Thursday, July 14, 2011
Do We Really Need An Igbo President?
By Chukwuemeka Umunnakwe, 234 Next
The amalgam of tribes which make up Nigeria are locked in a fierce contest to best one another when it comes to grabbing juicy political offices. Needless to say, these ethnic rivalries are more focused on the offices occupied by the members of these ethnic groups than what the occupants actually do in these offices to better the life of the ordinary Nigerian.
The Nigerian President wields enormous influence no doubt and his office arguably is one of the most powerful democratic offices in Africa. Due to this, which I daresay has been so clearly perpetuated that at times it rivals the absolute monarchy of 13th and 14th century England, the tribes that make up Nigeria are engaged in bickering, struggles and fights to ensure that they produce the President. The tribes also view the office, rightly or wrongly, as capable of having a far-reaching and positive impact on the economic and infrastructural advancement of the tribe fortunate to produce the President.
The craze to produce the Nigerian President has found no more passionate campaigners than the Igbo political elites of the south east region. A good number of Igbo people have been led to believe by their political class that a true integration of the Igbo people in the body polity of Nigeria will occur when an Igbo citizen assumes the office of the President. The Igbo elite and political class have entwined the political, social, educational, infrastructural and economic development of the Igbo tribe with the quest to occupy this office.
Do we, the Igbo people, really need a Nigerian President of Igbo descent? Judging from the performance of past Nigerian presidents in their respective regions, can we honestly affirm that an Igbo president is the silver bullet to the myriad of problems facing the Igbo today? Have we, the Igbo tribe, properly articulated our problems and the solutions to these problems?
Today, the south east reels from lack of basic infrastructure; electricity is epileptic in major cities like Onitsha and Aba and we lack properly equipped hospitals and decent social amenities. The public education is in a shambles while public health is virtually non-existent. Many public institutions crucial for an orderly society are moribund. The state judiciaries have not witnessed any significant investments since the return to civil rule in 1999. Court houses are derelict, court rules are antiquated, libraries are not equipped, judges sit in extreme conditions due to absent electricity and the state universities are glorified secondary schools lacking the requisite manpower and infrastructure.
Unemployment is rife in the south east. The youth that manage to get an education resort to trading while others migrate to Lagos, Abuja or any other part of the country or outside the country, in search of greener pastures. Those unable to get jobs resort to crime. Kidnapping is the new wave.
The south east has the most expensive state schools (secondary and university). There is no free education at the primary or secondary school levels, neither is university education subsidised. Literacy levels have continued to dwindle. There are few major industries in the south east and we continue to witness both manpower and intellectual flight from here to other parts of Nigeria. These are issues that our political class ought to be tackling but they are too concerned about feathering their nests.
Once upon a time, the south east was the most industrially-advanced region in the whole of Africa. Our economy was one of the fastest growing in the world. We were innovative and technologically-driven. However, somewhere along the path, we deviated. We lost our core principles and values of hard work, integrity, independence and intellectual pursuit. Our values became eroded and we imbibed a wanton love for money and material trappings.
We inculcated the habit of worshipping known criminals who made money through atrocious methods; we lost our respect for education and instead placed a high premium on illiterates with bags of money. We elevated illiterates and perennial underachievers to be governors, members of the legislature, commissioners, traditional rulers, among others.
It is time we looked inwards. If we must survive as a people, we must isolate ourselves from the politics of ‘Igbo president' or juicy federal appointments. We must focus on the real challenges facing us. We must articulate an ideology for our advancement which will bind us as a people. There must be a sense of higher duty, higher calling and higher responsibility in our daily existence as a people.
We do not need an Igbo President before our Governors can construct independent power projects, build hospitals, schools, libraries, good roads and provide security. We do not need an Igbo President before the south east states can pool resources together to build an airport, sea port, or railway facilities in our region.
I believe that as an integral part of Nigeria, the Igbo people are entitled to produce the President for the country. We must place ourselves in a strategic position of strength from where we can negotiate. Presently, we are negotiating from a position of extreme weakness and, understandably, we are not being taken seriously. We must first put our house in order. We have to earn the respect of other tribes before we can seriously contest for the Presidency. The Presidency of this country is not for the asking. The rest of Nigeria must see the benefit of having a President of Igbo extraction.