By Muhammad Ajah
The Igbo are very intelligent and hard-working people of Nigeria. I am one and I am proud to be. Certainly, their contributions to Nigeria’s building and unity can never be undermined. Down into the history of Nigeria, they are actually the real Nigerians who believe in the oneness and progress of the country. They are everywhere within Nigeria and wherever they find themselves, they establish themselves. They buy lands and build their own homes. They own properties and establish business outfits. Investigations have shown that the Igbo have developed many places across Nigeria more than they have developed their own original birthplaces, though unarguably, some find it hard to trace their ancestral origin due to their love to live in any part of Nigeria. Despite the fact that they have lost heavily through induced tribal and religious conflicts, that has not deterred them from pursuing legitimate livelihood anywhere in Nigeria.
This national spirit, if imbibed by other ethnic groupings in Nigeria, especially the majority, it will conquer the easily instigated acrimony amongst Nigerians with their different backgrounds. While the Igbo stand out in this laudable dimension, it is regrettable to say that they lack abysmally in the political game in Nigeria. I may be wrong but I find it very difficult to comprehend why the Igbo have always allowed themselves to be used as mere political compliments. They are often very slow in keying into the ever evasive national politicking or “politricking”. And I think I cannot argue favourably if the Igbo have not been a laughable stock in Nigeria especially since 1999 when democracy was fully restored in Nigeria.
The Igbo had had the best opportunity in the 19 years of democratic governance, most particularly between 1999 and 2015. Even before the civil war, the Igbo were a favoured people in Nigeria. The only positions they have not had is the president and vice president of Nigeria since 1999. They do not need the vice presidential position, since it is generally believed in Nigeria that the position is a mere appendage to the President’s seat. Vice presidents between 1999 and 2015, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Arch. Namadi Sambo are living references to that belief and practice. Like the situation found in many states of the Federation, it was tales of woe and frustration for the VPs and deputies. However, the vice president of Nigeria from 2015 Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, methinks, has a different experience. I am sure that late Dr. Alex Ekweme had a very wonderful experience as the vice president of Nigeria in the early 1980s. Within this period in review, the Igbo massively controlled the nation’s security and economy. Details on this can make a book or volumes. What more would a people require to solidify their political strength for the future! But alas, it was a lost opportunity.
The Igbo have allowed themselves to be deceived many times by themselves and by their enemies. Their agitations for this and that are anything induced by alien forces. They need restructuring so that they can taste the leadership of Nigeria under democracy like the other two major ethnic groups of Nigeria have done. When the ample opportunity came, it was taken to a son of a close ethnic group that actually represented them very well, though I doubt if he understood or spoke Igbo fluently. Besides, how many Igbo people can speak their language very fluently? Each time a real opportunity is coming to the Igbo, they prove hesitant to accept it basically on the grounds of the induced agitations that have outlived contemporary times. Why does it look as if the Igbo are being remotely controlled?
Personally, I cannot understand the strong opposition, not mere opposition but hatred a segment of the Igbo has for Buhari and his administration and by extension the party that produced him, the All Progressives Congress (APC). I have made extensive investigations on this through the social media and physical inquiries and can say that there is no genuine reason advanced by the segment. However, I was able to deduce three points. One is that the Igbo are roundly in the opposition, the PDP and APGA. Two is that the Buhari’s toughness on indiscipline and fiscal recklessness, embedded in corruption, has affected the free flow of wealth and lavish life. This, by extension, has manifested badly on traders and contractors who milk from the government purse in collaboration with top civil servants and government functionaries. The Igbo are referred to be the major traders and contractors.
The third, as I managed to figure out, is the status of Buhari as a God-fearing man, at least to the mortal comprehension. Any man with such spirit must don himself with integrity, honesty and humanity. Such man must be a warrior against evil. And reports are viral that Nigeria had been under the siege of the evil. Fighting evil with evil cannot yield any result than evil. That is why as the 2019 general elections approach, some Nigerians prefer to have any man who can guarantee reversion to the previous squandermaniac system, any man who can give rebirth to hooliganism, waste and looting with impunity so that “the money will circulate”. They do not like Buhari, not on performance, not on sincerity of purpose but because he is “stingy” – he is not sharing the national cake to those who have the ability to grab theirs even if with impunity. This is the greatest Buhari’s sin.
Despite the glaring facts and political development, the Igbo seem not to start reading the hand-writing on the wall. Though a cluster from the elite is accepting the reality, they need to work hard to ensure that they do not allow the forthcoming opportunity elude them. They have to impress on their followers to stop henceforth those distractive actions that have made other major groups of Nigeria suspicious about the Igbo, thus reluctant over leaving the leadership of the country under their care since the civil war which the Igbo were, allegedly, lured into.
The Igbo should play down on secession and prove the manhood in them. If there are three main men in Nigeria, the Igbo should not prove the weakest amongst them. In developed world, strength is not measured by number. They have all it takes to exert their strength in Nigeria. The current Igbo leadership should work in tune with the political grandeur in Nigeria today and strategize for the future. Those on the corridor of power in the present federal government are doing their best but assurances must be extracted that they are genuinely Nigerians and not pretenders because an Igbo adage says that every man has a heart which is a sealed bag and only the owner knows what it contains. The future of Nigeria is glittering. But who is he from the Igbo who can wear the big shoes to be left by Buhari?
Recall the controversies the few years of the leadership of their close clan generated in the country. The unity of Nigeria should never be compromised or mortgaged. There must be guarantee that whoever is to takeover power in Nigeria has the oneness and progress of Nigeria at heart like the Igbo have practically displayed. Maybe “the beautiful ones are not yet born”, because some of the Igbo leaders today hoping to takeover power from Buhari in 2023 have ethno-religious complexities. It is said that charity begins at home. Reflections show that some of these leaders have question marks on their management of the diverse human backgrounds and resources in their domains. How more this mismanagement can affect the nation at the federal level!
In one of my articles in support of Buhari’s reelection bid come 2019 and its connection with the Igbo Presidential aspiration, I was subjected to harsh criticism by some of my readers from my Igbo clan. Some described me as a Hausa man using a Yoruba newspaper “The Nigerian Tribune” to claim love for the Igbo and its hope to lead Nigeria. Some of them outrightly described me as a diehard Buharist, trying to lure the Igbo into voting Buhari on the mere account that he will hand over power to them in 2023. Some of them queried how Ajah gave birth to Muhammad? In the interpretation, Ajah is an Igbo name and Muhammad is a Hausa name. Simple! This is a very myopic conception in the 21st century. The Igbo and its leadership should accept the reality and review the approach to this (mis)conception.
I am Igbo with the full love for Igbo’s progress in Nigeria. As a political dude, every human being being a political animal, I am much interested in the actualization of an Igbo President of Nigeria than million of those who claim Igbo but only show their love for the Igbo on talk shows and social media. Many Igbo people dented with entrepreneurial spirit hardly make time to reflect deeply on the existence called Nigeria. They merely depend on stereotyped conjectures by some over-tortured politicians or conspicuously their religious orators who preach extensively of the world than of the soul. They are at it again, not only enlisting the Igbo on the need to ensure their civic duties towards Nigeria by acquiring the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PCVs), but unfortunately insisting that their followers must vote on the national divisive line of religion.
The Igbo must know that they have endured the second-class citizenship in Nigeria for too long and no one can change the situation except themselves. This means that they must think out of the box and reason magnanimously with the current political tide. The Igbo have no political party of their own that can match the political parties they regard as regional. I heard one prominent Igbo politician claiming that the All Progressive Congress (APC) is now for the North and Southwest while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or its affiliate CUPP is of the South.
Let me laud the labour and productivity minister, Chris Ngige, for his apt description of the Igbo. He said that the Igbo people are currently suffering from self-inflicted marginalization and have the opportunity to redeem themselves. He wants Igbo people to read the political calculations and see that Buhari will win in 2019 and asserted that only Buhari’s presidency in 2019 could guarantee Igbo presidency in 2023. The electoral strength of the whole Southeast cannot match that of Northwest alone or even that of the Southwest that is now completely APC territory.
The Yoruba who, I concur, are the stabilizers of Nigeria’s politics, as well as other ethnic groups are planning and working hard to takeover power in 2023. After all, it is generally believed that competence should be the yardstick for the nation’s elections, selections and appointments. That should be after the Igbo might have had their turn of leadership of Nigeria. But if the Igbo decide to maintain their obduracy and did not vote for Buhari in 2019, there is the consequence of being left out in the power sharing that will come thereafter. And I doubt if any God-fearing man will hand over power to his certified foe. Peradventure the Yoruba succeed Buhari, the Igbo will still cause stir as normal. But the consequences may be harsher than ever before. I rest my case.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.