South-East 2023 Presidency And Misplaced Blame on Ugwuanyi

I read with great concern the write-up ascribed to Ohaneze Youths about Ugwuanyi not lending his full support to the struggle for 2023 Igbo Presidency. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has had to endure a barrage of unfair attacks, but I really think this is the most unjustified. Is it the same Ugwuanyi that has participated and represented the interest of the South-East in all the meetings convened by Southern Governors towards the actualisation of a President of Southern origin? Is it the same Ugwuanyi that kept faith in the forum of Southern Governors even when other Igbo Governors disappeared from the scene? Ugwuanyi was in Lagos and Delta and then hosted the meeting himself. Can people be more unfair to one man?

I have enormous respect for Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi: he is calm, collected, solid and politically savvy. When he is attacked I feel personally pained. I know this is a man who would always want the best for his people. In January 2022 when Ugwuanyi hosted some Igbo-Haitians who had traced their roots back to Igbo-land, few people understood the political weight of that gesture. My foray into history has exposed to me that there is no tribe in Nigeria that suffered the impact of the slave trade as much as the Igbo. The slave trade took a huge toll on the numerical strength of the Igbo.

James Horton, a recaptured Igbo slave, who was re-settled in Freetown Sierra Leone formed the intellectual foundation of the present day Sierra Leone. How many Igbo know this history? It is true of Liberia as much as it is of South America. If half of the Igbo people scattered across many continents would trace their roots back to Igbo land, there is hardly an ethnic group, including the Hausa/Fulani that can challenge the Igbo numerically. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the first Igbo politician to begin to beam the search-light in this direction. This is, for me, the supreme Igbo cause: re-bonding the Igbo, re-establishing the common identity of the Igbo people, and giving them a common front. As a historian that I am Ugwuanyi won my heart. I knew immediately that the man is more than a politician; he is an intellectual.

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I am not from Enugu State, but my one year in the city as a corps member left an indelible impression on me. Coming from Benue State that is constantly under attack by bandits, Enugu was for me an El Dorado. In Enugu a visitor could take a trip round the city at night without fear of molestation. The kind of freedom I experienced in the Coal City State was such that two years after leaving the city I still remember it with a note of nostalgia. Alas, life’s struggle has forced me to bid farewell to that beloved city of gleaming lights!

I had the opportunity to meet with Governor Ugwuanyi when he visited our camp at Awgu. He was eager to know how we were faring, especially those of us who had come from other States. I had heard from several sources that Ugwuanyi is an extraordinarily brilliant man, but what I saw surpassed my expectation. An ardent listener and a keen intellect, he is an exceptional man on whom leadership sits so comfortably. After listening to us, he summed up our challenges and promised to respond. And he did respond! God bless Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

So, today when I stumbled upon an essay by Ohaneze Youths (I have not been able to confirm the true source of the write-up) insinuating that Ugwuanyi is not fully supporting the struggle to actualise the dream of an Igbo President in 2023, I shook my head in dismay.

Is Ugwuanyi to blame for the hiccups in the struggle for a President of South-Eastern origin? The answer is a definitive no! I am a card carrying member of PDP and a keen observer of the happenings in the party. I sense that what happened in 2019 is about to repeat itself. After Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the primary election in Port-Harcourt. The PDP was upbeat. Victory was beckoning. However, events took a negative turn after Atiku unilaterally hand-picked Mr Peter Obi as his running-mate. It was as though the balloon of hope had been deflated. The momentum was gone! What was Atiku’s offence? He failed to collaborate with the leadership of PDP in choosing his running-mate. Mr Obi was not to blame, after all he did not choose himself.

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But now that Mr Obi is his own principal, he seems to be repeating the same go-it-alone syndrome that crumbled the 2019 aspiration. How much has Mr Obi tried to build a common agenda with the leadership of PDP in the South-East? Does Peter Obi and other aspirants forget that it took the grit and resilience of some indefatigable party men and women to sustain the party after the exodus of some core members in 2021? And that such hard fighting men and women, who demonstrate faith to the party, especially in crisis moments deserve some respect?

The attack on Ugwuanyi is unfair. Ugwuanyi is a bridge-builder. He is the most acceptable Igbo politician beyond the South-East region. Is he expected to destroy the friendships he has manured and built across the regions just to be seen as supporting the Igbo cause? What is more Igbo cause than leveraging our good relationship with people from other zones at a moment time like this? Ugwuanyi had been to Port-Harcourt to commission projects. Nyesom Wike mobilised his entire Cabinet to pay Ugwuanyi a visit at his country home in December 2021. At this time that the Igbo are eager to warm themselves into the hearts of other regions would it have been right for Ugwuanyi to send his PA to receive Wike at the airport? Beyond politics is humanity, bonding, and friendship. I really think Ugwuanyi deserves an apology.

Peter Adedejo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Makurdi.

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