The Igbo in the GEJ Dispensation

There are times when an angry but wise man realizes that he is responsible, either by omission or commission, for the pains being inflicted on him by his adversary. In other words the poor fellow at the receiving end either unwittingly initiated or knowingly yet foolishly misread the situation that put him at the mercy of his trouncer.

This unpleasant situation sums up the Igbo in the emerging political dispensation that will commence on May 29. Since the elections ended and the rush for the spoils of war, sorry, office began the Igbo have let it be known to any observer that they do not understand the peculiarly Nigerian political terrain. The way some members of the Igbo political elite are going about it, you would think that Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP are going to quickly hand them the Senate Presidency or Speakership of the House of Representatives to avoid an ‘ogbunigwe’ from exploding in either Aso Rock or the PDP headquarters. Enweghi ihe na eme. (Igbo for: Nothing will happen).

The interview of National LIFE with former Second Republic politician and leading PDP member, Sidi Ali, (National LIFE, May 19.pp.6-7) may not be joyful reading for some people but it is instructive. Some salient points from the interview: the South-East should be grateful they are being consoled with the posts of the Secretary to the Federal Government and Deputy Senate President; the Igbo political track record disqualifies them from producing the Senate President; the South-East should not push its luck concerning its purported massive support for GEJ in the presidential elections. In Ali’s words: ‘They didn’t vote in the South-East. They just wrote votes. Even if you want to rig, you have to rig intelligently.’

The tsunami this interview may unleash may compel PDP’s chieftains to lash out that Sidi Ali spoke for himself. If Ali goes on air to claim being misquoted or the poor journalist who is just doing his job gets the short end of the stick I will not be surprised. But Ali has spoken bitter truths to the Igbo. Heaven will only fall for the Igbo elite if they do not get their acts right.

First, the so-called Igbo support for GEJ on April 16. Ali, being a leading PDP member, undoubtedly has access to inside information. He implies that his party’s rigging machine was active in the East, only that it went about its ‘work’ in an ‘unintelligent’ way. If this is true then General Buhari and the CPC should have their day in court. It means that the PDP has not changed, despite GEJ’s best efforts.

What makes the likes of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife think they will be ‘compensated’ because the Igbo voted for GEJ? Politics, far from being a game of numbers, is a game of strength, negotiations and manipulation. The PDP chieftains know that politically the Igbo are so weak that they can be ignored in the new scheme. The Igbo are not the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics; they are more like a used and dumped girlfriend. The real bride, at least for 2011-2015, is the Yoruba. Why do you think the GEJ team is working hard to get the ACN on board though the party has sounded it loud and clear that it will not be part of the government? The Yoruba, led by forward-thinking and relatively cohesive elite, have realized the following fundamental facts about Nigeria’s political system:
A firm stand for clearly defined principles and ideology, in spite of temptations and persecutions, yields dividends;

Nigeria’s unique unitary federalism simply necessitates putting one’s home base under the control of a home-grown, home-spun and home-based political force that can command respect at the national bargaining table;

Fifth columnists, mercenaries and traitors to the people’s cause must be democratically decapitated;

A rallying symbol, an icon is vital for a people’s survival. I recommend to the Igbo political elite to take time off their chicanery to read Frederick Forsyth’s novel titled ‘Icon’ to get the message. Since Forsyth is more or less our ‘Oyibo’ son-he was pro-Biafra in his journalistic coverage of the Nigerian civil war and he wrote a biography of Odumegwu-Ojukwu-they might listen to him.

Politics is about interest articulation and aggregation. The Yoruba did this wonderfully. While their interests are best served at the state level by the ACN, they voted for GEJ to let him and the PDP know that they are equally involved at the centre.GEJ will not ignore them because it will harm his government’s interests.

If the Igbo must get it right we need a solid home-grown political front. It may mean throwing the PDP out of the window. The political reality is that CPC and APP speak for the North; ACN speaks for the West and because of the GEJ machinery, we may say that PDP, to an extent, speaks for the South-South. No party speaks for the East. APGA’s pan-Igbo foundation is weak and its leaders are embroiled in egoistic power struggles. PPA is a basket case. PDP’s claim to national cohesion is determined by the power-play of the dispensation it controls. If GEJ is truly a Nigerian president PDP should represent this in her alignments and allocations. Its balancing act called zoning is what has brought Nigeria to this sad pass.

In this new dispensation the Igbo may be the featherweights of the federation. This goes beyond appointments and patronage. Whoever that becomes the SGFN is not going to be a true Igbo son who will take the Igbo to the forefront of national discourse by principled action; he will be a ‘true Nigerian’ who will sacrifice Igbo group interests for ‘national unity’. How did Ekweremadu, the outgoing Deputy Senate President, impact on Igboland from 2007 till date? I am for Nigerian unity but ‘anasi ulo maara mma pua ama’ (charity begins at home). Beyond the struggle for spoils are more troubling issues: in the new dispensation will the Igbo get massive infrastructural development? Will the East get another state? Will the federal government wade into the erosion menace swallowing Igboland? What of the internationalization of the Enugu airport and a second Niger bridge? Is the EAST DESRVING OF A FEW FEDERAL INDUSTRIES THIS TIME AROUND? GEJ and company know the groups that worry them in this dispensation and my crystal ball says the Igbo are the least, mostly because of our leaders’ inability to learn that nobody gives you what you did not fight for in politics.

It is time we submerge the negative aspects of our republicanism. Agreed, our allocations from the central government is lean but Governors Obi(Anambra), Rochas(Imo), Chime(Enugu), Orji(Abia) and Elechi(Ebonyi) should think home and toss negative politicking into the trashcan. If a rice industry that will serve the East is better sited in Ebonyi, the four other governors should back the project. But who or what shall be our icon? Azikiwe is Nigeria’s icon; he championed her cause. Biafra is a great emotional unifier but the Igbo are not seeking secession. Ojukwu unites us as the father of Igbo survival but our politics, especially for the younger post-war Igbo, goes beyond the civil war. So the search for the icon must start now because the likes of Sidi Ali still see the Igbo through the glasses of 1966-1970.

Written by
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema
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