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Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction: Should the Igbo Negotiate Power with the North?
Politics

Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction: Should the Igbo Negotiate Power with the North? 

Understandably, with the spate of appointments and elections of the Igbos to strategic positions and offices such as Minister of Justice in Canada, Judges in the United States, Chief Economic and Digital Financial advisors in Rwanda, Parliamentarian in the United Kingdom, and other developed climes to help in sustaining and repositioning their economies through their long history of ingenuity and established pattern of imagination, having a Nigerian president of Igbo descent would not only be beneficial to the Igbo people, it would also  be to the benefit of all Nigerians—the North, the East, the South, the West and the Middle-belt.

However, the determining factors by which the pendulum swings are often inconsiderate of the implication of what a wrong choice would do to the general public, the economy and the progress of the country. Power acquisition in Nigeria is usually determined by primordial and parochial interests of the few, packaged and floated on the aura of ethnic representation. In this regard, what and who define the national interest of Nigeria for the time being echo from the North. Hence, northern agenda is fronted as the collective interest of the people of Nigeria since they have the bargaining power and possess the political will to dictate the direction of the country.

Viewed from the above perspective; therefore, to clinch the seat of Nigeria’s President, the South East zone needs the North more than it needs any other geopolitical zones. The Igboman must be willing and ready to negotiate power and reach compromise with the core north. They are not just the power brokers; they equally have in their possession the power bloc, centre structure and formidable voting strength to prosecute any electoral race. But the Igbo nation must first come together, put its house in order and flag the common interest of the zone.

It is important to sound this note of warning: blackmailing a section or sections of the country in order to cajole them into conceding the top seat to the South East would only serve to reinforce the existing mutual suspicion and distrust between the Igbo ethnic group and other ethnic groups in the country. Thus, the assertion recently attributed to the former Governor of Enugu State and former People’s Democratic Party, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, that the “Igbo elite” would join Mr. Nnamdi Kanu’s led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to demand for secession if the Igbo were not considered for the seat of the Nigeria president in 2023 general elections was not in the best interest of the Igboman. It, in fact, added more salt to injury. Power is not given on a platter of gold. It is taken. It is fetched not by playing victim but by valour. It is time to manage our relationship with the North to get their support.

The Igbo people are in dire need of the position of president of Nigeria. There are far-reaching consequences for this. Federal presence in Igboland will remove the hostile political policies working against the South East zone. These policies are directly and indirectly inhibiting the realisation of the full economic development of the geopolitical area. Having a south easterner at the top will activate the actualization of the Igboman’s ingenuity and will serve as a catalyst for industrial revolution extending far beyond the shore of the east. This is what the Igbo must sell to woo more voters. They must play by the rule: playing the fool game to get what they want, and strike with brazen ruthlessness after capturing power.

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It is no longer news that different ethnic groups have started beaming their searchlight for candidates they could present and position to take over the mantle of leadership from President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29 2023, after the president would have constitutionally served out his second term and last tenure; however, the unanswered question many are asking is: What is the fate of the Igbo nation in this political conurbation called Nigeria?

In a loose sense, the South East is relatively lacking in voting strength with little or no power bloc that would enable it to navigate negotiation from a vantage position. This is apparently driven by widespread political apathy and mutual suspicion entrenched over the years by political stakeholders in the zone to achieve their selfish ends. Today, all factors duly considered, the East lacks a political structure and depends on external influence for political decision. This could, perhaps, have accounted for the outburst of the Minister for Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi, a south Southerner Ubima, Ikwerre man; that the Igbo people had nothing to offer and nothing to bring into the negotiating table for the 2023 presidency. Isn’t this harsh? However, is it true? Questions for the Igbo to answer in all sincerity.

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Whether the present political configuration has greatly worked against the Igbo nation has never been in doubt. Over the past 54 years, the Igbo nation has remained an undying prey in the country. Perhaps, this is plagued by internal dissension and disunity among the Igbo elite on the one hand, and between the elite—ruling class—and the disenchanted masses—deliberately impoverished downtrodden—on the other hand. It is a protracted struggle working against their collective interest. In fact, this had accounted for the IPOB agitation which the elite are now planning to infiltrate.

In addition, Igbo’s greatest disservice to the eastern zone is their inability to think beyond immediate material gains and “stomach infrastructure”. Every indigenous political party of the Igbo extraction is not fronted to achieve the greater goals of the Igbo nation. Instead, it’s aimed at satisfying individual’s political gain. For example, APGA was once seen as an Igbo political party meant to fly beyond the South East. It later turned out to be a tool for selfish end. Between 2014 and 2015, APGA stakeholders became more of PDP party loyalists than they were to APGA. The same applied to the PPA which had ferociously won two states of Abia and Imo states. It also turned out that it was intended for that immediate purpose before it was discarded with mindless abandon.

For record purpose, the Action Congress (AC) which later changed its name to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) started with one state. The Jagaban, Chief Bola Tinubu, had a vision and mission beyond Lagos state, South West zone to the entire Nigeria. He kept the struggle and hope alive against all odds. He weathered the storms and swam against the tide. He did not do this alone. He worked with other progressives who could see and think beyond their stomachs. It even extended its tentacle and influence to the South East where it produced a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Interestingly, the ACN won and established its influence in many states. The story was the same with Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The pioneers of the party were seen as unserious. But they were undeterred and unfettered in their struggle to capture the apex political seat in Nigeria. With their rigorous consultations, negotiations and convictions, the party merged with other political parties. They won. It took the country by surprise. That spirit is what is lacking in the South East.

In a recent post I made titled, “2023 Presidential Election: The Igbos and the Politics of Self-defeatism”, my readers were sharply divided on some salient points they felt I left unaddressed. They, however, unanimously agreed on the self-inflicted misfortune incurred upon themselves by the Igbo nation. I’ll take out time to address some points raised by commentators as reactions to that work.

Many were of the opinion that immediately before the 30 months Nigeria Civil War; the Igboman literally occupied major sectors of the political system. They had argued fervently that the outcome of the Civil War where vanquishers and the defeated emerged accounted for the alienation and consequent passiveness of the Igbo people from the Nigerian affairs.

This is not entirely true. The Civil War could have played a pivotal role, but the acephalous and crude republican nature of the Igbo could better describe the reason for this self-alienation. Nigeria belongs to all. It’s a shared heritage and pride for every Nigerian. It’s never a property for any isolated section of the ethnic groups that made up the country.

For political historians and sociologists, and indeed, those that have been following the political development of Nigeria, it’s well-settled that the surge in political re-orientation that birthed a form of renaissance in the East was occasioned by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his disciples. This gave the Igbo Nation the much needed ground to leverage on the opportunity presented to thrive. Azikiwe’s “My Oddessy” and Okechukwu Ikejiani’s “The Unrepentant Nationalist” are quite insightful for readers. Available records of the political reawakening in the old Eastern Region pioneered by Zik show a radical paradigm shift in political behaviour. Sadly, this formative development ended with the outbreak of the Civil War. The Igbo lost power and had to recoil to its old shell of political desuetude.

Culture, it is understood, is dynamic. It grows with the people and adjusts to the demands of time. A culture that persists in rigidity would soon find its way to extinction. The Igbo Nation must adjust to a more favourable political climate and culture borrowed from those working efficiently. What happens when there is a culture lag? The result is a point called “melting pot”. The Igbo must shed that aspect of its political culture holding them back from fully exploiting their destiny and capability. Their pattern of political behaviour must be receptive and adapt with the reality of Nigeria. Until then, electing a south easterner as president will continue to be a far cry.

In a recent development, the Igbo Nation appears livid, bickering over the need for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. While it’s not out of place to ask for the slot, it’s not enough to make a noise or grouch about the treatment of the Igbo in Nigeria. At the risk of repetition; power is never given. It is taken. Politics, as its definition entails, is the struggle for power. The Igbo nation must not only go for the power, they must also clear every hurdle standing as impediment to their mission. They must strike hard at any force against their interest. Fetching power in a country of disequilibria political equation entails a collective ruthlessness. This is why the East needs to negotiate and reach a compromise with other zones, especially the North. The South East must stop crying and put up armour of readiness to strike politically.

In this regard, they must not wait to get to the bridge before planning how to cross the river. Gone were the days of the biblical allusions of the Israelites at River Nile unprepared for their journey. If the Igboman is waiting on God to break their “Wall of Jericho” by making a noise, then, a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will remain a sort of dream triggered by malaria. I quite agree with Engr. Arthur Eze when he submitted that it’s only God that could make Igboman a president. The implication is that the Igboman may never become a president if he fails to work for it. It hurts but that’s the bitter truth.

I recently read a column by Nnaji Jekwu Onovo in the Sun newspaper with the title: Ndigbo and Subsisting Crisis of Confidence. I agree with most of his submission. “In Igboland, there is always the crisis of confidence, as they never trust constituted authorities in their ethnic block (sic). The crisis of confidence and disunity is visible in almost all sectors and affairs of Ndigbo…Bitterness and humiliation pervade Igbo society, provoking strong nationalist reactions, yet Igbo nationalism has assumed different forms,” Onovo frustratingly noted.

Such frustration represents the psychological state of mind of every progressive Igboman. It is high time leaders assumed responsible characters and imbibe the spirit of honesty in their representation of the people. Likewise, it’s also time Igbo people started respecting their leaders and allow them to speak for the collective interests of the zone. Leaders and statesmen must learn to forgive. They must learn to champion the interests of the east divesting themselves of personal aggrandizement. The people of the East must come together and work together.

The North, West and South have had their leaders always at the forefront fighting for the interests of their entire zones. They put aside their internal fracas whenever their collective interest is at stake. They go for it, fight for it and get it home for their people. Perhaps, we have people that could be considered as national leaders and who must assume that position and speak for the interests and well-being of the south East. The list is inexhaustible but some names will be given below. Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Sir Alfred Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, Sir Ken Nnamani, Emmanuel Iwuanyawu, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senator Abaribe Enyinaya, Chief Chekwas Okoli, Chief Nnia Nwodo, Prof. Obiora Ike, Senator Pius Anyim, Prof. Barth Nnaji, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, and a host of others. These people may represent a voice of reasoning for the Igbo Nation. They have the will, wit and gut to champion the cause of the Igbo Nation before the country. In subsequent articles, their pedigrees would be evaluated.

The Igbo nation also has ably qualified and competent men and women who have distinguished themselves over the years and would perform better as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Many of them have a national appeal and have unassailable track records in governance. This list, too, is inexhaustible. Any of these candidates can be positioned for the top job. Senator Orji Uzo Kalu, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Mr. Peter Obi, Barrister Geoffrey Onyeama, Engr. David Umahi, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, Mr. Sullivan Chime, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, Mr. Ogbonna Onu, Chief Ikeje Asogwa, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala. These candidates have their objective assessments on ground, and they have performed exceptionally well.

Now, the ball is on the court of the Igbo leaders. They must not wait for 2023 before working for their destiny. The game has already begun, and the South East should define their path. They must come together, push together, swim together and fight together. Let the political consultation, lobbying, persuasion and tour begin!

Prince Ejeh Josh, B.Sc, Political Science, LLB, Law, M.Sc, International Relations and Strategic Studies

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