Igbo: A People In Search Of A Leader: Further Commentary

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

The bulk of this essay was first published in the summer of 2004. However, after reading Mr. E Ejike Anyaduba’s exposition, “Igbo: A People In Search Of A Leader,” (Daily Independent, Thursday May 15, 2008), I thought I revisit a subject that has confounded me for several years. Although Anyaduba’s essay has an historical undertone, his starting point was the failed abduction of a sitting governor, Dr. Chris Ngige. The writer went on to chronicle some of the “anomalous situations” and the “comical nonsensical act” that has come to characterize the Ndiigbo. He went on to take a swipe at the “avalanche of political jobbers who masquerade as Igbo leaders.” Either way one looks at it, Anyaduba is correct, but he did not tell the whole story.

Some observers of the post-1983 Nigerian political scene have come to the conclusion that the Igbo are their own worst enemy. Indeed, one cannot but be perplexed at the miscalculations and self-immolating tendency of the Igbo elite. A once proud people, a once proud nation has allowed itself to be the ball to be dribbled every which way. I wonder: what are the average Igbo farmers, housewives, teachers, traders and miners saying about the disruptive behavior and rascality of their current political leaders. Beginning in the 1930s through the 1970s, the Who-Is-Who of Ndiigbo were men at the top of their class. When they spoke even the heavens listened. The reverse is the case today. The mighty is falling, the light is dimming.

As someone who grew up in all the four regions of the country — and having been a witness to the brilliance of the Igbo Nation — I never knew a day would come when they essentially would give their opponents the tool with which to curtain and weaken their significance in the Nigerian enterprise. It is hard for me to imagine Nigeria without the Igbo. It is even harder to imagine what the Ndiigbo have allowed their elites to do to them. What happened to the Igbo? Well, I am not capable of such critical analysis. I leave that to people like Okey Ndibe, Peter Claver Oparah, Levi Obijiofor, Moses Ebe Ochonu, Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo, and Ozodi Thomas Osuji. They can tell us why the Igbo, collectively, are where they are today. It is not pretty. I guess that is one of the facts Ejike Anyaduba was getting at.

The Igbo nation had attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of; and are what most other nations were not. The Igbo made Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation, and Nigeria will be gasping for air. How did a people this intelligent, this savvy, and this contributive got shut out of the corridor of federal power and continually being deprived the chance to attain the highest seat of Nigeria’s political power?

I begin by summarizing some of the reasons (I have been given) as to why a Nigerian of Igbo lineage have yet to be elected the executive president of Nigeria: (1) that the Igbo seem to be suffering from Germanic Complex; (2) that they easily succumb to the Hausa-Fulan/Yoruba politics of divide-and-conquer; (3) that they are ferociously independent and so do not want to follow the command of a single leader; (4) that the persistent political infightings and betrayal amongst the Igbo elite and centers of power has been a hindrance to their goals; and (5) that the Igbo are content with dominating the economic arena and have therefore given up all hope and struggle for political power.

There are no empirical evidences to support all of the aforementioned reasons; and even most of the anecdotal evidences, as presented to me, are weak. The exception is reason number four: the infighting amongst Igbo elites and between centers of power, plus the psychological issue. This psychological factor has two related components: mistrust of the Igbo by other ethnic groups, and the unspoken determination of the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani to deprive the Igbo of their rightful place in the Nigerian polity. In other words: the North and the West have a deep-seated mistrust of the Igbo and so are hell bent on restricting, containing, and denying the Igbo their political right. Added to this is their subtle message to other minority groups: the Igbo, as a group, are not to be trusted!

The West doesn’t think much of the North and the North has contempt for the West; yet, both regions have found a way to engage in “political prostitution” to the detriment of the Igbo. This unholy alliance has its root in the 1966/67-1970 Nigerian Conflict. Essentially, the North and the West have not rid themselves of their prejudices and hatred of the Igbo. They have been using their jaundiced perception and misreading of history to thwart the Igbo presidential aspiration. It is this psychological rut, in addition to the infighting and unnecessary wrangling between Igbo power centers that adequately accounts for why the Igbo have been denied the presidency.

It doesn’t help that the Igbo have all these centers of competing powers that seems to be doing Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Minna’s bidding. And yes, it is admirable that the Igbo are building what may someday rival the successes of Taiwan and South Korea. But that is not enough! It won’t be enough! It also doesn’t help when they cut proven leaders like the great Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and many others all in the name of politics. How many Northerners are sticking knives, pins and arrow into Abacha and Babangida? Both men are not even in the same class as the Ikemba Nnewi — one of the rarest of all men — yet, some Igbo take pride in dressing him down!

At the individual level, some Hausa-Fulani have great relationship with some Igbo. Same can also be said of Yoruba elites with fruitful relationship with some Igbo. But that is not enough. These friendships and relationships should be extended to the presidential arena. The Igbo have made significant and measurable contribution to every community they have settled in. And Nigeria became what it was because of the Igbo. The Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba have been at the helm of Nigeria’s national affairs and the result has been dismal. It is time the Igbo take control and command of Aso Rock.

This article is not suggesting that the colluding groups covertly met and agreed to stop an Igbo from become Nigeria’s President. This scheme is borne out of an unspoken accord, an unconscious collusion, if you will. Nigeria cannot be greater than what it is if the Igbo are excluded from the Presidency. It is injurious to continuously point — consciously or unconsciously — to the unfortunate events of 1966/67-1970. Come to think of it: the Igbo suffered the most and are owed a world of apology.

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Prince Kennedy Iyoha May 20, 2008 - 5:46 pm

Mr Sabella Ogbobode.

This is an interesting issue you have just raised. The Ibo tribe is not known to having a leader, and when you look back into history, you will find out that the Ibo nation was ruled by a group of people, elected through a process that is not properly democratic but similar. While minority nations like the Edo, etc, had a formidable autocratic leadership structure before the coming of Europeans into Africa, that is probably why the Europeans find it very easy to uproot their cultural tradition before other areas of the country.

The Ibo man is also very greedy. There is this concept in Nigeria, that an Ibo man, is capable to selling his mother, if need be, to gain prominence. You mentioned in your article, that the other major ethnic group in Nigeria does not trust the Ibo man, because of the unfortunate incident in our history. I don’t think so Mr. Sabela.

The Ibo man, in his cuest to dominate the political scenario of the country, preferred to allied itself with the Hausa Fulani’s, to its detriment. Let’s not forget also, that the Ibo nation has produced one of the finest politicians and great cultural leaders in our history. Like the Ibo nation, other groups also have produced great leaders.

I personally believe that for the Ibo nation to gain the confidence of the Nation, they most come to the realization that the unfortunate civil conflict we had in our history has long ended, and try to put her house together. As long as many Ibo’s still talk about Biafra, it is going to be practically impossible for her to concentrate on the issue that really matters to them as a people, and to Nigeria, as an entity.

I am more than convinced, that the Nigeria nation, will benefit from an Ibo leader, if the Ibo people, stop to talk about the War, as if it has not ended. It is true, that they suffered most during the war, but we most not forget that they drew the first blood. Before the unfortunate incident, the Ibo people were the only group that can be find virtually in all parts and corner of this country, contributing there quota, to the growth of the economy of the nation. They were leader’s en all the federal project everywhere in this country. Mind you, they commanded a lot of respect among other ethnic groups, before that unfortunate day. Even after the disaster, an Ibo man had the opportunity to repair the wrong that was done, but because of his mistrust for the Yoruba ethnic group, he preferred Gowan who was a lieutenant to Ademolagun who was a brigadier general, to be his chief of staff. Let me ask a question: why did Ojukwu not object to this election, why did he not inform Ironsi, that his choice of Gowan as chief of staff was wrong, if he had done that, maybe he probable would have save Nigeria of the three years of bloodbath. He only chooses to object when it was natural that the chief of staff was to succeed the commander in chief. If Ojukwe had objected to the election of Ironsi, he probable would have saved the life of the commander in chief, thereby saving our dear country from the harrow of war.

In conclusion, I believe the Ibo nation should come to the realization that the nightmare has ended, and she should embark on a trust building mission across the country, and try to put her house in order, for the benefit of the nation

Anamege May 19, 2008 - 6:21 pm

Well said, Sabella. In any case, the Igbos are guilty of self-immolation judging from what we have done to ourselves. We have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity at any given time or opportunity. How in the world can any tribe or group respect the Igbos when we fight each other all the time – for personal gains by the way. Look at what happened to the leadership of the Ohaneze Ndigbo. Have we also forgotten how we cut each other down to feed off of the PDP leadership crumb called Chairmanship post. How about the 3rd Term where just about all the so-called leaders sold their right and their people when the North and even the West who had not much to gain from losing the presidency to another group fought to save democracy while the Igbos chose the alternative. And how about the fight for succession of Obasanjo where we produced almost same number of presidential candidates as the rest of the country combined instead of coallesing around an individual. Let us not forget the fight for the creation of additional state in South East where we fought each other bloody in the end for no apparent result. Today, I am reading about the resumption of this same fight – with some self-proclaimed Igbo leaders of Imo extraction already gearing up to prevent the creation of Njaba State lest they lose the status of “oil producing state” and instead of trying to get 2 states to balance out regional distribution of states . Please leave the Hausas and Yorubas out of it. The Igbos are the architects of their own misfortune. What we as a people have are people after their own selfish interests masqurading as leaders. Ojukwu is in the class of Zik, Okpara and Mbakwe and none of the current crop of “leaders” can raise a finger at him.

akboy May 18, 2008 - 9:08 pm

Very objective. More ink to your pen Sabella.


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