Buhari will surprise Ndigbo in 2023

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Could it be that Ndigbo are misjudging President Muhammadu Buhari? Is the President being less than he appears in the seeming “no love lost” relationship with Ndigbo of Nigeria? Our conservation this week will dwell on this conundrum.

Two things inspired the above questions. One is what transpired at a recent all-Igbo forum of professionals and the other arises from privileged information I have about a certain, albeit positive, aspect of President Buhari’s disposition towards Ndigbo. I can bet this exclusive info is not available yet in the public domain.

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This week’s headline “Buhari will surprise ndigbo in 2023” was innocuously put at the gathering of Igbo professionals (excluding politicians) mentioned above. It elicited sharp and varied reactions, namely how, with what, and more than what he has done already? With this man, said one of the commenters, don’t deceive yourself! He is not looking your way at all. Long story short, all the negative comments agreed that nothing good for Ndigbo can come from PMB in 2023. Never!

“What if he goes ahead to support an Igbo candidate in 2023?” I asked to further the conversation. All the pros chorused, “Leave that thing, my brother, until it happens.” One mockingly asked me to keep daydreaming. The most spiritual among the pros, apparently guided by the Holy Spirit, said, “Well, there’s nothing God cannot do…who can refuse to change when God is ready?” A diehard IPOB sympathiser in the group reacted predictably away, discountenancing 2023, “Let the President release [for us] Nnamdi Kanu and give us Biafra and take his Presidency.”

After playing the devil’s advocate I left the gathering with the notion that Ndigbo are not expecting in their faintest imagination that Buhari could surprise them in 2023 by backing an Igbo presidential candidate for his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. Most people believe that if it ever happens it will be recorded as a huge upset in the polit(r)icks of Nigeria.

Several times in this space, it has been said that politically speaking, Ndigbo and President Buhari are friendly foes. Each party on either side has demonstrated a strange eagerness to sustain the divide.

Repeatedly, Ndigbo have used the ballot box to demonstrate dislike for his septic politics and in the last six years, he has flaunted, unabashedly, his deep-seated aversion for Ndigbo. It would therefore sound like a broken record repeating some of Buhari’s anti-Igbo policies and programs here because the marginalization is obvious for even the blind to see and feel.

Buhari’s politics so far, either by body language or by action, have not shown Ndigbo that from him can come what their heart’s desire…the de-marginalisation of Ndigbo in the politics of Nigeria.

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All along, I had believed that with Buhari Ndigbo dreams may never be realized, but my pessimism began to load after a political briefing I was privileged to attend last week.

The briefing was neither about 2023 nor Buhari. However, a revealing fallout from the meeting changed the perception of some of the professionals in the audience.

It was revealed how Buhari had without success to ensure that an Igbo was among the top four highest positions in the federal government in 2015. His effort was truncated by an Igbo. How you may ask, but it’s a story for another day not to derail today’s focus. Buhari, so the story goes, tried again in 2019 but met another brick wall from Ndigbo who again stood in the way.

I daresay that this narrative, yet to be verified, does not excuse the obvious disregard of Ndigbo by the Buhari regime because the C-in-C could have sidelined the obstacles on his way to a square deal for Ndigbo.

If some Igbo politicians had aborted the president’s good intentions, that’s no excuse. After all, every ethnic group has its fair share of the proverbial black sheep. And it has not been used against them the way it’s being relied on and frequently and flagrantly highlighted when it comes to Ndigbo.

Despite the folly of some Ndigbo political leaders, the onus is still on President Buhari to change the present perception of him by Ndigbo and there is no better way and time to do it than to shock the world by supporting an Igbo flag bearer in 2023.

President Buhari knows how best to do this needful; he has nothing to lose except his Igbophobia, real or imagined. As a retired general, he belongs to the combatants who do not like ambush; instead, they prefer to ambush the enemy. Who knows what the general has in stock for his “friendly foes” now that he is at the twilight of his rule. It could be an ambush that may turn around the enmity for good. In months to come this picture will become clearer as the 2023 journey approaches its crescendo.

There are so many reasons why Buhari’s disposition should be reviewed. He will be leaving office at the ripe age of 81, a huge privilege for which to bless his creator. Eighty-one is an age to think introspectively, when to bury the hatchet, arrogance, and pigheadedness, especially having been a huge beneficiary of God’s abundant grace, ruling Nigeria twice under different dispensations. And most importantly, the President will desire to bequeath a more united and prosperous nation, better bonded than he met it and to achieve this he needs to wear justice, equity and fairness to all as a belt and as a guiding principle.

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Above all, as an elder statesman, the President would be expected to rely on the fact that after completing his presidential tenure, power should naturally return to southern Nigeria and if it returns to the South, he should not disregard the other fact that he took over power in 2015 from Goodluck Jonathan, a South-South politician who ruled from 2010. Earlier, the South-West had taken their turn in Olusegun Obasanjo who had completed eight years from 1999 to 2007. Only the South-East is as yet to smell the presidency.

To look away on the very weighty arguments that favour the South-East in 2023 would amount to the President leaving behind a legacy that will cause disquiet in his retirement. There is no better way to enjoy retirement than to leave behind landmarks that will ensure sweet news around your name when at rest.

The singular reason GEJ is enjoying his post-office era, getting such huge international attention is because of the uncommon decision he took, of losing the election and respecting the people’s franchise. Global democracies recognize the weighty nature of that exceptional action in support of peace and stability in the nation and the world.

If, for instance, President Buhari decides to support the South-East in 2023, he would be joining the league of global leaders whose actions have contributed directly and indirectly to the growth of democracy, peace, and harmony in the world.

The President certainly needs all the courage and boldness to do the right thing knowing that in the views of an American author and political commentator, John D. Lemme, “Taking bold, focused action creates explosive results.” There is no doubt that if the President acts impartially and evenhandedly, standing on the side of justice and equity, even unseen forces will be by him.

If this happens in the end, Ndigbo are likely to adopt the position of Indian composer and singer, Mani Sharma, who says: “It is always better to wait for a good surprise instead of thinking about it.” If by 2022 President Buhari supports an Igbo as the APC flag bearer right up to the polls, it would show really that surprising people suddenly and in an unusual way is the most pleasurable thing.

May God help Nigeria

Ike Abonyi
News Director at This Day Newspapers
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