El-Rufai to Southeast: Threat of secession won’t give you Presidency

By Sam Egburonu/Innocent Duru/Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt

  • Says ‘you don’t stay in your corner and say give me presidency’

  • Wike mocks El-Rufai, says he’s suffering evil he once wished Rivers

  • Igbo leaders blast him for ‘mixing up issues’

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has advised the Southeast to actively engage other sections of the country if it has a serious desire to produce Nigeria’s next president.

El-Rufai said that it was the same approach adopted by previous presidents and wondered why any section of the country would expect that it would be offered the presidency without negotiation.

He said it is even out of place for the Southeast to expect that it could get the presidency by threatening to break away from the rest of Nigeria.

But spokesman of the Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chekwas Okorie, faulted the Kaduna State governor, saying he was mixing up issues.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State mocked his Kaduna State counterpart, saying he was suffering from the evil he once wished Rivers State.

El-Rufai, who spoke during a webinar organised by the Africa Leadership Group with the theme ‘Developing a Viable Nation 2’, conceded that the presidency should go to the South in 2023, but he said the Southeast should not bank on getting the slot by threatening to pull out of Nigeria.

His words: “I don’t think anyone has stopped the South-East from going for the Presidency. But you see, you cannot get the Presidency of Nigeria by threats or by shouting victim hood. “This is a political process and you have to engage other parts of Nigeria to convince them to support you.

“That is what everyone does. That is what Jonathan did in 2011. That is what Buhari did in 2015 and 2019. That is what every President does.

“You don’t stay in your corner, abuse everyone in Nigeria and say give me Presidency. It is not going to happen.

“Presidency is not by allocation; it is the result of a political process. You join a political party, your party negotiates with other parts of the country and it happens.

“That is how it is done. And you cannot get it by sitting down or threatening secession. It won’t work.

“I think the South-East is going about it the wrong way, because if you look at the APC for instance, we do not have many footprints in the South-East.”

Igbo leaders: You’re wrong, muddling up issues

Some Igbo leaders, however, said El-Rufai went off track with his comment.

The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, said at no time has the Southeast threatened to quit Nigeria unless it produces the president in 2023.

He said: “Everyone in Nigeria is aware that Ndigbo have been maltreated and are still being maltreated. There are two options: either for the Igbo to validate it, to rejoice over it and to be comfortable with it or for Ndigbo to condemn it, to cry out over it and to criticise it.

“So what does El-Rufai mean? Yes, the youths are protesting; they are crying; they are saying the treatment of Ndigbo is unfair. That is the basis of their cry and threat for secession.

“They are saying that if you continue to treat us unjustly, it means you don’t want us, and if you don’t want us, then it means we are not part of you. That is what the young boys are saying.

“Look at the security architecture of the country today, nobody from the Southeast is found worthy. The treatment is unfair; it is unjust.

“Look at the rate of violence in the Southeast today; you want us to believe it is our people that are causing it?

“El-Rufai knows that what he is saying is not right. He knows the meaning of injustice; how injustice hurts.

“Instead of making such comments, he should realise that he is in a position to add value; to make sure that the Southeast people are ameliorated.

“He is in a position to ensure that a group of people in Nigeria who are being maltreated are no longer maltreated. He is high enough in the society, to join forces with well-meaning Nigerians to ensure that justice is done to Ndigbo.”

We don’t think along that line, says Okorie

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Chekwas Okorie, said no Igbo elite or politician has ever made the statement attributed to them by El-Rufai.

He said: “I don’t know where he is getting that impression, because the Southeast political leaders have never threatened to secede if they are not given the opportunity to produce the president.

“No political leader in the Southeast that I know of, including my humble self, has ever thought along the line of threat regarding the presidency.

“We have always known it as a political issue. We have always known it as a political contest where you have to lobby others. No one geo-political zone or ethnic group has ever produced the president in Nigeria.

“So the Igbo people of Nigeria would not be the first to go for it all by themselves. We need the cooperation of El-Rufai and others.

“If he is insinuating that we want to get the presidency through threat of secession,  I think that must be a  very mischevous statement from him because there is no basis for that to have given anybody that impression.

“Igbo people in the APC and those in the PDP have never said that. Those who want secession don’t even want Nigeria. They see those of us who are lobbying for presidency as sellouts. I don’t know where he is coming from, except he wants to cause some mischief.”

Nwosu: All we ask for is give us a sense of belonging

A former governorship candidate and Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC),  Chief Ralph Nwosu, said the Igbo have never sought the presidency based on secession.

“We are a diverse country, and one of the best ways to manage diversity is to give everybody a sense of belonging.  El-Rufai is deliberately spinning something else to complicate our situation,” Nwosu told The Nation  yesterday.

Continuing, he said: “Where we are now as a country doesn’t need arrogant spinning and misinformation. We have to be a lot more mindful in the leadership of our country now so that we can run a united and peaceful country.

“It is not by arrogant  brigandage and brinkmanship. We are a nation with many parts, and it is important that in all that we are doing, all parts must be carried along.

“This is the time for us to talk about peace, talk about inclusion and so on. There is no local government in Nigeria that does not have a quality person that can become the president of Nigeria.”

‘We’re not losing sleep over El-Rufai’s comment’

Secretary General of a faction of Ohanaeze, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, dismissed el-Rufai’s statement as myopic.

He said: “Igbo are not losing sleep over the myopic views of El-Rufai. He is only pushing for the selfishness of the few cabal deceiving President Muhammadu Buhari without  solutions to the security challenges in the north.

“El-Rufai should fix the Kaduna State security challenges before discussing the 2023 elections.

“He should address the remote causes of secessionist movements in the Southeast, which are anchored on the marginalization and structural imbalance of the zone.

“The Southeast is not alone in the secessionist move; we have seen Oduduwa and Middle Belt ethnic groups displaying flags of Oduduwa and Middle Belt nations.

“Both groups are in the same self-determination like the Igbo. But not all Igbo are demanding for Biafra.

“We are aware that in1999, Nigerians voted for Yoruba presidency based on the injustices meted to MKO Abiola, which brought Obasanjo Presidency.

“We are aware that Niger Delta struggles brought former President Jonathan to Power in 2011. We are also aware that Gov El-Rufai and other Northerners used the Northern insurgency to push President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015.

“It’s time to use the 2023 Igbo Presidency project to end the Biafra agitation. Any attempt by El-Rufai and his co-travellers to blackmail Igbo with secessionist movements is dead on arrival.”

Wike mocks Kaduna governor

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State mocked El-Rufai over the current level of insecurity in Kaduna State. He said it is payback for the crisis he once plotted against Rivers.

The governor spoke when the Vice-President of Rotary Club of Port Harcourt, Rotarian Obiageli Ejezie, led other leaders of the association to the Government House, Port Harcourt.

The delegation was in Government House to confer on the governor the “2019/2020 Good Governance Award” for his outstanding achievements in project execution in Rivers.

Wike accused the Federal Government of instigating security crises in Rivers while governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by El-Rufai, visited the Presidency to demand the withdrawal of a Commissioner of Police from Rivers.

He said: “Now, in order to cause crisis in our state, they brought the CP they wanted. At the end of the day, God did not allow them to have their way. But see what is happening in his state now.

“When you are plotting evil against somebody, evil will visit you. And that is the problem Governor El-Rufai is facing today in Kaduna State.

“I remember when I came in 2015, when they were honouring one of their friends as a minister on live television; El-Rufai had the temerity to say that (my) election cannot stand in Rivers State and that they would kick me out.”

Wike accused the Federal Government controlled by the APC of dragging Nigeria 50 years backwards following its abysmal performance.

The governor maintained that the APC mismanaged the opportunity Nigerians gave them to make a difference and deserve to be voted out in 2023.

The governor told the delegation that in 2015, APC convinced Nigerians that they were going to offer better governance than the former President Goodluck Jonathan.

But he said: “There can’t be good governance without security, and this is based on rule of law. All of us are living witnesses in 2015 when it was alleged that the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan could not perform, so Nigeria needed a change.

“What has happened to the change? They have taken Nigeria back by 50 years.”

Wike wondered how long the APC federal government would allow the needless killings and abduction of innocent Nigerians to continue.

He said it was no longer acceptable for Nigerians to wake up daily to such ugly news of killings because they expected the government to guarantee security.

He said: “Now, you wake up every morning, students are being kidnapped in so and so state university. People have been killed in so and so state. So, it has become a norm.

“Just wake up in the morning and the first thing you will see on the front page of dailies is 10 people have been kidnapped in Niger State; 20 have been killed in Zamfara State, five have been killed in Imo, and this happens virtually every day.  So, where are we heading to?”


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