Rev Fr. Offor Evaristus
Justice brings peace, harmony and the integral development of people all over the globe. Without justice, equality and equity, no nation can remain peaceful, harmonious and progressive. Nigeria is a good example of this picture as the Igbo race is the only major ethnic nationality in Nigeria that has been denied of the presidency since 1999, when we claim to have gotten true democracy. Simply speaking, justice and equity as natural virtues demand that the Igbo race is offered the same opportunities given to the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and the South-south. These regions have already taken their slots that have not favoured the whole country at all. They have been era. Justice demands that the Igbo region be given opportunities to the Igbo politicians in all the over 100 political parties in Nigeria. It is unjustifiably repellent and atrocious to hear some northern and southern political elite talking of power hang around in the North or while some Yoruba bigots press for power movement to the Southwest.
It’s no surprise hearing the former Chief Whip of the Senate, Roland Owie, of Delta State recklessly and groundlessly insisting of power hold in the North for another four years to ensure equity and fairness. It seems he is from the moon chatting of justice and equity without being resolute on the turn of the Southeast.
Sightlessly and cruelly, the northern group has adopted el-Rufai and Ogbonnaya Onu for the 2023 presidency. Why el-Rufai when people with good conscience are talking of Igbo person. Since the former ruling People’s Democratic party, PDP, which engrossed the present ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, wisely introduced the rotational presidency, why do some disgruntled elements want to thwart this glorious value. The northern socio-political group, Rundunar Mai Gasikya has already adopted another Fulani and Muslim for the 2023 presidential election, where are the values of justice, fairness, equity and politico-religious equilibrium. In this age of dangerous Boko Haram insurgency, are the Fulani and northerners seeking to Islamize us? Since the North had taken more than required right from the counter-coup of July 1967 till now, what is the virtue in another northerner and Muslim coming into the picture now? According to this group, both el-Rufai and Onu will bring peace and more progress, but how can a product of inequity and injustice bring such value. Horror!
To heal the wounds of Biafra, every region, political party and religio-cultural groups must rise up to insist on the turn of the Igbo who have been denied many things, fewer states and federal presence in the area. In fact, the leadership of all political parties ought to, as a matter of conscience, justice, equity and equality, cede the nomination of their presidential candidates to the Southeast.
All the parties and religious, regional and cultural zones must in conscience preach and accept the zoning policy and Igbo presidency in 2023. Anything short of this clarion divine and natural call amounts to wickedness, tactless and is an affront to God and excellence. Here the church should speak out against the perennial humiliation, marginalization and oppression of the Igbo people. We use the political-cum-pastoral attitude of Kenyan bishops in the case study of Nigerian political subjugation of some ethnic groups in the country. They said inter alia: even though the Catholic Church is not inclined to any political theory or any party politics, however, the Catholic Church will support and promote a political system that respects fundamental human rights and authentic Gospel values (Kenyan Episcopal Conference, pastoral letter ”Looking Towards the Future with Hope, 1992).
Nigerian bishops also added their voices to the ongoing political debate insisting on a democratic system that guarantees individual or group choices regarding their welfare. They said: “We identify ourselves with the vast majority of Nigerians who are calling for an immediate return to democratic government within which a free and serious discussion on the national question will be guaranteed….”(Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Communiqué), “We Have a Destiny That We Must Not Abdicate, 1994). Where are the hope and serious national question to address the cracking issues that are trying to fragment us? Do we have hope when marginalization, oppression and outright out-casting of the Igbo race since over 50 years now. What is the Church saying or doing now to save this country for further bloodshed, anarchy, selective legal oppression, corruption and power elongation by both the North and Southwest? What is the Church doing in order to ensure power equity and rotational presidency, now it is supposed to be the turn of the Igbo people, that has been on the ground for years now where is the Christian Association of Nigeria and all the crops of Churches in Nigeria. Where are the true Muslims and traditionalists in the country? Where are the numerous civil society organizations, the Bar, students associations, market women and men, Christians and conscionable Nigerians and world powers? Is the Igbo race going to be on the ground forever in a country that has sworn never to let the people be free? What is the essence of democracy and tenets of different religions if not justice and equity, love, care equality and respect for each other.
Since the Federal Government does not want a Biafran state, it should accommodate and integrate them fully by allowing them produce the 2023 presidential candidates. It should encourage all the political parties to choose Igbo presidential candidates before the 2023 election, as a sign of full integration, justice and equity for all. This will be an alleyway to healing the wounds of Biafra. What happened in the time of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr Alex Ekwueme should not re-occur, when it was ripe for an Igbo person to be elected as the president of Nigeria, the army which is peopled by the North and Muslims struck in a useless coup d’état. This is the time for good Nigerians and organizations to stand for both the Igbo presidency and restructuring to make things right. The Church, especially the Catholic Church should lead the light in the manner of great and Saint (Pope) John Paul 11, “in the history of the 20th Century the Church will perhaps go down as the chief defender of the human person throughout the whole of her or his life beginning with concept”.
There must be a real political metamorphosis within the Church’s attitude towards human rights. The Church must move from mere pastoral letters to become the beacon of light as full of zip funnel and advocate. And for Christians in political activities, they must have to be imperatively judicious and decisive in decisions with regard to principles and rely heavily on the Social Doctrine of the Church. Christian politicians not minding affiliations in tribe and party politics are obligated to enlighten one another in political structures, the Senate, House of Assembly and Representatives, Government Houses, local government council areas, by sincere discussion in a spirit of mutual love, understanding and with concerned curiosity above all in the common good, etc.
You should remember that the bond that unites us is too strong, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and Life. You must reach out to your Muslim counterparts to remind them that religion is never the opium of the people as our political leaders are religious persons.
Finally, Ndigbo this is your chance and you must unite in spite of your political leanings to tell the world that you are not as black and red as outsiders paint you. Igbo kwenu! Nigeria kwenu!! The universal world kwezuenuoooo! Igbo will lead come 2023. God has said it.
• Rev Fr. Offor Evaristus, Director/Founder, Scholars Association for the Protection of Igbo History and Civilization, writes from Enugu