Peter Obi’s Defection: Wider Issues For The Igbos’ Political Survival

by Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema
peter obi

Anambra State, indeed the entire Eastern Nigeria and certainly the entire country, was fortunate to have a governor of Peter Gregory Obi’s calibre. I lived in Anambra State from 2001 to 2006 and witnessed firsthand the state’s political, economic and social stagnation under Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju; the massive support for Obi and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2003 elections; the subsequent tragicomedy which threw up Dr. Chris Ngige; Ngige’s adventures in power and the first ‘return’ of Obi through the instrumentality of the courts.

peter obi

Image: Courtesy

When Obi stepped down earlier this year at the completion of his tenure, a recurring decimal in the global accolades he received was emphasis on his integrity. That integrity is now being questioned by some commentators and political adversaries because he left APGA for the ruling PDP to supposedly protect Igbo interests by working for President Jonathan’s second term bid.

The comments of Mrs. Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, wife of APGA’s founding icon, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, on the defection need not be repeated here. The October 20 edition of ‘The Sun’ gave them wide currency. Obi’s response is also well known. My concern here goes beyond these worthy children of Igboland. It is the Igbo people’s fate in the forthcoming dispensation heralded by 2015.

At the risk of being tagged an ethnic jingoist, I have always advocated a political platform that will promote and protect the interests of the Igbo and South-South minorities. Nobody has convinced me that the APC is not inherently built on ethnic and religious interests which now seek to extend their tentacles to other components of Nigeria because of 2015. The ruling PDP’s umbrella is seemingly national in spread but the drama occasioned by Jonathan’s presidency indicates that the umbrella is badly torn. I had hoped APGA would achieve the above objective. Perhaps I assumed too much by thinking that a party built around Ojukwu’s mythical personality in an intensely republican environment like the Igbo’s would speak with one voice. I failed to learn from history. After all, the defunct Action Group, built around Obafemi Awolowo’s formidable personality, cracked in its home Yoruba Western Region in 1962.

What is it about the Igbo political elite who do not recognize their people’s overwhelming interest, and by implication, their (elite) own aspirations lie in championing the good of Igboland within the context of a just Nigeria? If Obi, who was allegedly schemed out of a Ministerial post by fellow Igbo because of their jealousy and party affiliation despite his acclaimed administrative competence, succeeds in the pro-Jonathan presidency project, will it translate into a better life for the Igbo within Nigeria? On the other hand, how will the rest of the country’s political elite with whom the Igbo must work, perceive our political class? Agreed, political defections are not unusual. As 2015 approaches faster than an express train political personalities and parties are collapsing into the APC and PDP. The Igbo should not follow this bandwagon mindlessly because we need our structure, our base, from which to engage the fiery furnace of Nigerian politics. We need a rallying-point. This does not mean Igbo sons and daughters outside APGA cannot pursue their legitimate aspirations but with one caveat: how will it benefit the Igbo? Maybe I am being idealistic because I cannot count on my ten fingers members of the contemporary Igbo political elite who truly identify with their people. Most of them are so ‘Nigerian’ to the detriment of the Igbo.

The way forward: perhaps the likes of Bianca Ojukwu and Peter Obi, with their tried and tested political and intellectual pedigree and uncensored association with the Ikemba’s ideals can help, but first, they should avoid a media war and reconcile. Mrs. Ojukwu, in her late forties, and Obi, in his early fifties, can be the arrowhead of the new and principled Igbo political elite. Igbo patriots who are not necessarily politicians can be reached out to for a sincere ‘ime obi’ conference. The pan Igbo group, Ohanaeze, should ideally set the modalities for such a conference but their political neutrality is doubtful. Igboland needs her own political structure developed from, if you like, a sovereign South-East/South-South Conference. Aspects of the Igbo condition must be urgently addressed. Tried and trusted Igbo elders like Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Ralph Egbu, just to mention a few, can work with these young arrowheads, which is not excluded to the ex-governor and the comely Nigerian Ambassador to Spain. This goes beyond backing or not backing a second tenure for Jonathan. It is the necessity of Igbo political survival in the Nigerian jungle.

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