announced.”
On South-east leaders he said, “Even in the face of the fact that we were happy when our brother the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma got that APC Governors Forum chairman. We thought by presiding over such an important caucus, in fact the foremost power block in any political party in Nigeria is the Governors Forum that as chairman of the Governors Forum that he had a very intimate access to Mr. President. Throughout that period, I didn’t see him in Imo, he had been in Abuja all throughout that period.
“We had expected him to be negotiating for the good of the South-east not for his personal preferences. And the result showed that his preferences and that of Senator Umahi were at play. Umahi behaved as if he was the only qualified person in Ebonyi State. The great Ebonyi State that we know that is constant with all professionals, all capable and competent ladies and gentlemen. He forgot as well that in the Senate that he occupied a very important position in the Senate leadership. We don’t know how we could replace that because in the wisdom of the Senate they might not use anybody from the South-east to replace him as Deputy Majority Leader. So, we lost that slot.
“For now, it was only about himself. I don’t know how he thought he was the only person who can be minister for Ebonyi State, because I remember the gruesome knockout he did to Mrs. Agumeze who placed herself to become the Senator of that zone and he knocked her out. He knocked his younger brother out only to arrive at the same Senate.
“Instead of meeting President Tinubu, saying ‘we need to improve on the South-east in the next election. If we have to do that, my people say, ‘the rain in the morning will determine how the day will go’. That ‘please, Mr. President leave me out, I’m okay with the Senate.
“So, I thought between Senator Umahi and Governor Uzodinma as leaders of the South-east that they could have been more patriotic, more collective in their reasoning instead of being petty in their negotiation. I remembered vividly how they mangled the structure we built over the years in the APC.”
An APC stalwart, Chief Ogadinma Okonkwo who expressed worry over the quality of the ministerial nominees said, “Many find this strange that in the six geopolitical zones it’s only in the South-east that one man was asked to bring his incompetent friends. The anger over the number and quality of the ministerial nominees from the South-east can be cut with a blunt knife.
“This particular sitting governor is merely trying to manufacture enemies and resentment against President Tinubu. They did same thing to Buhari and this is why despite all the infrastructures preceding government provided, the average Igboman or child doesn’t want to hear the name- Buhari.
“The same Igbos who this governor is working hard to make President Tinubu hate in the past voted for both Obasanjo and MKO Abiola. So, it’s not true that Igbos cannot love President Tinubu. The President shouldn’t allow this self-acclaimed messiah of Igbos and his friend, a former governor of South-east extraction to destroy the President’s image in the South-east. He should at least appoint two alternative credible voices from the South-east.”
He also wonders why President Tinubu could have ignored founding members of APC like Chief Ikechi Emenike, who is reputed for decency, brilliance and hardwork. According to him, every other zone in the country has original members of APC in President Tinubu’s cabinet except the South-east.
“It’s strange that is only the South-east that doesn’t have a single original APC member accommodated in Tinubu’s cabinet. Every single one of the five nominees presented by Mr. President recently joined from the PDP. Eliminating the voice of the South-east from the topmost decision-making body in the country may not be in the best interest of Nigeria.”
According to him, in the Buhari government, the South-east zone had a Chris Ngige, former Labour Minister who could hold his own. “This is why President Tinubu will require the voice of quality leaders from the South-east. That is why some people like me and other Igbo leaders want to alert President Tinubu why these so-called Igbo lovers are so zealous in campaign against such alternative voices from the South-east.
“Igbos feel that they are being pushed to the wall and this is dangerous. If President Tinubu feels that Igbos didn’t vote for him, he should also remember that Yorubas didn’t vote for Obasanjo in 1999. Obasanjo didn’t humiliate them neither did he deny them their fair share of ministerial positions.”
Although he insisted that President Tinubu is entitled to savouring all the euphoria of the moment but he was quick to add, “Triumphism without conscience is ultimately pyrrhic. Perhaps Tinubu should be reminded of the evergreen words of Uthman Dan Fodio that ‘conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it’. The truth today is the Tinubu’s open hostility against the South-east is unnecessary and unhealthy. Like most nations or races, Igbos also have long memories.”
According to Okonkwo, those that claim to be Igbo leaders “are charlatans pursuing selfish motives targeted against credible and resourceful Igbo leaders.” He wondered why such people should be tolerated in today’s Nigeria.
“If that is what President Tinubu wants to foist on the South-east, it might ultimately fail. What this calls for is for Asiwaju to demonstrate statesmanship which will reflect his capacity to carry some genuine leaders of this country especially from the South-east along.
Chief Eze Richard, another APC Chieftain warns that “the current government is making the South-east too toxic for APC members”. According to him, “those Igbos who are praising Tinubu’s ministerial list should come to Onitsha, Nnewi, Enugu, Umuahia, Abakaliki or Aba streets and repeat the same praises and see if they will not be stoned.”