The Ndigbo Question - 1


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Prof. Omo Omoruyi


        My last essay published in the Guardian of February 24, 2003 classifying the Presidential candidates in the 2003 election into four categories generated some comments from fellow Nigerians from the southeast.   Instead of the commentators addressing the deep-seated uncertainty within the Igbo ethnic nationality that I chose in my earlier essay to call the “The Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics”, they quickly found another Igbo hater.   I am not an Igbo hater; I have no reason to hate the Igbo.  

       Since I got involved in politics, I have always sympathized with the Igbo and their plight in Nigerian politics.   Here was a majority ethnic nationality and one vital leg in the traditional tripod before 1966 that is today since 1970 reduced to the status of a minority by the other two legs in the tripod.   Omo Omoruyi or his ethnic nationality did not contribute to the loss of status or political impotence of the Igbo in Nigerian politics.   The solution lies in the Igbo leadership and not on others.


       The comment by Comrade Edwin Madunagu is misplaced.   His appeal to and rehash of the classical philosophers is downright poppycock and maybe pedantic at best.   I read it twice and I came to the conclusion that it is unrelated to the issues I was dealing with.   Quite frankly with the greatest respect to Comrade Edwin, does he really believe that these political parties and the candidates that are running round their local government areas and not in the country in their names are serious?   Comrade, give me a break! Haba!  Some of them went into this game thinking that Government would share money among the political parties as it did in the past.

      The comments by Daniel Obi Dozie and Prince Jimmy Asiegbe fail to see the point I was making.   Both ignore the import of the essay and instead accuse me of harboring an anti-Igbo feeling, especially with the way I handled the Dim Ojukwu in the essay.   This is arrant nonsense.      


        Maybe I should deal with some issues about the three Igbo candidates that I put in the category of those with personal or ethnic agenda in furtherance of the Stalemate Strategy.   I am referring to General Ike Nwachukwu, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Dim Emeka Ojukwu.  

      I have nothing against these illustrious Nigerians who have all the qualifications in the Constitution and in the written laws for the office of President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.   Maybe I should call the attention of the commentators to the fact that one does not become the President in Nigeria through the democratic process or through the coup by invoking the formal qualifications.   

     I know Chief Jim Nwobodo and General Ike Nwachukwu as realist.   They know that there are “unwritten qualifications” for the office of the President that they do not meet in 2003.   Maybe Dim Ojukwu is putting himself in the category of former Heads of State such Generals Gowon, Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida and Abubakar.   After all General Gowon wanted to be the nominee of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1993.   Where was he when Chief Obasanjo was approached to be the nominee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999?   Those who want to have some idea of these unwritten qualifications should read my book, The Tale of June 12.

     On the status of these candidates and their mission in the race, the Governor of Abia State clarified the position already that the “Igbo Presidency Project” died with the defeat of Dr. Alex Ekwueme at the PDP national convention.  May I add that the “Igbo Presidency Project” was buried when the Ohaneze N’Igbo could not get the Southeast to agree to the idea of one Igbo candidate in 2003.  

     All the resignations involving General Ike Nwachukwu and Chief Jim Nwobodo from the PDP and their emergence within 24 hours as presidential candidates in other political parties made no difference to the point made by Governor Kalu of Abia.   The nomination of Dim Emeka Ojukwu as the Presidential candidate of APGA had problems of its own that I would not like to go into here.


     All the Igbo commentators unnecessarily focused on Dim Ojukwu and what he represented in the past.   Again I am not going to comment on this.   Nigerians have their views on the role of Dim Ojukwu in the past, distant and immediate past.   Dim Ojukwu’s place in Nigerian history is well known to all Nigerians.   But his place as a partisan politician is also well known.   I’d recall two incidents for the interest of those commented on what I said.

      First, I recall what happened to Dim Ojukwu with his Ikemba Front as a partisan politician in Anambra when he tried to use his place in history to get votes from Igbo people in 1983.   Sometimes we forget that a Senatorial District around his home of Nnewi rejected him in 1983, despite the political thugs in the name of “Ikemba Front” he unleashed on his opponent and a friend and compatriot, Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe. 

      Second, I also recall what happened to him as “a tax-payer” and as a partisan politician when he tried to seek clearance from FEDECO in 1992 to contest the presidential primaries of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).   Professor Humphrey Nwosu is still alive who was the Chairman of the FEDECO that rejected him in 1992 because he was found wanting as a taxpayer.    


      What bothers me is the scanty knowledge of these commentators of the history of how the Igbo fought their way back into the political mainstream after the Civil War and those who were involved in the process.   It was not Chief Jim Nwobodo; it was not General Ike Nwachukwu and certainly it was not Dim Ojukwu.   They would have to write their roles for the Igbo people to understand.   Let me cite two incidents.

     One, if these new defenders of Igbo cause would do some research, they would acknowledge the role that I, Omo Omoruyi played in the past to work for the reentry of the Igbo into the political mainstream in 1978.

       Two, those who are enjoying the increase in the number of States in Igboland since 1990, fail to appreciate and acknowledge the part that I, Omo Omoruyi played with the late Diokpa, Dr. Pius Okigbo to give the Ndi Igbo more “political homes”.   I am referring to the creation of more states in Nigeria under President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.  


     The attackers of Omo Omoruyi may not like my classification of the Nigerian presidential candidates into four categories.  That is the way I see the candidates.   Is it not my right to hold the view I held?   I still hold the view that only two candidates (Chief Olusegun and General Buhari) are worth considering by my people of Edo State.  

      My decision to embark on the classification of the Presidential candidates has nothing sinister to it.   It is not meant to undermine the political status of the Igbo candidates.   The candidates would not dispute the fact they are not serious contenders for the high office like Obasanjo and Buhari.

       It is the freedom of others to take exception to my characterization of Dim Emeka Ojukwu as the leader of those who have no national following but in the race to pursue what I called the “Stalemate Strategy” in 2003.   Maybe I should pose two questions to them.

       One, do they want me to use Dim Ojukwu’s expressions as soon as he became the candidate of APGA to buttress my point?   His speech at the Aba launching of his campaign is for Nigerians to analyze.  

     Two, do they want me to use the advocacy of others who want an anti-Obasanjo coalition in the style of the anti-Moi in Kenya?   Its all over there.  

      I will not do either.    I am tired of being called anti-Igbo; anyone who dares to call their attention to the error in their assumption is easily labeled anti-Igbo.   They fail to appreciate that the problem with the Igbo since the Civil War is the inability of the Igbo leaders to come up with an Agenda of reentry into the political mainstream of Nigeria.  


      Maybe I should remind my Igbo detractors that I was a witness to how the Igbo leaders failed in 1977 to address the “Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics” during the politics of transition.   I still recall how and when the Igbo members from Imo and Anambra States came to the Constituent Assembly.   This was the first time Nigerians from all ethnic nationalities were meeting after the Civil War to address the post military political order.   How did the Igbo leaders fare?

        I still recall that the Igbo members came to the Constituent Assembly in 1977 with conflicting visions that they could not reconcile.   I still recall my role in the formation of the political party (Nigerian Peoples Party-NPP) that gave Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the bulk of Igbo politicians a home and an opportunity to reenter the political mainstream in 1979.   I have not seen any publication by an Igbo intellectual on this episode in Igbo politics.   Yet it is part of Nigerian history.   I tried to deal with this issue in my book, Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics.

     Maybe I should further remind them of how the Igbo leaders failed in 1989-93 to throw up a Presidential candidate of the like of General Shehu Yar’Adua, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Chief MKO Abiola.   I am yet to read of a text of the role of Igbo leaders during the transition program (1989-93) in which I was involved.  This period is still too fresh.   How many Igbo leaders knew of the role of General Olusegun Obasanjo in trying to find a place for the Igbo people in the government of Chief MKO Abiola when it became obvious that he would win in 1993?   This was why Chief Abiola zoned the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation if he were to form a government.   That would have been the first time an Igbo would have been made the Secretary to the Federal Government since 1960.   This feat would not have come about because of Dim Ojukwu or any other Igbo leaders.   I recall what Dim Ojukwu said to the idea; just “a Secretary/Typist” for the Igbo!    Dim Ojukwu knew the difference but he chose to campaign against MKO Abiola arguing that Igbo because they have beautiful girls would only get the position of a Secretary/Typist in his administration.   From that day, the little respect I had for him evaporated.   I shall deal with this period in my subsequent book.   

     Should I remind these commentators that the Igbo leaders failed during the post-Abacha period?   I saw this from far away in the US.   Is this not what is called Igbo “marginalization”, the buzzword in the post-Abacha political order under Chief Obasanjo?


      I once challenged a friend from the southeast to organize a conference devoted to agenda setting for the Igbo nation in Nigeria.   The Igbo like other ethnic nationalities should cultivate “the Igbo Permanent Interest in Nigeria.   Today, instead of having a permanent interest, the Igbo leaders want to think of who should be labeled the Igbo Permanent Friend in Nigeria and who should be the Igbo Permanent Igbo Enemy.   The Hausa/Fulani is called the traditional Igbo Permanent Friends and the Yoruba is the Igbo Permanent Enemy.

      The Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani have since 1960 made the distinction between permanent interest and permanent friends.   This is what the Edokpamakhin (a pan-Edo organization) is working on for the Edo nation.


      Those who are interested in what others are doing in Nigeria as it affects the place of Igbo in Nigeria should weigh what others are saying.   Let me use two examples: the former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Lawal Kaita and the present Vice-President, Alahaji Atiku Abubakar.

      I hope my Igbo friends read what Alhaji Lawal Kaita of Katsina said recently that Obasanjo signed a “pact” with the north that he would hand over to far-north President in 2007.    What do they say to that?      See This Day of March 20, 2003.  

       For the interest of Nigerians, this was how I raised the question about “Pact” in 1999 after the election that Chief Obasanjo should tell Nigerians what he promised the north.   But Nigerians ignored it until it generated controversy in late 2001 when IBB’s brother-in-law raised it.   There is some ignorance between this highly undemocratic procedure of achieving an end by a group in Nigeria and the US system of writing a platform.  


       I read of this confusion recently in the recent press interview by Ambassador Jubril Aminu in Newswatch who was justifying the system of pact by the northern political leaders as the system of platform writing in the US before the national Convention of each party.   The difference should have been obvious to Ambassador Aminu, the custodian of the original pact between the north and President Obasanjo.   A pact is done in secret; a party platform is usually an open document.   A pact is usually done to safeguard the interest of some individuals; a party platform is usually subject to pre-Convention negotiation and approval during the national Convention of the party.  

     President Obasanjo handled the pact issue very well since 1999.   In preparation for the 2003 election, he should have allowed Nigerians in the north, southeast and west women, men young people etc. to come forward with their various demands.   Ambassador Aminu, this is the nature of :platform hearing in the US”.  

      All these demands should have been articulated and aggregated and turned into a platform for the PDP during the last National Convention.   It is such a Platform that would be the manifesto of the PDP throughout the country in the 2003 election.     


      Those who are dragging the President or any President into a discussion of who would succeed him is unhelpful to the democratic development of Nigeria.   My view about who would be President of Nigeria is well known.   The Presidential candidate of each party should be allowed to emerge through the inter-play of democratic forces in the party.   Those who know my view would recall that I have always argued against zoning, rotation and all that, that reject the democratic forces.   This is what is worrisome in the recent outburst by Alhaji Lawal Kaita.

      When Alhaji Lawal said that President Obasanjo would ensure that his successor in 2007 would come from the far north, one is forced to ask.   Does Alhaji Lawal appreciate that Nigeria has many political parties today?  Does Alhaji Lawal appreciate that the Constitution is supreme to any pact?   Maybe Alhaji Lawal should read Ambassador Aminu’s discussion of the matter in his recent press interview in Newswatch.    Ambassador Aminu saw the futility in a pact based on zoning and rotation in a multiparty system and under a constitutional order that makes no provision for zoning and rotation.    

     Ambassador Aminu is right when he said that if zoning were still in operation or if zoning were applicable to all political parties, all the Presidential candidates of all the political parties in the 2003 election would come from the south, in fact, from the Yorubaland.   I am happy that Ambassador Aminu agreed with this implication of zoning when he said that General Buhari would not have been a candidate under the strict application of zoning.   Maybe an inferential leap!   I could infer from Ambassador Aminu’s interview that the north would reject General Buhari because the north still believes that it is the turn of the south.    

      I still recall I challenged some of my Igbo friends that they stood a better chance of producing the successor of MKO Abiola, if the Igbo leaders who allowed themselves to be used for the annulment by the geo-ethno-military-clique had wholeheartedly supported the June 12 in 1993.  

      And I hope the Igbo leaders read the advice of the Vice President Atiku Abubakar that the Igbo Presidency is only feasible within the PDP.   Maybe I should end this rebuttal with the Vice President’s advice to the Ndi Igbo voters in 2003 election at Umuahia.   He said:

                    Do not be deceived.

                     Do not waste your votes for a social party or

                     a party that is in one corner of the country. 

                     That party will not give you President.

Vice President Atiku then concluded:

                         I therefore want to appeal to you to vote

                         for the PDP (Presidential Ticket)

                         where your future is secured.


       In addition to the advice of the Vice President, maybe I should use this medium to appeal to my Igbo friends that a vote for Nwobodo (UNPP), Nwachukwu (NDP) or Ojukwu (APGA) on April 19 2003 is a vote for Buhari (ANPP) as part of their anti-Obasanjo and anti-Yoruba platform.   Do they want me to develop this further?  

      If this is what Chief Jim Nwobodo, General Ike Nwachukwu and Dim Emeka Ojukwu want, as candidates of the UNPP, NDP and APGA respectively to tell the Igbo people, they should say so in one word and directly.   The non-Igbo in Nigeria are no fools; they would reject them.   The recent Poll conducted by the Guardian already demonstrates the feelings of Nigerians.   They should stop deceiving the Igbo people into believing that they are viable contenders for the office of President, which they know they are not.   The Igbo leaders in the PDP and serving with Chief Obasanjo would tell the story better to their people.


       The advice of the Vice president coupled with what I said above is the advice I already gave to my people of Edo State that they should vote massively for the Obasanjo/Atiku ticket in 2003.   If I were a registered vote, that is what I would do.    This is the advice I’d give to my friends in Igboland.   They should not allow themselves to be used to advance the anti-Obasanjo agenda of these self-serving candidates.  

     May I use this medium to appeal to my fellow members of the Fourth Dimension in the south-south and in the middle-belt not to waste their votes in the parties committed to “Stalemate Strategy”?   They should go directly to either of the two political parries with a chance of forming a government of Nigeria.   As for my people, and me I would recommend the Obasanjo/Atiku ticket in 2003.   

      May I use this medium to call the attention of the progressive elements in Igboland to what the progressive elements in the southwest are doing?   They have their party that delivered government in the six States in 1999.   Yet as wise people and pragmatist, they want to maximize the value of their votes in April.  

    As Nigerians face the 2003 election, we should all face the issues in the election.   I will not like to be dragged into a discussion of who is a friend or an enemy of this ethnic group or the other.   I shall no longer contribute to the debate on the “Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics”.   I know from my interaction with the Igbo in the past since 1977 that it is real.   This should be left to the eminent sons and daughters of Igboland.   They are the only one who can handle this.   They are still to appreciate this.



Professor Omo Omoruyi


March 21, 2003. 



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