Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first Africa-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
Ken Okorie, attorney and member of the editorial board of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston.
There is a harsh dose of political reality that might upstage the ambitions of the Southeast as Nigeria approaches the 2023 presidential election. In the language of traditional parental care once prevalent in the Southeast, it is a mist alba of sorts, unpleasant to taste, tough to swallow, but hits at the spot that matters.
The undergirding sure point is that Nigeria does not vote reason or logic. It also does not vote competence or promise. Nigerians vote only religion and ethnicity. The North certainly does.
If this were not the case my urge for Nigerians would be to accept their ideal candidate, already prepared, packaged and ready to take on the challenge the country faces. That candidate is Peter Obi. His credentials and aptitudes stand him distantly apart from any other candidate in the running for either political party.
On May 9, 2022, the banking giant JPMorgan removed Nigeria from its list of emerging market sovereign recommendations that investors should be ‘overweight’ in. Stripped of technical jargon, the JPMorgan warning says: “Do Not Buy Nigeria”. The given reason is that Nigeria did not take advantage of high oil prices, and is poised for an even bleaker economy as the world’s instability picks up.
The message is that the international financial community is getting skittish about Nigeria’s economic prospects. It is no longer just a local affair. Times like Nigeria has ahead call for particular skills, particular ability to maneuver economic variables. This is a skill not found in most of those auditioning against Obi to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
Obi’s competitors, especially those from the long marginalized, long deprived Southeast seem to not understand what this game is about. Some merely seek a chance to become known. Others simply flaunt their status as hired agents of their Northern overlords. Either way, neither counts for much that will be consequential when 2023 gets here.
The counterparts from the Southwest do not fare much better. Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State is Muslim. For his part, Vice President Osinbajo, not known for any identifiable contribution in his eight years as Vice President, also shares the Christian handicap, except worse. He is a pastor of The Redeemed Church. Anyone with an illusion that a jihadist-inclined North will vote in a Southern Christian to succeed Buhari needs to be clinically examined. Buhari’s prime footprint as president was to bring this fact to the fore.
Regardless other factors that may be in play, the bottom line is that the things that interest and move the South are not same as move or interest the North. In most respects, they are opposites, at odds.
Except for few within their elite, most Northerners believe the past eight years of Buhari is the best thing to happen to the Islamic North since Uthman dan Fodio. They might even rank him ahead of The Sardauna of Sokoto. From their prism of relative positioning, they are right. US House Speaker Thomas O’Neil’s once admonished that all politics is local. His words are directly on point here. To the extent that Buhari cornered all manner of advantage to favor the North, all criticisms of his parochialism, nepotism, ethnocentricity and cluelessness are purely academic and of no import. Their water merely drops on the eggshell.
The North is not about to reverse the gains Buhari delivered for them on a platter. And, North has one thing that counts most: it has the numbers!
It’s not that Southeasterners did or could have done anything differently. In fact I doubt there is a thing they could ever do to change the chemistry. All pretenses of political
correctness aside, when someone just doesn’t like you, he doesn’t like you. Over-half-a-century old Sardauna interview with a British journalist making the rounds on Social Media in recent times clearly makes that point. The North simply hates and despises the Southeast. It is not to say that Southeasterners consider Northerners their pals either.
It is a disposition that is often mutual between peoples East of the Niger and their opposites North of both Benue and Niger. The fundamental difference is that the adventurist nature of the Southeasterner does not limit his reach. The Igbo man will move in with lions if their den is where the money is made.
Perhaps, to minimize the impending shock and hurt that is certain to happen, people of the Southeast should start tempering their ambitions and brace for yet another political season and cycle of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Without wishing that this materializes, Obi may well end up the next Awolowo: the best President Nigeria never had. The handwriting is showing clearly, and not just on the wall.