One reads the decision of respected Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, to drag the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, for accepting to serve Nigeria as deputy to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, from May 29, with serious laughter. Clark called Okowa a betrayer. Really? The question should be, between Chief Edwin Clark and Ifeanyichukwu Okowa, who actually betrayed the South?
Added to this is the action of those who call themselves Southern and Middle Belt Leaders drumming support for the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi. Get me right; those old men are within their constitutional rights to support Obi or whosoever they want. However, there comes a time when situations must be put in proper context.
In the first place, Pa Clark was the chief supporter of the last Nigerian PDP president of Southern Nigeria extraction, His Excellency Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. He was his marketer-in-chief as well as defender-in-chief. Pa Clark was at the forefront of the defence of the Jonathan government. He led other Southern leaders to threaten Nigeria with whatever was possible if Jonathan did not succeed himself in 2015.
Recall that Jonathan had to stand in for the 2015 election even when it was evident that he was in breach of a gentleman’s agreement he freely entered into with his party members and Northern political leaders to step aside after completing the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/Jonathan tenure.
Recall that during Jonathan’s declaration to stand for the 2015 election, only Gov. Babangida Aliyu of Niger State attended the event held at Eagles Square in Abuja. The other 18 governors from the north, especially those of his party PDP, boycotted the rally because it was argued that it was in breach of a gentleman’s agreement with Jonathan and northern leaders to allow the north-south rotation principle in the PDP to continue.
Sen. Seidu Dansadau, a PDP member from Zamfara state, stated in an interview with Daily Trust published in 2015 that the refusal of Jonathan to respect the rotation principle forced northern politicians from across the 19 northern states, irrespective of party, to back Muhammadu Buhari. Of course, Jonathan violated the rotation agreement with the active support of Chief Edwin Clark and majority of those sitting on the table as Ohaneze, Afenifere. Middle Belt leaders. He did not act alone. They prodded Jonathan to disregard the rotation principle because they believed that federal might would work in his favour. Many people have argued that had Jonathan honoured that agreement, PDP would have still been in power today, and perhaps, the southeast would have easily had its turn. But no. Desperation to hold on and deny the north its turn and support by persons who ought to be ‘Elders of Honour’ robbed Nigeria, and PDP, of that opportunity and ended the rotation of the President between the north and the South under the PDP.
Recall also that southeast leaders tumbled over themselves to market Jonathan as an Igbo man. They deliberately inserted ‘Azikiwe’ into his name and even shortened his name, Ebelemi, to Ebele in the desperate need to claim him as theirs and achieve a president from southeast extraction. Many Igbo politicians gladly told stories of how Jonathan is an Mbaise man whose grandparents migrated and settled at Otuoke because of trade.
Recall, however, that Jonathan was asked to defend his name in his first-ever media chat as President, which was anchored by Gbenga Aruleba of AIT and aired live on national TV networks. Gbenga’s first question was, “your name is Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. How come the combination” to which Jonathan stated that his given name was Goodluck while Ebele was actually a shortened form of his Ijaw native name Ebelemi while Azikiwe was a pet name given to him by his grandmother because of the influence and popularity of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe at the time. Gbenga further asked him, “does that mean you are not Igbo” to which Jonathan answered in the affirmative, “yes, I am not Igbo”. Despite this, southeast and Ohaneze Ndigbo leaders fought hard to appropriate him as Igbo, thus creating the understanding that an Igbo man was President in Jonathan.
With the above scenarios, Chief Edwin Clark should see within himself who exactly is the traitor, while the southeast leaders should see where they failed to make sense.
Besides the South, having produced the last President of Nigeria from the PDP platform, what other justification do Southern PDP leaders have to insist that the successor to the holder of that office must also come from the South? Does it make any sense to marginalise the north in this regard? Is the north not part of Nigeria? Is the north not part of the membership of PDP? Is it morally justifiable for anyone to eat his cake and still have it?
Furthermore, the PDP had a Samuel Ortom committee whose membership was drawn from every state of the federation and Abuja. All the states that make up Southern Nigeria were represented in the Committee, and there is no evidence that any state of the country stayed away or declined membership of the Committee.
So, they sat, deliberated and agreed to throw the presidential ticket of the party open. Till this day, only Chief Ozichukwu Chukwu, who represented Imo state in the Committee, has voiced out his disagreement with the final decision of the Committee. No other member of the Committee did. How come people who should be Elders of Honour are rising at the 11th hour to create an atmosphere that would drag Southern youths to their waterloo?
How come those who led Jonathan by the nose to betray a gentleman’s agreement with the north and thus create the opportunity that plunged Nigeria into the mess that it is into are now pontificating on virtues and calling Okowa, who like them, freely exercised ls his constitutional right to vie for an office that he is eminently qualified to compete for?
Does it make sense for these men to continually seek to fool Southern youths with their penchant for remaining politically relevant?
Let’s look at the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders. Beyond meeting over pepper soup and Glenfiddich, how have they been able to network with other segments of Nigeria to market their conviction that power should go south?
In politics, you do not sit in your comfortable home, keep screaming emilokan and expect every other interest to take you seriously. At least we saw Bola Tinubu say it was his turn to rule Nigeria. He did not just stop at saying Emilokan. He entered the streets. He toured Nigeria and is still touring. He networked and has been convincing other people on why it is his turn. Ohaneze, Afenifere, MBF etc., only issue press statements to say power must go southeast. Fine, but what else have they done to convince other segments of Nigeria that, indeed, it is southeast ‘lokan’? Obviously nothing.
Southerners must be told what their leaders have done to strategically build alliances across Nigeria beyond issuing press statements. They must also come clean of allegations in the political space that they betrayed the region when Yar’Adua offered the vice presidential to the southeast. This may be a matter for another day. But like they say, those who go to equity must go with clean hands.