Saturday, June 4, 2011
Ndigbo and the promise of 2015
By Chuks Ilogbunam, The Nation.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo did not support Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid in order that the Igbo would be rewarded with the position of Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. All those commentators claiming that both Ohanaeze and President Jonathan have betrayed Ndigbo will do well to get their bearing right. It is often said that those who miss a burial will start exhuming the corpse foot first, which is abominable in the Igbo worldview. Unfortunately, the Igbo jeremiad on the “missed” position of Speakership hasn’t come from those unaware of what went on; it is simply the noisy dissembling of the tiny fringe that got told, in effect, to shut up in the matter of which candidate Ndigbo must support for the presidency. We cannot allow this unpatriotic fringe to continue playing spoiler.
Witness: In arguing for Ndigbo to support Jonathan’s presidential bid, Ohanaeze Ndigbo articulated its position in the clearest of terms. The umbrella body of the Igbo in Nigeria and in the Diaspora took out copious adverts in the media to make its point. To cite two instances, page 21 of Saturday Champion of October 23, 2010, and page 23 of the Daily Sun of Monday October 25, 2010, carried the Ohanaeze Ndigbo advert entitled Presidential Election And zoning: The Position Of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Signed by the organization’s President-General, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, the 4th and last paragraph of the advert stated as follows: “Ohanaeze Ndigbo firmly believes in the reality and absolute equality of the six zones and holds the view that the topmost executive office in the land – Prime Minister or President – which has eluded the two geopolitical zones of the South-South and South-East since the birth of our nation half a century ago, should now go to them in turn in unbroken succession as a matter of national priority, before any other zone can justly claim the right to a second or third turn. In line with this position, taken after wide consultation over several months, among Igbo people at home and abroad, Ohanaeze Ndigbo confidently urges the Igbo Nation to support en masse a credible, new-generation Presidential candidate that has emerged from the South-South geo-political zone, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.”
Thus, when an Igbo journalist or an Igbo political leader discounts the above and goes singing the jaded song of “betrayal”, it is obvious that insincerity is writ large. Ohanaeze Ndigbo did not tell the Igbo to support President Jonathan so as to get one of their own put up as House Speaker. What Ohanaeze Ndigbo said was and is this clear: Ndigbo will support the South-South in the “credible, new-generation Presidential candidate that has emerged from the geo-political zone, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan”, so that the presidency will thereafter go to the South-East “in unbroken succession as a matter of national priority, before any other zone can justly claim the right to a second or third turn.”
When Ohanaeze Ndigbo articulated this position, it drew the ire of an amorphous society dubbed the Igbo Political forum (IPF) which plastered the media with negative, but ultimately, ineffective propaganda against the umbrella body of the Igbo ethnic group. The IPF was non-existent until the run-up to the presidential election. As a body, the IPF is not known to have held another meeting or taken any position on anything since the landmark ballot. But elements of the body are clearly behind the current campaign to tar Ohanaeze Ndigbo with the brush of betrayal on account of a mere legislative office. When looked at critically, the IPF covets the same goal as the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to wit: the emergence of a President of Nigeria from the South-East geopolitical zone in 2015. The IPF is peopled by politicians who claimed that Atiku or Babangida or Buhari or Ribadu will serve a single presidential term and hand over power to an Igbo successor in 2015. On the contrary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo convinced the Igbo to take the Jonathan route to 2015. With Jonathan’s electoral victory, he is the only route to the Igbo dream of 2015. When people who should pursue this dream choose, instead, to lament a phantom betrayal, it amounts to chasing rats when the homestead is on fire. Therefore, a stop should be put to the ongoing media diatribe against the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Key point: Igbo unity is preferable than their being fractious but producing Nigeria’s President. Yet, Ndigbo disunited can never make the presidency. As I said in a previous article, “All the wailing and lamentation regarding a ‘missed’ position of House Speaker should cease. The cynosure of all eyes should not dab their face in charcoal. Ndigbo should rather concentrate on those issues that belong to their eventual escape from the status of second class citizenship. This habit of appropriating the media to hector and holler at the drop of every hat, this shouting from the rooftops every twinkle of an eye cannot solve a thing.” The promise of 2015 will succeed only if Ndigbo present a united front. The time is ripe to solidify the previously shattered but now reengineered and rejuvenated esprit de corps between the South-East and the South-East. The time is ripe for the buried bones of the handshake across the Niger to rise again and shine. The time is ripe to look northwards, to explain that what Ndigbo seek can be wrapped up in three ideals: justice, equity and fair play.
The Nigeria of today should have no problems with the theme of justice. If Barrack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, can become the President of the United States of America, only bigots can still insist that the idea of an Igbo president of Nigeria in 2015 is insufferable. Ndigbo fought for this country’s independence. Ndigbo fought to build up this country. They have always been active participants in all positive aspects of Nigeria’s development, except at the apex of its leadership, where they have deliberately been kept out by prejudicial considerations. Therefore, Ndigbo have got to enjoy all the rights and privileges attendant to Nigerian citizenship. But Ndigbo must be united. Once all concerned appreciate and respect this imperative, the groundswell for justice in the matter of an Igbo president of Nigeria will gain ascendancy.
The late nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, supported the idea of an Igbo President of Nigeria. (See the New Age newspaper of November 2, 2004.) The late Alhaji Wada Nas, a former Federal Minister from the north, supported the idea of an Igbo President of Nigeria. (See the Vanguard newspaper of Monday July 12, 2004.) General Yakubu Gowon, a former Nigerian Head of State, supports the idea of an Igbo President of Nigeria. (See the Daily Champion newspaper of November 3, 2004.) Dr. Frederick Fasehun, the leader of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), supports the idea of an Igbo President of Nigeria. (See the Daily Champion of Monday July 26, 2004.) Most importantly, the new generation of Nigerians, those who trooped out in the millions to elect Goodluck Jonathan Nigeria’s President, are irreversibly free from the shackles of prejudice and political bigotry. All this means one thing: If Ndigbo gets their act together, the promise of 2015 will be redeemed.
• Iloegbunam is author of The Case for an Igbo President of Nigeria.