By Uche Chris
President Buharis one day visit to Imo state last week was a public relations stunt and ostensibly, a success for both the Imo state government and the president; but it was a political flop, which arguably was its main objective and target. Unlike most other presidents in the past, Buhari has not been the outgoing and visiting type, perhaps on account of his unstable health, which has kept him basically ensconced in the Aso villa.
So, for Governor Hope Uzodimma, in just about over a year in office to drag the reclusive President out of the Villa is a milestone achievement. Since coming to power in the most bizarre and controversial circumstance in January 2020, following a Supreme Court decision that left most Nigerians baffled and bewildered, Uzodimma has laboured under a heavy weight of illegitimacy and public scorn, which could be blamed for the escalation of violence and insecurity in the state.
For President Buhari on the other hand, the visit was most auspicious and golden, given his slurred and negative image and reputation in the region, as result of his perceived provocative and even insulting utterances about the Igbo since he became president, and the undisguised marginalization of the region in political appointments and other federal largesse.
But politically, the visit was a failure because it brought nothing and delivered nothing. It was a hugely lost opportunity for Buhari to have squandered such golden chance to address the Igbo quagmire that has dogged his government, and redress those perceived unjust and nepotic policies against the region.
For instance, the statement about the five percent vote and appointment syndrome, the dot in a circle and to teach them the language they understand tweet that led to his being blocked by Twitter, and the subsequent ban; the complete absence of the Igbo in the top level appointments of the President, which had provided the platform and justification for the uprising in the region and the popularity of IPOB; the military lockdown of the state in particular, and the region generally, and more importantly, the arrest and incarceration of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
President Buhari and Uzodimma may not be bothered about all these, but the total boycott of the visit by the people on the orders of IPOB was a clear and unequivocal vote of no confidence and rejection of the governor and his august visitor. A presidential visit is always a thing of national pride and state recognition, and focuses global attention on the host. It is usually treated and received in a carnival and celebratory atmosphere, which was lacking in this occasion.
President Buhari brought a heavy load of political baggage on the visit and, sadly and inadvertently, returned home with it. Any discerning and perceptive leader would have seized the occasion to puncture some of those negative and contentious issues that have provoked outrage against him and his government in relation to the Igbo. But what did he do or say:That he will complete the Second Niger Bridge and deal with the security situation in the state. It was insulting.
However, typical of him he also betrayed what has been long known as his vengeful and vexatious attitude and conception of the Igbo position in the country. He told them point blanket that they should not complain because they control the economy.
President Buhari has not hidden his anger and even dislike for the Igbo complaining of marginalization when within 40 years after the war they have risen to the unimaginable economic height to compare and even compete with the other regions that won the war. It is something that is beyond their contemplation and they would have preferred that the Igbo remained vanquished, victimized and submissive.
In the final analysis, the Igbo must watch it, because this visit was not for nothing and perhaps portends ominous sign for the regions political future. Coming just two months to the Anambra guber election, and the campaign for Igbo presidency in 2023, Anambra may be a trade-off which might imperil the political relevance of the region.
President Buhari and the northern segment of APC are desperate to conquer the south east by any means, as demonstrated in the Imo state debacle, because they are aware that the APC marriage or contraption with the South west is unsustainable, and are desirous of a pliant substitute, which the Igbo had usually been to them. But without a strong foothold in the zone, such alliance will not happen.
An interesting quality of the northern political leadership is their foresight and sagacity; they think and plan ahead. Their immediate concern my not be 2023, as most people are scrambling for it; their target may be 2027 or 2031.So whoever takes over in 2023 may just be a caretaker holding the reins for them until their time comes to take over perpetually.
In this context the Anambra November election is critical and the Igbo must not allow the visit or quest for the presidency compromise its outcome for either an APGA or PDP victory. To let it go to the APC is to forfeit further relevance in the political structure of the country; the north will not foolishly make them strong again to challenge for power.