The ambivalence of Ndigbo
I have always been sympathetic to the Igbo each time they agitate for their turn to rule the country. After all, the British constructed the Nigerian federation on a tripod represented by the three big tribes – Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba. They were meant to be the lords of our national manor: to rule, not to be ruled; to be served, not to serve.
As the big three understand it, they were meant to take their turn at occupying Aso Rock. Of the big three, only Ndigbo have had problems grabbing the enviable trophy of national leadership. I am miffed by what appears to me as the ambivalent attitude of the people to their one vaunting ethnic political ambition: the presidency. I am sure I am not the only one who is confused about this. The Igbo seem to enjoy shooting themselves in the foot. I refuse to put it down to ethno-political naivety.
A few days ago as of this writing, the governor of Imo State. Chief Rochas Okorocha, told his people who might be nursing a presidential ambition in 2019 to forget it. His statement reminded me of a similar grand pronouncement by another prominent Igbo political leader, the late Chief Ojo Maduekwe.
Sometime in 2006, some Igbo leaders agitated for the turn of the Igbo as a successor to Chief Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, in 2007. Chief Maduekwe rather inelegantly described the demand for an Igbo president as “idiotic.” I thought it was legitimate, not idiotic. I was wrong.
A couple of weeks or so ago, Obasanjo pointedly said it was the turn of the Igbo to produce the next Nigerian president. I have heard it said by some Igbo politicians that the former president was merely being mischievous. I can find nothing wrong with an Igbo man riding to power on the crest wave of such mischief. I thought they could mine Obasanjo’s say-so to their advantage. Again, I was wrong.
I wonder why Igbo leaders tend to shut the door in the face of their own ethnic ambition to take their turn at the national seat of power. Is it mere ambivalence? Do they want it or don’t they want it?
Some young Igbo men with the tacit support of their elders, have been agitating for their right to secede once more seeing, as they argue, that the Nigerian state has been unfair to the Igbo. Is the purpose of this agitation to blackmail the Nigerian state into surrendering power to the Igbo?
As I see it, that possibility is remote. The agitation might as well go on forever. I cannot think of the possibility of the Nigerian state giving power to the Igbo in a sack of gari. Political power is either won or taken; not given. That is not to suggest that some form of quota system could not be applied in this case to create the delusion of belonging. I suppose Ndigbo do realise that even the so-called minorities have done better than they in the politics of power grab at the centre. A man from the minority Ijaw tribe in the former Eastern Region, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, got what Ndigbo, the former lords of the former region could not get. You could say some luck played a role here but that does not tell the entire story.
Getting the presidency is sometimes a long distance race. President Buhari made a grab for it three times before he won the trophy in his fourth attempt. I know of no Igbo man who has been that persistent in his pursuit of the presidency. It does not do the Igbo much good to reduce themselves to crying babies over what they regard as their marginalisation or the unwillingness of the Nigerian state to duly recognise their right as the third leg in the tripod construct to make it up the presidential pole. I do not think Ndigbo are a helpless lot in this matter. I believe that if they truly want the presidency, they know what to do. In case they have problems with that, I offer them the following free pieces of advice.
One, they must put an end to the marginalisation mentality and recognise the fact that they do not deserve any special treatments by the Nigerian state.
Two, they must end all agitations in the name of actualising the nightmare of Biafra. It is not always wise to wake up the dead as a pragmatic policy of hankering after political power.
Three, they must put an end to shutting the door in their own faces. It ill serves their political purpose for some of their leaders to advise their own people to forget the presidency.
Four, let an Igbo man emerge who would run for president three or more times until he wins the race. Five, the dominant political party among the Igbo is PDP. The party controls the entire former Eastern Region. That, I believe, is a strong platform for the Igbo to stand on to either make a grab for power or negotiate their presidential ambition with other political groups in the country.
Six, they must desist from intimidating themselves in the politics of power grab at the centre. Ndigbo are smart and shrewd but I fear they have not used these in the politics of their ethnic ambition.