BY AMBROSE EHIRIM
In 1999, after the Jim Nwobodo bunch sold out the Igbo presidency lot, handing Alex Ekwueme a stunning defeat at the Jos primaries which gave Olusegun Obasanjo the upper hand for his party’s nomination as the flagbearer to the presidential elections, I said “the Igbo presidency is a mirage.” I made it patently clear again during the drive to Obasanjo’s reelection in 2003 that an Igbo mandate was still a mirage. Then, and again, when Obasanjo handpicked a bedridden Umaru Yar’Adua and a clueless Goodluck Jonathan PDP ticket, I said the Igbo mandate would continue to be a mirage. As it happened, a lucky Jonathan, who by accident succeeded Yar’Adua, who had succumbed to a long-hidden ailment, was tested when he ran on his own ticket in April 2011. Upon Jonathan’s swearing in to commence his first term as an elected president, the otimkpus, alarmists, raised their alert to a troubling level indicating the time was pretty much around again for a situated Igbo president.
The theme is once again, up, for an evasive presidency in what was begun by pragmatic, enigmatic, committed and patriotic Igbo leaders - Nnamdi Azikiwe, Francis Akanu Ibiam, M.I. Okpara, Louis Mbanefo, Nwafor Orizu, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Kingsley O. Mbadiwe, and many others - during the days of the Igbo Union and debates on the constitutional conferences for an independent Nigerian national state. That situation would degenerate to something terrible by its nature, and a people once organized, thorough in its system and on the forefront of every aspect regarding the challenges confronting the colonists, and notably with its republican ideals, the Igbo enwe eze mantra, and the basis for its solid grounding of collectivism that leads to utopia, would dramatically fall from the standards and entirely apart.
What had happened to Nd’Igbo, as most recalls, had been beyond comprehension considering how it all began before colonial conquest.
Agha bu njo (war is bad omen), was one of the first phrases I had mastered when I arrived my native land in order to be more tuned with the culture of my fathers, and precisely, better the way it was wrapped up while I found myself assimilated, getting used to my kins' way of life and cultural heritage, coupled with a war that had ended not a distant time ago, with tales of tragedy overwhelmingly told. The Igbo nation had been plundered, demolished and conquered. Biafra as a nation would cease to exist in what had been a 30-month marathon of warfare among nations.
I have wandered as I arrived if indeed what I had seen with my eyes was real or a scene I usually saw at the movies in one of the Western films, Bonanza and the Indians - a people in shambles and totally destroyed. Children without clothes. Young adults playing on the sand-fields with torn clothes and half naked. Folks walking on barefoot and the basic things of life - pipe borne water and electricity - nowhere to be found. It was a hunting and gathering society, reinstated. I had also wondered what had brought us to such a place. It was nothing else. The home of my ancestors. Home of my forebears. The home of my father. My home. Our home. I have not seen or known anything like it my entire life until then.
I have not known much, anything about the Igbo landscape save for my father was born in the woods of Ohia-Ukwu, and spoke the language to me while I grew up in my father’s sojourned country. As it had happened, I grew up in a new era which differed significantly from that of my father and his generation, the scramble for Africa and European imperialism, when true leadership was tested, fighting to overcome the predicaments of colonialism - the sons of liberty - and every of my father’s generation contributing one way or the other.
Igbo leadership had begun in all spheres - scholars, businessmen, intellectuals, thoughtful laymen, academicians, and the architects of a profound Igbo nation - all around the globe where they were and at every gathering tailored for Igbo ideals, delivered and I witnessed some of it, when my father and his kinfolks met, my father running the errands and travelling to his homeland as delegate on a series of the Diaspora meetings on a variety of mandates and issues that may arise. My father and his kinfolks were all attracted to Ziks ideals and the Zikism Movement which had become the trend on the face of the African continent.
But ironically, a whole lot did change as time passed by.
Azikiwe was the man of every occasion. He had engineered a lot of stuff on Igbo nationalism and a patriotic, fabricated Nigerian national state the moment he brought along with him American ideals to the shores of Africa during the process of fighting the evils of colonial power.
Zik, as he had always been called by his admirers, was a product of the Hope Waddel Training Institute in Calabar. Lots of Nigerian elites passed through the school founded by the Presbyterian Church of England. Zik left Hope Waddell and proceeded to the Wesleyan Secondary School in Lagos. At Wesleyan, he studied and admired the works of Marcus Garvey. Realizing education was the panacea and especially in a region invaded by the imperialists, he left for the United States to advance his learning in which time the hurdles became extremely difficult to a point being suicidal and rescued when luck came on his side gaining admission at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, after stunts at Sorts College and Howard University.
Returning back to Nigeria from the United States in 1934, Zik tapped into the media without ado, and published “Liberia In World Politics,” criticizing the imperial powers for “alleged machinations against Liberia.” Zik would move to Accra in the later part of 1934 and start the “West African Pilot” focusing speaking against colonialism. Excellently and thought-provokingly, the Pilot became the medium through which the evils of the colonial power was sent across to the colonists which came with threats to shut down the publication.
In 1937, Zik left Accra and returned back to Nigeria and co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons with the Lagosian Herbert Macaulay from around which the organization would evolve to Nigeria’s first political party, with Zik as secretary general and Macaulay its president. Zik became president when Macaulay died in 1946.
With ongoing negotiations and the constitutional conferences toward independence from the colonial machinery and in keeping up steadfastly using a medium to denounce oppression and colonial conquest, Zik established series of news-gathering outlets in many forms of publications - Eastern Nigeria Guardian, Daily Comet, Eastern Nigerian Sentinel, The Nigerian Spokesman, the Southern Nigerian Defender, among others, in which medium he raised Nigeria’s political consciousness. With Ziks chain of newspaper reels and the impact it created in sending the messages across to a colonial power for independence, a group of radicals formed the Zikist Movement in honor of the challenges he had posed to the colonists while the constitutional conferences and debates heated up from the batch of the major ethnic groups and the ethnic minorities which was commonly subscribed to indirect rule and ethnic politics, despite the relatively national concerns in the cry out for independence which Zik stood for, unconditionally, defending “national” interests as commitment and tasks that must be accomplished, though had to pay heed to Igbo politics where the leadership had begun which helped understand the Zikist Movement that had been formed by a group of radicals when they saw what Zik have done upon returning from the United States.
Zik saw the Igbo as God-sent leader on the African shores and he patently declared, as it became obvious, the powerful nature of Nd’Igbo to lead upon his election as President, Igbo State Union which was unquestionably unchallenged in 1948:
“The God of Africa has especially created the Igbo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of the ages.”
Ziks declaration of an Igbo stronghold in African political affairs would bring about fears among other politicians, especially Obafemi Awolowo who would also declare that Zik’s whole idea for the constitutional conferences leading to independence was to make the Igbo “master race,” sending flickering messages and growing fear of competition from the Igbo, particularly among the Yoruba tribe its designated leader had been worried.
So what happened?
Before the declaration of independence and during the course of transition from colonial rule, Zik was elected President of the Senate on January 11, 1960. At independence, October 1, 1960, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a commoner and backer of the Talakawas, the relatively poor folks, from the Bauchi woods, lead a coalition government of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) on alleged majority counts and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, leaving the Yoruba nation without a voice in the federal government. Awolowo would leave regional politics and become opposition leader in the federal legislature, under the banner of Action Group, which had become an offshoot of the Yoruba cultural group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Awo’s AG would be effectively isolated in the federal character, drawing up tensions within the Yoruba dominated regional Western Assembly and a cloud of political differences that would split AG into factions deliberately conceived by the Premier of the north, Ahmadu Bello, backing Samuel Akintola in creating a new political party through defections coupled with a federal government interventions, as Akintola took the Western House of Assembly, causing an unimaginable divide in the West, erupting to chaos and civil disobedience, attracting the barrels of the military juntas guns in what abruptly ended the nation’s First Republic. The prospects of an executive privileged Igbo president becomes a mirage, henceforth.
During the 13-years stunt of the military juntas (1966-1979), the Igbo had no agenda or political bearing in a terrible post-Civil war administration under Ukpabi Asika’s formal five years of “onye ube rurule, ya rachaa” mantra, the opportunity knock around time, utilized for personal gains, nepotistic by its measure when thousands of thousands of war survivals pan-handled to keep body and soul one, on Asika’s accounts of a military regime that had bribery and corruption baked in its genes. Igbos had lost its well grounded leadership founded by the late 1940s Igbo Union leaders resulting from the coal mining riots several were wounded and 18 coal miners killed in Enugu by colonial police forces.
It was not until the drug-addled Murtala Mohammed who had been elevated to a national hero when he removed Yakubu Gowon’s corrupt regime that a sigh of euphoria came upon the leftover Igbo region he had divided by way of state creation which would add more insult to dishonor. And, of course, there was Nd’Imo and Nd’Anambra accompanied by all sorts of diatribe becoming a new order among kins who had dwelled together as descendants of the same ancestors before colonial invasion which would eventually become a tactic in creating great division. Igbo land would never be the same again!
Enter the lifting of ban on political activities by the Mohammed-Obasanjo military juntas. Awolowo, would, upon that announcement of a promised second republic, form the Unity Party of Nigeria, allegedly an offshoot of the 1960s troubled AG which recruited its old following on the same principles. Zik would lay back, not sure of his position and what to do until invited to join the Nigerian Peoples Party businessman Waziri Ibrahim had created. In what the Obasanjo military juntas had pre-planned, a gang of political hoodlums emerged with the creation of National Party of Nigeria, installing a figure head and a first republic minister, Shehu Shagari, as its flag bearer. In what would be the post-Civil-War general election of a new generation, the military juntas under the supervision of Obasanjo-led transition team, doctored said election and declared the Shagari of the NPN winner after a court favored decision that was based on Richard Akinjide’s calculus theory.
Nigeria’s trouble continued apace and the Igbo presidency of a post-Civil-war era, still a mirage. Zik was consoled in his party’s dialogue with the alleged winning party, joining Shagari’s-led NPN “for the interest of the nation,” packaging some members of his party appointed ministers -- Ishaya Audu, Paul Unongo, etc. -- in what would be a political love-hate relationship, splitting sooner than later. Zik’s second attempt to reinvent himself as a generated leader of the republic would come up short after the same gang of corrupt political hoodlums hijacked the elections, reelecting Shagari while the military barons and juntas watched with interest, striking in few months.
For fifteen years, the guns of the military juntas would run the affairs of state, except the gimmick of a stillborn third republic the Ibrahim Babangida military juntas and criminal mafia had mischievously handpicked the presidential candidates -- Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tofa -- on a two party formula and very close in their relationships, writing both political party’s platforms.
Just like a typical Nigeria that is full of uncertainties, the Ibrahim Babangida-led criminal mafia would declare the presidential election they initiated null and void, on the grounds of irregular voting conducts. In that election, Igbo had no stake at all, but would dabble into fighting the pro-democracy campaign under a Yoruba influenced National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which had been powered by its elite as they ran their propaganda machinery while abroad and happened to have escaped the wrath of the despot Sani Abacha.
In 1998, when Abacha died following the lifting of ban on political activities by a succeeding Abdulsalami Abubakar’s-led military juntas and a military fabricated constitutional prescription to test a fourth republic possibilities, Igbo wasn’t sure of a presidential mandate and who the candidate would be, though the Alex Ekwueme-led coalition had earlier generated a blueprint for a would be political party as prospects for return to civilian rule.
The peoples Democratic party would pop up with Ekwueme as the likely front runner. While Obasanjo, close to death and recovering from Abacha’s gulag wasn’t exactly sure for the presidential campaign, had to be compelled to sit in for a Yoruba presidency to make up for Abiola who had suddenly died after years of slamming by the Abacha regime death squad. In a sudden about face, Ekwueme was shown the exit, giving Obasanjo the green light to bear the party’s flag and eventually president-elect which kickstarts a fourth republic and ultimately run the nation aground with an ingrained military mentality. While Obasanjo ran the nation as if he was on combat to fight against his enemies, the Sharia debacle surfaced whereby many Igbo were slaughtered in the north, and sounding positively bloodthirsty, repeating the sins of the pogrom which he supervised and was a commander, inexplicably invaded Odi in a military like operation under the command of his kin, Agbabiaka; and also massacred unarmed civilians at Choba while the deadly gangs of the O’odua Peoples Congress under the Ganiyu Adams chapter invaded homes, robbed civilians in broad daylight, savagely axed their innocent victims and committed all kinds of atrocities within the Lagos metropolis, and yet, would not be prosecuted, getting away with a negated due process of the law. What was Obasanjo’s response? Nada.
What had happened was, Obasanjo, as it had turned out, hating the Igbos with instances of inflammatory remarks on the Igbo stock, running the Igbo-related states like a colony, instigated every problem that surfaced within, and turned the Igbo region into states of empire and anarchy. Professional hit-men political thuggery, kidnapping, murder, rape, unprovoked attacks on villages, separating families and enclaves by way of taking sides with dashes and promised government contracts and as the list goes on, Igbo governors Achike Udenwa (Imo) and Orji Kalu (Abia) took the opportunity given them and raped the treasury of their respective states, empty, where the scale of suffering reflects the fact that their regimes were disturbingly a corrupt and oppressive ruling clique, as Obasanjo liked and wanted it. And, these were the executives of their states supposedly to have followed the steps of the foundations of the Igbo Union, setting up infrstructural projects -- building more schools, providing lots of opportunities by way of creating jobs, encouraging investments, empowering the youths and stuff of that nature. They did it the other way round. They endorsed the institutionalization of corruption with impunity from their desks of the immunity clause modelled after the Babangida criminal mafia and Obasanjo’s operational state of empire and anarchy.
During the experiments to test a no limit/3rd term on Obasanjo’s quest to continue his ‘legacy’ of uninterrupted, inept, corrupt regime, in which he bribed his coattails and other jacked-up followers with millions of dollars in public funds for another chance to extend and cover up his dirt; that quest, out of greed and desire for absolute power was denied access, and thanks to then Senate President, Ken Nnamani, who stood his grounds on the doctrines of the fourth republic, never-minding a fabricated constitution doctored by the military juntas.
As the clamor for 2015 Igbo mandate begins to echo all around the Lagos-Ibadan axis press and the rest of the nation’s subsidized media, the “Igbo mouthpiece,” Orji Kalu, who is showing the guts to take the heats and very sure of himself to take Igbo to the promised land as a mandatory Igbo presidency takes the roll call for 2015, the collective of a half-baked Igbo stock of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration are yet to come to terms with the realism of where exactly it belongs in the “zoning system” of a cracked-up party principles, having nothing to do with the constitutional provisions as when it’s an ethnic tribe’s particular moment to run the country’s affairs of state. Based on that very ideal, and with Jonathan seeking reelection for a second term, and as an incumbent, the dream of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction should be put on hold, for now, that is, if Jonathan is not already serving the spot for the alleged Igbo presidency right of place.
What difference would an Igbo president make? The closest it got was during Alex Ekwueme’s vice presidency and taking that into account, what would one say Ekwueme did for Nd’Igbo in his tenure as the nation’s second-in-command? What was Ekwueme’s position when schools were still tuition free in the West including nothing at all in the north during the second republic when parents in the east had to scratch their heads wondering how to come up with their kids’ tuition fees? As vice president, how many institutions of higher learning and beginning school age classrooms were added in the two Igbo states? How many jobs were created in the Igbo states? What social programs benefited the Igbo states during Ekwueme’s vice presidency? On federal appointments to key positions, what was the allocation to Nd’Igbo and what impact did it create? What would Ekwueme identify was his legacy as vice president which entirely favored Nd’Igbo by way of committing his stewardship to do remarkable good things for Nd’Igbo, reenact the possibilities of reparations from the 20-pounds humiliating credit to abandoned property; from liquidation to the pogrom; from demotion to starting all over again, and from reopening and healing the wounds setting up human rights violation hearing commissions; what exactly would one say Ekwueme did? Period?
And, yet the Igbo presidency seems to have been a birthright the way it’s pronounced. That being the case, wouldn’t the performance of the governors in the Igbo-related states be used as an example for those among them whose ambition had been to be president of Nigeria, of Igbo extraction, which would attract and encourage their endorsements?
So, when an ex-governor who did terribly bad during his stewardship as state governor, what message would his intent be sending regarding his mandate for president? What guarantees that he would not be driven again to abandon his responsibilities in engaging his folks into better governance?
And talking about what has been the Igbo portion of the presidency slot, which accordingly, and as the story now goes, the fledgling democracy of the fourth republic was begun by a Christian Yoruba, then a northern Islamic Hausa-Fulani the middle belt loathe and, by accident, a Niger-Delta of Ijaw stock, the nation’s fourth major tribe, became president, leaving the Igbo without a record of the presidency, not only in the fourth republic, but in the country’s entire history and, on the assumption the Igbo started the Nigerian project spearheaded by Azikiwe, and by all accounts, merits the presidency without questions asked.
And, asking for this presidential spot, question is, how has it been figured out that the relative objective arriving to the presidency as using the necessary tools in determining the relevance of Igbo mandatory presidency which convinces and compels its target that the Igbo presidency has been earned by the clarity of its deeds which the public endorses?
And, what are the measures as instance to show that the slot has been earned and due?
For example, like other groups that sustained and kept an effective and efficient independent press for its market in which it takes care of its business of propaganda, where can one find the medium for Igbo propaganda tools in this case and a people in dire need? Which particular medium can be identified as pro Igbo news outlet, pro Igbo links in relative journalism, pro Igbo network connections and airwaves and related medium that speaks out on behalf of its identity and what it should solely stand for; the purpose of the difference it makes?
And, taking a close look at what I have been weary of pointing out, culling from projects initiated by Azikiwe and powerfully resourced newsgroups on a variety of subjects regarding any issue that may arise; and, having the appropriate means to counter it; how does the Igbo face these challenges when it has not developed its own independent press and only to rely on a biased axis press, having nothing to do with its bearings in order to send its messages through in its thorough and original form without alteration?
And, taking for instance, the controversial Chinua Achebe’s book, “There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra,” in which the literary icon’s thoughts and observations erupted to an outrage among the axis collaborative press, the Yoruba elite and Awoists popped out just because their hero’s name had been mentioned following the book’s excerpt published at the Guardian UK. The reactions were overwhelmingly disturbing and also marked the symbolic voice of the Lagos-Ibadan axis press which had indicated their profound machinery of a powerful media is still very much intact and viable.
And, countering the reactions, where were the Igbo heard? Where did they write? Of course, the same Lagos-Ibadan axis press where their own thoughts and views of publications remains doctored, that is, if published at all.
If we should adapt to the followings of our forebears considering the magnitude of what they did, taking for instance, Zik’s establishment of a profound press for Igbo and national interest coupled with his remarkable work in the field of education with the founding of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, being the first independent, full-fledged, degree-awarding institution in Nigeria which combined the best of the British and American systems, and today still on the front-lines of the nation’s institutions of higher learning, how come none among the prospects and projected leadership not keeping up to the creed in what had dignified the Igbo? Since these projected leaders are clamoring to set the pace right, what are they doing differently now as pathway to keep Igbo to standard by all aspects?
Pinpointing the days of the Igbo Union and going thus far, when Igbo was solidly grounded and led, Zik’s colleagues of the era - Francis Akanu Ibiam, Michael I. Okpara, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Louis Mbanefo, Kingsley O. Mbadiwe, L.N. Obioha, Alvan Ikoku, Kenneth Dike, and as the list goes on, doing worthy things with little or nothing, what explains a lame duck Igbo of today from getting things done in today’s technology, enhanced feature of exposure, conducive environment, much better education and things like that? What explains having nothing to show for all that have been made available? Who and who leads Igbo on a variety of many fronts today? Where can we find them? Did Igbo leadership collapse? What happened?
Trial Balloon to see reactions before this publication, Facebook, November 26, 2012: "The Igbo Presidency Debates, Again! What For? Has 2015 become a life and death situation for Nd'Igbo?:
We are just not ready, and compound with the fact that other tribes despise us more than a snakebite, and rightfully so. We are just shooting off mouth, just for the heck of it. Who is serious among us, and who is capable? It’s not about education, and neither is it about wealth. We have plenty of those. It’s about knowing the hearts, desires, and needs of the people and how to return joy to the masses.
I’m ashamed that we are the ones at the forefront in challenging President Jonathan for 2015. That goes to heart of our ungrateful disposition. After Jonathan single-handedly forced Parliament, kicking and screaming, to bow and kiss Ikemba’s cold, black, hairy ass. He dragged Nigeria into vindicating Ojukwu. Tell me who, in Nigeria today, that would have given the Dim the most thunderous farewell party since the parting of the temple Veil more than 2000 years ago.
By the way, how are we gonna govern Nigeria, the same way we have the Igbo states? Our people in the North would rather brave the attacks of Boko Haram than come home to face the disgraceful southeast. Governors make laws unilaterally, without consulting the legislative brand, whose responsibility it is to make laws. Elected officials are fired for any and every reason. You would think that the last place to see high handedness would be the Southeast.
Besides, how are we gonna preside over Nigeria when a handsome percentage of Ndigbo are clamoring for a resurrected Biafra? Our aspirations are impossible to reconcile. The Feds arrest MASSOM, BILIE, and BZM without cause and not a soul is saying anything. It’s even embarrassing that not one person has devoted enough though concerning the circumstances surrounding the demise of Ikemba. Shameless people.
Prince Emeka Onyeneho
That President Goodluck Jonathan gave Ikemba Nnewi a befitting funeral is not enough for Ndigbo to support him in 2015. People are dying daily in NIgeria. Kidnapping and armed robbery are on the rise and he is not doing anything to stem the tide. FYI, I am from Nnewi and I supported Jonathan in 2011. But something needs to be done to to save Nigeria from Somaliazation and he seems incapable of doing so.
There is nothing logistically difficult about sharing oil proceeds. However, government is simply more than hosting a funeral for the Ikemba and sharing oil proceeds. Ndigbo are much more effected by GEJ's ineptitude, being slaughtered in the North by Boko Haram and held hostage in the South East by armed robbers and kidnappers. Let him redeem himself and force me to recant!
Politics is much more beyond one's regional compartment especially when such society is a federated one. Igbos need to tread carefully and not exclude others in the quest for the number one post as it may be seen as a quota or some self-interest quest. I think these two words - Igbo presidency - should be carefully applied to avoid unwarranted suspicions or egos. However, one critical anomaly in Igbo politics is the quest for the superlative suffix both in the individual and general politics. There's nothing wrong in 'race to the top' but it has to applied carefully and genuinely. Even if 100% of Igbos voted for an Igbo presidential candidate, it still won't be enough to win the presidency. That is the irony. Right now, societies are evolving with new 'strange' values that wielding a century old value to garner support and/or votes may not hold ground anymore. People, in terms of values, are criss-crossing due to emerging values. As for me, I am indifferent to a president from Ikot-Ekpenne, or Sabongari, or Ibadan. Just deliver the goods.
Okoye, Mukwugo. “A Letter To Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe: A Dissent Remembered.” Fourth Dimension Publishers, Enugu; 1979
Azikiwe, Nnamdi. “Foot Prints On The Sounds Of Time.” Lagos; 1962
Azikiwe, Nnamdi. “My Odyssey,” Hurst; 1970
O’Brien, Conor Cruise. “To Katanga and Back: A United Nation case History,” Gossett and Dunlap; 1966