South-East will not accept vice-presidential slots from any political party in the 2023 presidential race, prominent Igbo leaders have told Sunday Vanguard.
They also warned Igbo governors and other prominent politicians in All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to resist any pressure to be the running mate of any candidate in the presidential election.
The admonition followed claims that some politicians of South-East extraction, especially governors, are positioning for the vice-presidential slot instead of pushing hard for the Igbo presidency.
At the moment, five people from the zone have declared for the presidency while others expressed interest but are yet to formally declare.
Those who have formally made their intention known include Ebonyi State governor, Chief Dave Umahi, former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Prof Kingsley Moghalu, ex-Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, Sam Ohuabunwa, and Nollywood actor, Mr Yule Edochie.
Others interested in the race are Sen Orji Kalu and Sen Rochas Okorocha.
Apart from them, some other South-East governors are believed to be interested in running for Vice President.
In fact, their positions on happenings in the zone had long been interpreted to have been informed by their ambitions.
Cautioning the presidential hopefuls against settling for less in the interest of the South-East, Igbo leaders told Sunday Vanguard that current deep-seated mistrust among Nigerians can only be addressed by the Igbo presidency.
Prominent among those who spoke was the First Republic Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, who called on APC and PDP to present people of Igbo extraction as presidential candidates.
According to him, the office of the Vice President of Nigeria should not be an option any politician from the South-East should be interested in.
Amaechi added that he does not expect any serious politician from the South-East to accept the offer of being the Vice President of Nigeria.
His words: “For me, the office of the Vice President of Nigeria should not be the only option for the people of South East. It should not be the only option and it should not be the first option.
“What I want for the South East which has been so marginalized and so badly treated in Nigeria is the chance to be the next President of Nigeria, to bring about peace, to bring total reconciliation to Nigeria and togetherness in the country.
“President of Nigeria from the South-East is also going to restore peace, tranquillity and confidence in Nigeria. That is my first choice and priority.
“There are many prominent Igbo who can be president of Nigeria and even president of the United Nations. But there can only be one president.
“I called a meeting of Ndigbo on May 29, 2021, in my house, particularly the leaders of All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was a joint meeting at my house. It was attended by people of South-East origin. I told them that the only way to get the office of the president is for the two political parties to nominate their candidates from the South- East.
“As far as I am concerned, any South-East person who will be president, whether he is from APC or PDP, or whatever party they like, is acceptable to me. I don’t care about the party the person belongs to. What I am after is for a South-East person to become the president of the country.
“There are so many Igbo who can be president but there can only be one President. I am not happy with what am seeing. Already, there are so many indications of people who want to be president and if they go to their various political parties and say that they want to be president, they are likely not going to have any chance.
It is not a pleasant situation but I am working also to see how the number will be pruned. Let them come, they are still coming up. When they all come out, we will see how the number will be pruned.
“As I earlier said, Vice President is not the first choice for the South-East. That is my position. Office of the President is my first choice and that is what any serious South-East politician should aim at and go for. If there is nothing else, then anybody can start thinking of considering the office of the Vice President. It is not good for the people of South-East.”
On its part, Igbo National Council, INC, said the South East region deserves to produce the President of the country and not a vice presidential slot.
INC, President, Chilos Godsent, said giving the zone the presidency would help in making Igbo have a sense of belonging.
He said the region has contributed more than other regions to the growth of the country.
His words: “It is morally and politically right to give the South-East the presidential slot. All the major political parties should consider this.
“If they allow the South-East region to produce Nigeria’s president it will give the South-East a sense of belonging. “This will end bias against Ndigbo. There is a need to include the South-East zone in the political system of the country.
“This is because the South-East has made more contributions to the development of Nigeria more than any other region.”
However, a London based civil rights activist and National President of Human Dignity Restoration Association, HDRA, Mr Jude Achebe, said the South-East should be allowed to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor for Nigeria to move forward.
His words: “We wish to encourage Nigerian electorate that the election of an Igbo man to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari will be the best thing to happen to Nigeria. The office of Vice President is not an option to be accepted. We are qualified more than anyone else to be president in Nigeria.
“The Igbo man, if elected, will use his God-given ingenuity to take Nigeria to the next level. A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will change the narrative about Nigeria for good. The Igbo man will see everyone as his own.
“In this digital era, Igbo man being a natural investor and industrialist will work to improve the power supply in the country and make our country great. He will create opportunities for millions of our youths who have taken to restiveness.
“If we must retrieve Nigeria from the present state of decay and backwardness, we must shun fronting our religion and ethnic cleavages in whatever we are doing.
“We, therefore, challenge Nigerians to elect the Igbo man as the President of Nigeria and not Vice President. We promise Nigerians that they will not regret doing it.”
Also, the President of Igbo Academic Forum, IAF, Mazi Damian Udemba, warned South-East governors against settling for the vice-presidential slot, saying it is either the presidency or nothing.
He said:” For how long shall we continue to play second fiddle? The Igbo like any other person deserves the number one slot.
Did we offend anyone politically in this country? What would have been the fate of Nigeria without Ndigbo? Our politicians should be decisive and courageous on this. I am calling on South-East governors in APC and PDP to reject any offer to serve as someone’s running mate. They should run with us. Enough is enough.”