The South East region doesn't love Buhari and the President hasn't done enough to earn their love either
It’s ‘constitutional’ to hate or deride Buhari in several parts of the South East. He's persona non grata in these parts.
South East States are Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia. It is not uncommon to hear people from these States refer to the President’s political party, APC, as Hausa party.
In the last presidential contest, only a few persons in the South East turned up for Buhari.
Buhari received a paltry 198,248 votes from the South East. In contrast, Goodluck Jonathan harvested 2,464,906 votes from the region.
Even Jonathan’s South South base handed Buhari more votes. 418,590 people voted for Buhari in the South South. Jonathan had the most votes in the region, polling 4,714,725 votes.
The South East has always been wary of any politician from the North of Nigeria. That fear of the Northern politician in the Igbo speaking States stem from the ills visited on Biafra by Nigeria during the civil war.
The Head of State at the time of the civil war was a northerner and majority of the rank and file in the Nigerian Army hailed from the northern geopolitical zone of the country.
Buhari was in the top echelon of the Army at the time of the civil war. He was never going to get love from the South East during the 2015 presidential election. The grudge from the South East for Buhari for “fighting against them” during the war, was evident in the eventual outcome from the 2015 polling.
The civil war scars have yet to heal in Igbo-land.
Buhari was flatly rejected in the region.
After winning the general election thanks to the votes from the South West and the northern geopolitical zones, Buhari’s first job was to unite a fractured country. It’s what decent leaders do.
At an event in Washington DC in July 2015, Buhari said people from the region who gave him 5% of the vote shouldn’t expect to be treated the same way as those who gave him 97% of the vote.
“I hope you have a copy of the election results”, Buhari said at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). “The constituents, for example, that gave me 97% [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities”, the newly elected President said.
It was a careless and flippant thing to say.
Where the South East was looking for inclusive governance cues from the new leader, Buhari handed them one more reason to believe that he isn’t their friend.
With one careless remark, the President had marginalized sections of the country even further.
In the months that followed, groups like the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) became more vocal and destructive; and a certain riff-raff called Nnamdi Kanu gained more sympathizers for his misguided Biafra cause.
Still, Buhari didn’t read the signs.
In his first set of federal appointments, he made sure to ostracize the South East and South South regions some more, handing critics who say he is clannish, more arrows for their bows.
Buhari is yet to visit a State in the South East region of Nigeria since he assumed the reins.
When the security summit recently held in Enugu, it was perfectly normal for the entire country to wonder why Buhari was nowhere near the venue of the event, especially because the government he heads holds up security as one of its cardinal objectives.
For the South East, this was one more reason not to trust Buhari.
What a difference his visit would have made!
Imagine what a charm offensive to this region during the visit would have done for his ratings.
In his defense, the President said he shunned the security summit because he yielded to counsel from South East elders.
“The President was presented with a request to attend the Economic and Security Summit by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. The President happily accepted”, a statement from the Presidency read.
“The visit to Enugu was scheduled for Thursday 22nd as can be found on the weekly programme.
“After this was done, some other stakeholders from the South East came and advised him to not go in view of the closeness of the date to Christmas; that given the sensitivity of the period to the people, a presidential visit may come with over-exertion and possibly, be disruptive of Christmas.
“In view of this, President Buhari requested that the event be pushed forward to January, 2017. Given his nature, he did not insist. He said if the change of date is not possible, then the event can go on without him. That is what the organisers chose to do.
“The President did not, and he absolutely has no reason to snub anyone.”
Tell that to the birds!
It was a lame excuse from the nation’s number one citizen.
A Commander-In-Chief should be able to show up in any part of the country whenever he chooses—whether at Christmas, Yam Festivals, Ogboni rituals, Cultists’ initiation, hailstones, earthquakes, flooding, Boko Haram war—whenever.
He’s the C-In-C for a reason. A packed Christmas schedule in the host State shouldn't prevent the President from making a most important trip to any part of this nation.
Citing closeness to Christmas as reason for not making the trip to Enugu was rather hollow and infantile. It was pure, unfiltered baloney. It made little sense.
It would have been better to shut it.
Buhari has to do more to unite a fractured country. He has to assure persons of other regions who didn’t vote for him that they are part of his plans for a better Nigeria.
He’s got to be the unifier in Chief. Thus far, he hasn’t.
Not making the trip to Enugu and canceling an earlier trip to Rivers to flag off the Ogoni cleanup, were missed opportunities.
The President has no one else to blame (for the agitations and unrests in these geopolitical regions) but himself.