*Chido Nwakanma outlines various routes that presidential aspirants may travel, beyond asking for quota in the quest for the presidency.*
Initial results of the INEC Continuous Voter Registration exercise in the SouthEast are disturbing. It should particularly bother those of its brethren positioning as candidates for the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As feared, the region registered the lowest number of new prospective voters.
The results show S/West (1,078,232), South East (302,595), South-South (1, 276, 201), North West (832,402);), North East (670,901), North Central (678,275) and FCT (186,598). INEC conducted that exercise between June and August 2021.
The Public Sphere column proposed on 4 July 2021 that the region’s political class mobilise citizens for voter registration. I said they should provide buses and other transport to and fro for citizens willing to come home for the exercise. The South-East had poor numbers before now.
Nothing happened. Neither the South-East Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, nor the aspirants did anything to ensure that Igbos registered to vote. They could not bother.
Add the disturbances of Unknown Gunmen and the unrest that the region suffered. Still, it does not excuse the failure. Nothing excuses it.
With baleful numbers, you would seriously expect the growing crowd of presidential aspirants and wanna-be aspirants from the South East to canvass preference in all the parties. Perish the thought. One aspirant still writes essays from abroad and has no physical presence in Nigeria.
SE aspirants emerge
Last week, we asserted that Ndigbo have come out forcefully to declare their interest in engaging the race for the highest office. It was satisfying and significant because of the growing blackmail that the people were unwilling or incapable of engaging.
Well, what do you know? First, more candidates have emerged. They include the Anioma, Delta State-born Chukwuka Monye and a former Anambra State Attorney General. Then there is the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba. He has not announced, but there is a ground game afoot for him in Northern Nigeria!
Many factors count for and against the South East or Igbo quest. First is 50 years of hate and anger by the North, the SouthWest and even the South South, their nearest and closest neighbours. The consensus is fear of what the Igbo could do with power.
The confusion in the South East is another deterrent. This column has chronicled since 2018 The Igbo Wars over culture, strategy and political choice. Should it be rebellion and secession? A restructuring of Nigeria? Should someone from the South East contest for the presidency, given this background.
That confusion has affected the region’s numbers in voter registration, census and other counts. The insecurity of the incessant IPOB sit-at-home is causing an outward migration of persons and businesses.
Ohaneze proclaims that the elite consensus in the region is to fight for the presidency as other areas have done and canvass restructuring. Well, the presidential candidates vote for this consensus.
Unfortunately, they are not doing the practical things to bring it about or convince the South East electorate about their seriousness and the viability of the prescription. The first chance came in 2021 to mobilise the South East to register to vote given the low numbers of the region. Not one of the candidates or the socio-cultural groups did anything. The results are in, and they are unpleasant.
So what have the Igbo candidates done? At this point, you would expect movements, support groups, publicity and drumming for their candidacy. Those within the two dominant parties are not doing much that we can see publicly.
Anyim Pius Anyim has moved to a few locations outside the South East. He has granted interviews. However, we are yet to see a mass mobilisation effort. He has one or two persons pushing on social media.
After making his Aso Rock announcement, Governor Dave Umahi has no structures in the North, SouthWest or SouthSouth, and not even in his home region of South East. The Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State spearheads his campaign on social media.
Anyim Pius Anyim and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa granted interviews that showed profundity in their appreciation of the issues and how to approach it. Supporters are flaunting the resume of Peter Obi. Obi earlier claimed that the presidency of Nigeria is unattractive because the country is akin to a vehicle without a brain box. It needs a brainbox and not just a driver!
The trajectory is the same. Dear South East presidential aspirant, please scale up your campaign and visibility. Where is your positioning statement and manifesto? What will you do differently?
What is your route to the presidency? The first step is winning your primaries. Are you planning the ground game? Should we ignore the market noise of those from the South West confidently walking away from a seeming agreement on zoning? What is your game plan?
Various Igbo groups are contemplating the issue. I think they need to be clear about this matter. The task is primarily that of the aspirants. They need to do the groundwork to become candidates. There is no South East or Igbo candidate. It is unhelpful to even position them as such. They should fight, as Archimedes recommended: “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.”
One of them can move Nigeria. Show us. Prove it.