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Emeka Nwajiuba: Buhari's choice for Igbo president?

Buhari’s closest Igbo ally struggling to sell the president in the southeast

14 January 2018

Many Nigerian observers are not aware of the Igbo man who is the closest politically to President Muhammadu Buhari, who does not have that much support in the Igbo heartland of Nigeria’s southeast region.

Buhari once dismissed Igbos as people that only gave him 5% of the vote and it appears that he will struggle to beat that low figure in the presidential (s)election next month. Buhari has been trying to improve on his share of the vote in the southeast with the help of his closest Igbo ally, Emeka Nwajiuba, a former lawmaker who represented Ehime Mbano, Ihitte-Uboma and Obowo Federal Constituency in Imo State in the National Assembly.

Nwajiuba, was previously with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before quitting for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – Buhari’s party before it merged with other parties to become the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014. The president rewarded Nwajiuba’s loyalty by appointing him Chairman of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) in April 2017.

Nwajiuba is now aiming to return to the House of Representatives and told close aides that Buhari has promised to help him become the Speaker, with a view to becoming the APC presidential candidate when Buhari steps down in 2023 and some expect that the presidency will be “zoned” to the southeast.

In a recent meeting, Nwajiuba told supporters in his constituency that they should back Buhari in order for him (Nwajiuba) to become the APC presidential candidate in 2023. He appealed to them saying Buhari needed votes in the southeast because the Nigerian Constitution states that a candidate for president must win the most votes cast, plus a quarter of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. If Buhari keeps getting about 5% of the vote in the southeast, his reelection is at risk because it is expected that he may struggle in the north-central, the Niger Delta and even in the West.

A source at the meeting with Nwajiuba told that the supporters present told him that he has their vote, but he should “stop talking about Buhari”. They point-blank refused to support the president, citing grievances such as killings by Fulani herdsmen, the military manouvres in the region tagged “Operation Python Dance” and Buhari’s history as an advocate for Sharia law.

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