2023 is still a long time away from now. Three years could be long in politics yet too short for political strategising and re-strategising towards a crucial poll such as the presidency of any nation. Time flies and in politics it could fly as faster as possible. That is why some African dictators are sometimes caught unprepared when their tenure comes to an abrupt end thus necessitating yet another term and anti-constitutional third term.

Presently Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Conakry are in the news for wrong reasons of power elongation beyond the normal constitutional stipulation. Presidents Alassane Ouattara and Alpha Conde seem to be working in perfect harmony to ‘defeat’ constitutional democracy in their respective countries. From Abidjan to Conakry the streets had been speaking the language of violence leading to avoidable deaths and injuries.

While President Ouattara could be said to be a good effective leader, one of the best Presidents in the continent given his landmark achievements for the past ten years the same cannot be said of the 82-year old Conde whose decade-long presidency has seen Guineans sinking deeper into poverty (much like our own President Muhammadu Buhari whose five years in power had seen Nigeria ‘winning’ the trophy as the poverty capital of the world!)

Unforeseen or foreseen circumstances of grief (those not unconnected to the sudden demise of his designated successor, ex-PM Amadou Gon Coulibaly) must have led Ouattara to decide otherwise in favour of the controversial third term gambit. Like President Conde nothing guarantees victory at the polls but in the event of any manipulation of results then welcome violence!

Back home in Nigeria the presidential poll is slated for the next three years, 2023, when Buharism and its attendant failures would be history. Permutations toward the election have begun in earnest. The indisposed powerful presidential nephew and cabal leader, Mamman Daura, had argued unpopularly recently that rotation and zoning should be jettisoned for merit and competence come 2023.

Sometime ago the President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, had declared recklessly in an interview that the northerners were still very much interested in the presidency of Nigeria post-Buhari in 2023. He said it was unthinkable for them to cede power to the south in three years time. Arguing foolishly that the south was in charge of the economy and had ‘everything’ he asked why the southerners would want to take away the “only thing we have”.

However, while eulogising the capacity and patriotism of Kalu, a friend of the north, in the said interview Yerima had said the southeast zone could not aspire to produce the President while threatening the peace of the country by calling for the disintegration of Nigeria. Perhaps he was referring to the IPOB and MASSOB agitations for the Biafran statehood.

While Shettima’s declaration concerning the likelihood of the north refusing to relinquish power to the south at the conclusion of President Buhari’s second and final tenure could be his personal opinion his preference for the former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK), as a potential presidential candidate from the south-east was curious.

Senator Kalu, given his academic pedigree, gubernatorial experience (and now legislative clout as the Chief-whip of the upper legislative chamber) and ‘patriotism’ is eminently qualified to rule Nigeria. But as an ex-convict (even though his conviction had been quashed after some months in prison) it is debatable whether a man charged and convicted of economic crime against his state could be entrusted with higher responsibility and enormous powers of a President of a great nation like ours.

When Senator Kalu was the executive Governor of Abia state tales abounded of his dictatorship, high-wire corruption, nepotism and hubris. His mother, nicknamed “Mama Excellency” was said to have wielded limitless powers with which she amassed wealth illicitly and dispensed favours to cronies. Mother and son were in perfect governing sync with abuse of power and privilege happening here and there.

Abia state was thus transformed into a fiefdom where loyalty to fetish politics was rewarded handsomely! Senator Theodore Orji, Kalu’s estranged ‘godson’, could confirm this fetish inclination tailored towards forceful acquisition of loyalty or servile expectation from the fallen godfather.

Senator Kalu recently visited Minna, Niger State, where he met Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, former heads of state. Kalu must have ‘sold’ them his ambition of vying for the office of the President of a polarized nation. Whether OUK was right or wrong in his judgement to go seek for support from these retired dictators remains in the realm of imagination.

For sometime now a political pressure group called the ‘Igbo for President Solidarity Congress’, IPSC, had been campaigning for a President of Igbo extraction come 2023. The group is led by one Dr Olukayode Oshinariyo. Perhaps feeling concerned about the marginalisation of the Igbos in the presidential scheme of things since 1999 the group is making a sound argument for a ‘Biafran’ presidency post-Buhari.

The IPSC had put forward names of prominent Igbos who possess presidential qualities. Those cited include Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, Peter Obi, Dr Chris Ngige, Sen. Rochas Okorocha, Gov. Dave Umahi, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe among others.

While Prof. Moghalu presents a sound academic pedigree for the job (he was once a presidential candidate) Peter Obi has the experience and leadership clout required of a democratic leader. Dr Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala is good for the job but the recent revelation online of her acquisition of American citizenship coupled with her demand for Dollar salary during her ministerial stints under ‘Babacracy’ adds no value to her credentials.

Senator Abaribe can be trusted but Senators Okorocha and Kalu had squandered the trust the people had reposed in them in their gubernatorial stewardships. They may be liked by the northerners given their university days up north yet that is not enough to confer legitimacy on them.

An organization calling itself the World Igbo People’s Assembly (WIPAS), had declared its intention to raise the sum of five hundred billion naira (!) towards the achievement of the 2023 Nigeria Presidency of Igbo extraction project. The spokesperson for the group, Emeka Nwachukwu, said pushing for a President of Igbo extraction would be cost-intensive.

While money is important in politics money is not everything in politics. For the project to see the light of the day conscious efforts must be made to reach out to other regions, religions and ethnic groups for their crucial support. Igbos alone cannot elect a President of Nigeria, so political horse-trading must be engaged and negotiations undertaken across board to make the ‘dream’ a reality.

For the presidential poll of 2023, in the event of a power shift to the south-east, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu cannot pretend to the best the Igbos can offer Nigeria. Nigeria deserves the best and Igboland boasts of great men and women capable of knocking ‘sense’ into the ‘senseless’ Nigeria by turning the ‘large zoo’ into a paradise.

Author: Ozodinukwe Okenwa