From Kenneth Udeh Abuja
Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has disclosed that political disposition of Igbo has evolved from what it used to be, stressing that the region can no longer be manipulated in making its political decisions.
Following the unwillingness of the South West and South South to support the zoning of the presidential ticket to the South East, Kalu asserted that majority of South East people would back the retention of power in the North by supporting the North East to produce next president.
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Kalu, who stated this on Monday during an interview on Channels Television programme, ‘Politics Today’, said his understanding of the power shift to the southern part of the country was that all regions in the South South, South West and South East would allow the latter to produce the country’s next president. He said the South East had, in the past, supported South West to produce former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, as well as supported the South South to produce former president, Goodluck Jonathan, insisting that it is time for both zones to support South East.
“We agreed it is the turn of the South East to produce the president. Later, we started seeing candidates from other zones – South West and South South. I know the two zones that have not produced the country’s president are South East and North East. I know I don’t have the number but I have other things to win the election.
“Does equity mean excluding the South East? If Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State wants to talk about equity, he should mention the South East; anything less than that is not equity, it can go back to the North.
“Yes, we agreed that power should come to the South but they don’t want the power to come to the South East, so why should I allow them (South West/South South) to take it when they have produced presidents before? We are only wiser today, we are wise people, we are no longer the ‘mumu’ they used to cheat; we are now very wiser. It is no longer business as usual, we have a game plan and we shall unfold it.
“If you cannot give it to us, we don’t care where it comes from. What I am telling you is the position of the majority of the Igbo, some might disagree but most that understand politics know this. Because you cannot expect us to continue voting for you and you refuse to vote for us. If we vote for you then you vote for us.”
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On the political orientation of the Igbo from the South East, Kalu maintained they would no longer be misled, saying the Igbo will, henceforth, vote according to mutual benefits.
“What you will see in 2023 is the new Igbo thinking and the new Igbo thinking will be based on give and take. If you give me, I give you and if you don’t give me I won’t give you.
“Any southerner that is not from the South East and is coming to run for president is a ‘betrayer’. They are the ones betraying us so they should find sincerity in their mind to vote for us too.
“We have supported South West. We supported former president Obasanjo, we supported Osinbajo, we supported Jonathan for five years as vice president and president for six years. Why can’t they support us?” he asked.
While defending his decision to step down from the presidential race, he reiterated that the position ought to be zoned to the South East, vowing to reactivate his aspiration if the presidency is zoned to the South East. Kalu, however, said Nigeria needs strong leadership and he believes Lawan is the one that can give the country such.
“I have known him for 41 years. We were roommates at the university. He is strong enough to give the Nigerian people what they are looking for. If we have to do anything rational, Lawan will have my vote because he is from the North East. Anything, except South East, it should go back to the North. We are wiser now. This is the position of most Igbo. If they vote it back to the South East, I’ll reactivate my aspiration.”
As far as he is concerned, the Senate president played a vital role in stabilising the Nigerian parliament. He said several bills have been passed under Lawan’s leadership, a development Kalu said would be replicated at the presidential level if Lawan wins.
He said Lawan’s presidential ambition was gathering steam with some candidates ready to step down for the Senate president.
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“I want to tell you, I have spoken to nine candidates running for president, and they are ready, already in talks to step down for Lawan,” the lawmaker added.
Meanwhile, a cross section of the Igbo have backed the Senate chief whip’s call that power be retained in the North due to what they described as the refusal of the South West and South South regions to support the South East’s presidential bid.
Rallying behind Kalu’s stance, a cross section of the Igbo took to their social media platforms to lend their support for power retention in the North, pledging to vote for the North East to produce the next president.
Anselen Chineke commenting on Channels TV Facebook page said Orji Kalu’s stand is in line with the general opinions of the Igbo in the South East.
Obi Egwu opined that the South East were not considered good enough to produce the next president; it made no sense to support any candidate from both the South West and South South.
He wrote: “If South East is not good enough to produce president, then why should we support a candidate from South West or South South whom have taken their turns in Obasanjo and Jonathan? OUK go on with the campaign Biko.”
Another user Orji Uka wrote: “Very strong and valid point, and only the wise will understand. It must be South East for presidency, any other person is gatecrashing.”
Charles Izu Ezeonyirimba expressed that power should go back to the North if the South East is denied the presidency. He wrote: “If not South East, let it go back to North forever. This is our stand in Igbo land.”
Some other comments as captured also read:
Ikenna Nwokedi: ‘Practically speaking, Kalu is absolutely right. If South South and South West can’t support the South East, why keep power in the South? When both South West and South South have had their turn. Equity and fairness is vital. South East supported Obasanjo in 1999 against Alex Ekwueme, South East supported Jonathan in 2011, why can’t the two geopolitical zones support us. Primarily, winning the primary election has to do with delegates. In a country of 19:17 states ratio. Do the mathematical permutation and you will see that Kalu was very politically empirical.”
Muhammad Shafie: ‘I like his courage. All these southerners shouting power must return to the South will not agree to zone it to South East. So, who is fooling who?
Prince Kelechi: ‘If South West and South South can’t support South East presidential bid. No need to support them. It should go back to the North.”
Ifeanyi Iheukwumer: “Agreed 100 per cent, if South East can’t produce the president, let the power return to the North…”
Chimeremezie Tochukwu: “Thank you distinguished senator. You couldn’t have said it any better. Justice, equity and fairness demand not just South but South East to produce the Nigerian president, if not, the North should hold it.”
Emmanuel Ibe: “…If the entire South cannot unite and endorse an Igbo man for the sake of equity then let the presidency go back to the North.”