Igbo Presidency for Who?

by John Iteshi

There are very few honest people in Nigeria who would dispute the justness of the clamour for Igbo presidency. Since the distribution of resources, social rewards and even justice in Nigeria is determined largely by the personal interests of whoever seats there as the president, it should be a matter of right for Ndi Igbo to insist on taking their turn in the presidency of Nigeria as other major ethnic nationalities have since independence. However, the disastrous state of affairs in Nigeria today demands more of serious thoughts about what we really want as a people than the issue of which ethnic background the president should come from. It is high time we faced some serious issues about the future of our statehood rather than finding cheap compromises just to keep things moving. There may be no argument as to whether it is the turn of the Igbos, but the more serious issue which ought to dominate national political discourses now is whether we want an Igbo president just to have an Igbo man take his own turn of looting the treasury and favouring his kinsmen in juicy contracts/ appointments, dodgy privatisation programmes and the best infrastructural allocations just as the Yorubas are enjoying under Obasanjo and the Hausa/Fulanis have enjoyed many years earlier or do we want an Igbo president because he or she would show Nigeria the way forward?. It may sound just and reasonable, but it would be primitive to believe that the way out in Nigeria is for every ethnic group to take its own turn in looting and plundering the country.

Even if we all accept that it is right to continue rotating the presidency on ethnic basis, the sad truth is that Igbo people are not ready yet. The fundamental issues of lack of cohesion and lack of ‘Igbo understanding’ among the different localities and peoples of Igbo origin mean that Igbo presidency at this stage will only benefit the individual in question and his village which would witness special presidential attention. Enlightened Igbo elders and leaders must not be ashamed to appreciate the fact that despite the excellence of our individuals in various fields of endeavours both at home and abroad, that the Igbos as a group are politically uncivilised. The ordinary Igbo individual irrespective of his level of enlightenment appears not to have developed politically beyond his village or autonomous community and he still carries primitive communal rivalries with him wherever he goes. Primitiveness rather than sheer greediness as Igbo haters prefer to think is the real reason why the average Igbo politician, after wangling his way to power, would cheaply sabotage the interest of his people for trivial personal gains. Unlike politicians from other ethnic nationalities who manifest strong allegiance to their group interests, most Igbo federal politicians are mere individuals who lack any serious allegiance to any Igbo cause and as such could go as far as depriving their fellow Igbo people of equitable shares of resources and rewards even when they are in-charge. A typical example can be seen in the way an Igbo man Senator Evans Enwerem, as senate president shared 45 senate committee chairmanship positions between 36 states plus Abuja and deemed it fair and just that one Igbo state –Ebonyi, despite being 100% Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not eligible to have at least one out of 45 chairmanship positions. This abhorring case cannot be justified under any situation because it is an established fact that no Yoruba or Hausa idiot as Senate president would under-represent his own people no matter the rivalries that exist internally. Some Igbo people would definitely be right in the light of their many unsavoury experiences in the hands of their fellow Igbos to believe that they would be better of under a Hausa or Yoruba president than an Igbo president who does not come from their own village. Enlightened Igbo leaders must therefore seek ways to address some serious internal issues first of all as a way of forging a united Igbo front towards any campaign.

We must also appreciate the fact that the Igbo nation is traditionally made up of loosely organised pockets of chiefdoms which are more antagonistic than co-operative to one another. And to hide under the present fake colonial structures in terms of regions, states and local governments and ignore the fact that all is not well with us would do us no good. Perhaps, there is need to convene an Igbo National Conference for Reconciliation by respectable Igbo elders with the aim of reconciling all Igbo communities or groups (wherever they may be located) and even individuals towards forging a true Igbo national structure that shares a common political ideology. Only then will there be a true Ohaneze Ndi Igbo which truly embraces all Igbo communities.

Igbo people would only begin to show good sense of direction in national politics only when there begins to exist an Igbo political structure based on Igbo ground not floating about Abuja or New York. Then, Ndi Igbo would begin their quest for justice and Equity in the larger Nigeria, from Igbo land. When there becomes a genuine Ohaneze, the question of bad and irresponsible governments in Igbo land will be first addressed by Igbo elders before ranting on newspaper pages about presidency of Nigeria. A genuine Ohaneze will be able to prove to ordinary Igbo people that they are serious about their interests by first of all fighting corruption and official wickedness among state governors and local government chairmen. We all know that if half of the resources accruing to each state in Igbo land could be judiciously spent, that poverty and crime in Igbo land would significantly reduce. The injustices we are complaining at the federal level are exactly replicated at all states and local governments in Nigeria and as such it makes a better sense to start building from the ground. Clamouring for Igbo presidency will not right the wrongs being done everyday amongst different Igbo communities by their Igbo leaders. For example, Governor Sam Egwu has been running Ebonyi State like a personal territory conquered by his fathers for the betterment of his family and his minority Ngbo/Izhia people with the rest of the state as their slaves. The first project embarked upon on election was to build a private home he never could have afforded in his village with a solid new road and street lights where there was no electricity. He has not only favoured his minority people unduly, but has equally attempted to carve out four new local governments out of his small Ohaukwu in his primitive attempt to convert his minority people to a majority. This is clearly worse than any Hausa or Yoruba president has ever done in the wider Nigeria against the rest of the country. It must be understood that the divisions and acrimonies being created among Igbo people by those supposedly elected to govern them pose a graver danger to Igbo survival far more than marginalisation at the federal level.

Of course it is not only the Igbos, but all other ethnic groups in Nigeria that need to begin to build that ideal Nigeria from their respective locations. If only powerful individuals like Chief Ekwueme, Wole Soyinka, Gani and many other prominent Nigerians with great ideas of social change could think it wise to begin from their local governments and then state governments. If only Ohaneze, Afenifere , Arewa and all other similar ethnic associations could decide to forget Abuja for a while and focus on how the huge amounts of funds flowing into their respective states and local governments are being spent, Nigeria would change in no long distance. Of course, one cannot ignore the fact that Nigeria is rotting fast from Abuja, but it makes more sense to win simpler struggles before embarking on the more difficult ones.

Enlightened Nigerians irrespective of ethnicity or whatever backgrounds must unite in debating about how to build a new Nigeria. There is no doubt that every Igbo man would rather there is a new Nigeria where every individual is treated with equality and human dignity and is free to live and work anywhere in the country without fear of some primitive persecutions than have a president merely bearing an Igbo name. The generality of the Igbo nation and the whole country will no doubt benefit better to have a new Nigeria where the federal or state governments and their agencies must obey without delay every court order whether from an Abuja high court or from an Onueke magistrate court. We must understand that the foundation for a successful Nigeria must be laid firmly on an effective judicial system rather than on personality cults. The most worthy project which all ethno-political groupings must pursue is the enshrinement of the rule of law and the principles of freedom and human rights in the polity.

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nuwsoul October 24, 2006 - 1:10 pm

I am appalled at the comments attacking the article about Igbo-presidency for who or whom? Actually comment # 1 infuriates me. Every time I read things about the superiority of the Ibos, they are always the best at everything. They even compare themselves to the American Jews. But mind you, the American Jews are king makers and they control the economy, the banks, etc…

If Ibos or Igbo's are the superior race in Nigeria and the truly democratic race, then it beats the hell out of me how they can truly attain the presidency through a democratic system when they are a minority in the populace.

I know that Nigerian census is not much to talk about, but the Ibos have been broken up or the region that made the Eastern Nigeria has been broken and divided up after the civil war. These can be seen by some of the commentators in this forum that they don't want to be classified as Ibos. I am not sure of the need for abusive comments when people are trying to trace their origin. Abusive comments to force someone to align with you does not show any democratic tendencies. May be they might find something different in their quest.

But it beats the likes of me that Ibos are truly democratic when they have not aligned with other Nigerians to actually seek a democratic nomination. Democracy is a dirty game and it's not won on the theory of being superior but rather on getting support for people to nominate you and vote for you. Or the theory here would be rotational presidency. Then we should rotate the presidency from Fulani's, to Ijebus, to Oyos, Benins, Gambaris, etc…

I am not old enough to know about the actual stance that led to the civil war of 1967, but by just using sense and sensibility, the Ibos are not truly a democratic group of people when they decided to break the county into two or three and take over the soil blessed with black gold. I guess to the victor goes the spoil must have been their democratic philosophy. I am not trying to ignite anything about the civil war, but history is a good predictor of what happens in the future.

The civil war broke out between the Northerners and the Ibos. But the Yorubas are consistently blamed. At least it makes sense for the Yorubas to make a decision that is best for them in that situation, irrespective of some tale of an agreement that the Yorubas failed to keep.

I totally agree with the writer that the Ibos are truly primitive! Search yourself, and see what you have accomplished after the civil war. Again look at what you have accomplished. You accomplished most of them in Yoruba States and you keep putting the Yorubas down as your worst enemy who retards your progressat least I can remember what the Ibos look like after the civil war.

ozor ozordi ozor March 29, 2006 - 6:51 am

I am from orlu LGA in imo state,Nigeria.The truth about Igbo is that only people of a place called Igbo in Anambra state are Igbo.The area called igbo today is a conglomerate of several independent ethnic groups which if you ask your grandfather he will tell you.this is why anytime a new local government area is created there is always a glaring difference in everything including cultural differences with their former brothers.this is being utilised by other homogenous groups to divide the igbo union.i want to use this opportunity to tell all those in igbo nation including some in oil producing areas that have dislinked their affirnity with others because of oil, that" nothing is possible without unity".Trying to unite with Ijaws or Ogonis will never help cause both groups know who are part of the Igbo nation and will never trust them.

Anonymous March 5, 2006 - 9:09 am

The author has raised crucial issues here. Unfortunately there are not many people who care to think about genuine progress and development in our societies.

Dr. P.O Nwaogu February 27, 2006 - 3:29 am

Maiduguri massacre and the Igbo question in Nigeria.

It is 36 years after the end of the civil war and there is no respite for Ndigbo in Nigeria. The recent killings of the ethnic Igbo in Maiduguri (and those other killings before it) put lots of thoughts in my mind. The history of the killings of Ndigbo in Northern Nigeria that dates from the 1950s reveals Igbo hatred by the inhabitants of northern parts of Nigeria. We have tried, since the end of the civil war, to get back into the Nigerian mainstream of society without success. The harder we struggle to forget the pogrom and the war that was visited on us, the harsher we are reminded that Nigeria does not belong to us. How does one explain the recent mindless killings of Ndigbo in Maiduguri except for sheer hatred and intolerance? Two explanations are proffered for the incident- religion and politics. Let us examine the two scenarios and see how our people came to the picture to be targets of attack.

RELIGION: What sparked off the riot and killings of Ndigbo was a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed in a newspaper in far away Denmark. Was the cartoonist an Igbo or are we being told that the Danes are white-Igbo dwelling in far away Denmark? It is difficult for me to fathom. There is evidence of demonstrations in different parts of the globe-Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Lebanon. Iraq, Iran etc. No demonstrators in any of these countries targeted a citizen of that country for destruction; instead anger was directed towards Danish interests and embassies. In Nigeria, Ndigbo have been discredited and only to be slaughtered at will by the northerners. The Maiduguri incident was a manifestation of sheer hatred on one hand and on the other it is the continuation of the pogrom which started in Kano in the 1950s, resumed in the 1960s and perfected during the civil war. The physical and the psychological scars of the war stand as yawning gorges in Igbo land till today. In the year 2006 AD, one wonders why an incident that happened in Europe (thousands of kilometres from Nigeria) should be used as an excuse for unleashing another round of hatred of and mindless killings of Ndigbo. If any bodys analysis does not point, under this circumstance, to hatred of Ndigbo and to a clear signal that that we are not wanted in Nigeria, let him/her marry that opinion.

POLITICS: We learnt from Buharis explanation that the demonstration was political and by extrapolation the killing of Ndigbo was political. That scenario does not make sense. The head of the present federal government is not Igbo but Yoruba. The main actors supporting the third term bid of the President are the Mantus from the north, sizeable numbers of supporters from the south west and a few self serving individuals from the south east. Why did the Moslems not kill northerners and westerners alike? My belief that Ndigbo can be accommodated in Nigeria has suffered a major foundational dent. We have endured humiliation, pogrom and war of extermination and we had thought that after 36 years since the end of the civil war we would be Nigerians, but alas, we are still being told in an unmistakable and despicable way that we are not, by being hounded and destroyed on flimsy excuses by people who say we share the same citizenship with them. This situation cannot be tolerated any longer. It is now known that Ndigbo are longer needed in Nigeria. Any Igbo man or woman who fails to read the handwriting on the wall is in a snoring cocoon. A word is enough for the wise. The hatred and discrimination are as clear as noonday.

Dr. Nwaogu writes from the Department of Educational Foundations, University of Botswana, Gaborone.

Anonymous February 27, 2006 - 3:26 am

The writer must be day dreaming. Which judicial system are you talking about? There is not judicial system in personality worship that are common in Oligarchy. The author in comment# 1 is almost right in analysing the situation, but as a diluted young Igbo man only his second or third reincarnate will see the Nigeria he is hoping for, if ever there will be a country called Nigeria then with all the present ethnic mix.

Ignorance and little education is the altimate cause of the killings in the North of the Igbos by their fellow citizens for the cartoon that occured thousands of miles away from Nigeria. And this is the people that the Igbos live with. They are animals

Prince Kennedy Iyoha February 25, 2006 - 11:07 am

The concept of the entity Nigeria was wrong to very many schools of thought. At the time we did not know one another, we lived in piece and not pieces like many will want it to be today.

It is also correct that the north were not prepared for independence in the 50s and 60s. Many school explained that it was due to the indirect system of government she enjoyed during the occupation of Nigeria by the British forces, after the famous Benin massacre.

All contributors will agree that the Ibo had a natural system of governance similar to what is know today as democracy, the Ijaws too and many minority, unless the Edo people that had a formidable pyramided structure of government that has survived a thousand years. The kingdom stretched from the Atlantic in the south, through the western states, across the boarder of Nigeria to Ghana in the west, and Mali to the north. It was a formidable empire. No wonder on arrival of the British, they used the word CITY when describing what they have seen. Before then, their opinion of the people of the sub-Saharan Africa was, UNCIVILIZED PEOPLE.

In 1960, the Ibo tribe had consolidated both the economic, social and political positions in Nigeria due to the fact that many, if not all of the Ibo tribesmen, were christens. This singular attitude earned them the trust of both the colonial masters, and particularly the missionaries. It was to them, a cultural victory. The administrators of the north also had faith on the northern people, and made comparesion of both the east and north, on abandoning power in 1960, they left the north with the political power, the west with military power,and the east with both the socio-economical power.

In the first republic, the west was busy destroying herself with her internal political struggle, but the Ibo tribe was not satisfied with her position in the new order. some young military officers from the east lunched a coup. Killing almost every other tribe in political positions and spearing her own. The north retaliated so she lost all that she had consolidated with the help of the missionaries.

The Biafra republic was declared but failed woefully.

The concept of Nigeria today, should be what we want it to be. A republic of 36 states. Its political process should therefore be based on partisan politic and not tribal politic. We should defend ideology

Not tribe.

Nnnena February 23, 2006 - 4:20 pm


How insidious your reasoning is. Why insult me, my origin and our Yoruba brothers to make your muted point? Is there a need to insult? Did you give me the name? How do you know the spelling is wrong? Because it isn't the traditional Nnena or Nnenna makes me non-Ijaw? Sometimes, the web brings out the foolishness in people.

Anonymous February 23, 2006 - 7:19 am

igbo must bee the predence.



Anonymous February 22, 2006 - 5:37 pm

Nnnena in comment 6, stop parading as an Ijaw. You can not even spell the name correctly. Show your Yorubaness, and stop the stupidness in trying to incite confusion.


Nnnena February 22, 2006 - 4:13 pm

Comment # 3 is true. The Igbos keep seeking division rather than togetherness. If they wish to separate, that's fine as long as they do not dream of adding the Delta or Ijaw regions. We are not Igbos and do not plan to join the Biafra craziness.

Obinna Egwebele February 22, 2006 - 3:24 pm

Why are you hiding behind unknown in comment number 3. You should be man enough to have your name in print. All you yorubas got going for you is your mouth,and how to squander in your endless consumption. Left alone, the only food you will eat is from imports.


Aba, Nigeria

Anonymous February 21, 2006 - 3:43 pm

Unknown in comment 3, you are out of point. If I was your teacher, I will score you zero. You strayed out of the issue of discussion. What do you think the Odua People and Afenifere groups are doing. The film industry is a private sector. People involved in the film industry are are dipping their hands in the government/public coffers. Very soon, you will blame Aba shoe maker for keeping you off the shoe industry, or the Zimbabwe firmers in Nigeria for keeping you out off the agricultural/firming industry. Get real.

Emmanuel Amachi, Esq.

Aba, Nigeria

Anonymous February 21, 2006 - 9:11 am

I am probably one of very few who believe in 'One Nigeria' but the constant migraine of Igbo people assuming that Nigerian politics should be based on ethnicity is very alarming. I watch as Igbo people constantly divide themselves from Nigeria calling for a Biafra world. Needless to mention threads on this same forum about Igbo's been betrayed by Yorubas. The question is why does Igbos always have to cry foul that they are the only ethnic group being mistreated, what then should the Delta people say? Will they soon be asking for their own nation? Why do Igbos have to be so devisive and different.

At this juncture, I would like to say I would more than be happy to have Igbos form their own country so long they are ready for the blood shed. Do they even feel like Nigerians? These people call themselves 'Biafrans' instead of Nigerians. That is very sad indeed. I love Igbos and I grew up around them but the constant fear that there is going to be another civil war by the Igbos is just too much now. I say let them go if they so wish.

Yorubas are not complaining about how they have taken over the Movie industry in Nigeria and sabotaging all the Yoruba movie makers efforts to market their works in the east. Igbo marketers are in control in Lagos and all part of the country. A yoruba man isn't saying because Lagos is predominantly Yorubas, then the Igbos cannot sell, but the so is not the case for Yorubas in the east.

So, I say, Let Igbos GO!!!

Anonymous February 19, 2006 - 11:07 am

Excellent write-up brother!

Cletus E. Olebunne February 19, 2006 - 10:29 am

As an Igbo person, I take offense to your comment on the primitiveness of the Igbo villages and communities, as the reason the group is politically uncivilized. This tells me that you know very little about the villages and communities in Nigeria. At first, I did not want to suffer my typing fingers in commenting on your article, but I thought that the only way we educate one another is through exchange of ideas in a civil dialogue

In your effort to explain to the Igbos why they have failed as a group to produce a Nigerian President, you failed to understand that Igbos are the only group in Nigeria with democratic spirit; majority of the Igbos really would not care where the president comes from in Nigeria, as long as the person understands what it is to be democratic. This is why it is still foreign to majority of the Igbos, that any group would actually unite to seek the presidency, unless as a political party with the interest in the well being of the entire nation. You are also wrong in stating that an ordinary Igbo person, no matter how enlightened still carries primitive communal rivalries with him wherever he goes. It is either you dont understand the Igbo culture or you are trying something new in stigmatizing a whole group. Which ever is the case, you need more education about the Igbo culture, especially in governance.

I truly believe that Nigeria is not ready for a President of Igbo extraction at this point; this is why I am not supporting the call for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, and not because of your lack of knowledge in saying that the Igbos are Politically Uncivilized. Part of my reason is in the following excerpt from an article I have written on why Nigeria is not ready for a President of Igbo extraction, and also, why as a member of a Nigerian political party, National Democratic Party, USA Chapter, I am supporting the presidential candidature of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida for the 2007 presidency.

Excerpts from Igbo person as Nigerian President and Why Nigeria is not ready for it now.

As an Igbo person born in the 1960s, I have taken time to study Nigerias situation and have come to the conclusion that Nigerias leadership failures should not be a surprise to any person who has taken time to understand the structure and social mix in Nigeria. These failures are not because the leadership never had good intensions. No leader takes up a position, and say, I am going to be bad. Because leadership is situational, leaders who came at the wrong time or fail to understand current situation, and apply appropriate implementation strategies will fail. Looking at the Nigeria social and cultural mix, I truly believe that this is not the time for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, irrespective of the unfortunate fact that this time around the governing party zoned their presidential candidate choice to the North.

The fact is unfortunate, because, I am still struggling to understand the concept of leadership zoning at any level; be it at federal; state; or local government. The zoning concept breeds the mindset of it is my turn, so let me grab as much as I can for my family and village. The proof of this can be seen every day in the waiting rooms of the presidency and the state houses. On the sofas are family members and clan in search of money for school fees, funerals, and contract; and for the pockets. This encourages the filling of important critical positions with incapable hands, rather than hands that can roll-up sleeves, and go to work for the entire Nigeria populace.

First of all, the Igbos is the only group in Nigeria that is naturally democratic in culture and behaviors. The Igbo group is at a level other groups in Nigeria are seeking to be in: a democratic spirit behaviors and leadership. And not until all these other groups (including you not in the original) rise to that level, will they completely understand the democratic culture of the Igbos. As other groups are learning the concept of democratic behaviors through years of leadership failures, the Igbos are frustrated by these failures. I am in no way saying that the Igbos are better, but since Nigeria is trying to become a full democratic society, and not an oligarchy, which other groups are used to; it will take some years for these other groups to learn the democratic spirit. Unfortunately for the Igbo group, these other groups when combined, out number the Igbo group, hence the disastrous learning of the democratic spirit by the Nigerian majority.

Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. Oligarchy is a form of government in which the power is vested in a few persons. (If you truly understand the Igbos as you claimed; you can correctly fit the Igbo group in one of the above two forms of government not in the original)

Among all Nigerian past Leaders (Commander-in-Chiefs) since the end of the uncivil war, the closest Nigeria has had to a democratic leadership thinking and mindset is that of President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida; even though he climbed the leadership level as a military professional. The stage will be welcoming for a President of Igbo extraction after the end of Babangidas Presidency in 2015, believing that he will seek the highest office in Nigeria in 2007, and possibly won re-election in 2011 in a four year two term limit.

By 2015, the rest of the Nigerian groups (the majority) still learning the spirit of democracy may have attained the level of democratic culture and behaviors of the Igbos. It will take this number of years for these other groups to learn the true meaning of democracy and democratic behaviors. This is the tough luck and unfortunate position for the Igbos in the Nigerian mixed cultural society. The Igbos did not just find themselves in this unfortunate position; this is just the case all over Africa, where oligarchy is very prevalent, with the exception of the Somalis. Traditionally, African societies, with a few exceptions such as those of the Somalis or the Ibos in Nigeria, were not very democratic. (The Economist, May 13th 2000).

The Nigeria current chaotic nascent democracy is not the stage for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, as the rest of Nigerian groups are still learning the democratic spirit. This is the unlucky position the Igbos have been in, hence the absence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction since 1970. As an Igbo person, I do not buy into the concept of marginalization or Igbo phobia, (phobia of anything results from a narrowness in thinking and inability to understanding of things we are phobia about.) but the inability or lack of democratic cultural mindset and behaviors by other Nigerian groups that the Igbo group is lumped with. This is not an argument for separation, as I completely believe in the concept of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; but the analysis and commentary on why Nigeria is not ready for a President of Igbo extraction at this time. If Nigeria as a Nation had chosen to practice oligarchy, this argument will be the other way around. In essence, this is not about who is better or not; or good and bad, but what is good at a particular point in time in the growth of a learning organization.

As a Nigerian born in Ondo, Ondo State, of Igbo parents from Orsu, Imo State, I have had my share of exposure to various Nigerian cultural groups through my years of growing up in the Western part of Nigeria and education in the Northern part. I have learnt that our differences and diversity should be a source of strength, rather than divisive. But because of narrowness in mind and thinking, we have allowed the things that give strength to divide us for so long. All our efforts should not lead to things that future generations will look back and curse us in our graves, but to things that will make them to continuously pray for our souls to rest in peace. The essence of life or living is to leave it better than we met it.


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