Incongruencies in modern Igbo politics

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The Crisis:

Today the Igbo are at crossroads, culturally, economically, and politically. The immediate cause of this state of affairs is attributable to the war. The reason for the slow rise of the Igbo to transcend his economic and historical handicap must be located in some of his dominant traits.

Three main factors account for the present political and economic dilemma of Ndiigbo today.

1. The abolition of Regions and the introduction of the state structure during and after the war, which removed the oil producing areas from Igbo control.

2. The indigenization policy of 1977 immediately following the end of the war when the Igbo had no money and therefore found it impossible to participate in the program.

3. The Igbo propensity for self-destruct.

 

The war exposed the contradictions in Biafra in particular and Igbo land in general. First, our so-called minority neighbors used the opportunity offered by the war to further betray the political and economic aspirations of Ndiigbo under the aegis of Biafra. Evidence abound that without their collaboration with the Federal army, the outcome of the war would have been different. Secondly, the Igbo penchant for intra-group feud weakened Igbo resolve to prosecute the war single-mindedly. These factors, which led to the demise of the short-lived Biafran Republic, are still at play as they have been carried over to the political arena and have continued to hurt Ndiigbo, as was the case in the Second, the Third and in even the Fourth Republics. Efforts by both the newly organized Council of Eastern States led by the elderly and amiable Mathew Mbu and the still to be reorganized Ohanaeze Ndiigbo to address these issues have not yielded the desired dividends.

Today the Igbo are the victims of all forms of state terrorism, marginalization, and dehumanization. They are the ones to be easily removed from office without apologies; they are the ones whose promotions in the civil service are delayed or totally ignored; they are the ones whose goods are stolen or destroyed during sometimes contrived religious riots or inter or intra- ethnic feuds. They are the ones whose properties are labeled “abandoned” in their own country. They are the ones whose roads — state and interstate — have graduated from death traps to graveyards. The Igbo youth, his profession notwithstanding, is at the crossroads; and, unless something urgent is done, he may be lost to the Igbo nation.

The Igbo are therefore constantly under severe threat in a country they contributed perhaps more than any other ethnic group to build. It is an irony that they are no longer at ease in the Federation because their acts have been made to fall apart.

To move out of this quagmire, the Igbo need to retool their strategies and reconsider their options. The Igbo need cohesion in organization and in leadership. That there is a crisis of leadership in Igboland is no longer in doubt. The underpinning of that crisis is monetary and attitudinal.

There is a monetary warfare going on presently in Igbo land. It is a class struggle as it is not directed towards the upliftment of or the welfare of the common man. It is a war being waged by the elites for their own interest. It is not a contest of vision, issues, performance, or even competence. The power to spend billions of naira in order to remain in power or in order to remove an incumbent from office cannot equate to a guarantee that the citizens’ rights and interests will ultimately hold sway in the new dispensation. Before public interest is brought to the fore, the spender must have ensured that the money he spent would be recouped with interest. We must therefore be very wary of our soi-disant liberators and those presently said to be serving us.

There is also a belief that the failure by many state governments in the South East to perform is linked to the pressure being exerted on them by those who financed their elections or by those who determine their political future. The ability of such governments to initiate and sustain people-oriented programs is greatly curtailed by the demands of predatory corporate or individual interests. This situation can only exacerbate social dysfunction and further stall development. The point being made is that Igbo land must be the launch pad for Igbo economic recovery and self-esteem. We cannot have war at home and hope to have peace abroad. The Igbo say that A na-esi n’ulo a di mma were puwa n’ama. Charity begins at home.

Political monetarism is unfavorable to fiscal accountability and transparency. It builds systemic instability and is anti-people. Few individuals may gain from it, but the society at large is the eventual loser. We must address these issues if we must move forward. We must bring to end the unnecessary contentious and chaotic rivalry among the political and business class in Igbo land. There is need for a political consensus to move ahead. That consensus will be located in the Igbo spirit and philosophy of Egbe bere, ugo bere based on tolerance and accommodation.

Retooling Igbo strategy for economic recovery and political ascendancy involves soul searching and rediscovery. It means asking ourselves some hard questions about our relationship with fellow Igbo and with our culture.

I did speak of the Igbo predilection to self-destruct. It has been a feature of Igbo politics ever since the days of the Rt Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. There was the celebrated case of the sit-tight ministers of Igbo origin who had refused to resign their ministerial and parliamentary seats in order to allow a restructuring of Eastern Nigerian politics to enable Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to assume his rightful position as the head of Government business in Eastern Nigeria. When a similar situation arose in the Western Region the Yoruba closed rank and ensured that Chief Awolowo became the Premier of Western Region, at the expense of Dr Azikiwe whose party, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon — the NCNC — had won the election.

During Zik’s political career many attempts were made to assassinate him by some of his Igbo associates. I can still remember vividly of attempts to eliminate him at Aba and at Onitsha. The efforts failed but they are all indicative of the asymmetric factor in Igbo political culture. This factor, as I have already mentioned earlier, manifested its ugly head during the Nigerian-Biafran uncivil war. Ojukwu, Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, and even Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe could not agree on how the war should be prosecuted. This led to the unwholesome phenomena of sabotage, suspicion, fear, detention without trial, and defection to the opponent’s side. Zik’s defection to the Federal side’ weakened the resolve of many people to continue with the war effort and whittled down the support of those who had recognized Biafra as a sovereign country.

I have already alluded to the carrying over of this syndrome of asymmetrical and incongruent relationship in our culture to the political arena. It manifested itself in the relationship between Dr Alex Ekwueme and Jim Nwobodo in the Second Republic and led to the breakup of the accord between the NPP (the Nigeria Peoples Party) and the NPN (the National Party of Nigeria).

The NPP was a dominant Igbo party under the leadership of the Rt Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. lt controlled what is today the South East Zone of Nigeria and the former Plateau State and entered into a working relationship with the NPN under the leadership of Alhaji Shehu Shagari at the center. The idea was to help consolidate our fledgling democracy after 13 years of military rule and to build a coalition through which power could be transferred to Ndiigbo via the route of Igbo presidency in 1987. I was a product of that accord as Minister of Education and can attest to the beneficial effect of that relationship to the Igbo.

In the Fourth Republic there is a whole lot of incongruent and unwholesome relationships between our political torchbearers at all levels. Our ability to self-destruct and self-immolate assumed a horrendous proportion and seems to have become a defining feature of the nascent Igbo political culture. The examples are legion, as the bug of ambivalence attacked almost all our senators in the search for an Igbo Senate President. Enwerem, Okadigbo, Anyim, Nwobodo, Nzeribe, Ike Nwachukwu, all were involved in varying degrees in the macabre dance that ensued. Some other Igbo senators played the role of cheerleaders in the destructive exercise. Okadigbo and Enwerem were the immediate casualties, but the image of the Igbo race was soiled in the bargain. It reminds me of the saying that even if you win a rat race you are still a rat.

At the state level the same antiphonic relationship has been at play. When it is not Nnamani and Jim, it is Anyim and Egwu or Mbadinuju and Emeka Offor, or still Orji Uzor Kalu and Ojo Maduekwe, et al. Yet a little circumspection, a little display of the spirit of give and take here and there, a little regard for the image of Ndiigbo, a consensus of some form, would have spared Ndiigbo the current spectacle of shame and the derision of our compatriots who see us as a people who cannot put their home in order. A symphony of talents, a congruence of ideas and abilities, would extirpate political collusions and enhance political consensus for our common good. It will enable us to channel our abundant energies into more creative enterprises and solutions. It would help us to syndicate and synchronize (Okadigbo). The “carrot and stick” principle will always be at work, but that is not a good enough excuse for ethnic infidelity.

 

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