Situating the South East Quest for Political Equity

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Time has come for the South East geo-political zone to do soul-searching and change style if it must take back its place in the body polity, writes Olawale Olaleye

In every political community, there is a general principle that “power is not served a la carte”. This is because power, even in civilised democratic climes, thrives on the biblical saying that “the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent takes it by force.”

Interestingly, this cannot be the approach all the time. Even dictatorship sometimes applies suasion to secure understanding or approval in a seemingly difficult situation. Thus, the two approaches, in the game of power, are essential. It takes the wisdom of the individual or group at the receiving end to know which to apply at what time.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the people of the South East have been somewhat uneasy about alleged conspiracy of the political elite to make them appear like second-class citizens in their own country, such that does not get them any close to the presidency.

But whilst that remains in contention especially, that it is not going to be conceded to them by fiat or an act of the parliament, that they have to struggle for recognition in the sharing of other principal political offices seems to break them and disabuse their sense of patriotism, often times.

Curiously, however, allegation of marginalisation has scaled up since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, a situation, which makes a majority of the Igbo to think that the president dislikes them beyond comprehension.

Interestingly, this was in spite of the fact that then Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was from the South East, although a position he earned through high-wire political chess game. Also, there were a few people from the South East, who by virtue of constitutional provisions, were appointed ministers. That’s inevitable.

But this situation was not pleasing to the Igbo people, who feel not only alienated from the thick of national politics, but deliberately stifled from holding down their own in the scheme of things.

Unaware of the thickening discontent, efforts were made by the presidency, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party and other stakeholders to tweak the narrative that the South East was precluded from the scheme of things essentially, because of the politics of her people. This of course went on to confirm that the region might have been truly relegated.
Not only did President Buhajri promise to change approach and embrace an inclusive government, the card was also played on the South East that if they played along with the ruling party, they could get the presidency in 2023.

But that bubble was soon burst when eminent personalities from the South West started the “It’s Our Turn” campaign, raising the fears that should the South East play along, it would have been played at the end of the day, more so that there was no reassuring proof directly from the president that he would support them in 2023 even though he traveled round the zone seeking votes.
Indeed, events after the 2019 elections have shown that the South East was never part of the APC agenda, as the sharing of the offices so far totally edged them out.

From the President to the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker of House of Representatives, the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives – everything was shared amongst other regions except with the South East.
Of course, there is a counter argument that after the 2011 elections, the South West too was played out of the equation. But that argument does not suffice. The PDP, unlike the APC, had the South West in mind and had zoned the speakership to the zone before the South West by their own doing, traded it to former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal from North West.

What this means is that the APC does not reckon with the South East and perhaps, does not give a hoot about the zone. Yet, this also does not cancel out the truth that the South East also needs to up its game and build consensus, because that is the soul of any successful national politics.

Clearly, 2023 is for the taking and certainly not going to be served a la carte to anyone. In other words, whichever of the zones that is desirous of the office of the president must go all out and take it by networking, horse-trading and doing a whole lot of concession and compromise.

While it may not be totally false that the South East has been technically reduced in the scheme of things in a sense that does not edify equity, justice and fairness; they too must stop complaining, change style and start to play productive politics realtime. And, again, they must realise that the journey to 2023 has already begun.