As the saying goes, if you run after two hares, you will catch neither. So, it follows that if you are agitating for an independent state of Biafra and insisting on a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023, then you will end up empty. The reason is simple, a chattering bird builds no nest. Chasing after an independent state of Biafra and the 2023 Presidency of Igbo extraction is like chattering. The implication is that, because you are all over the place, you will end up not performing the simplest task of even deciding on where to build your nest.
As Nigerians reposition for what will be intriguing political maneuvering in the runup to the 2023 national elections, where is the nest of Igbos? Is it in Aso Rock or in the Biafran Spirit that has been battered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)? Will the nest of Igbos be built from the formidable Biafran flag or with the rickety and distorted flag the IPOB is currently promoting?
An attempt to build our nest in Aso Rock and Biafra, simultaneously, is akin to placing ourselves in a state of confusion. This is not about mild confusion, but the kind of profound confusion that will leave the people pushing to be part of the ruling coalition in a country they desperately want to leave shaking their heads, if not their fists, and arguing about what went wrong at the end of the 2023 Presidential election.
Presently, Igbos have three distinctive political players: on the dark side of the political spectrum is the vociferous, but erratic groups represented by IPOB. A fringe group that rather than overwhelming its opponents, ran itself aground by its own arrogance, stupidity, and naivety. On the left of this political spectrum are the political elites who capitalise on the real and imaginary marginalisation of Igbos to advance the selfish political goal. It is this political class that will not hesitate to back presidential candidates from other parts of Nigeria instead of fronting one of their own and for once, demand their rightful position in PDP.
Then, there are those of us, the minority, in the middle of the Nigerian ethnopolitical spectrum, that believe in the promotion of a plural national culture that reflects but transcends ethnic nationality. Our middle position is based on the understanding of the interdependence of different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, most Igbos -- PDP members, IPOB members, and their sympathisers are simultaneously agitating for an independent state of Biafra as well as a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. This is deceptive because these Igbos erroneously believe that these discordant and out of phase transmissions are of the same wavelength. They are not and the output from the mixture of harsh and inharmonious sound is cacophony.
A boat cannot go forward if each rows his own way. It is even more confusing when it is the same person rowing the boat in opposite directions. In their disastrous state of disillusion and confusion, over the 2023 Presidential elections, the spin-doctors are all over social media sweeping outright lies and twisted narratives like the presence of a clone in Aso Rock or a threat of another Civil War. Meanwhile, these are political mini gods that cannot hold their disorganized army in line.
The truth is that crying a lot does not give you peace of mind especially when you do not know what it will take for you to be consoled. How can you explain the cry of marginalization and absence of infrastructure from the federal government and yet the rejection of the construction of the second Niger Bridge and Enugu International Airport all in the same breath?
The stake for Igbo political renaissance in Nigeria is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion by thinking anew and acting anew. It is not good to be a distraction to your team. IPOB and their sympathizers are trapped in history and history is trapped in them. If ever IPOB is a team member to those pushing for Igbo Renaissance, then, they are a distraction, a big distraction that is attempting to reinvent tried and discarded politics of ethnic nationalism in a cosmopolitan Nigeria.
Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand. The fact is that making decisions requires trading off one goal against another. Most importantly, to get one thing that we like, we usually must give up another thing that we like. What are those agitating for Biafra or Nigerian Presidency of Igbo extraction or Atiku-Obi ticket willing to give up? Are they willing to give up bigotry?
For a presidential candidate of Igbo extraction from PDP or APC to tour the core North and seek votes, the distracted and disillusioned IPOB members and sympathisers must desist from derogation of Hausa and Fulani ethnic nationalities. You cannot abhor dog meat and at the same time be eager to devour dogmeat-soup. If you cannot storm Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, and Kaduna and feel at “home”, you cannot win a national election in Nigeria.
Governor Wike will bankroll and support Governor Tambuwal over Peter Obi or any other candidate from the core Igbo states in the PDP primaries. Millions in the South-South geopolitical zone will toe the same political alignment. The distracted and disillusioned PDP and IPOB members have refused to pause and ask themselves why that is the political reality facing Igbos simply because they are not willing to trade off anything to gain something.
We are all very familiar with the Igbo proverbs that a goat that died in a barn was not killed by hunger. This proverb sadly encapsulates the reality facing Igbos in Nigeria today. Our barn is full of yams as we can boast of men and women that can deliver good governance. Our challenge (a puzzle) as a people is how to stop the goat from dying in the barn. The pathway to reclaiming our political relevance in Nigeria should not be led by disillusioned political actors like Nnamdi Kanu and Nnia Nwodo. Under their watch, our goats have been dying in the Nigerian political barn.
I have stated this before, and I will restate it here: a movement like IPOB based on bigotry and intent on stirring ethnic-religions discord could offer no answers to the challenges facing Igbos that are resourceful and outgoing. Every Igbo should take this home and put it is a safe.
My impassioned plea to all Igbos, disillusioned or not, who believe in Igbo Renaissance, is to build bridges. We cannot achieve political greatness on our own in a supper-multicultural Nigeria. Being disillusion and distracted will not change our political fortunes. To regain political relevance and eventually overcome, we must win the hearts and minds of broader Nigerians with a new politics that should be focused on aspiration than complaint, on dreams than nightmares, on possibilities than limits, and on building bridges than barricades.
Together, we can.
Churchill Okonkwo, Ph.D.
On Twitter @Churchillnnobi