By: Thomas Ebikabowei Peretu,
A commentator on public affairs and social
As 2023 draws closer, another wave of agitation for Igbo presidency seems to have gained currency. The media—both traditional and unconventional have also taken the chorus a notch higher. Already, the public space is awash with a growing demand by the Ndigbos and their sympathisers for an opportunity to field a candidate for the highest office in the country.
This is not too much to ask for if all the parameters of a decent and democratic index, such as justice, equity, fairness and equality of rights, the rule of law etc are structured into our socio-political fabric. But we are far from being a truly egalitarian society where all the nuances of democracy are at play.
Here the enterprise of governance is bestowed on a privileged group with supposed ethnic superiority who by virtue of size and other extraneous considerations dictates at will who gets what, when, where and how to get it.
Whether the nation will yield to their heart cry by giving the nod to so do is a different ball game. Sadly, there are no significant indicators in the horizon to cheer the heart that this aberration will be reversed in the general interest of all persons of goodwill.
Not at all.
There are three cardinal tribes –the Hausa/ Fulanis, the Yorubas and the Igbos; besides these humongous three, there are countless other ethnic nationalities in the composition.
Together they make up the geopolitical sub-strata of this contraption called Nigeria.
Of these big three brothers, the Igbos have continually received the short end of the stick either by omission or commission. This hostile policy of disengagement aimed at sidestepping the Ndigbos by the two dominant tribes has without doubt distanced them from the dynamics of the political power game.
I, and indeed everyone with a charitable heart should share in their pain and frustrations, having being denied the opportunity to aspire to the highest office of the land, sixty years after independence. Truly, the Igbo people of the eastern region deserve our fellow feeling now more than ever
Despite their strategic position as co-equals in the Nigeria project, they have suffered untold hardship and treated with disdain as though they are junior partners in the political vortex whose services can be dispensed with as hirelings.
Yes, it is true that some errors were made either deliberately or inadvertently and some inappropriate actions taken by a club of hot-headed elites from the Igbo extraction in the past. That was in the past, consigned to the labyrinths of history.
It is also true that those ill-informed persons involved the gambit may have paid the supreme prize for their ill-fated actions as restitution. The times, I daresay have changed.
One would have thought that the authorities and of the kingmakers should have allowed time to heal the wound instead of nursing it. The more we nurse and massage the dark side of our past, the more the wound will fester and become malignant.
For the records, it is popularly acclaimed that the Igbos led the nation to a needless civil war that consumed millions of our compatriots on both sides of the divide.
The hostilities which took place between 1967 and 1970 put a wedge in the wheel of progress. It is also true that some young military officers in what is said to be the first military couple in 1966 abruptly terminated the lives of several prominent Nigerians while those from the eastern region escaped the purge in mysterious circumstances.
In the course of the war, the parties arrived at a truce, known as the Aburi Accord. It provided the parties with an opportunity to amicably resolve their differences. After the belligerence, deliberate steps were taken to reconcile the country.
I do recall the declaration at the time of “no victor no vanquished” which became a common mantra for the healing of the nation. General Yakubu Gowan who was at the helm of affairs as the commander-in-chief immediately established a three-pronged structure for reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation and that helped to seal the bond of brotherhood between both sides.
That dark part of our past is none the lass unique to us. Every nation-state from ancient Greek state of Athens to the ancient Roman Empire to modern civilizations have all gone through periods of unspeakable wars of attrition, genocide and all.
But they all came out such wars stronger and better, establishing enviable countries where justice, equity and fair play is given the right role to determine the destiny of its citizens. United States of America, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, China, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Rwanda and several others went through such dark alleys before arriving at their present lofty destinations.
Why should our case be different? No nation ever achieves success and enjoys the strides of progress and loftiness where corruption, nepotism, marginalisation, suppression of rights, whether minority or majority rights, injustice and every other known social ill are given pride of place to rule in the affairs of men.
The recent clamour for the restructuring of the nation and the drumbeats of cessation beaten by some regional tendencies are clear indications of our suckled and warped democratic fabrication. It underscores the urgent need to mend our cracked walls and hasten the bridge-building efforts to steam and strengthen the values that bind us together.
Clearly, I like to submit that our brothers from the east of the Niger have remained too long in the cold. It is time to crack open the door to the cocoon and let in the fresh air. The two other partners in the Nigeria project must give room to the Ndigbos to knock at the Presidential door. Give them a sense of belonging now as co-equals in this project.
After all the last time they had a taste of the Presidential office was in 1963 when the late Owele of Onitsha, the maverick and fiery Nnamdi Azikiwe held sway as the commander-in-chief of Nigeria. The next time they came close to that exalted office was in 1979 when the cerebral Chief Alex Ekwueme was elected as the Vice President in a joint ticket with Alhaja Shehu Shagari.
Guess what happened after the coup of 1983, it was Chief Alex Ekwueme that was incarcerated by the military junta led by General Mohammadu Buhari when it struck to truncate the second democratic expedition. Meanwhile, the real c-in-c was left untouched, unarmed by the khaki boys. What does that tell you?
While we may heap the blame on the House/ Fulanis for the misfortune of our Igbo brothers, it is also necessary to draw attention to the fact that the Ndigbos are equally at fault. They are the greatest enemies of their own common interest. It is said, that a house divided against itself can not stand. The Ndigbos are so fractured and divided that they do not share in the catechism.
Once, they established a political front called All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but they abandoned the project to shake hands with the bigger political parties.
A united APGA would have given them a voice and bargaining power. But they threw away that chance in exchange for crumbs. That explains why they have become victims of divide and rule as perpetrated unwholesomely by the Hausa/Fulanis. As to mercantile minded fellows, they are easily swayed by a mesh of porridge especially when crumbs are thrown at them.
If the Ndigbos are to make any head way in their quest for the presidency come 2023, they must forge a common front and speak with one voice. They must also reach out to the other partners in the power loop. They must of necessity begin the lobbying process now. It is in their interest to build bridges of understanding and fellowship across the length and breadth of this country.
The Ndigbos must be ready to give out something to receive what they desire. No negotiation succeeds like a win-win bargain. It is wholesome and pleasing.
The economic and geopolitical realities of our nation demand that every nationality should be allowed the right to aspire for the highest office in the land as guaranteed by the constitution.
We must allow justice, equity and fairness to determine the destiny of every man. Religion, tribal sentiments and circumstances of our birth should not by any means be a criterion for leadership recruitment. As Peter Tosh, that reggae icon once sang, “all we need is equal right and justice.” Not crumbs not money but equal opportunity.
Until that is done, and the Ndigbos are shown the way to Aso Villa as occupants, so long shall there be dissenting voices agitating for equal and better patronage in our country.
Whether this dream will bear fruit in 2023, or not only time will tell. So far, the light in the tunnel is hopelessly dim and blurry. Even so, I think the Ndigbos deserve the right to be president of this nation.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. How else will you tell if a man is capable of discharging his responsibilities or not when he is not tested on the job. Let’s open the door to accommodate them in 2023.
It is a pivotal year in our journey towards nationhood. Any other narrative should be discountenanced forthwith. As I hear efforts are being made to tout brother Joe for a second missionary journey. I think he should decline the offer. It is not in the best interest of the nation. Simpliciter.
This is my stand.