One of the most challenging things in life is decision-making. It is like being at a crossroads, a point at which a crucial decision must be made which will have far-reaching consequences. A wrong decision at this point can lead to lifelong regrets or bliss. That’s why one has to be careful when at crossroads.
The coming presidential election presents such a dilemma to the South-East. Yes, a dilemma for the South-East in particular and Ndigbo in general. Though the rest of Nigeria has to deal with the same decision at varying degrees, no case of any section of the country is as dire as that of the South-East.
Since 1999, the South-east has not produced a viable presidential candidate except perhaps in the case of Dr Alex Ekwueme, who came close to flying the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in 1999. The hope was dashed when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo defeated Ekwueme in the PDP presidential primary in Jos.
Though Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu ordinarily should be viable, he contested under an unviable platform – the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Ojukwu garnered quite a bit of support but overall fell far short. Many didn’t believe Ojukwu stood any chance due to the poor structure of the party he flew its flag.
APGA had no national spread to win a presidential election. Ojukwu, in the 1999 presidential election, garnered only 1m votes around the country. His subsequent participation as presidential flagbearer of APGA yielded even more, dwindling results. In his last presidential race, the iconic and authentic Igbo leader and Biafra Republic head of state received only 250 thousand votes!
Ojukwu did not see any need to participate in the subsequent presidential elections and face further humiliation. Winning the presidential election in Nigeria takes a lot of technicalities. The great man and legend in his own right passed on not long after.
The 2023 presidential election promises to be different. Past presidential elections in the current dispensation have been essentially a two-horse race. But Peter Obi standing on the Labour party platform as a presidential candidate has been able to change the equation with a phenomenal impact akin to a political movement. The Labour party has earned a respectable place in the 2023 presidential race with its presidential flag bearer Mr Peter Obi considered rightly a frontrunner. That is what makes it a three-horse race. Some liberal pundits even say it is a four-horse race, with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP taking fourth place. However it is viewed, one thing is sure: February presidential election will not be a two-horse race as usual.
No one is considered a frontrunner in an election unless he or she is seen as a possible winner. Peter Obi, therefore, has a chance even as an underdog with all the trappings of a dark horse he presents. This flicker of hope Obi has shown is what has presented the South East with a dilemma – an approach-approach kind of conflict.
Approach-approach conflict is one of the major types of conflict described by psychologist Kurt Lewin. By definition, approach-approach conflict is an inward battle encountered where an individual has to choose between two desirable or equally appealing options or goals. The conflict is typically resolved when there’s a movement toward one of the goals.
Conflict itself, in Psychology, is when two or more strong motives that arise cannot be solved together. Dollar and Miller gave us insights into four types of conflicts we often get stuck in, namely: approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, approach-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance. The first option is what the South-East and the rest of the country, to some extent, face.
South-east is a home zone for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The party has never lost in the zone in a presidential election since 1999. This time around, the presence of Peter Obi on the scene has placed the zone squarely at crossroads: to vote for their son even if he doesn’t win (someone recently said to me: “if voting for Obi is wasting the vote, let me waste it”). It is that serious. The zone is angry. Many feel betrayed by the party, the PDP. Many from the South-east say it is their turn to present a presidential candidate on the platform of the PDP, but the party chose yet another northerner in the person of Atiku Abubakar instead.
But the decision to throw open the PDP presidential ticket was a decision reached by the entire party, which involved PDP leaders from the South East who represented the zone in the Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi committee on the zoning of the PDP national offices, and the Gov Samuel Ortom committee on the zoning of the PDP presidential ticket.
What is more, the south-east people are not told that Atiku Abubakar made a case for their zone. In a memo he sent to the Ortom committee, Atiku offered to step down from the presidential race if zoning the PDP presidential ticket to the South would mean micro-zoning it to the South-east as the only zone in the South divide of the country yet to produce a President or Vice President since 1999. Wike and other south PDP leaders ignored the offer and pushed for the Presidential ticket of the PDP to be thrown open. Atiku won and still picked an Igbo son, Gov Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, as his running mate.
This point is important for those who blame Atiku for taking the turn of the South-east and planning to waste their vote in protest. This is the time for a most rational decision in the South-east and the country. Atiku has the best chance to win this election, and the South-east cannot afford not to be part of the making of the Atiku/Okowa presidency.
In 2018, Igbo leaders and their friends gathered in Awka for the Awka Declaration, where the position document of the expectations of Ndigbo in Nigeria was presented and symbolically adopted. The Document clearly stated that Ndigbo wants a restructured Nigeria. The Document also contained the irreducible conditional minimums that a restructured Nigeria must bear out for Ndigbo in Nigeria to feel part and parcel of the country.
Let it be abundantly clear that only Atiku has stressed Restructuring in his manifesto and provided the pathway to a restructured Nigeria, which tallies with the expectations of Ndigbo as contained in the Awka Declaration. Such provisions are devolving power/electricity, ports, police, railway, solid minerals, and more to states as federating units of Nigeria. This simply means restoring Nigeria to federalism and doing away with the current unitary system imposed on a Nigerian federal environment.
Equally important is the economic blueprint of Atiku Abubakar, which proposes a private sector-driven economy. Ndigbo are business people, given to commerce, industry, and technology, evidently much more than any other zone in Nigeria. Ndigbo need a private sector-driven economy more than any other zone to fully unleash their potential, and that is precisely what Atiku’s manifesto richly offers.
For example, the South-east zone with constitutional powers over ports can canalize the Urashi River and Azumini River, which are about 13 to 16 nautical miles from the Atlantic Ocean, to allow ocean-travelling vessels to access and enter the South-east. That would mean establishing ports in the Igbo heartland. Ndigbo importing and exporting through Lagos and developing the economy of that zone would naturally return home to import and export through the South-east ports and develop their zone. Such is what the Atiku economic blueprint and campaign manifesto promise.
The other interesting aspect of Atiku’s five-point agenda is his plans for securing Nigeria. Atiku/Okowa presidency is planning state and community police through amendment of the 1999 constitution to move Policing to the Concurrent list. That way, interested states will set up their state and community police as obtained in the other 25 countries that practice federalism. The south-east economy is suffering a massive haemorrhage due to insecurity, and solving the security challenge is Atiku’s first port of call.
May Ndigbo, therefore not be overwhelmed by emotions and sentiments and vote in protest; let them rationally decide and have a restructured, secured Nigeria and private sector-driven economy promised by the Atiku/Okowa economic blueprint and manifesto.
· Dr Law Mefor, a forensic/social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought and can be reached via 09130335723 or [email protected]. He tweets @DrLawMefor.