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*Nigeria: Igbos Do Not Have A Good Chance In 2019, Let Alone 2015
If I were a parochial thinker or a good politician (the Nigerian way), I would be strutting for a President of Igbo extraction come 2015. It is not as if an Igbo cannot become the President of Nigeria. No, that notion is far from the truth. In short, at this critical moment in our history as a nation, an Igbo President would have waved the magic wand. My “provincial” thinking is that the Igbos in politics in Nigeria are not positioning themselves very strategically enough to command the respect that will give them that slot in the Nigerian politics of today.
One big problem with the Igbos is that they are politically (at least as it is practiced in Nigeria) naïve. If the Igbos feels strongly about anything, they go for it without diplomacy and that showed up when they felt that the Nigerian Project was dwarfing the Nigerian people about forty five years ago. And when the rest of Nigerians decided otherwise, the same Igbos came back and took the struggle for a united Nigeria to an awful dimension with their die hard resolve. Today, it is only the Igbos that can be found, in large numbers, in almost all nooks and crannies of the country with massive investments in all the localities as they move along. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map and Flag of Nigeria
It is unmistakable to perceive that the PDP is a “military machine” that guarantees any person from any group a stint in the apex political position in the country today. When I say a “military machine”, I say it in the real sense that PDP is dominated (not by numbers though, but) by the retired armed forces personals including the retired police and to some extent the Customs officers. Unfortunately, ex President Obasanjo has ambushed the rest of his colleagues to have a domineering grip on the intimidating apparatus of PDP.
He used the period of his eight years reign (1999 – 2007) to perfect the plot. He started by silencing all armed forces personals and other politicians who would have become a threat to his ambition. It would be remembered that he sacked all armed forces personals who have ever held any political office when he came to power in 1999. In addition, it is suspected that, he used the period to gather substantial dossiers (and you can just be certain that they are very dirty) on all present and past political figures. So with his grip on his own EFCC and with what he knows about every person that matters politically, he has been able to throw up the joker at very decisive moments. People like Atiku Abubarkar only exist merely in the political gambit of the country today. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo
To aspire to become a president in Nigerian politics today, two things have to be in your favour. One, you have to be a member of PDP and, secondly and more importantly, you have to be an ex armed personnel or you have to have the backing of the ex armed people. In the entire Igbo land (as far as I can perceive), the Nwodos were close to having the two features but unfortunately their benefactor – the IBB faction – lost out in the equation while the war raged between IBB faction and the Obasanjo loyalists. And we all know that Gen. Obasanjo does not accept 99.9% loyalty not even when his son is involved.
The almost moribund APGA, in the South-East, would have been the springboard for a genuine Igbo agitation for a slot at the apex political seat in Nigeria. But even at that, the nearest date will be 2019 in view of the fact that it is almost a ritual that every president must serve two terms and there is nothing that signifies that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan will vacate that slot in 2015. Every person who is a good reader of political developments in our country would agree that the manner in which President Jonathan denied that there was no zoning arrangement within PDP denotes that he is not someone you would trust on anything. And even if he does, it is most likely that the ex army generals under the control of Obasanjo will tip Retired Col. David Mark for the job. It is pertinent to note that the inactivity of the upper legislative chamber is due to the fact that the leadership under the full grip of David Mark is not unmindful of the power flow and would not want to rock the boat. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Seal of The President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the official symbol of the Nigerian President, first used in 1979 by President Shehu Shagari.
Why it has become difficult for Igbos to nurture and gyrate around a strong political unit as an effective political tool is still as surprising as it is embarrassing to me. The Igbos hover around PDP and yet they do not have a reasonable relevance in it. Compare this with the South-West that has used subtle opposition to corner a large chunk of the national wealth and political relevance to itself over the years. The south-West would foster their opposition and still give the picture of being in the big party while using their Afenifere as a moderating tool to galvanize their common goal. A case at hand is how their political structure in the last April 2011 presidential election was coalesced with PDP at the national level.
Compare Igbo style also with the South-South that has used the natural resources, in their soil, to attract political sympathy – and not respect – to itself. The common thing among the South-South and the South-East is that they are used as a pawn in the chess board. How else would one analyze the fact that the President comes from the South-South and the biggest achievement is that a construction company built a Church for him is his Otuoke village? The only East-west road from Benin through to Oron has been under construction since 2006 and completion may not come until the President uses it again as a political campaign tool in 2015. How else also would one reconcile the fact that, all the federal highways within the South-East have never had smooth face in all the over twelve years of PDP control of power but at federal and state levels?
The whole of the northern block, itself, is a political machine in view of the natural tutelage of the colonial masters. But for the incessant religious insurgencies from the Islamic world that has naturally pitched them against the Western culture, the Northern Nigeria would have been politically ahead of all the regions in the country.
The Igbo brand of politics would have been excellent if Nigeria is operating politics based on sound ideology or manifesto. At the moment, Nigerian politicking is still based, rather, on tribal and religious nepotism more than on ethical ideology. The time when the impact of political style of Ohaneze ndi Igbo will be felt in Nigerian politics is still away ahead. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Hon. Amb. Ralph Uwaechue, President General Ohaneze Ndigbo
The Nigerian state, with the assistance of some Igbo political elite (operating consciously or unconsciously), has progressively shoved the Igbos to an unenviable corner in the scheme of things politically. After the civil war, it would seem that, there has been a very subtle and conscious stride to set the rest of the South-South against the South-East so as to whittle down their strength towards any meaningful agitation for the position of the president. One thing is being the president; another is being able to operate as a president.
The unwritten convention has been, let the North rule then the South. The South is the political block that amalgamates the South-West, the South-East, and the South-South into a political divide. If we agree, like some narrow-minded people think, that the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, of 1914 in Nigeria, has been the cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s growth, politically, we could even be more comfortable to postulate that the amalgamation of the three geo-political zones in the Southern part of Nigeria is the albatross that is holding the region down, politically, as well. But I think that is all a mirage.
But the stack truth is that all these political arrangements based on any form of rotation amongst the “political zones” and political units in our country has, unavoidably, engendered all forms of social injustices and corruption that has thrown up one form of social malady or the other. What obtains – in that vein – is that the worst people gather together, not because of clear and sound political manifestoes but, to loot the national wealth due to lack of ingenuity in tackling political problems facing the country.
We also see how zoning in PDP is only applied when it pleases the controlling group in the party and not as a standard that should be followed at all times.
In view of all the foregoing therefore, it becomes safer to deemphasize all manner of political grouping based on any form of zoning or rotation when doing a thorough diagnosis of the real courses of underdevelopment in the Nigerian state. President Obama did not emerge as the President of the World’s number one democracy based on any form of rotation. Not even on color. He emerged based, purely, on sound rendition of how he would implement his party’s core manifesto. True democracies emphasize political institutions rather than persons, tribes, zones or rotation.
When solid political institutions – such as entrenchment of constitutionality and obedience to the rule of law which guarantees electorates’ supremacy, establishment of core positive social values which denounces corruption in its entirety – are erected, it will be difficult for mediocrity to creep into the polity, even under any guise. Politicians would emerge under such platform by demonstrating sufficient understanding of the rules of the game based on sound rendition of their party’s manifesto – which would have been drawn up in line with the aspirations of the citizenry – rather than by application of brutal force or intimidation.
I feel ashamed that a country that attained independence in 1960 is still grappling with power generation and supply in 2012 while people who have saddled social and technological development all these years still walk tall within the society. I feel ashamed that past leaders do not have the courtesy of burying their heads in shame when it is glaring that their activities have dwarfed their nation. They do not seem to understand that it is the activities of leaders (both past and present) that have turned around nations such as South Korea, Malaysia, India, Singapore, etc into modern states and has sustained modern states such as USA, Great Britain, Germany, France, etc.
I feel ashamed that even as things are now, our current bunch of politicians are not mindful of their activities and its net impact in our country in a couple of years to come. These people do not understand development beyond allocating a good plush of the national wealth to them with little thought on what legacy they want to bequeath our generation unborn.
It is on this note that I see the presidential election of 2015 as yet another opportunity for Nigerians to redeem their country. And that opportunity gets widened when the caliber of past Military Head of state of Nigeria in the person of Alhaji Buhari offers himself one more time to Nigerians to be voted as their head of the central government.
What has been the ploy by corrupt rulers against Buhari is that he would Islamize Nigeria. They have also flaunted the issue of the 53 brief cases during his reign with late General Idiagbon in the eighties. But all these things happened under military hegemony and none happened for conscious personal or selfish gain.
But beyond that, no politician has established any corruption against this man. It is on record that General Buhari did not come out of government with affluence. Not even a good home was attributed to him when he was forced out of power by iridescent General Babangida, the “evil genius”. Today, General Babangida has also lost grip of the PDP to General Obasanjo. But maybe for the fear of reprisal from Buhari, he has chosen to be insulted in PDP than unite forces with Buhari to redeem Nigeria.
The worst I suspect will happen if Buhari comes to power will be direct confrontation with all corrupt rulers, past or present. He will go as far as recovering their loots both at home and abroad and he may even back bills that will sentence them to over hundreds of years of imprisonment and if all these would be done in compliance with the rule of law and in the interest of our country so let it be.
But this is where I expect true sacrifice from our past rulers if they have blood flowing through their veins. If their activities have led a great nation such as our country Nigeria into the precarious state she finds herself in even in view of all the natural and human resources abundant in our land, could they not give themselves up to be sacrificed if only that will engender a truly powerful country where our generations unborn will worship them as martyrs?
When I look back 20 years ago, I begin to wonder how we actually lived without substantial communication.
There was this joke about a guy who was deployed for his one year ( NYSC) post university service in one remote area in the North-East part of the country. There was no GSM network in that place at the time.
After the first two months into his service, he decided to communicate his parents back home about his experiences as a “corper”. For absence of any other means, he wrote a letter. The letter got to his home town one week after he returned from the one year service.
In the same vein, I am certainly sure, our generation unborn will marvel at how we survived with the daunting corruption and poor quality of ruler-ship we are immersed in at this moment.
Because of long exposure to military hegemony in Nigerian, most of us grew up to think that use of force and lawlessness is the only way towards resolving social issues. The psyche that the army bequeathed us democracy still runs fresh in our system. And it is evident that the armies of African states have not completely relinquished the warped notion that part of their constitutional roles is to interfere in social crises within the state. And because they have directly or indirectly influenced who becomes a president, most presidents still think that control of the army is more important than submission to the desires of the electorate. This is why our rulers resort to using armed forces instead of civil means to bring down common demonstration such as we witnessed during the fuel subsidy turmoil at the beginning of 2012 and the Odi saga in Bayelsa state during Obasanjo’s regime.
So in view of the foregoing my take is that every effort should be channeled on how to extricate Nigeria from the claw of PDP at the national level. What, in my opinion, should be done to actualize this is for all genuine progressives from all over the country to come out in unity in the war to liberate Nigeria from the strangle hold of PDP first, then thereafter institute a realistic electoral reform that will put the power of determination of who leads Nigeria in the hands of the electorate. If Buhari an Hausa Fulani (and an ex soldier) or any Igbo man or any Yoruba man or any Ijaw man or indeed any other Nigerian (without PDP mindset) can be used as the molecule that would attract followership that will have that capacity to withstand PDP’s crushing momentum, let all Nigerians shield their tribal or religious bigotry and follow that person.
So until we obliterate the military mentality from our psyche as a people, Nigeria and Nigerians will not know development and progress. And PDP, as it is constituted today, remains a very viable psychological component to that mind set. So when I say that Igbos do not have a chance, what runs at the back of my mind is that even if an Igbo becomes the president of Nigeria within PDP (against all perceivable odds), Nigeria’s predicament would not have still gotten a true solution.
Chris Onyishi (firstname.lastname@example.org)reports from Lagos, Nigeria.
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