Igbo And The Presidency


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Igbo And The Presidency



Friday Ndubuisi



culled from 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 rivals.

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 unhealthy nation.

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 Lagos.



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