By Acho Orabuchi Wednesday February 28, 2012
Is the exit of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu the end of the road for the South-East to present President in 2015? That was precisely the question I was asked recently. The question immediately reminded me of Ojukwu’s remark: “… Fifty years after Nigeria’s independence, no Igbo person has been Chief Executive of democratic Nigeria project. Today Ndigbo ask boldly; wherein is the equality if Ndigbo will not be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under this constitution?”
Where is the equality?
The poser is for every tribe, but more importantly, it serves as a reason for Ndi-Igbo to continue a diligent agitation for their rights. In fact, the question aptly captures the sentiments of those who believe in the ideal and concept of Ojukwu—equality and flaxen treatment of all tribes. Thus, the president of Nigeria of Igbo ethnic extraction is a common goal of Ndi-Igbo which is emblematic of the parity sought by Ndi-Igbo under the cloak of Ojukwu. Also, it should be a reassurance in reestablishing inherent parity in the original political tripod in Nigeria. Thus, the Igbo presidency must be accomplished with or without Ojukwu. The quest and zeal to solve Igbo’s collective problems will not die with Ojukwu. His spirit would abhor any attitude of defeatism among Ndi-Igbo. Any attempt for this generation to lose focus on the entrenched goal will be detrimental to the future generation. Therefore, no Igbo person should be satisfied until Igbo presidency, a common goal of Ndi-Igbo, which has eluded the tribe due to insensitive attitude of some power brokers in the country, is achieved. Ndi-Igbo, the most detribalized group in the nation, have for too long been relegated to the sideline in the Nigerian body polity. Despite the unfair treatment of the group, Ndi-Igbo continue to work to sustain unity in Nigeria. They fought for Nigerian unity under the leadership of Ojukwu focusing on parity as a veritable instrument to nourish a sustainable democratic culture in the nation.
Unfortunately, it is during Ojukwu’s death that people began to agree with his position, especially the Aburi Accord; they now agree with what Ojukwu stood for. Ikemba was a catalyst that united Nigeria with his steadfast actions. Agreeing with what he stood for in principle should be an indication of the willingness of other ethnic groups to work to accomplish the concept of Nigerian president of Igbo ethnic extraction. Southeast is replete with quality leaders. In regard to the leadership crop for the 2015 presidency, Ndi-Igbo have plenty of leaders who are capable of being the president of Nigeria. The pool of democratic individuals in the Southeast geopolitical zone, including Igbo groups from other states, is deeper than any other zone.
Some former governors are capable and they have learned tremendous lessons in office that transformed them into stronger leaders. Thus, Achike Udenwa, Orji Uzor Kalu, and Ikedi Ohakim will be credible candidates because they can reflect on their past stewardship and correct certain missteps in their past.
That said, Igbo presidency cannot be achieved in the absence of pragmatism, hard work, and cooperation with other ethnic groups. The concept should involve a meticulous and rigorous planning devoid of selfishness and venal interests. It must be a collective effort of Nigerians for what is good for Ndi-Igbo is good for Nigeria. The tactics should not involve bullying other groups around with unrealistic demands. Rather, it should involve tough negotiations with other groups. It will be the collective responsibility of Ndi-Igbo to package and sell the concept to other groups. Obviously, bad packaging will militate against achieving the goal. It is important to realize that Ndi-Igbo cannot argue that they are the putative tribe to produce presidency if they only have an esoteric objective. Once the concept is packaged properly, it is my opinion that the vehicle to accomplish the objective will be People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It is only the viable platform for Ndi-Igbo at this time.
Again, the job of achieving Igbo’s collective goal will not be painless considering the repulsive statements against the Igbo attributed to some Northern leaders on the floor of the Northern House of Assembly in 1964, which were allegedly presented by Ojukwu at the OAU Special Session, Addis Ababa in August 05, 1968:
“On the allocations of plots to Ibos, or allocation of stalls I would like to advise the minister that these people know how to make money and we do not know the way and manner of getting about this business. We do not want Ibos to be allocated with plots; I do not want them to be given plots.”-Mallam Muhammadu Mustapha Maude Gyari
“I would like you, as the Minister of land and Survey, to revoke forthwith all certificates of occupancy from the hands of the Ibos resident in the Region.”-Mallam Bashari Umaru
“I am very glad that we are in Moslem country (sic), and the government of Northern Nigeria allowed some few Christians in the region, to enjoy themselves according to the belief of their religion, but building of hotels should be taken away from the Ibos and even if we find some Christians who are interested in building hotels and have no money to do so, the government should aid them, instead of allowing Ibos to continue with the hotels.”-Mr. A. A. Agigede
“I am one of the strong believers in Nigerian unity, and I have hoped for our having a United Nigeria, but certainly if the present trend of affairs continues, then I hope the government will investigate first the desirability and secondly the possibility of extending the Northernization policy to the petty Ibo traders.”-Prof. Iya Abubakar
“I would like to say something very important that the Minister should take my appeal to the federal government about the Ibos in the Post Office. I wish the members of these Ibos be reduced. There are too many of them in the North. They were just like sardines and I think they were just too dangerous to the region.”-Mallam Mukhtar Bello
“Mr. Chairman, Sir, well, first and foremost, what I have to say before this honorable House is that we should send a delegate to meet our honorable Premier to move a Motion in this very Budget Session that all the Ibos working in the Civil Service of Northern Nigeria, including the native authorities, whether they are contractors, or not, should be repatriated at once.”-Mallam Ibrahim Muse
“There should be no contracts either from the government, native authorities, or private enterprises given to Ibo contractors. [Government Bench: Good talk and shouts of “Fire the Southerners.”] Again Mr. Chairman, the foreign firms too should be given time limit to replace all Ibos in their firms by some other people.”-Mallam Bashari Umaru
“It is my most earnest desire that every post in the region, however small it is, be filled by a Northerner.”-The Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sarduana of Sokoto.
“What brought the Ibos into this region? They were here since the colonial days. Had it not been for the colonial rule, there would hardly have been any Ibo in this region. Now that there is no colonial rule the Ibos should go back to their region. There should be no hesitation about this matter. Mr. Chairman, North is for Northerners, east for the easterners, West for the Westerners, and the Federation is for all. North is for Northerners, east for the easterners, West for the Westerners, and the Federation is for all.”-Alhaji Usman Liman
“Mr. Chairman, Sir, I do not like to take up much of the time of this House in making explanations, but I would like to assure members that having heard their demands about Ibos holding land in Northern Nigeria, my ministry will do all it can to see that the demands of members are met. How to do this, when to do it, all this should not be disclosed. In due course, you will all see what will happen.”-Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Cashash, Minister of Land and Survey.
The past and present perception of the North of the Igbo reduced General Yakubu Gowon’s offer of the three “R’s”: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation at the end of the civil war to a myth. So, despite the repugnant utterances above, the relentless agitation continues!
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