Whenever I hear that word Igbo leaders, I usually look around instinctively to see if I could see them lined up some where around. This habit grew more out of frustration and perhaps repeated misinformation.
This piece is not about to debunk or validate the much talked about ‘Igbo Enwe Eze’ mantra. It will however attempt to put the Igbo leadership question in its true perspective. The debate about the Igbo leadership crises is not a new one. I have in fact made more than a passing comment on it in previous engagements. The question has refused to go away principally because of what I may term constant “Ethnic Peer Review Mechanism”. Now, this phrase means nothing, just my way of expressing the constant woes and cries routinely engaged into by my race each time a prominent member of our community shouts woe for a real or perceived wrong usually ignited by politics and wishes he/she were from anywhere else than Igbo-land.
The truth, which many of us may not agree with, is we are poor students of strategy and history, which further makes us poorer students of power and politics. At the root of our leadership crises is the process through which our leaders emerge. The Igbo culture recognizes as leaders strong and selfless individuals who have natural flair for sacrifice on behalf of the community collectives. In most cases, it helps a great deal, if such individual is well to do. That could only in their assessment, ensure that he would not only deploy some of his wealth in pursuit of the common good, but will also ensure he does not necessarily have to depend on the common till for his private estate. This was the general norm before the clash of cultures and erosion of values in Igbo land.
The civil wars of the mid 60s to early 70s helped to erect huge architectural edifices in self-emulation and pursuit of the good life at the expense strong social and moral wills. The attendant suffering and depreciation of self and material worth the war brought, fed the need to make money at all cost and this desperation led to a regime of small kingdoms with their moneymen as kings. These moneymen were later to discover that it goes beyond money to achieve self-actualization. Help was needed from outside in this regard and the emergent military leaders in Nigeria at the time were only too eager to install new leaders from the zone who have absolutely nothing in common with the people they were meant to lead. As the class of 70s’ and early 80s’were retiring, they were appointing their cronies to take over. Imposition leadership in Igbo land traces its history, which has survived more than three decades around this period.
In contrast, the North and the Southwest zones have always had natural rulers with deep roots in their religion and culture. They have well structured cultural and religious institutions that set the leadership template which results into seamless succession plan. Sourcing for leaders here has always been guided by two reasons. One is the law of natural selection and the other is stratified class system. In the North for instance, the accident of your birth largely determines your station in life. This sharply contrasts with the Igbos’ where social mobility is about the highest in the world. To a large extent, most parts of the South West with possible exceptions of the Obasanjos’ and the Abiolas’ who were the exact equivalent of the so-called Igbo leaders are direct creations of the Military high command that ventured into politics and ruined it.
This aberration gave birth to some of the worst vandals laying claims to Igbo leadership today. Take for instance, Ikedi Ohakim who was still slumbering under the illusion of military hangover in the recent Imo gubernatorial elections where he invited Obasanjo to impose him as he did previously. Obasanjo who did not reckon with the changing times, of course came with that familiar swagger of an all-conquering General ready to dish out orders as usual. This time around, the electorates didn’t wait for him to issue the usual orders before the pelted him with sachets of ‘pure’ water signaling his political eclipse in South Eastern politics.
This brings me to the current power sharing arrangement at the Federal level. The shout of marginalization have rented the air again in apparent reference to the fact that the Igbo did not make the list of the first six of order of protocol. That order in itself is even questionable. In a democracy, you need the Executive, the Legislature and the judiciary to have a functional democracy.
One would have expected that the order of protocol would be some thing like, the President as head of the Executive, the President of the Senate as the head of the Legislature and the Chief Justice of the Federation as the Head of the judiciary before their respective deputies will assume the next order of protocol. I am not suggesting am an authority in this, just thinking aloud.
The current debate about what position Jonathan’s PDP allocates to Ndi-Igbo is the new issue on the plate right now.
About three or four ranking officers of the present legislature seem short changed or are loosing out in the power struggle. As leaders, they never deemed it fit to negotiate these positions upfront as most good politicians are wont to do. They have seen themselves drowning politically. And what do they do next? They quickly remembered what most Nigerian politicians know best: ignite the primordial ethnic fire, keep stoking it and at the same time present it as an Igbo agenda. They remind us we are finished without those positions. I am not by any means suggesting that it would not have been excellent to have someone from my neighborhood occupy any of those positions but I have hanging, some hard unanswered questions. What exactly do we want to do with those positions in the unlikely event that we get either? The guys jostling for those positions, what are their report cards when it comes to protecting strategic Igbo interest? Can they really articulate those interests and sell them to the generality of Ndi-Igbo as an attachment in justification of their demands. The usual noises have fouled the air while the articulations of the real issues are in short supply. It is worrisome how a vibrant race would continue to run their strategic affairs at the court of un-concerned public opinion. Why do we always think the reason the world exists is to attend to this self-imposed persecution complex.
What do we really want? In one breath, it is Senate Presidency because Ekweremadu wanted it. When he discovered that a certain David Mark negotiated and warehoused the position prior to the polls, he quickly settled for the deputy he’s been accustomed to. On the other hand, we claim we deserve the Speakership because the trio of Bethel Amadi, Eziuche Ubani and Emeka Ihedioha think either of them deserves the priced crown because according to them, they delivered more votes than their South West counterparts did. Which of the elections is in contention here? If it was the Presidency, It was practically impossible for Jonathan to have won it without the South West votes. Any good student of power negotiates from a position of strength. Who negotiated for Ndi-Igbo before the endorsement of Jonathan? Is it true that Jonathan purchased multiple endorsements from different groups claiming Igbo leadership before the elections? Two business maxims I like very much is; ‘when a manager fails to plan, he is planning to fail’ and the other is, ‘in business, you get what you negotiate and not what you deserve’.
I hear PDP ‘magnanimously’ offered us Secretary to the Government of the Federation. If they refuse to offer anything, what shall we do? Become militants? From all indications, SGF is the epicenter of Government policies. If you ask me, that’s the position we have never held where all those exclusion clauses that breed marginalization are incubated. I also hear that another trouble have arisen among my people about who should be the favored applicant of that position. A section of my people are sad that not only that Obasanjo exchanged what they believed is rightly ours “the Speaker” with the secretary ship but also had the impunity to suggest a certain Ojo Maduekwe to occupy the position and hell has let loose ever since. Fact is that obasanjo is only taking liberties at a familiar territory. He ‘s always helped choose our leaders and change them at will. So, what’s new this time around? I thought Ojo is one of the few Nigerian public officers that have served without blemish in an ocean of corruption-infested arena. Instead of the sulking attitude we have adopted, there are other important positions in the National Assembly we should fight for to argument the paltry gift of deputy this and that. The position of Senate and House committees on appropriation could be more useful than the big positions with negative returns.
I can suggest without equivocations that sixteen years of credible elections, where the natives are allowed free hand to elect representatives of their own choosing is sufficient to bridge the leadership gap in Igbo land. Only this kind of sustainable paradigm shift in our electoral contest will deepen our democracy such that the emergent leadership will represent the true face of Ndi-Igbo that will necessarily avoid the mistakes of the past that created that legendary banana peels that seem solely reserved in the pathways of Igbo public Managers. With the right kind of leadership, no tribe or race will equal the Ndi-Igbo in unanimity of purpose.