South East In Search Of Genuine Political Leaders | Independent Newspapers Limited
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South East In Search Of Genuine Political Leaders

rochas obi
Posted: Apr 2, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos

The name, Barrister Nkechi Chukwueke, may not ring a bell in the South East geo-political zone of the country. But she is an Igbo from Isikwuato in Abia State. As a politician, she plays her game in Lagos, South West Nigeria. An All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain, she is former Special Assistant to ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Women, Ethnic Groups Mobilisation and Empowerment and also a former Public Relations Officer of the Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA).

Answering a question on her perception of the politics in the South East geo-political zone during a recent interview, Mrs. Chukwueke said: “Igbo politicians? We have not done well. It is not that we do not have a leader; or who to speak for them. But, the problem is the poor management by those who had led the people.
“For example, I doff my hat for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. I respect him so much for leaving a legacy. He has done so much for his people. He has made men and women. His impact is everywhere. He is a true leader. If we have one or two persons like that from the East, we will be better off.
“But, in South East, who is like that? They are selfish, self-centred. You cannot have all the positions at once. Power and respect are earned. We should learn much in politics. We are not good in politicking. That is how I see South East politics. That is my opinion.”

Many will align with Chukwueke’s position today. This is because a good number of South East politicians do not think of the general good, but of themselves and their gains. They are very far from what the late Igbo warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, stood for. The Eze Gburugburu as Ojukwu is widely known is a charismatic leader who lived and died for the Igbo cause. He took his people to war for the survival of the Igbo race. Ojukwu is dead, but no South East leader today can easily pass as his replacement.

The quest for a South East political leader has been there. At a point, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo seemed to be helping to find those the cap fits. But, somehow, it fizzled out and became a toothless bulldog, a tool to politicians. Thus, South East, although with a number of leaders, does not have a standard bearer today, who can generally be accepted as a presidential candidate. Hence, the quest for Igbo presidency has remained a mirage. There are no servant- leaders like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara, or even Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

Years back, the people gave the then frontline Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, their support. He was among the frontrunners. But, after a visit to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at his Ota Farm in Ogun State with some of the Igbo leaders, Iwuanyanwu who was being tipped as a presidential candidate, emerged as the Campaign Manager of Obasanjo in the South East for the 1993 election. After Obasanjo’s victory, he was appointed the chairman of the Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi and the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). Today, Iwuanyanwu’s political structure and business empire have become shadows of what they used to be, as Ndigbo seemed to have done a rethink on his leadership.

In an interview with Independent, a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) elder in Imo State, Chief Solomon Okonkwo, now a chieftain of the APC and National Chairman of Igbo Forum, a leading socio-political and cultural organisation, lamented that the people Ndigbo have been given their mandate have been betraying the trust reposed in them to the detriment of the people and the South East geo-political zone. He cited many examples which tallied with Barrister Chukwueke’s assertion that South East leaders do not leave a legacy and does not have leaders in the mould of Tinubu.

In Anambra State, several governors and their godfathers toyed with the people’s lives with the help of Okija priests until Dr Chris Ngige exposed them. In Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim became governor on the platform of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), having been denied the PDP slot. Once he achieved his dream, Ohakim shoved PPA aside and returned to PDP.
In Abia State, Theodore Orji also rode to power as a PPA candidate, backed by his former boss, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu. With Kalu’s influence, Orji was elected governor while he was in detention. But when he became governor, his mentor became an enemy, while he also ditched the PPA and crossed over to PDP.

The most sordid political rascality in the South East is the sad story of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). APGA was formed by Chief Chekwas Okorie who was then the Founding Chairman. Soon after, he was kicked out and Chief Victor Umeh took over. Okorie cried to high heavens and had a running battle in the courts to get back his seat. He never did. Today, he is the Chairman of United Peoples Party (UPP), while Umeh has remained APGA chairman and at the same time fighting to be a Senator of Anambra Central District.

APGA also helped then Governor Peter Obi to regain his mandate from Chris Ngige after years of legal battle. Obi ruled Anambra for two terms with the backing of APGA. Umeh was always by his side throughout Obi’s eight years in power. But as soon as Obi left Government House, he ditched APGA and joined PDP. Soon, became a member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Economic Team.

Also, Governor Willie Obiano rode on Obi’s back to Government House, Amawbia. In fact, Obi fished out Obiano from his banking job and took him round Anambra State, introduced him to the people as his able replacement. As soon as he entered the seat of power, he ditched Obi, his benefactor.

Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is another case. Initially, he was in PDP. In fact, he paid for the party’s first secretariat when Chief Solomon Lar was the pioneer chairman. Like Iwuanyanwu, Okorocha tried to compete with Obasanjo. But, at the dying minute, during the presidential convention, he withdrew. He was later rewarded as Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Inter-Party Relations. Okorocha’s ardent supporters, who had followed him even as founder of Action Alliance (AA,) were very much demoralised.

Okorocha defected to APGA and became the Imo State governor. He ditched APGA and crossed over to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the chagrin of his teeming South East supporters who saw him as presidential material from the zone.

Why did Peter Obi chose to defect to PDP instead of remaining in APGA to endear the party more in South East and other parts of the country with his clout and become the its presidential candidate? Is it not bad politics for Ohakim and Orji to dump PPA instead of backing Orji Kalu, their benefactor, for Aso Rock? Why is APGA always backing PDP’s presidential candidates instead of picking a candidate from South East for the plum job?

What is the wisdom of Ike Ekweremadu being a Deputy Senate President when the seat will not allow him play real opposition, even as he cannot be part of the government’s team or among Buhari’s confidants?
At different levels of politics, the story of political sell-out among South East political leaders re-echoes. Governors fall out with their deputies over petty squabbles and sharing of booties. Governors upstage senators to take over the seats at the Red Chamber.

What legacies have the array of South East former and current Senators, Reps, Speakers, Deputy Speakers, Deputy Senate Presidents and Senate Presidents left for emerging politicians from the zone?
When will South East leaders see the need to rediscover, repair and restore the broken third leg of the tripod that holds Nigeria? When will they work out strategies that can unify them with their brothers in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa states as one block? They were together until the military fragmented them to prevent them from speaking one voice politically. Until they do so, no one from these areas can emerge president unless they wait for an incumbent from the North or South West, who will chose them as deputy, to die in office. PDP or APC cannot willingly offer South East or South South the presidency. That is the truth.