(By Abubakar Mamman Ngulde)
“The Igbo man has generally been his own enemy. While people of other regions had managed to unite behind their candidate of choice in virtually all elections that had been held, the Igbo had always failed to do so. There was never a time in the history of Nigeria the Igbo emphatically agreed on a candidate of their choice neither have they been able to produce a candidate acceptable to the whole nation in the form of MKO Abiola, Obasanjo and the likes. When in 1979, the northerners rallied behind the President Shehu Shagari and his NPN, the party recorded overwhelming victory in the polls. An alliance of the North and West produced MKO Abiola’s outstanding victory, a feat repeated in 1999 when President Obasanjo was elected.“
Nigeria is a multi cultural society made up of over 300 ethnic groups spread across the entire landmass. The Igbo people constitute the third main ethic groupings and are found mainly in the south eastern part of Nigeria. They constitute about 18% of the Nigerian population which amounts to about 30 million people according to a recent estimate (CIA 2012 World Factbook). The Igbo unlike the other two major ethnic groupings in Nigeria have traditionally been loosely fragmented politically. There had never been any centralized system of government but each settlement had always existed largely independent of those surrounding it in small units constituted mainly of lineages, clans and villages. There were variations in culture such as dialects, attire, art styles and religious practices amongst such villages and this is still noticed even today.
The Igbo are virtually the most popular set of Nigerians and perhaps the most travelled of them. There is hardly any part of Nigeria no matter its remoteness you don’t find an Igbo man. The Igbo man can travel as far away from his home as possible as long as he can find business opportunity. It is often joked that the Igbo can be found everywhere in the world as long as a black man can survive there. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that for every five African men you find in Diaspora, one is Igbo. This is not unconnected to the fact that the Igbo man finds it easy to acclimatize to new environments much faster than most Nigerians do. This perhaps must be the reason why the Igbo are the most popular ethic group outside of Nigeria. Don’t be surprised if people in the Diaspora continue to wrongfully consider them the largest tribe in Nigeria; who wouldn’t when they are the most visible. The Igbo have always been known for their ingenuity. You hardly find any group in the whole of the African continent more creative and more industrious. Hardly would you ever find an Igbo man idle. He is always involved in one money-making venture or another. That perhaps is as a result of the norm in Igbo land which usually frowns at the laziness. Everyman was expected to fend for himself for dependency in Igbo land was abhorred unlike what is obtainable in other cultures. A typical Igbo man would therefore do virtually anything to make money because his life, dignity and respect within his community largely depended on it. Compared to other parts of Nigeria, the Igbos can be considered to be fairly educated with even the first full-fledged Nigerian university, University of Nigeria, Nsukka located within their territory.
Politically, in the run off to the struggle for Nigerian independence, the Igbo have been known to have played key roles in the struggle and the subsequent gaining of independence. Prominent Igbo men like Sir Herbert Macaulay, Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Festus Okotie-Eboh had been critical to birth of the movement for independence and had fought diligently for the success of the struggle. This perhaps is the reason why the first Nigerian chosen to head the colonial government and subsequently to lead Nigeria to its independence had been an Igbo. The Igbo have always been vocal and visible in virtually all important government arms including the military, police, civil service and administration in the pre-independence era. Why then has their status diminished so much to such a disheartening level within a very short span of time? Of the 52 years Nigeria has existed as a country, they have only had the opportunity to rule twice for a period of only 10 years. What does this portray for the image of the Igbo? Is he not capable of leading the country despite his seeming ingenuity in commerce and industry or is he not strong enough to struggle along with other Nigerians towards achieving the virtually elusive dream of every Igbo man to have a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction or perhaps could it be that the average Nigerian is yet to forgive the Igbo for the events of the 1970s civil war?
The Igbo man has generally been his own enemy. While people of other regions had managed to unite behind their candidate of choice in virtually all elections that had been held, the Igbo had always failed to do so. There was never a time in the history of Nigeria the Igbo emphatically agreed on a candidate of their choice neither have they been able to produce a candidate acceptable to the whole nation in the form of MKO Abiola, Obasanjo and the likes. When in 1979, the northerners rallied behind the President Shehu Shagari and his NPN, the party recorded overwhelming victory in the polls. An alliance of the North and West produced MKO Abiola’s outstanding victory, a feat repeated in 1999 when President Obasanjo was elected.
In all these elections however, the Igbo failed to present a formidable candidate who could break ethnic barriers Nigerian politics has always known for neither were they able to enter into alliance with other regions of the country like others have been doing. Theirs has always been talks and threats of violence every electioneering year. Right from the first republic when the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) held sway in the North and the Action Group (AG) had the West completely under its arms, the East never had a strong Igbo National Party. Theirs were parties engulfed in one crisis or another and even up till today, this trend is visible in the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the splinter party, the People’s Progressive Party (PPA). Despite the parties having strong followership amongst the masses, they have always failed to maintain its membership with its elected members always decamping to other parties especially the PDP immediately after elections are won. It has always been the tradition of the Igbo to agitate for an Igbo President but none of their sons has ever been serious enough to run a formidable campaign. The closest they ever got was when Alex Ekwueme contested the PDP primaries in 2003. Even that attempt clearly outlined the disunity amongst the Igbo leaders. It was said that PDP governors of Igbo extraction openly campaigned against their own son even at the convention in Jos.
It is therefore this disunity that has always prevented the Igbo from making any serious attempt at the number one sit and if care is not taken, this problem might linger on for a long time to come. It is not out of place to say that the average Nigerian from other regions is yet to forget the events of the Civil war. Most people are of the view that the Igbo still harbour the inert desire of breaking up the country and allowing them the presidency might provide that elusive opportunity. Speaking to an average Yoruba man on the street will reveal that he trust the Hausa man better and will most likely enter into alliance much more readily than he will with an Igbo. The Igbo themselves have not helped matters. With groups such as MASSOB still agitating for secession at a time others are working towards unity, the fears exercised by others becomes quiet glaring. Another militating factor is the Igbo man’s seemingly intolerance of rule by other tribes.
In the words of the Late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello he described the Igbo as too dominating. He went on to describe that “if you employ an Igbo man as a labourer, he will like to take over as foreman within a short while”. With such inherent mindset, it is not surprising other Nigerians continue to regard them with suspicion. Another inherent characteristic of the Igbo that so often prevents other Nigerians from trusting them is their inert desire for wealth acquisition irrespective of the means. This quality other Nigerians view as unbecoming of a leader whom is expected to sacrifice for the nation. The presidency with all its grandeur and limitless power some fear might end up being used for self enrichment at a larger scale than that we are already battling with. They therefore tend not only to deny the Igbo the chance but also try to prevent them from holding key financial positions. It is of note that majority of Nigerians being held in prisons abroad for one financial crime or another are of Igbo extraction and this adds to the stereotype already being presented about the Igbo man’s criminal mindset. Another important factor is the Igbo man’s none forgiving nature.
Many are of the view that the Igbo having been denied the presidency for long and having suffered unimaginable pains from events of the civil war will go out on a massive revenge mission once they are given the opportunity. Some others believe the fear is more towards the execution of the secession agenda already started long time ago. The Igbo have always been the proponents of breaking up the country and some think once they get the chance, they will carry out their threat to the later. It therefore became imperative or “so they think” on proponents of “one Nigeria” to prevent the Igbo from ever ascending the presidency. With their regional leaders always failing to agree on matters of collective interest, they have always been left lagging behind in terms of government policies and projects. That of course has always had negative effects on development in the region. Even the so called Ohaneaze-Ndiigbo Cultural Organization has not been able to foster the unity desired within the Igbo community and has been engaged itself in one imbroglio or another over the years.
What is the way forward for the Igbo? With the happenings we continue to witness and with the apparent lack of credible and acceptable leadership for the Igbo, it will take a lot more than a miracle for an Igbo to become the President of Nigeria anytime soon. Analysing all potential Igbo presidential candidates political party-wise indicate that there has not been yet any Igbo man that has seriously shown interest and willpower to win national support. With most parties showing signs of aligning behind the north as it bids for power to return back to its region, it requires a lot of doing for any southern candidate especially of Igbo extraction to counter the already mounting pressure. For the Igbo to be able to achieve that, they must be able to set aside this time around all political differences and present one strong candidacy that can give the north a run for its money taking into consideration the possibility of the Yoruba backing a northern candidate instead of their own and which, judging from the body language of Yoruba leaders such as President Obasanjo and Bola Tinubu, is almost a near possibility.
The Igbo must be able to achieve this near impossible feat within a span of one year if their dream of an Igbo Presidency in 2015 is to be achieved; a Herculean task if the reality is to be said. Who then should the Igbo present as their choice? Presently, an Igbo leader acceptable to the whole of Ndigbo still remains a mirage. When in 2010, northern leaders like IBB, Aliyu Gusau and the likes perceived by many to be selfish agreed to step down for Atiku Abubakar in the run off towards the PDP Presidential primaries at the instance of the ACF, the umbrella association of the northerners, one begins to imagine who among the Igbo strongmen will agree to do the same? Is it Gov. Peter Obi or Gov. Rochas Okorocha whom are already engaged in the battle for the soul of the APGA or Victor Umeh who is still fighting for his party’s chairmanship sit? The Igbo must move beyond the traditional summits and meetings they have always been known for in the past and act. It has never yielded the desired result in the past neither will it now. They must solidly unite behind a formidable candidate irrespective of party affiliation if their dream is ever to be achieved. If the Yoruba could deliver President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP in 2011 despite having their own party’s candidate as a result of alliance with the South South , I see no reason why the Igbos cannot do the same but until then; the Igbo will never rule Nigeria again.
(Source: Daily Post)
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