GUARDIAN, August 14, 2005
Dilibe Onyeama's piece
"The Mirage of Igbo presidency"
in The Guardian of July 10 2005 was an outstanding contribution to
the riddle in Nigerian polity. I was attracted by both the title and the
author of the piece. I was anxious to read a 'literary' scholar and more
importantly to avail myself of the "new" truth and the words of "wisdom",
courtesy his privileged possession of a 664-page book titled "World
History". Whether I was treated to a classical piece and the wisdom of
Solomon at the end is another thing entirely.
However I saw his piece in the same spirit as the contribution of an
honorable delegate from the North in the just completed National Political
Reform Conference, to the effect that Nigerians are cautious about making an
Igbo man the president for fear of disintegration and instability. His
reason being that in the last six years, the Igbo have had the unenviable
record of producing six senate presidents. You can see the "Dilibe Onyeama"
in curious Nigerians. If we should go by this logic, the North in this
dispensation also has produced five chairmen for just the ruling PDP. And in
fact whoever is a little meticulous will appreciate the mystery of the
musical chair rocking political office holders under this regime. Let us
gloss over other fundamental issues that should disqualify any zone from
aspiring to produce the next president for Nigeria.
I am really surprised that Dilibe Onyeama anchored his thesis on two
unrelated issues. In all respects the American civil war of independence is
not comparable to Nigeria's civil war, 1967-1970. Both in cause, execution
and aftermath, they are a world apart. It is thus an exercise in deceit and
bad faith to tend to score cheap points by such dubious comparison. North
America fought South America to end human slavery and all the injustice and
atrocities associated with it. It was a war founded on ending man's
inhumanity to man. At its end that purpose was achieved. And Americans have
remained ever united both in thought and action. There is no discrimination,
no attempt, overt or covert to hold anyone or any part down. This has
contributed to its steady growth and sophistication to the envy of its
Nobody needs to bother himself telling the story of the Nigerian civil
war. The cause is known, but those who should tell the truth and nothing but
the truth are more interested in self-deception and falsification of facts.
The 'Dilibe Onyeama' in them unceasingly urges them to keep a vibrant
nationality in perpetual slavery. What has our civil war achieved? We are
now more polarised. We have become a nation that not only harbours
injustice, we now eat, hawk and canvas it. The agitation for resource
control and more regional or ethnic autonomy are indications of dispute in
the polity. What most ethnic nationalities are crying for now is a more
diplomatic equivalent of what Biafra wanted, by territorial resistance.
Remember "Adaka Boro' and his declaration. Compare it with what is on
ground, and pray that history would not repeat itself.
Whether we are a nation with one destiny is now for posterity to judge.
We have wasted all the opportunities we have had to make us truly great and
united. The experience and the lesson of the civil war both temporal and
spiritual were wasted. It is really arguable to say that Biafra was a
misadventure, what with the uneasy calm and anxiety at every nook and cranny
of the nation.
It is also a tragedy that 'Dilibe Onyeama' was unable to situate 'MASSOB'
properly. As a movement, in spite of what it connotes, it has been peaceful
and bloodless. It has not recorded any death, arson or destruction of
property. There is besides no report of possession of ammunition made
against it. MASSOB, OPC, Egbesu Boys, Arewa militia, to some of us do not
and cannot go beyond drawing attention to the criminal negligence and the
injustice that have been the lot of many Nigerians for decades now. This is
not a tacit endorsement for their existence anyway, but indications of an
I am really bewildered by Dilibe Onyeama's assertion that the clamour for
Igbo presidency is based on emotion. Nothing could be more ridiculous and
de-humanising. The Igbos are Nigerians, they have contributed immensely in
building this nation, they have the intellect and resourcefulness - in fact
what it takes to be a Nigerian president. What is the passion there? There
is in fact no zone in this country that cannot produce a presidential
material. In a well-publicised interview not long ago, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, a
northerner and an opinion leader was quoted as saying that he does not mind
Chief Emeka Ojukwu as the president of Nigeria. Is that sentiment or an
opinion based on ability to perform?
The so-called disunity and acrimony among the Igbo which its detractors
harp on is a universal phenomenon. There is nothing special or peculiar
about it. Check all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and their various
groups, you will see dissenters and dissenting voices. That is one of the
dividends of democracy. Who will believe that the South-South will become
such a formidable force in decision-making today.
I am not a politician, but I have my eyes and ears wide open to events
that go around me. Thus, I was amused by the presidential roll-call Dilibe
Onyeama made among the Igbos. What is on ground and visible to even a casual
observer suggests something different. Orji Uzor Kalu is known to be a front
liner and the most visible Igbo man aspiring for presidency come 2007. At
least he has kept hope alive in that area. He needs support and
encouragement. This is even what will encourage others to come out. May be
at the end the most acceptable candidate will emerge.
Under Shagari's administration an Igboman served as second in command.
And he (Alex Ekwueme) discharged that duty so creditably that his former
boss (Shagari) speaks about him with passion even today. If not for military
intervention I am sure Shagari might not have had too much hesitation to
support Ekwueme's presidency. Why should one be his own enemy? Why should
one hate himself more than others do? In my home town Uzuakoli, there is a
saying that " a man does not point at his father's 'obi' with left hand".
The Yoruba were able to get the presidency based on the reason and to some
extent logic (not emotion) that trailed the annulment of the June 12, 1993
elections. And today they are the envy of the others. Amidst detractors even
among its inner fold, they were persistent with both logic and diplomacy.
The Igbos and in fact all Nigerians of whatever ethnic persuasion are
acceptable in places they have found themselves. Those that claim to have
'A' or 'B' hardly proffer genuine reasons for doing so. The much they have
said is that this people are too cunning, too domineering, too clever. These
were the kind of reasons that Hitler advanced for hating the Jews. The
current trend is different: the world is now a global village. This country
is wide enough to accommodate our legitimate ambitions. Nigeria as a nation
is a reality - let's accept this fact. The less we emphasise our differences
the better for all of us. The presidency is open for all Nigerians, anything
to the contrary is courting for trouble. "Justice is truth in action".
*Dr. Ndubuisi, an attorney, teaches philosophy at the University of