THE IGBO PRESIDENCY: THE BEGINNING OF TRUE NATIONAL RECONCILIATION IN NIGERIA.
The governments of retired General Yakubu Gowon, (July, 1967—July, 1975), late General Sani Abacha (Nov. 1993 –June, 1998), and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo II (May 1999—May 2007) will be respectively remembered in the annals of Nigerian history for the various efforts they made in reconciling the peoples of Nigeria after the tragic civil war, the infamous annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election and the many years of agonizing military rule.
While Abacha’s Akinyele Committee and Obasanjo’s Oputa Panel would seem to have succeeded in meeting the ends to which they were inaugurated ditto cannot be said of that of General Gowon.It is disheartening to find that thirty or so years after the formal declaration of the civil war’s end with “no victor, no vanquishes”, the Igbo people are yet to be fully reintegrated into the Nigerian mainstream.
Agreed. Federal roads and bridges linking the Igbo with the other peoples of Nigeria have been constructed and “regularly maintained”. Agreed. The Igbo man was the Vice President and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives during the second Republic; the Chief of General Staff, albeit shortly during Babangida’s administration ;the Chief of Naval Staff during part of Late Gen. Abacha’s regime; the Senate President during Obasanjo’s administration ;and the present deputy Senate president. Agreed .President Shehu Shagari granted the ex- Biafran warlord Chief Emeka state pardon in the early 80’s.Agreed Chief Obasanjo authorized the payment of gratuity and pension to those servicemen who fought on the side of Biafra during the crisis. But the Igbo man has never been the Chief of Army staff, Chief of Air staff or Minister of Defence or the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police force. The presidency has not been an equal opportunity Employer to him. His effective right to the Nigerian presidency has not yet been guaranteed. Yes, even with the on going rotation of the key federal positions among the six geo political units. In 2000 a senior friend of mine from the Ogoja-Obudu area of Cross River state (A staff of the Federal College of Education in that area) told me that the Igbo are the problems we have in Nigeria because they are too “clever”. In the summer of 2003 one Mr. Adesina told me in Manhattan New York City that the Igbo man cannot and will never be the president of Nigeria. And General Obasanjo has been quoted to have called the Igbo a ‘conquered people’ during his presidency. This sense of nervousness about the Igbo and his right to the presidency also exist among the Northerners.
Almost all the other peoples of Nigeria dine with the Igboman with a very long spoon. He is not trusted. Every move he makes is scrutinized with a high definition binocular. In fact the xenophobic term “Igbo sense” has been coined by his detractors to pejoratively mischaracterize him as crafty, deceitful, money-loving, manipulative, and therefore cannot or rather should not be trusted. A case in point is the loss of the PDP presidential nomination by Chief Ekwueme (despite his impressive resme) to Obasanjo in 1998.In that historic primary election, Obasanjo ran as the establishment candidate, as a leader the powers that be can ‘trust’. The result of that election is already public knowledge. And if Obasanjo is still the so called leader the king makers can trust after the eight nightmarish years of his autocracy remains to be seen. The identification of the Igbo man as untrustworthy is rather a gross misrepresentation of his God given unique ability to survive under extreme conditions. The truth remains that the Igboman is highly resourceful and resilient. And he maintains a commanding presence in all legal fields of human endeavor---commerce, academics, Agriculture, etc, etc. He is accommodating to strangers and highly tolerant of other people’s values and cultures. He is the only one who resides in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. He believes more in the survival of the Nigerian Nation than in the survival of the Igbo homeland. He is the only Nigerian whose investments can be effectively found in all parts of the country. And he has not been high handed with the Oil mineral found in his neighborhood. Nobody is more patriotic than him and nobody can be more trusted .As the Vice president, Dr Ekwueme remained loyal to his boss from day one to the end. Ret. Commodore Ukiwe made professionalism and discipline his watchword during his stewardship as the chief of General staff before being dribbled out of office by his boss, IBB. Ike Nwachukwu and Allison Madueke respectively gave impressive accounts of themselves as the Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army and Chief of Naval Staff before being jettisoned by their respective bosses. Dr Edwin Ume Ezeoke was marvelous as the Speaker of the Federal House of representatives. And Dr. Ken Nnamani exemplarily refused to be part of Obasanjo’s tenure elongation plot. Despite everything, Mr. Anyim, late Okadigbo and Chief Enwerem were positively outstanding in their leadership of the Senate.
That the Igbo man was involved in or rather was defeated in the Civil war, that he cannot mobilize to demand his full reinstatement in the Nigerian mainstream and that he can be easily mobilized to tear himself down are all faulty arguments to advance in justification for his continued marginalization. The Igbo people are not the first people in the world to be defeated in war. In pre- colonial Nigeria the Yoruba civil wars were fought, won and lost. Today the winners and losers of those terrible wars happily live together without any strings attached. The eleven confederate states that lost the American civil war were granted soft peace by President Lincoln. They have been fully readmitted in the American mainstream and happily live to actualize the great American dream.
The Igbo man has paid his dues to Nigeria. He has nothing up his sleeves against Nigeria. And in line with his commendable belief in the continued corporate existence of Nigeria, he values national politics above tribal loyalty. That was why the Ekwuemes , the Onohs , the Okparas, the Okadigbos, the Ojukwus the Mbadiwes, the Onyiohas , and the Collins Obis left their son Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe naked and pitched camp with the defunct National Party of Nigeria,( NPN) in the second republic. That was why the Orji uzo Kalus, the Nwobodos, and the Okadigbos all supported Chief Obasanjo in the race for the Presidential nomination of the PDP in Dec.1998 instead of Chief Ekwueme, their kinsman. Obviously the skepticism clouding the Igbo presidency will pale into insignificance when correct answers are provided to these questions:
Who punctuated Nigeria’s match to the promised land of Democracy by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari? Who annulled the freest and fairest presidential election so far conducted in the history of Nigeria? Who were the leaders of the two political parties –The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) who stood impotently by as the powers that be buccaneered our democracy in the 1990s. Who overthrew the Interim Government of Chief Ernest Sonekan? Which head of state has been repeatedly accused of unilaterally making Nigeria a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries? How many Nigerian Heads of state have unsuccessfully plotted to succeed themselves in office and where are they from? Why did the out gone Police chief, Mr. Ehindero localize all his investments only in the South Western part of the country? Why was President Obasanjo uncommunicative when the senators he inaugurated in 1999 were given Five Million Naira (#5,000,000.00) each as their furniture allowance in lieu of the three million and five hundred thousand Naira (#3,500,000.00) that Nigerians knew about?
So why should we trust the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against Nigeria or folks from those zones more than the Igbo man? The Igbo man means good for Nigeria. He is ever ready to sink and sail with the fatherland. And so his unrestricted reintegration into the Nigerian main stream is the beginning of wisdom and his inauguration as the 14 th or so president /Head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, the beginning of true national reconciliation in Nigeria.
By Ibiam Aru,