That Nigeria is a besieged country is no longer news. The country is troubled on all fronts and despite pretentious motions by the government to address them, the more they escalate.
Obviously the most aggrieved and marginalised, the Igbo have been in the forefront of agitations to correct the injustices done to them and others, who, instructively, have keyed into the project after years of nonchalance. Now, the cries to restructure the country have gained momentum across the land.
As a distraction from the main discourse, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo mooted the idea of Igbo presidency lately. Sadly, many undiscerning Igbo latched onto it. However, the idea of Igbo presidency is as repugnantly warped as it is deceptively crafted to further put the Igbo down.
By the way, what does Igbo president mean? A president of the Igbo, as in Biafra or president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction? A tenured president that could be impeached the next month by a conniving and conspiratorial country? A president that would still serve the interest of the Obasanjos and imperialist North, as Obasanjo himself did for the Yoruba?
The Yoruba were ‘given’ the presidency to compensate for the murder of Chief MKO Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, who was allegedly murdered while in detention over his insistence on reclaiming his annulled mandate. The key word ‘given’ is deliberately chosen because, truly, the powers that be schemed and ‘dashed’ the Yoruba the presidency, yet imposing their surrogate. The Yoruba rejected Obasanjo but nothing came of their rejection, as Obasanjo had been decreed and so it was. He became president and nobody is sure if the Yoruba has anything to show for his eight-year tenancy in Aso Rock where he, sadly, even lost his wife.
Now, the same Obasanjo intends to play the same card on the Igbo but it is dead on arrival. Obasanjo’s presidency brought the worst ridicule on the Igbo when, within that short tenure, he used the Igbo to play Russian roulette, causing them to produce four Senate presidents, Adolphus Wabara, Evan(s) Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo and Anyim Pius, within that short space of time. It was so shameful the Igbo were projected as dry quicksand, cascading dissonantly in different directions. That is what this latest gambit wants to replicated, but it shall surely fail.
Seriously, the Igbo do not need the presidency of Nigeria; neither do we need a separatist republic of Biafra, if it can be avoided. The resurgent agitation for Biafra is borne out of the fact that the very issues that led to Biafra 50 years ago have remained with us and degenerating. The stupid removal or change of the Biafra name in Nigeria’s map has not wiped away its memory. ‘Praying’ Yakubu Gowon shares much of the blame for Nigeria’s intractable quagmire over Biafra. Until he and his co-travelers deem it fit to mobilise solution for the monster he created, the long shadow will continue to haunt not only him but also the rest of Nigeria.
Gowon never meant his duplicitous three-R policy of reintegration, reconstruction and reconciliation. Subsequent administrations, beginning from Murtala Muhammed and this same Obasanjo, followed suit to treat Igbo like pariahs, a conquered people that deserved not even the crumbs from the master’s table. That is the thrust of the restiveness among the youth. To worsen matters, the ban on the teaching of history in schools in a bid to rid the nation of the horrific memories of the civil war, made oral history the driving force of today’s agitation. These post-civil war Igbo youths, who did not experience the revulsions of the war, depend largely on what their parents told them, some distorted or exaggerated. These youths grew up experiencing the same hatred their fathers told them about, as they are killed and hunted down over issues to which they have no connection, as if Nigeria decided that honour awaits whoever hurts the Igbo.
Talking about Igbo presidency is unacceptable. It is gratuitous and further subjugates the Igbo to the caprices of a domineering North. What the Igbo want is a restructured or reformed Nigeria built on true federalism whereby each component can develop at its own pace without let or hindrance. Nigeria should rise up and address the inequities in the land.
Talking about restructuring, virtually all sections of the country have agreed on the need for restructuring except the imperious North. It is unfortunate that the North has elevated itself to be Federal Republic of Nigeria, such that only the North can decide what goes, who gets what and who gets nothing; who stays in Nigeria and who must quit. Unfortunately for them, as Nigeria’s looming collapse approaches, this North is playing the ostrich. Who knows, by the time it raises its head buried in the sand, its assumed empire will have since gone for good.
It does not matter what it is called, restructuring or any other nomenclature, including mental restructuring, as canvassed by Obasanjo, what is certain is that Nigerians need to have an open-heart surgery where all sections of the country will sit at a table to discuss the way forward. Nigerians need to shun the morbid master-servant relationship in a country where all sections should be equal stakeholders. Whichever side feels it shall continue its hegemony and unjust hold on others is in for a great shock.
The problem with Nigeria is having neophytes and accidental leaders, who see no good in superior argument but rather see pragmatic men of goodwill as opportunists, and yet only pontificate sickening solutions to national malaise.
These small men dabble into office and become mega thinkers, cogitating ill conceived ideas that promote copious hate and division. Nigeria waits to see how much longer their affected nationalism will save this behemoth.
However it works out, Igbo presidency is belittling and deluding. Those already salivating over the king’s porridge should check if truly Igbo blood flows in them. Daniel and his friends rejected that varnished meal, refusing to defile themselves, thus the Hebrew children defied both fire and the lion’s fangs, because the Lord of hosts stepped into the arena of battle (Daniel 3). Likewise, every wise Igbo must reject the offer of a hollow presidency. Let there be equity, justice and fairness for all; the Igbo can stand firm on their feet unaided once the proper paradigms are in place.