Twenty-four hours after the historic March 28 presidential election, my phone began to ring ceaselessly for the next two days. You would think, on the basis of the torrent of congratulatory messages, that I had transformed into Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But almost two weeks after Buhari’s well deserved victory, I had found it difficult to write even an article on the victory, a supreme irony for someone who crafted over 30 enthusiastic articles on Buhari’s campaign. This is no mystery. I am deeply worried by the absence of my Igbo people in the electoral victory map, all the more so since most of my articles on the presidential election were written from the Igbo perspective.
It is unlikely that an Igbo could become the next Senate President because there is no Igbo APC senator. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that would not allow someone like Chris Ngige to return to the Senate. Ngige would have been the natural Senate President. As things stand today, no Igbo is likely to head the executive arm of government or the legislative arm or the judiciary. This is not a great record for a majority ethnic group. Under outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, the Igbo became the only majority ethnic group not to have a representative in the nation’s security council because Jonathan did not find any of them fit in the last two years to be the chief of defence staff or to head the army or the navy or the air force or the police force or the Department of State Security (DSS) or the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA); Ambassador Nwana who was the most senior officer in the line to become the NIA director general was bypassed and retired.
It is not flattering that the Ohaneze leadership could not pick up intelligence that President Jonathan was a tough product to market, hence its unwavering support for a candidate who, far from developing Igboland, was in cahoots with a majority of inelegant beings from our place to ruin Igboland. It smacks of awful intelligence failure on the part of Igbo think tanks that none of them knew that the United States, European Union and even Chad and Niger Republic were up in arms against Jonathan on account of his grand failure to deal with large scale insecurity, his indifference to unprecedented graft and his inability to move the country in the right direction.
I had argued before the election that anytime two of the country’s three majority ethnic groups came together in politics, they would carry the day, citing the instances of the coalition government in the First Republic, the working accord between the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) and the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic and the map of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) electoral victory since the restoration of democracy in 1999. True, the Igbo-dominated All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was part of the grand coalition which formed the APC, but ex governor Peter Obi and APGA national chairman, Victor Umeh, opted out abruptly and then mounted the most vicious hate campaign ever seen in the country’s history against the APC. Putting to effective use his position as chairman of the Conference of Southeast Governors, Obi embarked on religious and tribal propaganda against the party.
Even otherwise rational people in the South-east and the Igbo world generally began to internalise the propaganda that the APC was the main promoter of Boko Haram, Nigeria’s islamisation, etc. Both Obi and Umeh will for life bear the burden of their use of terrible propaganda to scheme their own people out of political relevance. We are now in a situation where almost every presidential candidate could feel that he or she could win without the Igbo vote. The APC will from May 29 become the government party, yet there is not one single Igbo APC senator that can attend any of its senate caucus meetings. Ironically this is a party that could have easily chosen an Igbo as the presidential running mate if only the Igbo had shown a bit of interest in it. And this candidate would have been now not just vice-president-elect but president in waiting!
The good news is that deeply thoughtful Igbo people like Festus Odimegwu, Pat Utomi, Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili and Bart Nnaji did not capitulate to the mass mind programming of PDP operatives. They were later joined by ex governor Ikedi Ohakim and his Igbo Conversation Group which included erstwhile ex House of Representatives member Nze Chidi Duru, ex PDP senatorial aspirant Chike Maduekwe and all factional Ohaneze factional leaders, whose stout refusal to compromise managed to reduce the millions of votes the PDP usually awarded itself in the South-east.
Truth is that Jonathan could have won the presidential vote in the South-east on March 28, but not with the same margin which was proclaimed officially. PDP operatives used the police and army to write false election results, and in some places tried to kill those who resisted the perfidy. A perfect example is what took place in my hometown of Ihiala in Anambra State where a daring attempt was made in broad daylight before over 1,000 people to assassinate the Nestoil chairman, Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi.
With the governorship election coming up on Saturday, PDP elements have RESUMED the task of setting up the Igbo against the Yoruba in Lagos State. Capitalising on an unfortunate statement by the Oba of Lagos about possible consequences if the considerable Igbo population in the state should vote against APC candidate Akinwunmi Ambode, the PDP has been trying to give the false impression that the Oba is a card carrying APC member who speaks on behalf of the party. The APC is bound to win the gubernatorial vote. No one should deny the Igbo the opportunity to be part of this victory by forcing them to take sides with a losing party. The Igbo lost out at the national level by wasting their votes on the PDP on March 28. They should not repeat the same mistake on April 11, otherwise we will be suffering double jeopardy.
We have a big stake in Lagos, Nigeria’s most strategic state. More Igbo people live in Lagos than any other place in the world, and Ndigbo prosper here more than any other place. The Igbo and the Yoruba have been living in harmony with each other, and the relationship should be deepened in the overriding national interest. Good a thing that leading Igbo individuals and groups like Eze Igbo of Lagos, Igbos In Commerce and Senator Annie Okonkwo who voted for the PDP on March 28 are daily endorsing the APC candidate in droves. Ambode will certainly win, and it is in the interest of our people to identify with him early enough.
What is axiomatic now is that the Igbo need to go into a new direction. The leaders who have emerged in recent years cannot engage in strategic thinking, an awful handicap in the 21st century. We must take our rightful place in the world.
• Mr. Adinuba is head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting
Culled From Thisday Newspaper
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