Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
2007: The State of Igbo Nation
culled from THISDAY, September 26, 2004
There are three major implications of
the successful August 26, 2004 stay - at - home order by the Movement For The
Actualization of The Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) The first is that the
episode marks a redefinition of the line of political authority in Igbo land -
the emergence of an untraditional new political leadership. The second is that
in matters concerning it and the rest of the country, the Igbo has, perhaps for
the first time since the end of the Nigeria civil war, demonstrated that they
can still be mobilized into action. I say Ndi Igbo, congratulations. I salute
Ndi Igbo for waking up from a big slumber.
The leadership of any country is not given to a group of people whether ethnic, religious or even political, but to an individual. It only happens that such an individual comes from a particular part of the country. In other words, it is only after a suitable and acceptable candidate is identified that any ethnic group could begin to talk meaningfully about producing the president. Put differently, Nigeria will not accept an Igbo ant as their president when the king makers zeroed their search for Nigeria's president prior to the 1999 general elections to Yoruba land, they did not go for just any Balogun. They went for a fellow whom they knew the rest of the entire country would accept. Truth be told, Olusegun Obasanjo fitted the bill then regardless of whatever problem that may have arisen since he mounted the throne. undoubtedly, we have quite a good number of Igbo whom the entire country will accept. They should be encouraged to raise their hands now. That is why we can sound serious about the project.
Experience has shown that Igbo presidential aspirants require a longer period of time to be sold first to their very critical fellow Igbo before being presented to the rest of the country. One of the major reasons why the Igbo quest for the presidency in 2003 failed was that our flagship candidate, Alex Ekwueme, came out very late. Power of incumbency, yes, but had Ekwueme entered the race early enough, the outcome would probably have been different. The time between when he disclosed his intentions to run and the primaries was certainly not enough to do all the intrigues, lobbying even blackmailing etc. That was needed in a presidential contest that has an incumbent in contention. By the time Ekwueme declared for the 2003 presidential race, many Igbos had already made commitments to other quarters. These included both moral and financial commitments. Should we return to that type of naivety? I think the Igbo political elite owe the people a duty to see that we do not do another fire brigade thing this time around. Beside Ekwueme, both Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and my humble self, have personal experiences to buttress the fact that only an early start can enable any Igbo aspirant make an impact.
As our people say, Ana Eji Ehihe Chowa Ewu Ojii (You begin the search of a dark-skinned goat in the daytime). Talking about resources, it will be too naive to pretend that it is not a major factor. Of course, it is one of the most deciding factors especially in the circumstance we find our self now. But it cannot stop a good presidential material if the correct steps are taken, if our elite does the proper consultations and mobilize the people sufficiently. In any case, Igbo have been known to invest immensely in presidential candidate from other part of the country. There is no reason they will not do more for one of their own given the present circumstances. It all boils down to the need for early start. An early start will enable the aspirants assemble the necessary resources and convince our people in the first instant. It is also the only way to avoid the proliferation of aspirants.
I think it will not be out of place to argue that in the matter of providing the necessary guiding for the Igbo presidential quest, the state governors easily stand in the direction most people would look, either collectively or individually. The reason is that they are the kingpins of politics at both the state and zonal levels. They have a broader contact with the generally of the people and possess a measure of clout that no other category of politicians can boast of. This is not to say that it is from among them the Igbo candidate must emerge. But they certainly enjoy a leverage made all the more possible by the fact that with the exception of just one of them, they are the first set of Igbo politicians to hold office as executive governors for this length of time and, all thing being equal, for eight full year.
They have, both individually and collectively, become a factor that no body can wish away and in the matter of the Igbo president project, they are in the best position to, as our late sage, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe said, "show the light so that people will follow". I challenge the governors to take the initiative. Why are they afraid, shy or reluctant even when we know that deep inside them there is a burning ambition? Agreed, there have been instances when some of them were credited with statements challenging the northerners and restating the Igbo resolve to go for the presidency in 2007. In such pronouncements, they sound quite vehement and articulate but the entire thing, as far as I am concerned, looks like mere academic exercise. The result is the consistent rumour that all what the South East governors, with the except of one, are looking for is to become vice president to any of the know northern aspirants, particularly from the trio Babangida, Marwa and Atiku, in my view it is this very rumour that constitutes the biggest set-back for the Igbo presidency project. A northern governor and a South-South counterpart of his are know to be working hard on their presidential aspiration. We know of them in the political circles as well as the rumor factories. Why do we not have an Igbo in the ring, now. Now is the time. "Delays are dangerous" as the Igbo trade would say. I do not see what makes the governors of the three northern state betters than any of our four South-East governors.
The funny thing is that while such an impression grows in the minds of Nigerians, we have some of their counterparts from the South-South geo-political zone being rumoured, not only as possible aspirants but also as even already anointed by those in charge. Some of these South-South governors have not come up to say they will run but they, like the aspirants up North, have people saying it for them. Let me make bold to say that our governors will be deluding themselves to believe that they can secretly negotiate for the vice presidential job from a northern president. There is no such thing. Even if Ndigbo will eventually settle for the vice president position, it has to be similarly negotiated, collectively, and I would like to believe that only a fellow who has been seen to canvass the Igbo presidential project proper, with enough vehemence and articulation and working in conjunction with the job of vice president. Agreed, they, the governors, are still serving but how did the name(s) of the South-South governor(s) enter into the national discourse as even possible successor(s) to Obasanjo? Let those who have ear hear. Then there is the matter of the retired generals. Out there too, we hear of a certain resolve by retired generals in the North to install another general after Olusegun Obasanjo. We know a few of them who have been campaigning vigorously for their favourable aspirants but we hear nothing of our retired generals in Igbo land. I asked: Are our own (Igbo) retired generals not part of this resolution to bring back another general?
This question arises because since they are also generals, they should be in reckoning not necessarily by running but by identifying with this very much cherished ambition of their kinsmen. Some of them are more pre-occupied with talking about sovereign national conference but while that should remain their own prerogative, I believe that they have to situate their own political ideologies within a more pragmatism context. Talking about pragmatism, it is pertinent to point out that while we must step up efforts to throw up arrowhead for the Igbo president project, we must not delude ourselves that any other feasible platform exists outside the People Democratic Party.
Of recent, there have been media reports that some Igbo politicians, in conjunction with some outside Igbo land, are looking at the possibilities of taking their presidential / vice presidential ambition to the pro-Igbo All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Nobody can, of course, underestimate the influence of APGA in the emerging trend of politics in Igbo land. In fact, next only to MASSOB, I can see APGA being the only other movement that can extract massive and unalloyed support from Ndi Igbo. That has already begun with the 2003 general election. But let the truth be told, APGA cannot give Ndi Igbo the presidency. As clannish and tenacious as the Yorubas are, they realized that it would be impossible capture the presidency through the Alliance for Democracy (AD).in 1999, we were all witnesses to the political horse-trading that gave rise to the APP/AD joint ticket Olu Falae, after picking the ticket of AD, eventually ran as an APP candidate in a novel arrangement that will, for some time to come, remain a study in political engineering. This means that the ball is presently in the court of the court of the South-East caucus of the PDP. It should get to work now to throw up candidate.
In its entire meeting in the past one year, it has always restated its resolve to purse the presidency. Orugo na omume (It is time for action). I however advocate that it reaches out to other politicians with different inclinations to evolve a more global arrangement. Another point to note, still talking about pragmatism, is that the incumbent president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is a deciding factor on who gets into Aso Rock in Mar 2007. This means that the Igbo calculation on this project must includes steps towards placing Igbo aspirants in a vantage position before Obasanjo. Not only that. Such aspirants must court his favour and acceptance. Finally, the Oha Na Eze Ndigbo. As noted earlier in this write-up, it should take centre stage on this matter, of course in active collaboration with the political parties notably the PDP. Yes, in the past it had not succeeded in beating every Igbo into line. But there is room for improvement. One way of the starting is to streamline its line of command. A situation whereby even local government chapters can issue statement on behalf of Oha Na Eze Ndi Igbo is no longer acceptable. Then, of course, all the "wings" (youth wing, women wing, student's wing, etc) must be collapsed into the central body.
As noted earlier, the success of MASSOB on August 26, should challenge the conventional Igbo political establishment into action in order to seize the initiative so that the rest of the country will begin to see Ndi Igbo more as partners in progress than as unrepentant secessionists. The argument has been put forward by some Igbo politicians, including governors, that an early show of hand would make Igbo aspirants vulnerable. That is cowardly.
Any presidential aspirant worth his salt ought to be in the field by now. What is good for Babangida, Atiku, Marwa and the two northern governors and their South-South counterpart ought to be good for any Igbo aspirant if we are serious. The die is cast. Party congresses and national conventions are around the corner, which means that any presidential contender must be working out ways of getting a good grip of the machinery of the parties now, selling and promoting himself though in a subtle manner. For the avoidance of doubt, let me restate here that I do not support the agitation for Biafra. But I welcome the spirit with which Ndi Igbo support MASSOB. It is that type of spirit, as I noted earlier that should be taken into the presidential quest.
Arthur Nzeribe is a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.