By Chibueze Daniel
For a few days now, South East leaders, especially the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in that region, have taken flaks from some Ndigbo for allegedly “opposing” the choice of Peter Obi as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate. The impression out there is that they don’t want Obi because of their selfish interests.
These sentiments are understandable because the Igbo have not been favoured in Nigeria’s power equation. The South East believe that there is a grand accord since after the war to keep them at bay from the presidency and sensitive positions.
In a detailed interview granted by the former Vice President, the late Chief Alex Ekwueme, in October 2016, he revealed that he was the major target of the 1983 coup; that it was simply to stop an Igbo from succeeding Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Former Special Assistant to ex-President Shehu Shagari, Prof. Pat Utomi, reinforced this view in a newspaper interview last July.
Even under the military, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (Rtd.), who managed to become the Chief of General Staff and deputy to former military president retired under controversial circumstances.
Again, when it seemed Chief Ekwueme had clinched the presidential ticket of the PDP in 1998 to become the President, the Igbo watched helplessly as Ekwueme was literally chased out of the house he built from the G34 structure.
So, it is understandable that Ndigbo are so ecstatic about Obi’s nomination as Atiku’s running mate. Even the hitherto unenthusiastic about Atiku suddenly became “Atikulated”. It was in the midst of this euphoria that news filtered in that South East PDP leaders, governors, etc. were allegedly opposed to Obi. A meeting was called to handle the bad situation so it did not escalate. That was able to rein the hardliners. Governor Dave Umahi told journalists after the meeting that they weren’t opposed to Obi’s nomination, but that they were concerned that they were not consulted as agreed in making decisions on anything ceded to the South East.
That was all that was needed for misleading headlines and blackmailers to go to town with the falsehood that the South East PDP leaders rejected Obi. They set the Igbo against their political elites on the Internet: Ndigbo are their own worst enemies; where were the “so-called” Igbo leaders when the python danced, etc.? Ironically, though eminently qualified to be VP, Obi wouldn’t have made the list if speaking up for Ndigbo were the sole criteria. People like Senators Ekweremadu and Enyinnaya Abaribe have been the bastion of Ndigbo in the last three years.
Facing the real issues, are the South East PDP leaders really opposed to Obi? Not to my knowledge and from what I have read so far. Their grouse was that they were not carried along/consulted. Was that too much to ask for in a political atmosphere? Importantly, they know that such exclusion so early in the day portends danger for the region in the near future if Atiku/Obi ticket wins.
While the vice presidential ticket is a very welcome relief for Ndigbo, it is not what Ndigbo are after. Several Igbo socio-cultural organisations and elders have repeatedly emphasised that Ndigbo are more interested in restructuring than the presidency.
One of the most respected Igbo statesmen and constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, reechoed this position as recently as last August. He stressed: “The primary need of Ndigbo now is restructuring, not Igbo presidency. We want a restructured Nigeria because that is the only way we can get what we want, and every zone would be satisfied. If Nigeria is restructured, that will go a long way to satisfy our demands. As the country is today, we cannot get anything until Nigeria is restructured. We can begin to talk about Igbo presidency only when Nigeria is restructured”.
Now, it is no longer news that Atiku ran for the PDP ticket on the strength of restructuring. He also consulted Ndigbo ahead of the Port Harcourt convention. One of the governors confided that although the governors and other party leaders had their preferred aspirants, they agreed to meet with their South South counterparts in Port Harcourt to agree on a common candidate. But when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State wasn’t forthcoming, possibly because he was cocksure he had secured victory for Governor Aminu Tambuwal, the South East PDP leaders went ahead to meet in the hotel room of Senator Ekweremadu in Port Harcourt.
They analysed the capacity of each aspirant to dislodge Buhari, commitment to restructuring, and Igbo presidency come 2023, and settled for Atiku. Ohanaeze Ndigbo bought into it. The delegates went to the field and executed the decision, which outcome in the emergence of Atiku hurt Governor Wike so much that he allegedly talked down on the Igbo and their political leaders right there at the venue before storming out of the stadium.
So, to be fair to the party’s leaders in the South East, I must say that if Atiku consulted them to get a black vote, it was only right that they should have also been consulted in filling the position of the VP ceded to them. To sit with forces outside the region like Senator Bukola Saraki, Prince Uche Secondus, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Governor Tambuwal, and also the same Wike, who worked for a different aspirant to take that decision is most disdainful.
Having decided on Obi, he could also have invited them to say, this is your brother I want to work with. But they only heard it as breaking news like every other Nigerian. And at the time of writing this piece, a governor alleged that Atiku has not even called the leaders over the matter. It is humiliation of indescribable proportions. Much as it is a candidate’s prerogative to choose his running mate, I am just wondering if it was possible for Buhari to have just picked Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate in 2014 without consulting South West APC elders like Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande.
Some Igbo disparaging their leaders on social media over the displeasure and concern expressed by their leaders over the manner the position ceded to the region was filled forgot that the beneficiary (Obi) owes his allegiance to the likes of Wike and forces outside the region. That makes it will now be difficult to hold Obi accountable to the zone and its interest. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. The South East leaders wants to make it clear that Obi is there, not on behalf of those external forces, but on behalf of the South East.
The other worry is: How do our leaders get Atiku to honour the major understandings for which he got South East support in Port Harcourt – restructuring, one term/Igbo presidency 2023, etc.
Ndigbo must know that a Vice President will always be a Vice President, useful or useless as the President wishes. Ask Atiku, Goodluck Jonathan, and Osinbajo. So, there is little Obi would do for Ndigbo, more so when he owes his position to political forces outside the South East interest.
These are the hard facts the Igbo leaders must be worried about and which the South East must not sweep under the carpet if it wants a bright future within the Nigerian nation.
Unfortunately, Atiku and Obi appear to care less about correcting this early wrong impression. As at the time of writing this piece, insider information alleged that Atiku was yet to call any of the aggrieved leaders, while Obi only started reaching out and meeting with the South party leaders on Sunday in a manner that suggests afterthought.
If our leaders are excluded from important decisions when we are preparing for the hunting expedition, what will be our fate when the meat starts cooking on the fire? Our leaders must put their feet down and extract firm commitments from Atiku on the key issues as agreed ahead of Port Harcourt convention. If Atku isn’t the Messiah, then let’s look for another. No sentiments.
––––Daniel wrote in from Aba
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MultiChoice: 25 Years in Nigeria
igerians aged 35 and above are unlikely to have problems recalling what constituted our entertainment staple before 1993. It broadly consisted of movie releases at 10pm after the news bulletin on national or state-owned television, blockbuster movies on video cassette recorders, old Latin American soaps and dramas, recorded matches of the Premier League and for the children, cartoons early in the evening. Each, I have to say, fulfilled its role.
Then came satellite TV in the name of MultiChoice Nigeria to change the future of television.
A quarter of a century later, MultiChoice has grown to become a household name and a lifestyle choice in the country, bringing entertainment and information to millions of homes, cutting across different ages and cultures, as well as making huge contributions to the nation’s economy via huge investments.
Television, it is safe to say, has never been more powerful since November 1993 when MultiChoice landed on these shores.
How did the company succeed in causing a sea change in the television sector, where it has remained the dominant operator? Given where we were at the time MultiChoice commenced operations in the country, I would say the company showed enormous faith in Nigeria, was committed to providing high quality pay television service through investments in cutting-edge technology, content and service to kick off a revolution.
MultiChoice came into the country at a time of great political upheaval and uncertainty induced by the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, a period the country was, with some justification, avoided like a plague. The foul socio-political weather aside, there was the huge infrastructural deficit in the country, a state of affairs that required a pioneer to provide for its own needs. This required eye-watering financial investments and near-blind faith in a climate of political uncertainty.
Notable among investments made in infrastructure were the commissioning of the Eutelsat satellite at a cost of N1.3 billion for the provision of the KU-Band transmission service, having a spot-beam with Nigeria at its epicenter; building of the Lagos up-link to enable the carriage of the national free-to air channels, yearly expansion of satellite transponder capacity for the continuing carriage of these free-to-air channels as well as backhaul of the channels to the company’s facilities in Guadalajara in Spain at no cost to the channel providers.
MultiChoice, over the years, has continued to invest heavily in the latest technology in digital television, including its decoders, which it has consistently improved upon, new products, improved services and new payment systems.
The company has also been the leading figure in the country’s efforts to migrate from analogue to digital transmission being the first two introduce the second generation broadcast technology through its GOtv platform.
The launch of new technologies has contributed to the efforts of the government to create quality employment in the engineering and technical fields.
Through its products, MultiChoice has demonstrated commitment to Nigeria’s progress by ramping up its investment in local content. This has been variously demonstrated by SuperSports in increasing interest to solicit local content for programming and support for Nigerian boxing through GOtv Boxing Night to mention just a few.
The entertainment industry owes a large slice of its progress to support for MultiChoice, whose Africa Magic range of channels has established the country’s cultural hegemony by providing local artistes and producers the platform to showcase their talents to millions of viewers across the continent.
And to ensure an improvement in production quality, MultiChoice has continued to invest in various capacity building efforts for professionals in the creative content industry.
The latest of these efforts is the MultiChoice Talent Factory initiative, which is aimed at raising the next crop of African film and television professionals by equipping them with skills capable of putting them on the same level with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
A major element of the initiative is the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, a fully-funded one-year training programme for young people in the creative industry. The continent-wide initiative has three academies, with the one for West Africa located in Nigeria.
The company has, in addition to providing family entertainment, continued to contribute to the country’s social and economic development through the creation of job opportunities via local entrepreneurship schemes in dealership, training of a network of installers to assist in the installation of DStv and GOtv hardware as well as resolution of issues associated with the products.
On the Corporate Social Investment front, MultiChoice has invested a huge amount of resources in the rollout of over 300 MultiChoice Resource Centres in secondary schools in 29 states of the country.
Each beneficiary school receives a TV set, High Definition personal video recorder (HDPVR) decoder, generating set, complimentary subscription to DStv education bouquet, which contains BBC World, BBC Knowledge, National Geography, Animal Planet, National Geography Wild, History Channel, Learn and ED channel, as well as facilities such as chairs and tables. Equally importantly, the company has been a good corporate citizen, paying about 10 different tax types to government.
––Badru, a business analyst, writes from Suleja