We reproduce an excerpt from Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State in his lengthy article titled: “History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1).”
Let’s be clear: Peter Obi knows that he can’t and won’t win. He knows the game he is playing, and we know too; and he knows that we know. The game he is playing is the main reason he didn’t return to APGA. The brutal truth (and some will say, God forbid) is that there are two persons/parties seriously contesting for president: the rest is exciting drama! That many Americans may not like the fact that Joe Biden (79 years) and Donald Trump (76 years) are two frontrunners for president in their parties does not remove the fact that if both of them emerge as candidates, definitely one of them will be president in 2024.
As my brother, I wish him well and even pray for him. I told him during his courtesy call that my prayer is that himself or Prof Umeadi of APGA would win, why not? That is from my heart, but I also told him that my head and facts on the ground led me to know that it’s probability is next to zero (what I cannot say before you, I won’t say behind you). So I already told him my opinion. Indeed, there is no credible pathway for him near the first two positions, and if care is not taken, he won’t even near the third position. Analysts tell him you don’t need “structure” to win. Fantasy! Of course, LP won governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun on social media and via phantom polls, while getting barely 2,000 votes on ground. Creating a credible third force for presidential election in Nigeria requires a totally different strategy and extreme hard work.
Of course, Peter Obi will get some votes, and may probably win in Anambra state— as “home boy”. But Anambra is not Nigeria. If he likes, I can even campaign for him but that won’t change much. From internal state by state polling available to me, he was on course to get 25% in 5 states as at August this year. The latest polling shows that it is down to four states, and declining. Not even in Lagos state (supposed headquarters of urban youths) where Labour Party could not find candidates to contest for House of Reps or Senate. The polls also show that he is taking votes away mostly from PDP. Indeed, if I were Asiwaju Tinubu, I would even give Peter Obi money as someone heading one of the departments of his campaign because Obi is making Tinubu’s pathway to victory much easier by indirectly pulling down PDP. It is what it is!
The current fleeting frenzy, if not checked, will cost Ndigbo dearly for years. The South East has the lowest number of votes of any region, but it is also the only region where the presidential race might be a 4-way race (it is a two-way race in the other 5 regions) thereby ensuring that our votes won’t count in the making of the next president of Nigeria. Afterwards, we would start complaining that we don’t get “what we deserve” or cry of marginalization. During the 2019 presidential election, the five South East States were united for PDP but contributed merely 1.6 million votes to PDP which was about the votes that Kano state gave to Buhari. The emotions might run to heavens but politics-power is about cold calculations, organization and building alliances for power. In a democracy, it is a game of numbers. So far, I don’t see any of these— and 2023 might again be a wasted opportunity for Ndigbo! What is our Plan B when Peter Obi loses in February 2023? Some people prefer that we should play the Ostrich while Peter Obi toys with the collective destiny of over 60 million Igbos. Yes, you pray that he wins, but what if he fails as he is certain to? The Bible says that my people perish for lack of knowledge. As the saying goes, only those who Plan can control the future. Ndigbo, wake up and smell the coffee!
“Where do we go from here? I listened to my friend Gov El-Rufai on TV explaining why the northern governors decided that power should shift to the South. According to him, they asked themselves what would their founding fathers—Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa or Aminu Kano would have done in the circumstance?.
Today, I ask my people, Ndigbo: do we ask what Azikiwe or M.I. Okpara or Akanu Ibiam would have done in the present circumstance? I worry that Ndigbo as Nigeria’s foremost itinerant tribe and with the greatest stake in the Nigerian project does not yet have a strategy to engage Nigeria—politically! Every four years, we resurface with emotive Nzogbu Nzogbu political dance (“it is our turn dance” but without organization or strategy) and fizzle out afterwards while others work 24/7 strategizing and organizing.”
Our founding fathers understood that in politics, you don’t get what you deserve but what you bargain/negotiate, and you negotiate with your organization and VOTES. Not social media militancy or bullying (where over 90% of actual voters are not on social media)! Our fathers built alliances with other major political parties in other regions (not with socio-cultural groups that don’t command any votes), and Ndigbo were in the reckoning in the first and second republics. After the elections, we will see how many votes any of the leaders of the socio-cultural groups will get for Peter Obi from their wards. Sometimes I even sense a conspiracy to nudge us on a path to nowhere thereby further pushing us into irrelevance, and I pray that I am wrong. Just my two cents!
It is not too late for Ohanaeze Ndigbo and progressive Igbo leaders to pre-emptively start charting a pragmatic future for Ndigbo in Nigeria after the elections. Armchair social media analysts can have the luxury of fantasizing with wild speculations. Right or wrong, they earn their pay and with no consequences. For us as leaders, the lives of tens of millions are at stake. We have a historic duty to act and being silent or politically correct is not an option. For starters, Ohanaeze should study the report of my committee (planning and strategy) in 2019. It may still be relevant today. Second, Ndigbo should seriously study the MoU signed at the Yar’Adua Centre in 2010. The leader of Igbo Political Association, Chief Simon Okeke and our members are still there. Thirdly and for me, Ndigbo should strategize and bargain especially with the TWO candidates likely to be president on at least four central issues:
A) Lasting peace and security in the South East, including the release and engagement with Nnamdi Kanu.
South East Economic transformation agenda and the FGN’s Marshall Plan for the South East as promised since the end of the Civil War (the post war ‘reconstruction’). We appreciate the Second Niger Bridge and recent contract for MTN to reconstruct the Onitsha-Enugu expressway. But the rail-lines to the five state capitals, speedy access to the sea, highways linking South East to the North and South South, addressing our existential threat as gully erosion capital of Africa, Free Trade and Export Processing Zones, etc.
C) Restructuring Agenda for Nigeria that devolves powers/resources to the subnational entities and in which it would no longer matter where the President comes from.
D) Levelling the playing field for the unleashing of the private sector and the full participation of Ndigbo in the economic and governance space; etc.
To conclude, let me once again wish my brother Peter Obi good luck. He should have fun and enjoy the fleeting frenzy of the moment. But he must moderate the desperation as exhibited by his social media mob. There is a limit to propaganda. A mob action often reflects the character of its leader. No one has a monopoly of social media violence, and no one should play God. Life won’t end by February/March 2023.
I hope that after February 2023, Peter Obi will return to APGA (the party that made him everything he is politically) as I offered him on 8th March, 2022 and begin the hard work, if he truly wants to be president of Nigeria. It won’t happen by desperately jumping from one party to another or by unleashing a social media mob on everyone who slightly disagrees with you. I decided to pen my views personally — again for the records. On this, I don’t mind being a one man minority. As history beckons, my conscience and sense of duty to my people dictate that I should never be silent. I will happily accept the judgment of history for standing by the truth!
14th November, 2022.