Why Ndigbo may remain politically irrelevant

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I took advantage of the break caused by the postponement of the elections to visit a few places in the South-East and South-South zones and directly gauge the perception of the people about the current political developments in the country. The first place was my village in Mbaise, then my mother’s village, both in Imo State. After going to my state, I joined one of my close friends to pay a courtesy visit to one of the riverine villages near Yenagoa in Bayelsa State. Interestingly, some grass-roots politicians showed up during both visits and I took the liberty of the two visits to discuss Nigerian politics with both sets of people – my kinsmen and the kinsmen of President Goodluck Jonathan. During my discussions, it was obvious that President Jonathan has more supporters in Imo and other Igbo-speaking states than even in his home state, Bayelsa. Surprised?

Let me state two things upfront. The first is that contrary to the views expressed in some quarters, I do not dislike President Jonathan, at least not his person. My concern is about his style of politics and governance and his performance as President and how these two factors affect me and my generation. As a southerner and an academic, I should connect with him. If he performs brilliantly as President, I will share in his success and such performance will brighten my chances and those of other members of my generation to one day decide to lead our country. The same way today I am sharing in his mistakes. So, the stakes before us are clearly beyond whatever thing I feel about his person.

The second is that if I am given an opportunity to nominate who will become the President of Nigeria under normal circumstances, my first choice will not be General Muhammadu Buhari. I am just 40 and so you can begin to guess why. However, in the circumstances that we have found ourselves as a nation, Buhari is potentially a better choice than Jonathan. It is very obvious that our President has run out of ideas. The country is deeply divided and the citizens are so highly disillusioned such that it will only take a trigger for the country to go up in flames. The current insecurity, unemployment, poverty and economic uncertainty in the country have reached frightening dimensions in our villages.

But do we blame all of these on Jonathan? Definitely no. Does he have a large chunk of the blame as our leader at this time? Of course, yes. The incestuous levels of corruption and blatant looting going on under Jonathan are part of the reasons that have led to widespread disenchantment and loss of confidence among the citizenry. Does my support for Buhari mean that he will do any magic? No. These things will take time to fix but we need another style. There is hardly any new approach the current President can bring on the table after trying for almost six years. Change has become long overdue. It will have a psychological soothing on Nigeria and Nigerians.

Now back to my main subject. My discussions revealed that unlike me, many people from my village neither support Buhari nor the All Progressives Congress. I could not but ask the following questions: What is the Igbo agenda in the current political dispensation? Who are those articulating it? What is their reason for the fixation with the status quo? Why are Ndigbo reluctant to engage the wind of change currently blowing in the country? Many of the people masquerading as Igbo leaders are individuals of questionable character preoccupied with only pecuniary objectives. In my village for instance, a school drop-out is now in charge. He feeds the kinsmen with falsehood and takes regular advantage of their ignorance to enrich himself.

While in the village, one of my uncles called me and abused me thoroughly for expressing views that he termed “anti-Igbo.” Which Igbo was he referring to? It is obvious that he is still fixated about the civil war and the roles of some northerners in it. I was shocked that more than 45 years after the civil war, many people are still passionately talking about it. True, it is an important part of our national history but is it not time to move on? Could it be the main reason to like or hate Buhari and the northerners? So, what about Olusegun Obasanjo? What about the Ijaw who took over our abandoned properties in Port Harcourt? To my mind, and the minds of many young Igbo men, the Ijaw, who colluded with other majority tribes and benefitted mostly in the acquisition of properties and wealth in Port Harcourt from a tribe lying helplessly prostrate from a civil war, committed greater atrocity towards the Igbo. The Yoruba recently came out to declare that they would not waste their votes for anyone without demanding something in return. Have the Igbo made any similar declaration? What are they getting from Jonathan and his kinsmen in return for Ndigbo support in 2015? Will the Ijaw presidency (no matter how hard we try, this is what our brothers in the Niger Delta have reduced the Presidency to) guarantee a national redress on the injustices of the civil war and the abandoned property saga? Will President Jonathan, as an Ijaw, who majorly orchestrated and benefitted from the abandoned property saga compensate the Igbo the same way he has guaranteed amnesty to the Niger Delta militants? Have Ndigbo asked for all of these, especially, since a continued support for the South-South, if it spirals out of country, may be jeopardising Ndigbo’s fresh investments in wealth acquisition in places like Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Bauchi, Zaria, Ibadan, Lagos, Abeokuta and Lokoja just to mention but a few. You will recall that Ndigbo subconsciously redirected their business investments to these new territories as a result of the sense of insecurity following the abandoned property saga. Will they now jeopardise all of these new investments and wealth accumulation in support of the kinsman of the same tribe that stripped them of their old wealth?

Why are we not engaging candidates on what they can offer the nation? What are their plans for the textile industry, shoe industry, commerce and other areas of comparative advantage of Ndigbo? What plans do they have to develop Aba, Onitsha and Nnewi where our industry and entrepreneurship are defined daily? How can we expand the infrastructure and capabilities in these cities and expand opportunities for our creative youth population? Does a leader have to be a Christian or a Muslim to attend to these needs? How come Igbo leaders have been unable to demand and extract some of these promises from our politicians? Must we continue to play the second fiddle in this country?

It is disheartening that Ndigbo have become politically irrelevant and directionless. No one is interested in articulating an agenda that will move the zone forward. No one is interested to review why someone as comfortable as Eze Festus Odimegwu will throw his support behind Buhari or why President Jonathan’s kinsmen are beginning to reconsider their support for their son. What you hear when you travel around “Ala Igbo” are unsubstantiated rumours and unjustifiable fixation over the history of yesteryears. I will not join my dear uncle to continue to bemoan the past. I have chosen to engage the present and project, positively, for the future.

The civil war, regrettable as it was, is in the past, a past that even Nigeria has chosen to feign never existed; a past that our national educational curricula have refused to recognise and teach officially. There is a new war in town; it is a political war. I am struggling to find the position of Ndigbo in the new war and it makes one miserable. The civil war ended 45 years ago and if care is not taken, we may lose out in this current political war. We are losing it already unless we redefine our current priorities from an individual to a group survival and sustaining agenda. For a people so talented and resourceful, this will be nothing but

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