The Igbos have not hidden their contempt for the All Progressives Congress (APC) since its formation in 2013. The party’s image has not been redeemed among Igbos with the APC Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is yet to appoint anyone from the South-East into his government. It doesn’t appear pleasing to the Igbo ears that Mr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu from Delta state was appointed Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) boss. This is perhaps why the Ohaneze Ndigbo (the apex Igbo group) Youth Council recently accused the President of “hatred for the Igbo nation”. In the past few days, words like “federal character”, “marginalisation” “Biafra” and the likes have been used frequently in public discussions, especially among many “Igbo” writers who have suddenly found their lost voices!
While no responsible person should support the marginalisation of any ethnic, religious or national group in Nigeria, we must consider jettisoning our support of the so-called federal character principle. Igbos, in particular, have a lot to learn from other Nigerians and must be ready to do away with the Civil War mentality to really prosper in a united Nigeria.
On the federal character principle, which was introduced in 1978 and became part of the 1979 Constitution and subsequent constitutions, we need to know if it has added any value(s) to our lives as a nation.
After Chief Obafemi Awolowo lost the 1979 Presidential election, Yorubas who voted massively for him played the role of opposition in the Shehu Shagari’s administration. The Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives all were non-Yorubas and the heavens did not fall. No one mentioned federal character or “marginalisation of Yorubas”. Much ado about federal character.
If Yorubas did not go into extinction outside mainstream politics for about 40 years under different platforms – Action Group, Unity Party of Nigeria, Alliance for Democracy, Action Congress, Action Congress of Nigeria – I submit the Igbos must learn, like Yorubas did, to develop a unique political character outside political power.
From a little observation, it appears some Igbos are yet to jettison their Civil War experiences when others have moved on. It is no longer a secret that Igbos made their choice clear during the presidential election and that was not General Muhammadu Buhari, but whether they will stand with him through thick and thin is yet to be seen. One of the questions that came up during the campaigns was General Buhari’s role during the Nigerian Civil War. This question was raised by no less a person than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign spokesman, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. Needless to say that Fani-Kayode or FFK, as he is sometimes called, would have committed “genocide” considering his earlier views on Ndigbo while he was in the APC. How he suddenly became a lover of the Igbo when he joined the PDP remains strange to me. This only convinces me that anyone can be a “friend of Ndigbo” if he or she can just oppose Buhari or the APC.
In parenthesis, what role does a soldier play during war? Does FFK expect Buhari to come out and say he did not fight according to command? Although I was born over two decades after the end of the War, I have read several Civil War books from both sides, and I haven’t come close to reading of any specific command led by General Buhari. Those who played prominent roles were: T.Y. Danjuma, Murtala Muhammed, Benjamin Adekunle “The Scorpion”; later on, Olusegun Obasanjo and the likes, on the Nigerian side. You can mention people like Joseph “Air Raid” Achuzie, Alexander Madiebo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna and others on Biafran side. I am yet to find any Civil War document on Buhari’s specific role(s) leading during the war.
This leads me to my next point – Igbos do not appear to know their real “enemies”. They supported former President Jonathan, an Ijaw man from Bayelsa State, even adding “Azikwe” to his name just to make him “our son”. Jonathan did not disappoint them, he rewarded the Igbo nation with “juicy appointments” in his government. But as at the last time I checked, Ijaws fought alongside the Federal army during the Civil War. People like Isaac Boro and the immortal Ken Saro-Wiwa, both from minority areas, fought the Biafrans to a standstill during the war. I am not sure if Ijaws will proudly call themselves Biafrans any time soon.
In an Advertorial titled “APC is Dead on Arrival in the South East” sponsored by an unknown group on the eve of the launch of the party in Anambra sometimes in 2014, the “deportation” of 14 destitudes of Igbo origin to Anambra and Imo States is cited as a case for Igbos not to support the APC. I wish to say that while I condemned that act by the Lagos State Government in its totality, I will not lose sight of the present security challenges in the country, necessitating such actions by the state government. Lagos is not one of those States that harbour destitute (Almajiris).
Apart from this, before this action by Lagos State, the PDP government of Abia State had adopted an Indigenisation Policy, leading to thousands (mainly Igbos) of non-Abians losing their jobs in the State Public Service. Yet, nothing was wrong with relieving fellow Nigerians of their jobs but everything was incorrect with clearing the streets of destitutes!
Igbos must accept their presently reality, and fast. Buhari is the President of Nigeria, at least, in the next four years. There are, for me, few options left for Igbos in the Buhari administration, considering the fact that they boxed themselves into a tight corner. They can either play the role of a responsible opposition standing with the PDP or join the APC government, which would enable them to negotiate from a stronger position.
If Igbos decide to play the role of opposition, that is standing their grounds till the end, they will be taken more seriously in the political schemes in the future. This can also lay the foundation for an Igbo presidency sooner than we may think. The second option will be to join the Buhari government through those their “rejected stones” – Ogbonnaya Onu, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige and the likes. This will also mean that pan-Igbo groups will do more than just praise-singing about President Buhari and his lieutenants in the region to win him over for their past “sins”.
I do not know how General Buhari must have felt early this year when he wrote to Ohaneze Ndigbo, requesting a simple audience. The response of the organisation in my opinion portrays that of a disoriented body in desperate need of reformation. The group did not even deem it fit to acknowledge receipt of the General’s letter.
In all these, I think all hope is not lost. President Buhari must, through the state his party controls in the region (Imo), provide the lead. The President must shun shallow thinkers and flatterers in the region by building the Second Niger Bridge, which has been in the realms of dreams over the years. The administration must also ensure that Ports are located in the region for improved revenue and jobs creation. I know little of Igbo needs except those I am told by my Igbo friends. The time to build a Nigeria where Igbos can be proud once again to be Nigerians is now. Buhari can do this and more. My only advice to Igbo leaders is for them to drop their Civil War lenses and look at issues more clearly within the 21st century realities.