NNAJI JEKWU ONOVO
IGBO people constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. They are economic, social and educational giants in their own right. Their spirit of mercantilism and commercial dexterity has made them universally ubiquitous. The Igbo in the Diaspora spread to parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. But at home in Nigeria the Igbo people are political midgets. The political fortunes of Ndigbo have been on downward trend since the exit of Dr.NnamdiAzikiwe, the visionary leader of Igbo extraction and nation builder who believed strongly in the unity of Nigeria.
When in 1957, the British colonial authorities offered independence individually to the regions provided two out of the three regions accepted the offer, the Northern region declared they were not ready for that level of political and economic independence, the Western region declared their readiness for independence, the East became the tie to make or break Nigeria; Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe in a historic move, rejected the offer by declaring that “although the Eastern region was ready to assume the responsibilities of regional independence, its attainment without the North would lead to the balkanization of the Nigerian nation and conceivably a break-up of the country.
The Eastern region would rather suppress its appetite for independence and the obvious gains it would entail until the Northern region was ready.” Of all Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe’s sacrifices for nation-building, the greatest was in 1959 when after winning the largest number of votes, and the 2nd largest number of seats (NCNC got 2,592,629 votes as against 2,027,194 votes for NPC) he rejected Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s offer for a coalition which would have given him a majority to form the government and emerge the prime minister with Chief Awolowo as minister of finance and instead choose to enter a coalition with Tafawa Balewa’s NPC and emerge a junior partner in the overall interest of Nigerian unity. There is no precedent anywhere on the African continent either then or now where a leader in line to take power as prime minister rejected such an offer in the interest of nation-building. He became the ceremonial President, while one of his men, Dr.Nwafor-Orizu became the Senate President. In the second Republic, Shehu Shagari’s NPN needed a coalition partner to form the government at centre. Zik, the nation builder offered his NPP to support the Federal arrangement. Shehu Shagari (North) was President, Alex Ekwueme (East) was Vice President, Edwin Umezeoke (East—NPP) was speaker of House of Representative. In building the nation, Zik was empowering his kinsmen as well as other Nigerians. Today, some Igbo due to ignorance, misinformation and mischief dislike Zik’s brand of politics, preferring ethnic politics.
The truth is that a vast majority of right-thinking Igbo men and women, today, strongly believe that Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe was a true Igbo patriot and leader. He was the torch-bearer, path-finder, prime-mover, and beacon-light of Ndigbo in many spectra of human life. The truth, again, is that Zik played his part in his generation, and departed this sinful earth as a mortal being. We are now a new generation of Ndigbo and Nigerians; the ball is now in our court to demonstrate to Ndigbo and our nation our better leadership skills.
Mathematically, exploring the principles of combination and permutation, the odds favour an Igbo man being elected President of Nigeria in 2023. Remember, mathematically, combination applies when order doesn’t matter, while permutation applies when order does matter. To maintain order which literally translates to equity and justice, it should be the turn of Igbo to produce the President of Nigeria by 2023 as North completes her two-term tenure. By 2023, the presidency shifts to the South with three major blocks: South West (had it from 1999 – 2007), South-South (had it from 2009 – 2015).
Therefore, the slot goes to South East. But people from other sections of the South and other parts of the country might opt for the principles of combination (when order doesn’t matter), thereby contesting the presidency in 2023. Some Igbo see political context in the same light as our commercial activity of buying and selling. So, this group believe, we can buy the Presidency of Nigeria. Some others feel we can get it by weeping up sentiment and blackmailing other ethnic groups in the country. Politics is a game of wits, tact and pragmatism.
It is pertinent to note that no regional or ethnic group can go it alone in enthroning the President of the country. Remember, the constitution stipulates: majority of the votes cast plus 25% votes in ²⁄₃ of the states of the federation. That means the President-elect must secure 25% votes in 24 states of the Federation. So, Igbo needs the support of other ethnic groups.
The political groupings in the country are aggregating to two major parties — APC and PDP. The sure bet in enthroning Igbo man as the Executive President of the Federation come 2023 is to have Igbo men as the Presidential candidates of the two leading political parties. It is time for political re-alignment in Igbo land to populate the APC as much as the PDP. In politics, there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, but permanent interest. The first step towards political re-alignment should be APGA melting into APC. This should be followed by some South-East state governors decamping from PDP to APC. Any Igbo man aspiring to that position must be a patriotic Nigerian working to build a country of equal opportunity and justice not just for Igbo but for everyone who calls Nigeria home; a country where our resourcefulness is unhindered; where our safety—like that of every other Nigerian, irrespective of religious or ethnic colouration—is guaranteed and protected.
Onovo writes via [email protected]