As the only zone in the South that is yet to produce the President since the return to democratic rule in 1999, the South-East is considered to have a good case in its quest to occupy the seat when President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office in 2023.
The zone’s quest is further boosted by perceived marginalization of the region in the scheme of things in the country despite producing the Igbo, one of the three major ethnic groups and tripod upon which Nigeria gained independence in 1960.
The two other ethnic groups and tripods are Hausa and Yoruba.
Among the six geo-political zones, the South-East has the least number of states (five) and local governments while the others have at least six states.
Since 1999, the other zones of southern Nigeria – South-West and South-South – have produced presidents.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the South-West occupied the presidency for two terms of eight years while Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the South-South, who succeeded the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, did six years.
The North-West zone has monopolized the seat among the three northern zones via the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua and serving President Muhammadu Buhari.
On account of the power rotation principle between the North and South, the next President of Nigeria, all things being equal, is expected to be a southerner.
But then the question lingers: Which part of the South should the next president come from?
There is jostling for the nation’s topmost seat between the South-East and South-West where some political heavyweights have been locked in quiet and underground mobilization, alignment and realignment. There are also moves to get Jonathan to run for second term which, if successful, could make power return to the North in 2027 as he will be eligible to serve only one term having been President before.
Given the short end of the stick that the South-East is holding, it is not surprising that the clamour for Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023 has thickened.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State cited injustice to the South-East as his principal reason for leaving the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the All Progressives Congress, APC, last Tuesday.
He and state executive committee members of the PDP in Ebonyi, had earlier given the PDP hierarchy an ultimatum to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South-East or they would dump the party.
Umahi formalized his defection to the APC on Thursday. The responses of Igbo leaders to Umahi’s defection to the APC, and the need for the South-East to produce the President in 2023 show that the zone is not united in the quest. While some want the presidency, others are angling for the vice presidency slot. There are also those who want restructuring before Igbo presidency.