The Nigerian Presidency and the Igbo Nation
One could argue that within the context of Nigerian politics and society, and indeed within the context of African politics and society, the Igbo have made it and have it all. They have everything but political power, political influence, and political currency — especially at the presidential level. Collectively, the Igbo are wealthy, educated, and intelligent. These are people with global influence, strength of character, élan and self confidence. The Igbo nation has attributes most other Nigerian nations can only dream of; and are what most other nations are not. The Igbo made and makes Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation, and Nigeria will be a wobbling giant gasping for air!
This being the case, the “political misfortune” of the Igbo is not only puzzling and confounding; it is a source of concern to this commentator. It also should be a source of concern to other Nigerians and especially to the Igbo themselves. How did a people this intelligent, this savvy, and this contributive and participatory got shut out of the corridor of federal power and continually being deprived the chance to attain the highest seat of Nigeria’s political power? How? Why? A number of fine Nigerian writers – including Peter Opara, Sylvester Omosun Fadal, Tunde Adenodi and a host of others have attempted to analyze this political anomaly. Today, I join the fray.
I join the fray and would like to begin by summarizing some of the reasons I have been given, or that have been espoused by others, as to why a Nigerian of Igbo ethnic group have yet to be elected the executive president of Nigeria: (1) that the Igbo seem to be suffering from Germanic Complex; (2) that they easily succumb to the Hausa-Fulan/Yoruba politics of divide-and-conquer; (3) that they are ferociously independent and so do not want to follow the command of a single leader; (4) that the persistent political infightings and betrayal amongst the Igbo elite and centers of power has been a hindrance to their goals; and (5) that the Igbo are content with dominating the economic arena and have therefore given up all hope and struggle for political power. Two other reasons are way too insulting to repeat and therefore do not warrant my glorifying them.
There are no empirical evidences to support all of the aforementioned reasons; and even most of the anecdotal evidence, as presented to me, is just too weak. The only exception is reason number four: the infighting amongst Igbo elites and between centers of power.
The chief plausible reason, as to why we do not yet have a Nigerian president of Igbo background, in my view, is simply psychological in nature. This psychological factor has two closely related components: mistrust of the Igbo by other ethnic groups, and the unspoken determination of the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani to deprive the Igbo of their rightful place in the Nigerian polity. In other words: the North and the West have a deep-seated mistrust of the Igbo and so are bent on restricting, containing, and denying the Igbo their political right. Added to this is their subtle message to other minority groups: the Igbo, as a group, are not to be trusted! The West doesn’t think much of the North; and the North has contempt for the West; yet, both regions have found a way to grudgingly do “political business” and engage in “political prostitution” to the detriment of the Igbo nation. This unholy alliance has its root in the 1966/67-1970 Nigerian Civil War.
The relationship the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani have with the Igbo reminds me of the relationship the Israelis (especially the Likud Party and Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular) have with Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Authority: distrust, misconception and hatred! The Israeli worldview is shaped by their sense of history, their sense of isolation and sense of persecution. In this case, the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba remembers the events of 1966/67-1970, which have negatively affected their thinking and seem to believe the Igbo had and will always have untold aims towards their wellbeing.
Essentially, the North and the West have not rid themselves, psychologically, of their prejudices, negative attitudes and misconception of the Igbo. They have been using their jaundiced perception and misreading of history to thwart the Igbo presidential aspiration. It is this psychological rut, in addition to the infighting and unnecessary wrangling between Igbo power centers that adequately accounts for why the Igbo have been denied the presidency. For the Igbo to become the Nigerian President therefore, they first have to devise a way to speak with one voice and unite under a single visionary leader/power center. The most difficult part would be to cure the North and the West of their prejudices and their psychological wounds.
It doesn’t help that the Igbo have all these centers of competing powers that seems to be doing Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Minna’s bidding. And yes, it is admirable that the Igbo are building what may someday rival the successes of Taiwan and South Korea. But that is not enough! It won’t be enough! It also doesn’t help when they cut their proven leaders like the great Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and many others all in the name of politics. How many Northerners are sticking knives, pins and arrow into Abacha and Babangida? Both men are not even in the same class as the Ikemba of Nnewi — one of the rarest of all men – yet, some Igbo take pride in dressing him down!
At the individual level, some Hausa-Fulani have great relationship with some Igbo. Same can also be said of Yoruba elites with fruitful relationship with some Igbo. But that is not enough. These friendships and relationships should be extended to the presidential arena. The Igbo have made significant and measurable contribution to every community they have settled in. And Nigeria became what it was because of the Igbo. The Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba have been at the helm of Nigeria’s national affairs and the result has been dismal. It is time the Igbo take control and command of Aso Rock.
This article is not suggesting that the colluding groups overtly or covertly planned to stop the Igbo from become Nigeria’s executive president. No. This conspiracy is borne out of an unspoken agreement; an unconscious collusion, if you will — though, it is not beneath the Nigerian ruling elites to nod in agreement on how to hinder Igbo presidential hope. Stranger things have happened in Nigeria, you know! Nigeria cannot be greater than what it is if the Igbo are excluded from the presidency. It is sinful and injurious to continuously point — consciously or unconsciously — to the unfortunate events of 1966/67-1970. It is time a Nigerian from the Igbo ethnic group occupy Aso Rock. It is time!
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