One of the greatest cliches of the Nigerian political scene is “Igbo presidency”. This quest by Ndi Igbo to produce the country’s president I dare say has been stretched ad nauseam. Everywhere, this clamour becomes so deafening that one sometimes wonders if the solution to the country’s problems lies in production of presidents from particular ethnic groups. In any case, Ndi Igbo are not alone in this quest for an opportunity to produce the country’s next president. The South-South too has joined the quest!
One needs to carefully appraise the situation. On my part, I strongly believe that the quest for political power in any country should be thrown open while the electorate decide who rules them. Unfortunately, it is probably not the electorate that decides who rules in Nigeria. I am still desperately searching for those KINGMAKERS who have decided that they reserve the sole right to choose who rules this country. It is perhaps this group that Ndi Igbo and all the other ethnic groups in the country are begging to please give them a chance to rule Nigeria. If this is the situation (that the electorate have become completely powerless), then I may have little or nothing to say to Ndi Igbo politicians except to advise them to embrace unity which I believe will be able to solve the problem whether or not the KINGMAKERS decide who rules. On the other hand, if the electorates still have some power, then all the so called Igbo politicians have a case to answer.
Let me first say that the electorate (even if as PDP delegates to the party conventions) still have some power. Otherwise, Obasanjo would not have been able to defeat Dr. Alex Ekwueme both in the 1998 Jos conventions and the 2003 Abuja conventions, in what was clearly a voting practice where money influenced the voters.In other words, there was still some form of voting even if it was money that influenced who voted for who. Now, I am not asking Ndi Igbo to go and look for money to buy all the votes they need to produce the next Nigerian president, although this might also become neccessary for them to do. What I am saying point blank is that Ndi Igbo are not ready to produce any Nigerian president. We should try and forget all the noises politicians such as the Abia State Governor Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, are making. Dr. Kalu, who has been reported to have declared his intentions to vie for the presidency come 2007, was still the same person who last year asserted that Igbo presidency is not going to be a soon thing. According to him, it needs a lot of preparation. One year later, does Orji Uzor feel enough planning has been put in place? Of course not! The issue now is that Orji Uzor has woken up to the reality of advertising himself by declaring his intentions.
Now why did Kalu say that Igbo presidency is not something that will happen soon? The answer is one that we only have to go back to the last two presidential elections to find. In 1998, during the Jos PDP conventions, how many Ndi Igbo presidential aspirants shared the Igbo votes? The Yoruba who were genuinely interested in producing a president, presented one person-Obasanjo-and he sailed through. Among the Ndi Igbo aspirants, only the respectable Dr. Alex Ekwueme was genuinely interested in the presidency. Chief Jim Nwobodo, we all know was only advertising himself while at the same time queering the pitch for Ekwueme. In essence, Nwobodo was only a political tout bent on scuttling Ekwueme’s presidential bid, while bringing passengers into Obasanjo’s presidential bus. This is basically what most Igbo presidential aspirants are doing. After helping to destroy the presidential aspirations of their more promising brothers, they are compensated with political appointments by the government that emerges.
In 2003, Ndi Igbo started struggling again for advertisement slots in the presidential bid: Major General Ike Nwachukwu, Chief Rochas Okorocha, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegu Ojukwu etc. Again, during that period, only the focused Alex Ekwueme was genuinely interested in the presidency.The others were only content with the advert slots they won. More disgusting was the action of Chief Okorocha who after raising all the dust in the world, became content with the position of mere Special adviser in Obasanjo’s come and chop Government. In doing this, Okorocha clearly portrayed himself as an untrue Igbo man.
And so are many Ndi Igbo jostling for the nation’s number one position. What most of them are doing is to advertise themselves as politicians, align with people from other ethnic groups, and ruin their brothers chances of achieving the ultimate Igbo aim since the end of the civil war. The question I ask is, when will Igbo politicians stop being sell-outs, and present the characteristics of the true Igbo man to the outside world? The true Igbo man is firm, principled, uncompromising, egoistic and industrious. He does not conform to the desires of another and will go to any length to protect his pride. He can never be the Fani Kayode style of human beings who due to the promise of affluence and fame turn themselves into the Squealers of corrupt and oppressive administrations. This is why I am not too confident in my classification of the Ikemba of Nnewi Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as a political advertiser. Indeed, I have recorded four true Igbo men in the Nigerian political scene: Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe – who stood for one Nigeria because he believed in it; Dr. Alex Ekwueme – the man who has continuously struggled for what he believes in despite setbacks; Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu – the man who rejected the glitter of Dodan Barracks as offered by Gen Gowon prefering to stand by his people in their fight for freedom and justice; and Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe (Rtd)who refused to kow-tow to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
As the 2007 general elections draw near and the clamour for Igbo presidency becomes deafening, my one worry is that this might just be another opportunity for fame seeking Igbo politicians to advertise themselves. My assertion remains that until such a time that Ndi Igbo are ready to unite behind a consensus candidate, who genuinely desires to become president, Igbo presidency will remain a mirage. Ndi Igbo should forget any talk of marginalisation, and put their house in order first and then strive for the presidency. Alternatively, they can continue with their advertisement, it all goes to show as Professor Helen Chukwuma would say, that Ndi Igbo are the most detribalised ethnic group in Nigeria.