2023 IGBO PRESIDENCY: THE IGBO FACTORS VERSUS NIGERIA FACTOR
What counts against Igbo Presidency
Just recently, the governors of the southeast and other political leaders in the region including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo met in Enugu where they discussed a myriad of problems confronting the Igbo including security and economic issues. They feared southeast could be under siege following recent movement of youths from the northern states despite the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down.
The meeting however ended with a loud silence on politics of 2023.
Barely three days after taking a position on regional security and an instruction to the Houses of Assembly to expedite work on the bill to give the initiative a legal backing, the governors reverted to working with the Inspector General of Police on community policing which was their initial position.
The Igbo man seems to be battling with decisive indecision, discordant concord and absolute confusion.
Although Buhari has spent only a year into his second term in office, issues of 2023 are already creeping up in the polity. Subtle campaigns for 2023 presidency have begun and the agitation for presidency to move to the south has begun.
The southwest is gearing up for another turn in the presidency with a complete disregard for the southeast and yet, the governors and political leaders would meet and keep mum on the issue.
Things worse for the north now, after OBJ, Yar’Adua, Jonathan failed us ―
Indeed, the controversy over which region should produce the next president in 2023 is already an issue and every zone of the country seems to have interest in the issue.
The north plans to keep the presidency after the two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is gearing up with some people saying that he has an alliance with the ruling APC for power to return to the west through him in 2023.
There are also Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the current vice-president; Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, and former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun who are among those touted to have interests in the highest office in the country. There is also governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
These are from the southwest.
The South-south also seems to be interested in the position, on the premise that its son, Jonathan, was not given the opportunity to serve for two terms like others.
The Southeast zone, the only zone in the southern region that is yet to produce a president should be eyeing the position but it seems lacklustre about it.
Whenever the issue of presidency of Igbo extraction comes up, it becomes difficult to decide whether the southeast wants Igbo presidency, restructuring or Biafra.
Known for their individualism, most political leaders in the southeast are driven by selfish tendencies and this has affected the people over the years.
Will a president of Igbo extraction be realised when the people are not united and cannot speak with one voice and on top of it, they are perceived to play bad politics?
Apart from former Anambra governor, Mr Peter Obi who genuinely selflessly fights for the Igbo cause and Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Enyinnaya Abaribe, many other politicians seem to have nothing to write home about.
Politicians of the APC appear to be under the illusion that after Buhari would have completed his tenure in 2023, power would be handed over to the Igbo. But that is not the way politics is played in Nigeria or anywhere else.
The southeast has missed so many chances.
The people seem to be groping in the dark since the return to democracy in 1999. Some believe that Dr Alex Ekwueme was betrayed at the PDP Jos convention when Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo was brought out of prison and imposed as PDP’s presidential candidate. Others believe that it was akin to what they did to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the first republic when after he won an election in Lagos, the table suddenly turned and he was betrayed overnight.
Aside the great Dr Azikiwe and Dr Alex Ekwueme, the present crop of Igbo political leaders appear weak and lacking in what it takes to negotiate profitably for their people.
Most clearly seek selfish interests.
Buhari 2nd term
It should be recalled that before Buhari won a second term in office, a powerful delegation of Igbo APC leaders led by Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology had endorsed him for another term in office. They said the President did enough to merit a second term. That delegation comprised former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere, who represented Rochas Okorocha before the duo fell out; serving members of APC in the last national assembly, former governors, the former ministers from the south-east, members of the then national working committee and national executive committee of the APC. They had endorsed Buhari without negotiating the terms of endorsement. Many tagged them naive. There was no question of what Buhari would do for Ndigbo during his second term. The delegation was happy that the president received them.
That was not the first time Igbo leaders would play daft.
Since 1999, the southeast has been all out for the PDP. It supported former President Jonathan to the moon and back in 2015 but Jonathan lost the election. The south-east also lost.
Then the ‘Pharaoh’ who did not know ‘Joseph’ came into power and the fate of the south-east deteriorated from playing third and fourth fiddle to playing no fiddle at all.
That has been the situation till date.
To make matters worse, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, tend to be making things more impossible for the Igbo. Due to the activities of this group, many would not trust the Igbo and would rather not have anything to do with the people.
Of course, nothing was wrong with endorsing President Buhari for another term in office but what is there for the Igbo leaders in APC? What were their terms for supporting Buhari? He won another term in office and recently marked one year in office in his second term. Will he address the Igbo question? Will he care to do that when he knows that aside the APC members, majority of the Igbo did not vote for him?
Disregarding the Igbo
The presidential request for an approval of the senate for a loan of 22.7 billion dollars from China’s Exim bank recently received the nod of the upper legislative chamber. The loan, according to President Buhari, would be invested in the improvement of infrastructure in the country. He said the loan was to “ensure the prompt implementation of projects under the borrowing plan with specific emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety nets programmes, governance and financial management reforms among others.
Details of the loan, when they were made public, revealed that the Southeast zone was excluded from the projects it is intended for. None of the projects captured in the loan for execution when it is eventually received falls within the zone, just as other zones will enjoy a measure of succour from it. Available details indicate that Southwest will get $200,000,000.00 while south-South, excluding Edo State, will get $4,270,000,000.00. North West will get $6,372,000,000.00, Northeast will get $300,000,000.00 while North Central will get $6,531,000,000 while $5,853,900,000.00 is reserved for general expenses.
This has set the Southeast zone grumbling.
The authorities appear indifferent to the Igbo question. Each time an issue about the Igbo comes up; the people will be talked down on.
In the midst of these, the self-serving nature of the Igbo has not helped matters. They work for their individual pockets. If the Igbo APC leaders who endorsed Buhari believed he would hand over to the southeast, did they discuss that with him? Or were they happy that the South East has the least number of states in Nigeria, the least number of Senators, least number of House of Reps members, the least number of State Houses of Assembly members, least number of Ministers at the federal level, least revenue allocation, least federal presence or investment, least local governments, least wards and the least of everything in Nigeria? The endorsers had commended Buhari on efforts he was making to ensure there is development in the south-east.
Railways were mapped out across states in Nigeria and south-east got none. The south-east was never given any position of consequence in the present administration. What projects have been cited in Igboland to create jobs? What developmental programmes have been considered for the South East? Or don’t Ndigbo have the resources and manpower to lead the nation? With the slow pace of work on the 2nd Niger Bridge, will it be completed soon or would 2nd Niger Bridge be used for another campaign in 2023?
In the past, it used to be Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo but now, its Hausa, Yoruba, South-South, then Igbo. Now, everybody denigrates, disregards and talks down on the Igbo and freely threatens them. They have slipped from being one of Nigeria’s largest and significant ethnic groups. After Azikiwe and Alex Ekwueme, the political influence of the Igbo has ceased to exist.
The Igbo still remain a defeated people since the past civil war despite the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ disposition.
Not long ago, General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s wartime Head of State, said he does not have any problem if power shifts to the Igbo for the 2023 Presidency as long as doing so would enhance peace.
Answering a question on the agitation by south easterners that the Igbo should produce the nation’s President in 2023, Gowon said, “If doing so will bring peace, it should be done; if the people so desire.”
The General added that, “There was a time the PDP started rotational presidency, if that was continued, maybe the Igbo would have produced a President but that didn’t happen. If that can be done now, I don’t have a problem with it. Anybody can govern. There are many people in Nigeria, if God gives them and they will govern with the fear of God and love for Nigerians, we will make the desired progress.”
This statement by Gowon was later construed to mean that the Igbo have hired Gowon to campaign for Igbo presidency which Ohanaeze denied.
The pronounced disunity and infighting among the Igbo would make it difficult for them to make any kind of progress in politics. The southeast APC leaders never showcased what Buhari promised the Igbo and from all indications, in the next 20 years, an Igbo man may not rule Nigeria. Other major ethnic groups have schemed to dominate political power.
When the pro-Biafra agitators started, the idea was to bring the Igbo question to the fore-front and many supported them but along the line, it was clear the agitation became a personal business enterprise. . Many believe the whole thing was mismanaged. Today followers of IPOB have done nothing about the herdsmen invasion of the southeast. This is where they ought to have been very effective because foreigners have invaded Igboland and IPOB has done nothing about it.
Presidency of 2023
As 2023 approaches, nationalities across Nigeria are once again strategizing and negotiating into the heart of the party under which platform they hope to realise their dreams. The Igbo whose position have remained precarious in the Nigerian political landscape don’t seem to be doing anything. They have not started talking seriously about 2023. They have taken it for granted that power should be transmitted to the Igbo.
Just like the delegation that met Buhari, the Igbo endorsed Jonathan in 2011. At the end of the day, Jonathan did nothing for them. He did not construct a single road in Igboland. If anything, he rolled back the Igbo presidency. Hence a politician like Chief Paul Unongo dared to say that Jonathan was the realisation of Igbo presidency.
From PDP to APC, the Igbo have been missing chances. It should be recalled that by the time Jonathan was warming up for another term in office, he made a million promises which he hoped would be fulfilled in his second term.
To support him, former Anambra governor, Mr Peter Obi decamped from All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, to the PDP. And for Jonathan’s second term in office, Igbo leaders made up of then Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; then Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Senator Hope Uzodinma; then Minister of Labour & Productivity, Emeka Wogu; then National Publicity Secretary PDP, Mr Olisa Metuh; Mr Ifeanyi Ubah and former Governor Peter Obi stormed Dover Hotel at Lekki Phase 1 Lagos to woo Ndigbo Lagos for President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 presidential bid.
At Dover Hotel, they met eminent and prominent Igbo leaders, namely then President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey; President Ndigbo Lagos, Professor Anya. O. Anya; President Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike; former Chairman Diamond Bank, Chief Pascal Dozie; former Governor of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu(rtd); former President of Nigerian Stock Exchange, Dr Raymond Obieri; Eze Ndigbo of Ikeja, Eze Uche Dimgba and then President Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, Fabian Onwughalu and many other eminent Igbos in Lagos. They campaigned support for Jonathan’s second term in office. But Jonathan lost the election.
The Igbo have been nowhere since then. Or don’t Ndigbo have the resources and manpower to lead the nation?
Unless the people are united, 2023 will be an illusion because the reckoning system has changed .
Igbo must succeed Buhari — Ohanaeze
Ohanaeze Ndigbo recently renewed its quest for Nigeria’s citizen of Igbo extraction to succeed Buhari in 2023.
The group’s Spokesman, Chuks Ibegbu said the demand for South East to produce the next occupant of the topmost office in the land was in the spirit of equity, justice and fair play as the move would strengthen unity and promote a sense of belonging.
Ibegbu said Ohanaeze would not relent in promoting issues that engender unity and development, as the current advocacy falls within the precincts.
He urged all political stakeholders nationwide to ensure the presidency was zoned to Igboland in 2023 as an indication of the seriousness in the claim of “one Nigeria.”
According to Ibegbu : “In 1999, the ticket was Olusegun Obasanjo versus Olu Falae; In 2007, it was the late Yar’Adua versus Muhammadu Buhari; and in 2019, it was Buhari versus Abubakar Atiku. So in 2023, it should be Igbo versus Igbo. With this arrangement, Nigerians can then make their choice among the array of Igbo candidates.”
He also assured that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is fully committed to the restructuring of Nigeria, adding that such would be the ultimate panacea to its multifarious challenges.
It’s turn of Igbo Presidency in 2023, —Yakasai
Alhaji Tanko Yakasai was amongst those that declared unequivocally that it should be the turn of the Igbo to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023.
Yakasai based his declaration on the logic that other regions and zones in the country, except the Igbo of the South-east.
Yakasai, in an interview said: “Nigeria had three major blocks. Two of these three namely, the North and the West have had the opportunity of producing the President. Therefore, Igbos have a good argument because out of the three siblings, two have already succeeded at producing the President but the Igbos have not.
“They (the Igbo) deserve the sympathy of all Nigerians for them to get it in 2023 or later. My opinion is that this is not a matter that one will lie down and think that it will come to him. Effort is needed. How do you go about it? This can only be done by persuasion to convince other Nigerians about the need for an Igbo to emerge the President of Nigeria.
“I for one – I am in support of it. I did it before in the era of NPN (National Party of Nigeria) when we had the arrangement that the next president after late President Shehu Shagari would come from the East. We would have settled this problem long ago if not for the military intervention.
So, I spoke in support of Igbo presidency. I did not want to fix a date because I am not in position to do that. I said that the Igbo should go out and lobby other Nigerians and try to get their concern and support to produce the president in 2023 and where they are not able to do that in 2023 they will put a trajectory for them to produce the President next time.”
Ambassador George Obiozor
In his own reaction to the Igbo question, former ambassador to the United States, George Obiozor said: “The Igbo thing is not about the Igbo being president. Who told you that if an Igbo man becomes president, there will be no more problems? If the Igbo man is partial, if the Igbo man is parochial, if the Igbo man is biased, then the people will also vote against him. What Nigeria needs is a great leader, a good leader. In fact,
Nigeria has reached a point where the leadership of the country is not determined by where you come from but your ability in terms of what you can offer to the country, what you can do. If a leader is good, you don’t even ask where he comes from. Countries that have good leaders don’t even bother about where the leaders come from.
But when a country has a problem such as we have and nothing is being done as quickly as possible as a response to the national crisis, then what do you think the people would do? “Everything is lopsided in Nigeria. Take a look yourself at any institution you like and examine the level of equity in it. Look at the issue of federal revenue allocation. Look at the issue of revenue from oil and how it is shared. The details will shock you.
Go and find the list of appointments in Nigeria in different areas. The list will shock you. Go and see even the list of retirements in Nigeria in some of the agencies. The list will shock you. So, the issue we are talking about is emanating from the failure of leadership and insensitivity in the way we do things. “Every zone has six states but South-East has five. Is that good? And if they speak ,you’d say they are talking about marginalisation. A just leader will not leave things that way.
If that visible difference is not marginalisation, then what is it? It affects everything else: revenue sharing, membership in the federal house, membership in the senate and everything affecting the south east. When the people are complaining, a good leader should look into what is going on and redress injustice whether it is real or imagined. “The average Igbo knows he is suffering because the civil war of over 50 years ago never ended. There is no doubt that the war didn’t end. It continued in other ways. People are asking what Igbos want in Nigeria and I tell you, Igbos want justice. People who ask what Igbos want are so prejudiced and narrow-minded. What the Igbos want is unity but not unity of slaves and masters
. “The leaders are failing the people, they are not speaking with one voice. People are putting the blame on them but you have to see that even these are victims of the system. And what voice are you looking for? A people cannot speak with one voice when they have been intimidated and frightened as the people of South East. The South-East people have been frightened by the system. How can they control what they didn’t create?? The Igbo and their leaders are victims of the system they find themselves. That is the lopsidedness of the federal system.
The citizens of South-East are in near-permanent disadvantage. So, you have to look at the situation in a wholistic way.”
Igbo are treated as conquered people —Mbazulike Amaechi
First Republic politician, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi had this to say: “More than any other race in Nigeria, the South-East, the Igbo have been dealt with especially since the end of the civil war. They were treated at all times as a conquered people. The Igbo have been treated as slaves. During the Shagari era, the South-East got a reprieve. But simply because of a feeling that the South-East might get into power, they staged a military coup and took over the government.
Everybody knew it at that time. So, the Igbos have been treated as slaves in this country and it is time to put a stop to it because the other areas are beginning to sympathise with Igbos. Look, if we don’t come to terms with the Igbo question, there will be a terrible implosion or explosion. The people are collectively suffering. They are collectively being punitively treated?They are victims. Even those who go to Abuja to collect hand-outs are all victims. They are suffering together.”
Our problems started from not having free, fair and credible elections—Maria Okwor
An associate of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the second republic and leader of the Igbo Women Assembly, Maria Okwor had this to say: “What we had in the past worked better for us. I’m talking about regions and the time people like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Awolowo held sway. Every region developed at its own pace and contributed to the centre. Now, reverse is the case.
They just gave you anything they liked from the centre. This presidential system that we operate today, I have always maintained that it is too wasteful and encourages corruption. See what is happening in our country: imposition of candidates and leadership failure. Nigeria has not got it right with leadership. Nigerians are not allowed to choose the people they want to lead them. They just impose people on the electorate and when they assume office, they don’t care about anybody except themselves, their families and friends. Some will even tell you that whether you vote or not, a winner must emerge. We have been battling with square pegs in round holes. That is the origin of our problems. The South-East is on the spot. The situation is dicey. Igbo cannot continue being slaves in this country.”
The Igbo and political defeatism
2023: The Igbo and political defeatism
ON JULY 4, 20201:54 AMIN FRANK & FAIR
By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
The very idea that the Igbo cannot compete politically even in a wonky Nigeria is absurd.
It’s a new attitude. And it is threatening to shackle the Igbo, its industriousness and its future. It began in the third republic. It could have been born during the military regime. It has to be shed by a deliberate pragmatic political engagement with other ethnic nationalities with the Igbo deploying its full weight in population and resources
The Igbo cannot become the whining nation. We must shed the victim mentality of political passivity, negative thinking, helplessness, pessimism.
“Oh it is rigged against us. We cant help it. We are hated. There is no need to try, we cannot not win. They won’t let us be president. And even if we become president, he will be their puppet”
And the voices of the cynics drown out reason and hope. Ala Igbo is then allowed to gather hopelessness and the people become drunk with despair. An ethnic group that has flourished better than all other groups in the country would then stay on the sidelines, moaning perpetually. That is a tragedy. When we are not crying wolf , we are threatening to upturn the table like sore losers.
That can’t be the right attitude. The Igbo is born to compete and win.
What is the reality?
Of all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria , the Igbo is the most dispersed and most entrenched in the fabric of the nation. The Igbo is perhaps the only ethnic group that has more wealth outside than inside its ancestral territory. If the talk about national unity exists outside sloganeering then its real tangible evidence of existence is in the commercial activities of the Igbo. The most prominent evidence of national unity today is not contraptions like the NYSC and unity schools, it is the millions of Igbos setting out and sojourning; settling, living and owning properties a thousand kilometers away from their homeland.
If these and more constitute the status quo, then why is Igbo the group most dissatisfied with Nigeria. Why are some Igbos championing the dismemberment of the nation?
2023: What counts against Igbo Presidency
Things worse for the north now, after OBJ, Yar’Adua, Jonathan failed us ― Shariff
Of all the ethnic groups in the country the Igbo isn’t just about the most prosperous. Apart from perhaps the Yorubas, the average Igbo man is more likely to have better education, better health care , better security, better disposable income than the average individual of any other ethnic group. These advantages accrue from the shrewdness and industriousness of the Igbo man which is acknowledged by everybody.
Let’s take a look at history.
Jaja of Opobo dominated his era. Azikiwe was an African star. The Igbo were in the thick of things before the Independence. Azikiwe and Hebert Maculay formed NCNC – the political torch bearer of the nation.
In the first republic Igbos were in a sense dominant. I wouldn’t delve into anything that would come off as ethnic self promotion. But let me say, modestly, that in the first republic Igbos were satisfied with their hold on the NCNC, their political marriages in the west , and their alliance with the NPC. The Igbo promoted Nigerian nationalism.
In the second republic Azikiwe, Obi wali ,Guy Ikokwu, RBK Okafor, Jim Nwobodo, Edwin Onwudiwe, Umezuoke, Echeruo had the NPP with Solomon Lar, Unongo and others. And they won Ikwerre land, Plateau state and parts of Niger.
Igbos – Ekwueme, Okadigbo, Onoh, Sylvester Ugoh, Mbadiwe and company- were at the heart of the ruling NPN.
In the first and second republics Igbos didn’t cry marginalization like denied children. They immersed themselves in the national political milieu and played the game with dexterity and self possession.
If we say that Okpara, K O Mbadiwe, Mbazulike Amaechi , Azikiwe and others were fortunate in the first republic because the civil war brought evil and retrogression upon us, how can anyone explain the second republic. We had just emerged from the brutal war.
The suspicions were rife and untempered by time. But we played the game with purpose and intensity. Neither Azikiwe nor Ojukwu, neither Collins Obi nor CC Onoh, neither Mbakwe nor Arthur Nzeribe, neither Obi Wali nor Jaja Wachukwu would have imagined that our politics could recede into playing from the sidelines or throwing sand to disrupt a game we could seize by the scruff of the neck if we deployed half the ingenuity we engaged in owning half of Abuja properties.
What has changed?
What the Igbo nation lacks today is political emotional intelligence and self belief.
It is true the Nigerian civil war left a scar on our psyche. And because we are the most widely dispersed and consequently the most deeply entrenched group in the country, upheavals and societal ruptures affect us the most. They especially haunt us by evoking memories of the pogrom and the war. The pattern is predictable. When ‘wahala’ starts the man who has a shop and the stranger are most vulnerable. So while we might be remotely associated with the events leading to chaos , once law and order are upturned ,
we bear the brunt disproportionately. Mayhem is visited on the Igbo – the settler- and his shop. Men and women who have put faith in the Nigeria project; who have traveled a thousand kilometers would have to scurry back to the home land, children on the back , sometimes with one or two body bags. These graze deep wounds.
But there is more . In many circumstances Igbos, despite being the tangible, empirical evidence of national unity, are required to prove their loyalty to the nation afresh. Fifty years after the civil war Igbos have occupied the positions of Police Inspector General and Chief of Army staff once each, and for only fleeting moments. We have observed that we are not easily trusted with certain security appointments , we do not therefore move around with the sure-footedness of sons of the soil. It is therefore not inexplicable that our faith in the Nigerian project might have been dented and continues to be dented.
How these affect the political calculations of the igbo man is still being examined. What can’t , however, be denied is that they breed apathy and cynicism. So the the average Igbo man in Ihiala or Asaba continues to hold the Hausa Fulani responsible for real and perceived subjugation. And continues to view with suspicion any tendency that suggests Hausa Fulani hegemony. That is why the recent flares in herdsmen violence have only managed to complicate a delicate political situation.
But the question must be asked: Does the Igbo man suffer a kind of political paranoia?
We can interrogate that by asking another question. Are there any political shackles the Igbo cannot dismantle by themselves? The answer is obvious.
Alternatively , are Igbos living in bondage in Nigeria? The answer is obvious. Again , my answer is no.
So why do we fret?
We have only failed to play national politics purposefully. What we need is effective political leadership in the states. And that is in our hands. And then political nimbleness at the centre to serve out best interest in a fractious multi ethnic entity like Nigeria were we are perhaps the most prosperous but also perhaps the most vulnerable group.
While the events of the war and their aftermath may have conditioned the political attitude of the Igbo, the Igbo as a group, have been undone by unbridled individualism and resultant unhealthy rivalry and commercialism. It is great to be a tribe of ambitious people amongst whom rivalry is intense but when insane competition allows a prioritization of individual attainments above collective group aims in a multi ethnic primordial society like Nigeria, the group is in clear jeopardy. There no longer exists any concerted attempt to articulate the group’s interest and there has been no forward -looking deliberate and coherent strategy to harness the resources and numerical strength and versatility of the Igbo to enhance the group’s political fortunes.
There lies our problem.
Some may argue that it is retrogressive and atavistic, and perhaps divisive , to treat the country as a collection of ethnic groupings and to prioritize ethnic interests. I understand those sentiments. But the reality is that groups like IPOB exist for a reason . They exist because there has been a manifest failure in political leadership , particularly at the local levels. Rather than take recourse to primordial finger pointing at Hausa Fulani hegemony, it is important to assess and articulate the collective group interests so that certain harmful assumptions can be challenged objectively and hopefully dismantled.
It is sadly true that amongst Igbos, those who are materially endowed have voice and are worshiped, and those who are intellectually endowed have little influence and are not envied. This affliction may however be a national epidemic. But it’s particularly inhibiting in Igbo land.
Do the social injustices in Nigeria affect the Igbo the most?
In other words, is there any justifications in Igbos crying the loudest?
Let us reflect on the dominant injustices that exist in the country. We can categorize them as General and Targeted. General social injustices are those that affect all sections of Nigeria almost equally. They are injustices not designed for any section. They are the result of chronic bad leadership and enduring mis-governance. They stretch across poor healthcare and dilapidated educational systems, Joblessness, Insecurity, poor social infrastructure like broken road networks, absent railways , feeble generation and disorderly distribution of power. Many of these result from incompetence , corruption and theft by political office holders. And they abound at the dreamland state levels.
These general injustices affect the average Fulani as they affect the man in Aba. They cant constitute an excuse why the Igbo would become more apathetic or more belligerent than the Urhobo or the Jukun.
There are other kinds of Injustices I will include in this group. They are injustices that undermine merit and effort. They include Quota System , Federal Character, Nepotism. While these injustices could mean that a child from Abia is denied a national school admission after performing better than a child from Zamfara , these injustices are not targeted primarily at the Igbo. They affect the Bini and Yorubas as they affect the Igbo.
They cannot objectively constitute a reason any Igbo should champion dismemberment of a country in which the Igbo has evident competitive advantage. I will concede that indirectly they could inhibit the most competitive groups more than others.
The injustices targeted against the Igbo could include: having less federal infrastructure than other places, the requirement to prove trust more than the Fulani while being considered for a top security appointment. The other, which is the perception of gang-up against the Igbo, is effectively undermined by the fact of Igbo owning more properties in Abuja, Amuwo Odofin, parts of Kano than even the indigenes.
I will submit that even if the Igbo have cumulatively suffered more than all other groups , the problems the Igbo have in Nigeria are problems they can solve if they play politics with clear eyed sobriety and belief in their collective abilities.
Is the Igbo a heavyweight punching like a Featherweight?
The Igbo is a heavy weight fighting like a feather weight.
Those who want political power must strategize and assert themselves. They will woo some , brow beat some and ignore others. The sort of marginalization the Igbo lament loudly about today comes from failure of Igbo politicians and failure of Igbo politics. Lopsided appointments, inequity in distribution of infrastructure and development and poverty.
Good local politics at the state and local government levels will cure poverty substantially and address lapses in education and rural development. Good national politics will bring more amenities, better equity and the missing sense of belonging
The Igbo is an unexploited vantage position. It has a competitive edge against many of the other groups in human and material resources. Any foreign observer of Nigerian politics could mistake the Igbo for a backward forsaken group, incapable of competition with the other sections of the country and needing political or economic favors if he listened to lamentations on social media. But he would be wrong
So why have Igbos, of late, failed miserably in national politics?
So what must the Igbo do.
The Igbo must approach politics with clear eyed objectivity and not unhelpful emotions. Collective interests must be paramount and long term interest must have priority. Untamed materialism cripples. Beggarliness is shortsightedness. Igbos must hold hands with their neighbors and assert themselves.
Our ultimate interest lies in a truly federalist Nigeria where power is fully devolved to the regions. We must help enthrone a just and equitable Nigeria where every citizen is given an opportunity to maximize his potentials. Some might ask , why not Biafra?
The Igbos need a bigger playing field. That is why we have fanged out all over West Africa. We need the size of Nigeria. We would even fare better in a United States of Africa. It is not in our interest to recede rather than expand. We have competitive advantage on the big stage. While there exist some easily surmountable odds against us which we tend to exaggerate in Nigeria we must understand that Biafra , even Biafra wont be problem free. There are no guarantees we wont be riven by internecine squabbles once we pull out and our emotions look inwards.
What should be our political strategy?
We must play the game in front of us.
An Igbo presidency in 2023 will yield immediate symbolic and substantial benefits. It will bring some sense of belonging to soothe chafing youths. It will cure disaffection that has accrued from lopsidedness in appointments and all other kinds of political exclusion.. It will, if judiciously utilized, bring more infrastructural development and help re integration.
But an Igbo presidency is not a given. We have to make our best arguments and put out best foot forward. We must not approach it with sense of entitlement, sense of victimhood, peevishness or tantrums.
The Igbo presidency project must be led by a thinking rather than howling select group. It is good that some folks howl and heckle from the periphery. It will help the negotiations. But howlers and fountains of hate speech cannot be at the center, otherwise they would estrange other ethnic groups and damage bridges.
This is not Ohaneze rushing in drunkenly to endorse one political party or aspirant at night. And not IPOB signing a secret MOU it is too ashamed to let anyone read.
The Igbo will join hands with the yorubas and make the argument that it is the turn of the South. Then it will look towards the Yorubas, Ijaws and other southern groups and persuade them to allow the Igbo take it. It must assume nothing. Nothing will be guaranteed .
The Igbo must put their best foot forward and make the most appealing arguments.
Why should it be Igbo rather than South East presidency?
The most appealing argument is an argument for Igbo presidency to assuage Igbos and heal the wounds of the war. The sort of argument that was made for the Yorubas in 1999 when the wounds of June 12 were soothed with an Obasanjo presidency.
I have heard the arguments that it should be a quest of a south east president since the south west and south south have had their turns recently. However I believe that an Igbo presidency isn’t just the most appealing moral argument , because it assuages the wounded and heals the nation, but because it does much more.
It presents an opportunity for the healing of the Igbo nation of the internal wounds caused by the civil war. An opportunity for Igbos from Delta and Rivers to partake in the feast that could ordinarily belong to the southeast would signal that the past has come to belong to the past.
All Igbos suffered the injustices of the war and its fallouts. If the best argument is an argument that the Igbo presidency is for national healing then it must include all those who are Igbos.
We stand a better chance if we make the best emotional argument. When it comes to us, let all Igbos partake in being free to compete. We need to heal ourselves too. The war tore us apart from within . Amongst us , we all have our grievances. We must put our best and most convincing foot forward. It won’t be an election of an Ohaneze president . Others will play a role in choosing. And Atiku Abubakar and other heavyweights could be in the race. Let us present people who have the sort of gravitas and appeal required to win majority votes at the national level against strong opponents who wont concede to an Igbo presidency.
It won’t be donated to us. We have a good chance. But we can lose it while quibbling and dis uniting ourselves.
Our best case is the case for an Igbo presidency pushed persuasively with a united south making overtures to the middle belt and the far north.