IGBO Presidency and Igbo Question within the Nigerian Framework: Matters arising

by Ritchie Ejiofor

          The Nigeria political landscape is undergoing the farming season since the last electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari over Atiku, now we are once again in the harvest season and characteristically with all harvest, there will be the harvesting of new types of crops, some were planted few years ago, while others are just about now sprouting and ready to be harvested. The battle lines is drawn between the APC, who now controls the power at the Federal executive levels as well as the control of the of National Assembly, which is translatable in Nigeria parlance as having a sort of quasi-control over the judiciary because of the overriding influence of the Appellate and Supreme Court hierarchical control over matters outside of the purview of the State judicial exclusive control and the PDP, who are tirelessly working to rebrand from opposition to controlling party or the last option, we may see a coalition of new party as a viable option.

         These last few years produced several notable distractions, if you would in the political landscape of the country. Nigeria/Nigerians have this penchant for quick fix or reactionary solutions to their problems or a resort to loopholes as the case may be. None of the issues which have threatened the national security or cohesion of this country is novel, they always existed and everyone knows or has a solution depending on the persons geo-political location and ideology with religious affiliation playing background roles in molding the political ideology that drives the division or in support of cohesion.

         There has been a plethora of well researched and documentary evidence highlighting the core issues that drive the centrifugal and centripetal forces in our country which accounts for the imbalances in our drive for a united federation. One of such treatise was written by Emeritus Prof. Ade Ajayi which was aptly surmised as the “ NIGERIAN NATIONAL QUESTION” and that led to several discussions at the time and is still relevant today as it was then. While Prof Ade Ajayi included any and everything that lead to the feeling of an unjust control within the ambit of the unanswered National Question, several writers and political leaders including myself have re-echoed this unaddressed national question issues and as a matter of fact traced how it slowly permeated into our political structure to today.

        A brief synopsis  here without over laboring what most people know suffices. The Biafra succession and renewed agitation is an indication that the National question remains unanswered and unless it is discussed and resolved, all the attempt to create a sustaining entity called Nigeria would be mired in an gyration in fallacy. Flash back after the civil war which was over half a century ago, there has not been a conscious effort to rebuild and fully integrate a just federation. As a country we seem to love the use of the terminology “ Federal Republic” without asking ourselves who and what we are federating? . Some writers have posited that the military incursion was deliberate to promote the agenda of a certain ethnic nationalities and entrench them firmly through the instrument of force and the law such that it may be virtually impossible to change the status-quo.

       Within the national question is embedded the issue of revenue allocation and sharing. The current system is skewed in such a way that the President of the country decides who gets what and what section or individuals are allocated what from the national resources. If we all remember it was Prof Ambrose Alli of the former Bendel State who set the ball rolling by challenging why a state like Kano would receive more national resources sharing and allocation from oil than Bendel State who produces the Oil itself and gets little or  no benefits from its own resources. The state had argued for a derivation formula in the sharing of the natural resources whereby the states where such resources are endowed get to keep their resources and only contribute  quota to the federal on a 60-40 basis or less but with the state having the majority share. This failure to implement this derivation revenue formula is the crux of the revenue allocation and sharing issue in the National question and it is why the Niger Delta and oil producing areas are constantly agitating because they argue the hen that lays the golden eggs is left out  disadvantageously when its resources are shared.

           The agitation by the South East may have become conflated by negative perception of the activities of the IPOB by the media controlled by the Federal government or by other competing interest of  ethnic nationalities who for over a century were misinformed by deliberate propaganda that the Igbos of the South East are overly ambitious and seeking to dominate and marginalize their South-Eastern neighbors and by extension, all of Nigeria in their unbridled match for power control. But the stark reality is that the agitation for Biafra whether by IPOB idolized MNK or by other Pro Biafra groups, the chief issue is centered on the resolution of the National question which is in addition to the revenue allocation and sharing, is “CITIZENSHIP” and the “IGBO QUESTION”.

            Before his death, late Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu re echoed the need for Nigeria to address the citizen question. This question seeks to identify who is a Nigeria, and what is Nigeria and how does Nigeria protect and guarantee its citizens equal protection of the law, opportunities and resources. The Igbos and by extension the Igbo question is deeply embedded in the Citizens questions. The igbos by statistical data have lost more than any ethnic groups, by incidents of organized or state sponsored murders/Killing and arson, deliberate religious killings either in the North or in the West and the Igbos are perhaps the only Ethnic nationalities today in Nigeria that walk on egg shell in any part of the country without reassuring protection of the law or, from the communities they lawfull reside. This citizen question and issue raises the conundrum for the following issues. It is done to skillfully eliminate the Igbos for admission into federal schools or schools in the states where they contribute to the economy through taxes etc?. It also highlights the subtle discrimination of the Igbos in employment at the federal levels or in the armed forces or police and this is achieved through the use of the famous question; State of Origin(Admission, employment etc).

         With 2023 around the corner, the political techno-crats have started dangling the carrot and caveat to the south East politicians for a possibility of an Igbo President. The issue now is will an Igbo President solve the intractable Igbo question or assuage the Igbos that they are protected and guaranteed same within the federation? While a few months ago, MNK under the IPOB created doubts in the minds of the reactionary Igbo political job hustlers, now that he is incarcerated and fighting alone for his dear life, the projected pattern of life as usual is at play among the Igbos again. The same group that fought for the “sit at home” compliance in the South east and believers that the UNKNOWN GUNMEN  were a  Fulani/federal government sponsored terror against the East in an effort to enslave the igbos; have now started singing a new song as soon as Prof Soludo won the Anambra State gubernatorial election and with  Sen Orji Kalu declaring his interest to contest for Presidency.  The mood appears that one of the political parties is zoning their presidential slot to the South, it thus appears that the Igbo politicians and erstwhile agitations have suddenly begun the macabre step . The paradigm has shifted from whatever it was before now to finding a suitable Igbo presidential candidate come 2023. Those who had agitated for the nebulous concept of restructuring are now consumed in the cacophony of the prospect of Igbo presidency. The question with no definite answer is how does this new found interest address the Igbo Question within the larger Nigerian state? . 

             There is an interesting conspiracy theory that  sees the recent award of civil punitive action against the Federal government by an Abia High Court as one of the well orchestrated and planned prelude to the outcome of MNK release, incarceration or outcome of his current trial and agitation by IPOB. The proponent of this theory alleged that part of the deal would be  the new sing-song of the IPOB  to soft pedal on their militant stance and adopt a peace approach to resolution of the IGBO QUESTION/AGITATION, also the release of MNK would be premised on his denouncing any or all of his previous threat and adopting of peaceful resolution which was viewed  as an utopian concept by the IPOB in the past.  Secondly, these conspiracy posit that to provide a safe haven and face saving, the Presidency would be zoned to the South Eastern Igbo speaking ethnic national. To safeguard control and create a deep divide within the Igbo nation solidarity, the ruling party would nominate an Igbo candidate more preferably from the non-core 5 Igbo dominated States, these would open up the option to Igbos from Rivers , Edo or Delta Igbo dialectical speaking groups and the indices points more favorably to CRK as the best candidate positioned to be accepted by the larger Nigerian society, partly because the Core Igbos have become demonized as pro-Biafra or separatist, making them not too favorably disposed to other Nigerians. With all these calculations going on, there is the predictable chance that the IPOB led agitation and popularity would wither away and its influence would be eroded and perceived  as a bunch of power hungry and selfish agitators which would pitch Igbo dialectic minorities against the majority core Igbos in the mainland, assuming the core Igbos expresses opposition to the nomination of minority Igbo dialectic as presidential candidate to represent choice of Igbo president. This intricate cobweb  is just the beginning of the kongi harvest dance its going to be a long night of watching all these play out.


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