Selfishness and Punishment; the Case of South East Politicians

By Nnamdi Jude

This was the word used often by many, if not most South East politicians when lamenting the fact that the zone had not been considered for presidency. It sounded reasonable, their claim, hence, most people in the South East saw those politicians as truly projecting the interest of the zone.

But then came Peter Obi, who, with his wave of Obidients, looked the strongest presidential candidate to have emerged from the South East since 1999. But ironically, the proponents of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction dismissed rather than support him. No sitting National Assembly member in the South East or any of the five governors in the zone endorsed Obi.

Although that could be excused on the basis of party affiliations, one may still wonder the reasons behind the open criticism from a state governor who accused Obi of jeopardising the chances of Ndi Igbo even though he and his party were supporting a presidential candidate of Igbo extraction who had even slimmer chances.

Elsewhere, a South East governor, who had decamped to the APC in protest against the PDP for not thinking the South East deserving enough of presidential ticket in 2019, forgot his Pan Igbo claims.

Of course political choices can never be the same, and every individual, regardless of their position, is constitutionally at liberty to endorse, campaign for and vote a candidate of their choice. But claiming electoral marginalisation for several years and calling for Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, only to work against the strongest presidential candidate from the SE since 1999 points to one thing –selfishness.

It was never about the people.

But unlike in the past, the political elites paid heavily this time as most political heavy weights lost elections as a result of what looked like protest votes from the people who seemed more politically invested and – I daresay – exposed this time.

In Anambra, for example, no incumbent National Assembly member won a re-election, save for Senator Ifeanyi Uba of YPP. In other South East states, the story is similar as people like Governor Ugwuanyi of Enugu State lost the Senatorial Election while hitherto unknown candidates walked to victory.

A lesson has now been learned by many – if not most – that politicians in the South East have to stand for the people’s interest or lose support. But whether this will last for long and extend to demanding good governance or fizzle out with time, especially if Obi fails to succeed at the tribunal, no one knows for sure.