Some residents of South-east Nigeria have spoken on the recent comment by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar that he would serve as a “stepping stone” to Igbo presidency if elected in 2023.
Atiku stated this on 15 December in Awka, Anambra State, when he flagged off his campaign for the South-east region.
“I am going to be a stepping stone to an Igbo president in this country. I have shown it in my action because this is the third time that I am running with an Igbo man. If you really want to produce a president, then vote Atiku-Okowa ticket,” Atiku told a crowd of Igbos who gathered at the venue.
But some residents of the region who spoke to newsmen dismissed the promise as “a political talk” intended to “deceive” the people of the region ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The residents, who spoke separately, expressed support for the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Mr Obi hails from Agulu, an Igbo-speaking community in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, South-east Nigeria.
‘It’s an insult’
“It is an insult to the Igbo race and also to the entire nation of Nigeria for Atiku to come and arrogate himself to being a stepping stone to the emergence of Nigerian presidency from a particular section of the country,” Ikem Okuhu, a resident of Enugu State, said of the Atiku’s promise.
Mr Okuhu stressed that only the Nigerian people, not Atiku, can determine their president from any part of the country.
Atiku/Okowa:What people say
He said the comment suggested that the Igbo cannot produce a president without Atiku’s assistance.
He added that Atiku, who hails from North-east Nigeria, should be blamed for violating the zoning arrangement that should have facilitated the emergence of a president from Southern Nigeria.
On his part, Kingsley Izuogu, a resident of Abia State, said the comment was “a stupid” one.
Mr Izuogu, a lecturer in Abia State University, Uturu, stated that the promise by the PDP candidate was beyond an insult to the Igbo people.
“Who is he to act as a stepping stone to the realisation of Igbo presidency? When did we degenerate to this level? You know, these people talk from all corners of their mouths,” he said.
“It is not their fault. It is just because our people have sold themselves.”
Arinze Ajaezu, a resident of Anambra State, told our correspondent that Atiku does not have the capacity to make anybody president of Nigeria.
“Presidency is not an award. He (Atiku) is just playing politics. All these politicians have ways of talking to their followers to convince them (to support them),” he said.
Mr Ajaezu said there was “no feeling or movement” to show that Atiku visited Anambra, adding that only “a few PDP members” attended the rally.
“There was no feeling or movement to suggest that Atiku came down to Anambra to campaign,” he said, implying that the PDP candidate does not enjoy the support of residents of the state.
“If he is hoping to get votes in Anambra State, he is just deceiving himself. Anambra State is for the Labour Party presidential candidate,” he said.
For Rose Joseph-Ume, a resident of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the comment by the PDP candidate was an expression of “selfishness.”
Like others, Mrs Joseph-Ume, a mother of one, said the choice of who will become Nigeria’s president does not reside in the hands of an individual.
“So, I think that it is the most selfish, baseless, hypocritical statement I have ever heard,” she said of Atiku’s promise.
She contended that, given that Nigeria laws insist on the emergence of the country’s president through a general election, the PDP candidate’s promise was “disrespectful to the rule of law” and “the will of the voting public.”
Jonah Onuoha, a lecturer in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said Igbos have been “used and dumped” several times in the past with similar promises by some politicians.
Mr Onuoha, a professor of political science, said if Atiku meant well for Igbos he would have stepped down for an Igbo person during the PDP presidential primary.
“Igbos cannot be fooled by such promises. I don’t think anybody (from the region) will believe him and vote for him,” he said.
“Igbos are more likely to vote for Peter Obi because such promises cannot move anybody. Nobody will vote for Atiku based on the promise that he will hand over to the Igbos.”
Clamour for a president from South-east
There have been calls from South-east leaders that the region should be allowed to produce a president for the first time in 2023.
But the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition PDP, the two dominant political parties in Nigeria, picked their candidates outside the region during their separate presidential primaries in May.
The two parties subsequently ignored the region in the selection of their vice-presidential candidates.
Some leaders in the region have argued that the emergence of the Nigerian president from the South-east would end the Biafra agitation in the region.