The South East is unrelenting in its quest for the Office of Secretary to the Federal Government, following the suspension of the incumbent, David Babachir Lawal.
There are speculations that Lawal may not return and that the presidency is already searching for a replacement.
Political leaders from the South East have launched a campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari to give the position to the zone, citing the need to reverse the view that the administration is marginalizing the zone.
Frontline Igbo leader and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, believes the South East has got nothing tangible so far from the Buhari government and that it would expect that if there is such a vacancy, the Federal Government will reserve it for the region.
”If you look at the whole thing that they are doing, it appears as if people don’t exist in the South East,” he told The Nation.
“We have people who are qualified to hold this position in the APC. They should look at our people in the APC and appoint one of them.”
A former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, is also of the view that the position should naturally be conceded to the South East.
His words: “Nigeria has six principal protocol offices. The North West has the President; the South West has the Vice-President; the Senate President is from the North Central; so are other zones except the South East.
“Our constitution prescribes federal character, but the South East zone is conspicuously absent, blatantly removed from these positions. The position should automatically come to the South East.” He added: “Usually, anyone who should be the SGF is effectively someone who knows where the switches in government are, so that if anybody switches on, he switches off.
“That was why, in the past, it was only retired permanent secretaries that qualified to be made SGF. Somebody who has worked as a governor is also qualified because he has worked with so many permanent secretaries.”
While supporting the call that the SGF position to go to the South East, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group,Nnia Nwodo, said: ”I think we should go beyond the stage of determining who should occupy an office on the basis of zone to competence. The entire federal appointments have violated the federal character and shortchanged the South East and shortchanged the policy of the APC to zone the SGF position to the South East.
“They ate their own words. We are going to court to challenge the president for non-compliance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
But he said Ohanaeze will not lobby the presidency for the position to come to the zone, saying: “I am not interested in lobbying anybody to recognize the zone. The president is supposed to be the father of the whole country. He has sworn to the constitution and I expect him to respect his oath of office.”
The call also got the support of First Republic Minister and nationalist, Mbazulike Amaechi, who ,in a telephone interview , said: “If the president now believes that there should be fairness and equity and justice and that Nigeria should be a true federation, he should give the post of the SGF to the South East.
“You put somebody in Foreign Affairs and another in Science and Technology. To me, those are insignificant positions.
“It shows that he doesn’t want the Igbo. If he changes his mind now, it will douse tension in the country. He will regain the confidence of the Igbo people if he does this.
“Ogbonaya Onu had been a chairman of a political party that sponsored President Buhari twice. He has been so faithful a man. He is a quiet and principled Igbo man. He is not like these other ones that jump from one party to the other. If he (Buhari) actually wants somebody who will be loyal to him, he has him (Onu) there in Abuja.”
On his part, the national chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the call for the replacement of the suspended SGF is misplaced and premature because he has not been indicted.
Even if the seat becomes vacant, Okorie said, whoever occupies the position lies within the purview of the president.
He said: ”He knows who he wants. Even though it is provided for in the law of the land, it is not one of those offices that is subjected to federal character. It is the president’s prerogative as far as I know.
“ If the president gives it to the South East, I will definitely be happy.
“I am not keen on what position my people occupy, but what the government does for my people. Our people occupied positions in the past and there was nothing to show for it.”