I had an impromptu lunch at my niece’s place last Sunday. It was at such an inconvenient time that I would ordinarily have let it pass. We had our cultural harvest in church, which meant a longer day at church.
Then there was the Premier League football match where Arsenal were due to play, and there was a tennis final in China that was featuring two of the exciting next-gen players.
These presented an ideal ‘stay at home’ scenario for me. But the opportunity to spend time with my very gifted niece, whom I rarely see, and her genteel sister who was flying out that evening to her base in England, and who was the reason for the lunch, was too appealing to miss.
I thought I’d cajole my niece to tune to sports which, outside basketball, isn’t her favourite pastime. But try as she could, her ‘sophisticated gadget’ couldn’t raise the games I wanted. So, a crestfallen Kemi admitted that ‘this thing has fallen my hand’ and pleaded for us to watch a new documentary on Netflix instead.
The documentary was titled “The Black Godfather.” It was on the life and times of Clarence Avant, the black American who transverses the entertainment world of sports, movies and music like a colossus and is mainly responsible for bringing many black talents into prominence.
He later added politics and is reputed to giving a leg up to Barack Obama by facilitating that famous speech at the Democratic Convention, which brought Obama into national consciousness. He is known as the ultimate dealmaker, the man in the shadows, The Black Godfather.
In all his deal making life, however, he has held on to one unshakeable belief, one credo. It is that numerical value is a key determinant in life. “Life,” he says “is about one thing: numbers. Nothing else. Numbers when you are born, numbers when you die.”
Some northern politicians are currently talking numbers, but in a political context. They are affirming what we all know: democracy is about numbers. To win an election, you must have the numbers.
And the North has the numbers by virtue of its poorly controlled birth rate. It also has a large mass of sparsely educated people who have an almost blind allegiance to their religion and their elite. Hence the boast of some of the northern elite that the North, if it wants, can rule Nigeria for ever. For this to happen, however, we must have to look at other numbers—financial, technological and intellectual—some of the very numbers that the Caucasians have used to rule the world for so long in spite of their limited population.
Were the North to want a permanent hold on political power, in spite of these other numbers in a game of brinksmanship, then the South would have to stare the North in the face. It’s not difficult to decipher who would blink first were the stare to be steady and prolonged. It is probably in the knowledge that the North doesn’t have the numbers in critical areas that a zoning concession was made.
It is not a perfect arrangement because it has held the country down. It has also held the fragile unity of the country together.
To tamper with the zoning arrangement is to tease out all other arrangements, including federal character, resource and revenue control. Like Mr. Donald Trump would say, “All options will have to be on the table.” You hold on to your numbers and I hold on to mine.
Zoning means the presidency should come South in 2023. Equity and justice mean it should go to the South-East, since the other two zones have had a bite. But our Igbo brothers must realise that it is not a right because it is not in the Constitution, neither is it a given because all the three southern zones are eligible. They would, therefore, have to present a national figure whose policies are liberal and progressive, whose outlook is national and whose antecedence is not parochial.
Apart from a majority vote, such a person must realise that he also needs the buy-in of 24 states up to at least 25 per cent. The Igbo do not have the numbers to go it alone just as the other major ethnic groups do not have the numbers. The utterances of the Igbo candidate must, therefore, be conciliatory, with the aim of healing wounds, instead of opening sealed sores. He would have to allay fears that the Igbo can be team players without the ghost of Biafra breathing heavily down their backs. He would have to bring up ways of righting the injustices that have plagued and held the country down for so long without damaging the national psyche. A lot of negotiations would be made and a lot of concessions would have to be made before he gets endorsed.
That is the nature of politics. But one concession he should never make is to maintain the status quo, which retains power and resources at the centre. To do that would make him as powerful as his predecessors. But it would be a betrayal of what his people have fought for and what the entire southern zones have recently been agitating for.
The way the system is set up, I personally don’t think an Igbo President will necessarily benefit the Igbo, just as the other Presidents have not particularly benefited their zones. Turning a few individuals in a zone into millionaires is not what benefits the zone.
What the Igbo want, I believe, is a sense of belonging and an opportunity to compete fairly in the nation space. This is best accomplished by a loosening up, and a divesting of power at the centre. But the perception that the Igbo do not share well is not helpful to their cause. They must accommodate, if they want to be accommodated. They must welcome ‘strangers’ into their hearts and homes and businesses, if they want ‘strangers’ to welcome them into their hearts and homes and businesses as well. The Igbo deserve the presidency in 2023, as a sign of closure, of inclusiveness, of unity.
But they must reach out.It cannot, should not and will not be given on a platter. It is the highest job in the land. Get it right and we are on the path to recovery. Get it wrong and we are on a slippery roadto bloodshed.