The apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, announced on Friday that it will not back Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and All Progressives Congress National Leader Bola Tinubu’s presidential bid.
Chief Alex Ogbonnia, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, declared in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH that the South-East, not the South-West, would produce Nigeria’s next President.
He added that separatist agitations would increase in the South-East if the zone does not produce the next President.
Ogbonnia urged both Osinbajo and Tinubu to drop their 2023 ambition and back a competent aspirant from the South-East to emerge the next President of the country after the eight-year regime of the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on May 29, 2023.
With less than a year to the next general elections, the politics of zoning has dominated public discourse with prominent Southern elements and political parties demanding power shift to the Southern region after Buhari who is from Katsina in Nigeria’s bandit-ridden North-West.
Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, had in January 2022, declared his intention to fulfill his “lifelong ambition” of becoming a President in 2023 while Osinbajo had last week said he would want to succeed his principal (Buhari) to complete what they both started together.
Both politicians belong to the ruling All Progressives Congress and were former political associates as Osinbajo had served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under Tinubu for eight years from 1999 to 2007. Tinubu had also reportedly nominated Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate in the runup to the 2015 election to avoid a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
Speaking with The PUNCH on Friday, however, Ohanaeze said it was not the turn of the South-West to produce the next President but the South-East, adding that both the South-West and the South-South had produced Presidents and Vice-Presidents since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999.
Ohanaeze’s spokesman, Ogbonnia, said, “I had written an open letter to Tinubu before which I’m sure he must have read reminding him that at a point he had been the conscience of the nation with his truthful disposition. But in recent times, because of his ambition, he has chosen not to talk even when things are so bad.
“In the past, Tinubu would talk about equity, justice and fairness but in recent times, Tinubu has chosen to become an entirely different person. I advised him that he should not contest.
He should rather stand as an elder statesman in Nigeria. Above all, there is a zoning and rotation principle in Nigeria and it is the turn of the South-East.
“Then on the side of Osinbajo, he has a very tall credential, having occupied the position of the Vice-President, he is supposed to be an elder statesman. His profile is at variance with the decision he has taken to contest for the presidential slot because he knows that it is not the turn of the South-West. He has shown he has the interest of himself more than the interest of the nation.”
When asked whether Ohanaeze would support Tinubu, Osinbajo or any aspirant from the South-West, Ogbonnia said, “No way.”
He noted that elder statesmen like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo, amongst others have been clear that the South-East should produce the next President in the spirit of fairness and equity.
“People like Obasanjo, Bode George and Adebanjo have been clear about it. These are exemplary men and we are asking for more men to support a South-East Presidency,” he added.
Continuing, the spokesman for the South-East group said separatist agitations might increase in the zone if it does not produce the next President.
“What Ohanaeze is saying is that if this Presidency does not come to the South-East, definitely, there would be more restiveness and separatist agitations in the South-East; it would increase insecurity and it is not in the interest of anybody who loves the interest of this country.
“It is the stand of Ohanaeze that Osinbajo and Tinubu should add voice to the Presidency coming to the South-East and not begin to pursue personal interest,” he added.
South-East politicians who have expressed interest in the top job on APC platform also include Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; ex-Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; as well as former Governor of Abia State and Majority Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Kalu.
Also, Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirants from the South-East include ex-Anambra governor, Peter Obi; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim; former President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; and Chairman, Igbo World Assembly, Nwachukwu Anakwenze.