The entire Igbo land has become one huge wholesale and retail political market complete with power dealers, retailers and market makers. The stock on offer is the over 40 million Igbo votes scattered all over Nigeria and beyond.

This market is peculiar because unlike other markets, it has no regulatory agency as both the wholesale and retail traders are all self- appointed but the buyers are largely unaware of this situation. One can’t really blame them in the sense that what is on offer presently is unprecedented in the history of Ndigbo. From the first Republic up to 2007 general election, Igbo sons have made conscious effort to occupy the highest office of our Father land- Nigeria. The 2011 general election is seemingly beginning to appear as an exception. Forget Oji Uzor kalu’s antics of saying he wants to run for Presidency come 2011. That worn out political strategy is no longer in vogue. I believe no one takes OUK serious anymore. I doubt if he takes himself seriously either.

It is hard to believe that we have suddenly gotten wiser and decided to allow the rest of the country struggle for power at our expense. We have always regaled Nigerians with a large parade of Presidential hopefuls {real and imagined}. So, what happened this time?  I am tempted to believe that three factors accounted for the seeming lack of interest. First is the blackmail of zoning introduced early in the race by the old Northern political establishment who are perhaps celebrating their last political valedictory dance in a most ignoble manner. Second reason is the obvious fact that the usual serial runners from the Southeast cannot see themselves contesting against their political godfathers from the North who have decided to go for the big price themselves this time around. The possible third reason is that most of them are broke and urgently need a bail out. It is not as if they really have been buoyant in the past anyway, but assurances from those manipulating godfathers have often passed for buoyancy. A situation that has forced a flamboyant serial Presidential runner like Rochas Okorocha to climb down from his high horse for a mere gubernatorial outing in Imo State validates these points.

Now, the yawning question is ‘what are the likely implications of this political development for Ndigbo? To answer this question appropriately, one will attempt to put Ndigbo in their proper historical perspective:  These much-vilified people located at the Southeastern part of Nigeria are extremely industrious, democratic, fair-minded and transparent. On the flipside, we are aggressive, boisterous boastful and copycats. Of all the attributes of Ndigbo, aggression, boisterousness and boastfulness have managed to single us out for the stakes whether in Nigeria here or in the diasporas. I doubt if Ndigbo can do anything to change this perception, as the issues seem more of cultural orientation than most will admit. Suffice to say therefore that there is an “Okonkwo” in all of us. This should not be a cause for shame because the same paradigms could be channeled properly and sufficiently to productive ends. It is a cultural taboo in Igbo land to be a perpetual dependant, a weakling, a beggar or even a swindler. The word swindler may appear out of place here in the face of notorious fraudulent king pins and vicious kidnappers that now litter the entire Igbo landscape. These tendencies flow naturally from the copycat mentality observed earlier in this write-up as all of the vices in question were copied from elsewhere. No thanks to the erosion of values in the entire country.  Indeed, it is the boastfulness and boisterous nature of the Igbo man that appear to have singled him out as the ‘Capone’ in the thriving crime industry in Nigeria. In all of this, Ndigbo appear to have been condemned largely to un-intelligent petty crime. The bigger and more ‘rewarding’ corporate crimes and corruption are alien to us. This is not because we are saints. Far from it. The reason is simply because we have been kept away deliberately from the corporate environment be it be it government or the big corporations for a very long time.

All these are however not the plank of this piece but merely a lead to understanding the highly miss-understood people of the southeast. It is instructive to point out here that the Igbo Governors that first took the decision to excuse themselves and by extension other Igbos from the plum presidential job are not by any chance altruistic. Four out of five of them are re-presenting themselves for re-election. However, that singular decision has consequently positioned the Igbos as the beautiful bride in the present political dispensation. It will help galvanize and point us to our manifest destiny if properly managed. Many of the suitors are coming with a mixed basket of promises all addressing what they perceive to be our most urgent need- political marginalization.

Political marginalization is real but mere promise of power to Ndigbo in 2015 is neither a solution nor feasible. If any suitor from the North is promising us the Presidency as a de-marginalization strategy, is the person saying in essence that people from the South-South who are in the same hole with us are less deserving of that position or are no more Nigerians? Is robbing Peter to pay Paul not against the law of natural justice, which Ndigbo abhor as a matter of tradition? Agreed, the South-South has proven themselves as friendlier with the core north than the south East in previous elections. Let me also concede that the south south will vote for the north again in 2015 in the likely event that the contest come up between us. We cannot possibly say “this is pay back time” because that is exactly what the Northern power mongers would rather have us say. This will not in any way solve our problem but compound it. Our problems as a people needed to be articulated better than summing them up under one inconsequential sub-head of Presidency of Nigeria come 2015. It lacks original thinking and is not strategic at all.  Yes, the Presidency is very important but I think we have problems that are more fundamental as a people that require urgent attention than an Isiagu and Red cap wearing President of Igbo extraction.

If you have followed my line of thought about who the essential Igbo man is, you may agree with me that President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction will serve the larger Nigeria’s interest better than the Igbos. We have had people at critical departments of Government at some point in Nigeria and nothing changed because the average Igbo man believes in equity and fair play. Most non-Igbos’ do not know this about the Igbo or know but prefer to feign ignorance. Equity and fair play incidentally is all the Igbos demand from the Nigerian Nation.

Two ideologically opposed views have now emerged in the constant search to address the Igbo leadership question. The first group has suggested that in the short run, Ndigbo are better off behaving like the Diaspora Jews who would rather make the King than become the King in their places of residence. They believe a king maker any day enjoys the fattest bones. The second group largely populated by Igbo political actors is making deliberate efforts to pass their individual ambition as those of the larger Igbo Nation. It will be interesting to interrogate how these fellows’ that parade themselves as Igbo leaders emerged in the first instance. It is no gain saying that most prominent Igbo political actors today are creations of subterfuge forces other than the Igbo collectives. They were direct creations of the military high command that took pleasure in imposing second rated Igbos as leaders in furtherance of their evil machination to continue to subjugate Ndigbo to bestial status.

The present scenario has therefore created a unique opportunity to address finally the leadership question in Igbo land. The Jonathan government has promised a free and fair election. It is my belief that we should stand under that platform to demand transparency in the selection process from whatever political platform because parties really do not matter in Nigeria as none is ideologically based. All Igbo sons and daughters should endeavor to register and for once vote en-mass to only those they perceive to have their best interest at heart be it at home, in Zamfara, Zungeru, Calabar or Ibadan. It is a self-evident truth that we are the only tribe in Nigeria scattered all over the four corners of the globe plying our trade without fear. It is no gainsaying therefore that Ndigbo constitutes the second largest tribe in most hamlets, Senatorial districts and state capitals all over Nigeria after the indigenes of such State. Ndigbo, despite this seeming advantage, have remained the butt of jokes and targets for political and social deprivation simply because we have refused to put the power of numbers at work.

I strongly belief all these will change the moment votes begin to count in our electoral democracy. My belief and hope that the 2011 election will be different is fast vanishing. I have consistently maintained that Nigeria emerged from the civil war not as a strong united Nation but as a Country Club with very powerful Trustees. These Trustees have continued to run Nigeria as a family mafia business where only their interest matters. They decide who gets what, when and how. The composition of these Trustees include selected retired Military top brads , some powerful Emirs from the core North and a tiny minority from the business class and one or two Obas from the South West considered compliant enough to maintain the statuesque. Not surprisingly, not a single individual from the South East/South South is a member of this cabal. Equally, the few members from the Northern minority does not care who takes over the reign of Government as long as their business interest is not threatened.
Suffice to say, that any major National issue where the majority of this cabal vote a yes, is considered done for the ‘interest’ of the larger Nigerian populace. It was this BoT members that over threw Gowon’s government, installed Obasanjo as his successor against ‘his will’, made Shagari President in 1979, over threw his Government in 1983 when the possibility of a ‘Biafran’ President in 1987 downed on them, installed Buhari and replaced him with a major club stake holder {IBB} in 1985. The agreed to scuttle June 12, 1993 {for the same reasons they denied Abiola to run for Presidency in 1983 on the platform of NPN} and installed one of their own {Abacha}. When Abacha died, the installed a non-member but a sympathizer and admirer to the ‘cause’ Abdulsami Abubakar and issued him instructions to release another prominent member {OBJ } from jail and install him as President. Obasanjo in a sudden feeling of self-importance started acting outside the original script and desired to make himself a life President {a feat his fellow member, IBB could not achieve under a military regime he led}. Again, they scuttled it and installed Umaru Yar’Adua, a son from one of the ‘ruling Houses’ who died un-expectedly and threw up a certain Jonathan who is neither a member nor admirer and since then, hail has let loose and confusion has set among the members of the BoT and the entire club.

It is some of the members of this powerful Trustees in a desperate quest to wrestle power back from an intruder, re-establish an enduring order that are now promising some of their foot soldiers from the South East a 2015 Presidency. To me, that offer looks like a fine wine in a poisoned chalice. It is instructive to note that in all power struggles, intrigues and backstabbing are necessary ingredients for negotiation. Many regard Jonathan as a break from the past but majority of the Trustees see him as unnecessary irritation hence the fierce battle among the Trustees to replace him at all cost. While some us were rejoicing that for once, power is going to be negotiated through the ballot, that heightened expectation and excitement is melting away like ice placed under the watchful eyes of scorched sun.

The traditional arm of the Trustees together with the military and the political arm seeing that they are about to loose power forever, if not checked, appear to have reached a truce and as usual have found like I have always suspected they would; a way out of the Jonathan irritation. What they did? They have conceded a one term Presidency to Jonathan with a clear warning “return our power to us in 2015”. It is this concession that is now making the Ekwuemes’, the Nnamanis’ the Nwodos’, the Nwobodos’ and the new recruits like Chukwuma Soludo, Udenta Udenta and co {all BoT messengers/tool} uncomfortable. It is the same concession that is making Atiku a mere admirer and an adopted executive messenger of the BoT throw tantrums to the extent of issuing threats to the corporate existence of the Club and its membership.

In the final analysis, Ndigbo should find a nexus within this intricate mesh of power struggle to install leaders of their own choosing since after the war and start afresh to rebuild first the confidence of self worth before venturing into the more tasking job of asking for National consensus to make a President of Igbo extraction. The Bot will never give us power for that will amount to class suicide neither will Jonathan give what he does not have. The only feasible route to this onerous journey of self re-discovery is start afresh using the 2011 election to discover true leaders of Igbo extraction that will capture and retain the true essence of Ndigbo for the general good of Nigeria. That to me is our manifest destiny.

Chike Orjiako.
[email protected]

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