In what some may consider a shocking revelation about Nigeria’s realpolitik, Ismaila Isa Funtua, gave an in-your-face, brazen, explanation of why the Igbo may not be able to provide Nigeria’s President, not just for the 2023 general election, but also for all times.

He certainly stirred the hornet’s nest, if that indeed was his intention. Controversies, frustrations, anger, and thumbs-up by those on whose behalf he may have spoken, come from the stuff he uploaded unto Nigeria’s political space.

Funtua, who boasts, “I know Nigeria, I know politics,” added with the deft delivery of a man sending a political sucker punch, “I am a cabal.” He is a native of Funtua in the Katsina Emirate of Katsina State.

He was Personnel Manager of the United Nigeria Textile Limited, and Managing Director of Democrat Newspaper, which afforded him the opportunity to become President, and later, life patron, of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria.

Funtua is founder of Bulet International Nigeria Limited, reputed to be the largest wholly-owned construction company in Nigeria. Bulet was involved with physical development of the new Federal Capital Territory Abuja in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2016, it was reported that Funtua was one of 10 most influential Nigerians. Regarded as a close friend of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Funtua, like another power broker, and first nephew Mamman Daura, reportedly travels frequently with the President.

Funtua was brought up by his uncle, First Republic politician, Isa Kaita, a broadcaster, corporate player, and foundation member of Northern People’s Congress, for which he was the financial secretary. He served as Minister of Education, and Works, in the Northern Nigerian Government. He was a strong lobbyist for the creation of Katsina State.

With this backdrop, you shouldn’t have problems understanding Funtua’s pedigree as a hard-nosed member of Northern Nigeria’s political establishment. You will also understand his very hardline position on the perceived ambition of Ndigbo for one of their own to become Nigeria’s President in 2023.

Outside of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the ceremonial President in the First Republic, and Major General J. T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, who was a military Head of State for less than seven months, no Igbo has been Executive President of Nigeria.

The closest the Igbo have got to the presidency is Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s tenure as Vice President to Shehu Shagari, and the short, and frustrating, time that Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters to wily military dictator, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.

While assuming an arrogant, know-it-all, devil-may-care, and aristocratic demeanour, Funtua explained that Ndigbo can kiss having one of them emerge as Nigeria’s President good bye if they do not “belong”.

One is not clear if he wants them to register with the ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress, or simply identify with the group that seems to be the kingmakers in the North and South-West, align with them, and then work themselves up through the ranks.

For Funtua, it seems political inclusiveness is when you pick yourself up and join the moving Nigerian political train, and not when some political do-gooder decides to bestow political power unto you, the way driving licence was delivered to some people’s home in the past.

Funtua seems to agree with the aphorism that, “No one gives power to you, you simply take it.” It’s not a sweepstake that comes by luck; it comes by dint of hard work and physical presence.

Though he didn’t dwell on why the political elite refused to deliver the presidency to the South-West in 1993, Funtua strongly recommended the approach through which Bashorun MKO Abiola obtained victory even in the ward of Bashir Tofa,  his opponent in the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Funtua explained this feat: “(Abiola) played politics. He embraced everybody. He is (sic) moving with everybody. You send him an invitation for anything, if he is not there, his representative will be there. And he will contribute to your activities. He is a good politician.”

Funtua continues: “With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand (or remember, most likely), that when the (Yoruba of the) South-West chose to be on their own, they want(ed) their region, they want (sic) to remain in opposition always, they see (sic) what happened to them. They did not go near the power.”

Funtua counsels: “If the Igbo want to be President of Nigeria, they should belong.” He queries, “What part of Nigeria’s Constitution… says ( you should just dash the Igbo the presidency?)” He also wanted to know, “Since when (did the presidency of Nigeria) become “Turn-by-Turn Nigeria Limited?”

He adds, for effect: “Nobody is going to hold you politically, in this country, like a newly born baby… You choose a candidate who is able to bring votes for you to win elections. (It’s) not on (a) regional basis, not on (a) tribal basis… You are talking of politics. (And) politics is an issue of votes.”

So, one can only counsel Ndigbo to heed the warnings of Funtua, by learning from the lessons of the South-West that finally produced a President in the Fourth Republic, even if they are not sure of reciprocity of support from the Northern political establishment in what appears to be their quest for the presidency in 2023.

Funtua insinuates that Ndigbo dropped the ball when their natural leader, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, didn’t encourage those who had wanted to hold political caucus meetings with him, even though they did not give him any assurances that they would support his candidacy – if he showed interest.

You could however, argue that things hadn’t got to that stage, and when, according to Funtua, Ekwueme’s “attitude had changed,” and he betrayed “that bitterness,” and “stepped back,” the caucus that would have supported him drifted elsewhere.

Funtua doesn’t think Ekwueme was justified to believe that the 1983 “coup d’etat was staged so that he does not become President.” Funtua actually described this tendency of a man whom he described as “My Leader,” as “nonsensical!”

Such a language, for describing an elder and political leader, cannot be appropriate in a respectful African setting. To use the very strong admonition from the streets of Lagos, “It’s just not done.”

Be that as it may, truth must be told that the Igbo must deploy themselves in ample numbers in at least the major political parties in Nigeria, and register their presence. Though the Yoruba seem to have a high number in the APC, they also have significant number in main opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

It’s the same way African-Americans, who thought their political liberation was only in America’s Communist Party and the Black Panthers led by Angela Davies, finally saw wisdom, and fetched up in the Democratic Party of America. Brave hearts, like surgeon Ben Carson, even joined the ultra conservative Grand Old Party, better known as the Republican Party.

Chekwas Okorie, National Chairman of United Progressive Party, agrees that “(The Igbo) should not just expect that (the presidency) should come to us as a matter of right, we have to contest it, and that means we have to lobby other people outside of Igboland.”

It looks like Isa Funtua has given the Igbo sound tutorials in realpolitik. So, what needs to be done is for all the sides to play the inclusiveness card right.