For and against the quest for a president of Igbo extraction (2)
By Douglas Anele
Moreover, as World War II amply demonstrates, extreme maltreatment of a defeated people does not guarantee peace or permanent subjugation. Rather, it provides fertile ground for another, probably deadlier, armed confrontation in future because of seething grudge and the fact that human beings cannot endure injustice and oppression indefinitely.
Therefore, the continuous humiliating marginalisation of peoples from the old eastern region especially Ndigbo by Fulani caliphate colonialists aided and abetted by an increasing number of knuckleheads from the south-west and Igboland is a time bomb that would blow the gravely flawed British contraption called Nigeria into smithereens if urgent steps are not taken to address self-indulgent triumphalism and gross injustices perpetrated by those ruling the country as if she were the Fulani estate of Uthman Dan Fodio.
I will be the last person to falsely claim that the Igbo have an unblemished record or that they are completely exonerated from their plight in Nigeria. However, without any scintilla of doubt Ndigbo together with their cultural cum historical kith and kin in the old eastern region have contributed more to the political emancipation and economic development of Nigeria than the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba.
This statement may irritate those from the two major ethnic nationalities mentioned above, but an objective assessment of the political and economic evolution of Nigeria since 1914 will corroborate it, which was why the historian, Prof.Tekena Tamuno, described the Igbo as “the makers of modern Nigeria.”
For instance, on the political front and notwithstanding my misgivings about Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe’s regrettable obsession with a united Nigeria, “Zik of Africa” remains the greatest nationalist leader to emerge from the country.
It follows that no matter how intellectually dishonest revisionist commentators on Nigerian history might try to twist the facts acrobatically, available records both in Nigeria and in the British archives indicate unambiguously that Azikiwe, supported by nationalists from Igboland and other ethnic groups,
was the lodestar that ignited and guided the militant phase of nationalist movements that gained traction in Nigeria around the late 1930s and 1940s which woke Britain up from colonialist slumbers and compelled her to take agitations for Nigeria’s independence very seriously.
In fact, it is impossible to write an adequate history of nationalist movements in twentieth-century Africa without acknowledging Azikiwe as the central figure in the process.
On the other hand, there are strong indications that after independence till the ill-advised coup of January 15, 1966 the quality of education, transport services and electricity supply was very good in spite of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa’s mediocre leadership, and that period coincided with the time when professionals of Igbo extraction were at the helm of affairs in those critical areas of our national life.
But things have changed for the worse since then: when the Biafran war or jihad against Ndigbo and their immediate neighbours ended victorious Fulani caliphate hegemonists steadily dismantled systems of excellence and merit to favour unqualified northerners especially through quota system and discriminatory policies that occluded Ndigbo from the commanding heights of national institutions.
Hence it is not mere coincidence that Nigeria which ranked among the fastest-growing economies in the world shortly before the civil war is now the Mecca of poverty globally. As the Igbo aphorism says, onyejimmadun’alajionweya (he who holds another person down on the ground also holds himself down).
Northern rulers from Gen. Yakubu Gowon to President Muhammadu Buhari probably thought that oppressing Ndigbo is a good policy to teach them a lesson without realising that they are doing serious harm to the entire country.
Nigerians from other ethnic groups can ignore this truth from now till kingdom come; but the fact remains that there is no way Nigeria can make meaningful progress as long as the ruling northern cabal and their lackeys from the south continue the official policy of holding the Igbo down.
Ndigbo, more than any ethnic group in the country, have demonstrated that they are staunch believers in One Nigeria in spite of everything they have suffered. There is no part of Nigeria that has not benefitted from the enterprising spirit and creativity of Igbo people.
Unlike the archaic provincialism of a sizeable percentage of people from other ethnic nationalities Ndigbo, like the Jews, are unequalled in their ability to venture outside their towns and villages to other parts of the country to make a living. Their remarkable success in that regard has generated unwarranted envy and resentment from the indigenous population both in the north and other parts of “Niger area.
”Still, despite harsh state and federal policies which affect Ndigbo negatively much more than any other ethnic nationality due to their preponderance particularly in the informal economy, the people have survived.
Periodically, at the slightest provocation and Islamic religious frenzy, Igbo people living in the north have been massacred and their property destroyed. But in spite of all the threats, killings and intimidation, they have persevered because of their heavy investments in the region.
To many Nigerians, any place without Igbo presence is a no-go area! The Igbo saying ebeonye bi k’onaawachi (where a person lives is where he takes care of) epitomises the unequalled capacity of the Igbo to develop wherever they find themselves, which is a far cry from the negligible presence of the Fulani and the Yoruba in Igboland, although nowadays Fulani flotsam and jetsam have flooded the south-east as cobblers, hawkers, petty traders, tricycle operators, motorcycle riders, gatemen and, unfortunately, felons.
The resilience of Ndigbo is an essential mental disposition that should have been harnessed by wise leaders for national development. But Fulani caliphate colonialists see the Igbo as a conquered people that must be suppressed to ensure actualisation of the jihadist delusions of Uthman Dan Fodio and his successors.
The oxygen of Nigeria’s economy especially since 1970 is crude oil and natural gas domiciled largely in the old eastern region, including several Igbo-speaking communities. Conservatively, these minerals provide over seventy percent of the revenue for the federal government. Somehow Fulani-dominated northern Nigeria responsible for less than fifteen percent of that revenue determines who gets what, when, and how in Nigeria.
To be clear, the persistent political dominance of the Fulani set in motion and propped up by Britain is a serious aberration which, borrowing the words of Max Siollun, is “a stick of dynamite waiting to be detonated.”
The brief general phenomenology of Ndigbo and their lowly status in the scheme of things despite their immense contributions to national development sets the stage for evaluating the desirability of the quest for a President of Igbo extraction in three years’ time.
But before going further, I must state that my arguments equally apply to any other ethnic group in the same situation as Ndigbo today.Of course I am Igbo, but that it is not the only reason for engaging in this analysis.
On the contrary, any reasonable person who values intellectual honesty should state the facts as truthfully as possible since that is the best way to build a society on solid foundation and deal effectively with challenges that rear up from time to time. My approach is succinctly reflected by Christiane Amampour’s remark that “I would rather be truthful than neutral.”
Now, that the Igbo, notwithstanding their characterological weaknesses pointed out by Prof. Chinua Achebe, are primus inter pares in modern Nigeria is beyond dispute.
Again, beginning from the regime of Gen. Gowon there has been concerted efforts by different administrations headed by northerners and their southern lackeys to shrink the landmass of Igboland and depress drastically its population through manipulation of census figures and processes to favour the north and create the impression that the Igbo are not as populous as they really are.
This is one of the undeniable realities that ought to be taken into account for a deeper understanding of the Igbo predicament in Nigeria, including their continued exclusion from the highest political office in the land.
Some of the reasons for the demand that an Igbo should be President in 2023 have been adumbrated already. Of the three major ethnic tripods that constitute Nigeria the Igbo, with the exception of Maj. Gen Aguiyi-Ironsi who ruled for six months only have not been allowed to lead the country.
The British colonial administration ensured that Dr.Azikiwe did not become Prime Minister: he was compensated with the posts of Governor-General (1960 – 1963) and President (1963 – 1966) which were largely ceremonial positions without real political power.
Thus, advocates of PIE across the country argue that, on the basis of fairness and equity exclusion of Ndigbo from the topmost political office in Nigeria has gone on for too long and should end in 2023. Surely, given the huge contributions of Ndigbo to the making of modern Nigeriathatargument is morally unimpugnable.
Also, the ubiquity and developmental achievements of Igbo people throughout Nigeria suggest that an Igbo as President would have no choice than to develop all parts of the country given that Ndigbo are everywhere engaged in legitimate activities of all kinds.
Unlike President Buhari for whom the country seems to be the Fulani Republic of Nigeria, at least in theory a President of Igbo extraction, even if he is motivated by egoistic ethnic interests, would likely ensure that all parts of Nigeria benefit from the federal government as a way of encouraging his people to achieve more successes in their various endeavours.
And because of the impressive accomplishments of Biafra in less than three years in spite of heavy bombardment by foreign-backed Nigerian military forces, a significant percentage of Ndigbo think that the Biafran miracle can be replicated across Nigeria if one of their own becomes President.
Now, inasmuch as one endorses the notion that Igbo leadership of Nigeria is long overdue, it is important to point out that one of the strongest justifications for it is to showcase concrete examples of good leadership especially by governors in the south-east geopolitical zone and Igbo governors in states like Delta and Rivers.
Based on this criteria, the quest for PIE is dented somewhat because, with the possible exception of late Chief Sam Mbakwe and one or two others, the rest have been,to put it mildly, square pegs in round holes.
To be continued…
Written by Kartia Velino