Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
Yesterday, I had a long debate with a group of friends who had all along accused me of feigning ignorance to the systematic political displacement of Ndigbo in the current political scheme of things. One of my friends even repeated the label by some of my social media assailants who, among other things, refer to me and others who dare to express a different idea contravening the mass hate championed by the emerging but dangerous set of Igbo opinion leaders and agitators as “Fulani slaves,” whatever that means.
It was a rare opportunity for me to freely talk with a group of friends whom I should trust in their restraint. At least, they wouldn’t cut off my manhood or impale me on a crucifix for advocating some alternative strategies to calling attention to the undeniable marginalization of Ndigbo and, indeed, the Christians of Northern Nigeria and, to a large extent, the entire Southern Nigeria.
I explained to my friends that there could be a few people who were more irked at how the Muhammadu Buhari administration has mismanaged our rich and beneficial diversity than myself, but I do not also subscribe to the strategies adopted by most of the very visible and popular agitators across Nigeria. I believe that Buhari might be enjoying the reality of our misplaced anger and the fact that, instead of us deploying our best brains to lead the onslaught against his arrant insensitivity to our diverse sentiments, we are busy emitting sound and fury only. I told them about my conviction that the unsustainable violent rhetoric and styles adopted by some of these separatists could conform with Buhari’s wish. I told them why I do not think that separatism is in any way the correct way to approach our struggle for equity and inclusiveness in the Nigerian union. I am convinced that Nigeria is better off as one, indivisible and equitable nation than breaking into disparate and potentially unfriendly entities. I think that these separatist agitators are counterproductive to our collective aspiration for a more equitably governed and more prosperous nation.
I told them about Professor George Obiozor, the president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. Without firing a single bullet, without ordering for the killing of anyone, without making speeches that could be construed to be hate speech against certain tribes and without calling for the disintegration of Nigeria he has actually done a lot within the few months he has held sway as the indisputable leader of the Igbo nation than anyone else has done within this very trying period in our history as a people.
When Obiozor announced his candidacy for the Ohanaeze presidency, all sorts of things were cooked up against him, but the most ludicrous and undoubtedly the most frightening was the obviously fake letter of endorsement by Miyetti Allah. Those behind those criminal acts of forgery, identify theft and character assassination had aimed to paint the eminent professor an international diplomat as one who would serve as an agent of some northern, or what they believe were anti-Igbo, interests. But in a few interventions I made then, I argued that the old man had come so long a way to become anyone’s lapdog. Even though I didn’t quite throw my hat into the ring in support of his candidacy, I didn’t expect anything less than his current level of efficiency and intervention in what affects Ndigbo.
As a diplomat and an authority in international history and diplomacy, Ambassador Obiozor would, no doubt, have been equipped with relevant details on different approaches to struggles for national or subnational political freedom and emancipation and found that peaceful, non-confrontational and political methods have stood out as the most successful in the history of mankind. He must have also been educated about the crushing impact of violence on the ordinary populace, hence, his preference, as a father, leader and intellectual to exploit his wide reach in the Nigerian political space to peacefully negotiate for the best possible deal for our Igbo kith and kin.
I would be stupid to deny that my party and its leader, President Buhari, have left the Igbo with little options but to take their fate into their own hands. How would I claim ignorance of the very sad reality that this is the first time since Independence that the Igbo have been so politically relegated that they are treated as complete outsiders in any strategic discussion that affects the Nigerian nation? This is the first time you cannot find an Igboman in any commanding position in politics, military or even official commercial structure of the Nigerian nation. This sad situation is mostly responsible for the popularity enjoyed by separatists in the South-East.
The average South-East youth has surrendered to the reality of our rejection and apparent displacement by the Buhari-led Nigerian government, but it would also require the level of restraint, intellectual comportment, true patriotism and emotional maturity such as exhibited by Obiozor for us not to self-destruct. Those persecuting us would want us to get so angry that we destroy ourselves in trying to vent our anger, but the intellectual richness and emotional comportment of Obiozor has actually done more to advance our interest as a people than any other intervention within this period.
When I told my friends about Obiozor’s visits to the powers that be and his insistence that the Igbo youth must be treated with maximum respect possible, they didn’t believe me. They marvelled when I unearthed evidence of meetings with the Nigerian Army high command, police and the topmost political hierarchy in the country during the military onslaught in the South-East, in their search for ESN operatives and sympathizers. I am aware of the several interventions by Obiozor to quell the tension in the South-East. He didn’t need to take to the press to complain about apparent injustices against South-East youths, especially the complaints about extrajudicial killings and extortion from innocent Igbo in the guise of hunting for the so-called unknown gunmen.
Obiozor doesn’t go with his hat in hand or with his knees on the ground; he went with the right words and the correct reputation. Over many decades of his distinguished career as a diplomat and an academic, the Oru-East-born egghead had mustered an enviable amount of knowledge and contact that very few Igbo alive would have fit so perfectly as the leader of the Igbo nation at this not-very-auspicious time in our history. With him, Ndigbo are left with a man who is nether impulsive nor intimidated. He goes to speak for Ndigbo where it matters and comes out with with good results.
At that stage in our discussion, my friends had begun to wonder what our politicians, especially those in the opposition, have been able to achieve with their apparent but tacit support for those clamouring for the independence of Biafra and encouraging all sorts of violence against Ndigbo and destruction in Igboland and I told them that the average politician is only interested in the actions and utterances that are gainful to his or her political interests, but Obiozor is more or less a statesman who is more interested in the advancement and peace of Ndigbo than how his position on trending issues would impact on his future or current political ambitions.
The Ohanaeze president is an advocate of political action for changing unwholesome situations, rather than a resort to illegal and violent means. Like Nelson Mandela, he believes that, “We can win an election, but we can’t win a war.
Wars are never won, but elections can be won.
Nigeria is structured in such a way that no section of the country can continually impose its will on another section without at least conspiring with other sections of the country. The current Ohanaeze leadership, by not closing its doors on other sections of the country, is opening rooms for beneficial political and economic collaborations that would at the end of the day be to the advantage of Ndigbo.
I argued that Obiozor’s preference for diplomacy and wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders across different classes and ethnic nationalities as against violence of confrontation is commendable and has yielded more positive results in a very short period than the combative methods adopted some others who may be equally passionate about Ndigbo’s political emancipation.
At the end of our very fruitful interaction, I think I succeeded in convincing my friends to take advantage of the continuous voter registration and register to vote in the upcoming election. I told them to vote against those who do not believe in the equitable distribution of our commonwealth and the longstanding rule of equitable sharing of political power. We agreed that we could do a lot more with our votes than with any amount of bullets or missiles. If we think that we have the capacity to stop the military or the police from parading our roads, maybe because we have Odeshi, why can’t we use the same powers to stop the military from rigging elections or INEC officials from denying the people the right to choose their leaders from different levels?