– Sola Ajisafe, Esq.
The just concluded 2023 election (save for some re-runs of Gubernatorial and legislative elections) has proved that there is a fundamental problem yet to be properly situated and addressed by the Igbo nation in its pursuit of national acceptance in Nigeria. Until this problem is addressed, it will add to the mariads of problems that will make its recognition acceptability and preparedness to assume mantle of national political leadership a fleeting illusion.
Two issues drew that home more pointedly in the election of February 25, 2023. The concept of “Igbo for Igbo alone” or by extension culture of “victim mentality” or the culture of silence or more reasonably called “elite conspiracy” has become very prominent before, during and after the election.
As a corollary, let me call our attention to two important issues. One, just as the result of the Presidential election started trickling in and it was clear Asiwaju was heading towards a resounding victory, a video appeared on internet of a young girl of about 13 years crying profusely and swearing to the gods that “ Tinubu must not win this election ooo! Tinubu must not win this election ooo! If he wins I promise God I will not pray to Him again…, that is the reason I did not go to Church today…”.
Again, in another instance, about two weeks ago, another video surfaced on the internet of a twelve year old boy also crying profusely. While been interrogated by her mum why he was crying his reply was because Tinubu won the election and he knows Tinubu is a bad person and will not do anything good for Nigeria. Her younger sister of about ten years started making jest of him, but the mother chided her to allow her brother to cry because it was because “ he loved Nigeria”. She encouraged him to cry more while the little girl either did not believe the boy and her mother or just did not see the reason for such theatrics or possibly did not really understand their” pains and agony” if there was actually any.
To those who care to know, by the linguistic inclination those two children are Ibos.
What these two scenarios have shown pointedly is how some parents deliberately plant evil seeds or mismanage their children to deliberately hate the entity called Nigeria. My point here is not that there are nothing to hate in Nigeria but it is not only callous but wicked to deliberately plant hatred in children. This was what the parents or guardians of these children have done.
Unfortunately the woman and the children in the second viral video live outside Nigeria. What a wicked way to train children and what a wicked profiling to be given to minors about ones country. This type of behavior are seen in Afghanistan or terrorist films.
This two stories portray how our eastern brothers deal with the issue of Nigeria. Yet they want to rule Nigeria through the exercise of “Igboland for Igbos alone” or on the vortex of victimization or a “victim mentality”. Take for example in this last election the result of the election was such that none of the three other parties was able to score five percent 5% of votes in the five eastern States. Not even their perennial friend the PDP.
It is a story often told that you cannot hold land in any of the States of Igboland as a non native, you cannot be in their midst to engage in same business with them. You will be run out by many negative marketing mix. Yet, they wish to dominate you even in your backyard.
Last week, a woman in Akure through a viral video narrated her ordeal as a Flour seller in the hands of Ibos who are also involved in selling Flours. According to her, anytime her competitors discovered that she receives a supply they will quickly send out information among themselves to crash their prices. Anytime they did this she will also crash her price until they came to meet her to find out how she was copping and she told them matter of fact that she is aware of their practices and ready to meet them headlong. She was able to confront their antics because she was a distributor to the Flour company.
I can swear that this is not limited to Ibos in Arakale market in Akure or Ladipo or Alaba market in Lagos or at Upper Eweka Street in Onitsha. This is a form of national identity or put succinctly a cultural mechanism adopted to fight competition for the survival of Ndigbo businesses.
This would have been believable if they accept others or do not make attempts to take control of other people’s lives or environment. It could be more acceptable if it is a stratified behavior limited to a segment of the Ibo nation. Surprisingly, this attribute is more felt among the elite of Igboland.
Some people have argued in support of the Ibos to the point that it was a defensive mechanism based on injustices suffered particularly during and after the war civil war. I make bold to challenge such assertion as puerile and untrue. As far back as 1939, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe fresh from University training from America has shown that Ibos are above other tribes. In one of his articles he referred to the Ibos as a “Special nation” born to dominate others. Dr. Jaja Wachukwu was reputed to have made the insidious statement that “Lagos is a no man’s land “ and in the 1950 and 1953 London Conference Zik led the Eastern delegates to forcefully argued that Lagos should be severed from the Western region despite argument to the contrary by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his compatriots from the Western region.
Furthermore, the destruction of the NCNC and turning it into an Ibo party after it was handed over to Zik by Herbert Macaulay, a Yoruba man, the destruction of the Nigerian Youth Movement through the divisive antics of Ibos led by Dr Azikiwe, the antagonism against the formation of Egbe Omo Oduduwa which later gave birth to the Action Group, ( whereas he actually supported and encouraged the highly effective Ibo Town Union as an instrument of socio-political growth and development).
The struggle for the heart of the Western region after the regional elections in 1950 and the removal of Chief Eyo Ita as Premier of Eastern Region after Zik failed to assume the Premiership of the Western region, the use of the West African Pilot against other non Igbo leaders especially of Yoruba stock are all symptomatic of the fact that this attitude had a historical bent and predated the crisis of the 60s.
Let me wet our appetite with some curious examples. In the pursuit of the Ibo for Ibos alone, Ibo intellectuals have arguably confined themselves to believing that the Ibos are a “marked stock” in Nigeria or that they are the victims of every perceived action in Nigeria. Three examples will suffice.
The whole gamut of what is contained in Chinua Achebe’s book “ There was a Country”, Chimamanda Adichie’s book “ Half of a Yellow Sun and Emefiena Ezeani’s book “ In Biafra Africa Died: A Diplomatic Plot”, all point to the fact that it is not only the unlettered street Igbo trader in Kano or the Obioma seller in Oshodi that see Awolowo or the Yorubas or any other tribe as the enemy of the Igbo ethnic group. Even their best share this nebulous and erroneous belief.
Despite the historical fact that, but for the very selfish and sectional actions undertaken by young purchists in the events of January 1966, the baseless attempt to blackmail the Yorubas into a senseless breakeaway from Nigeria and the void attempt to capture Lagos which came to nought at Ore, the Igbos has learnt to blame everyone except themselves for every misdeed. Even, the inability to listen to other comrades on the futility of foisting an Ibo administrator on Lagos if it succeeds in taking it in 1967, the thoughtless invasion of the MidWest at the start of the war and the egregious infantile radicalism displayed in mishandling the Aburi Accord by Ojukwu and Gowon were part of the mistakes that the Ibos and its leadership refused to accept responsibility for but barefacedly blamed on others particularly the Yorubas who have always become the fall guy or the linchpin of every debacle they meet along the way.
Is it not a fact of history that the way and manner the January 15, 1966 coup was prosecuted and handled by the Ibo elements, the way the government of General Aguiyi Ironsi handled the matter afterwards, the sectional way the perpetrators were treated thereafter and the way the civil war was conducted never found anything in these books to prove that the Ibos were their own worst enemy. They put the blames on others particularly on the Yorubas chiefly Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
In the run up to the 2023 election, one is aware of the following facts; no Iboman of any political value gave their support to Asiwaju in the real sense of it. Those who did, fall into two categories. Either those who have become part of the benevolence of Asiwaju and had become part of the Lagos political establishment as of right like Comrade Joe Igbokwe or those who for the issue of political interest or political affiliation have no choice but to pretend or show that they support Asiwaju.
One would ask what will Orji Uzor Kalu be if he were not anglying for the Senate Presidency? Even the result of the election from Abia State and the entire Igboland speaks volumes. Despite the visit of Asiwaju to Kalu’s mum and his avuncular shouting of “ are you BATified? during Asiwaju and Gbajabiamila’s visit where Asiwaju did the Yoruba gesture of “prostrating”the whole of Abia was only able to deliver just a little above 8000 votes to Asiwaju while Kalu scored above 31,000 votes in an election that held same day to make him a Senator again.
Curiously too, there had been a bent since the election took place. One could see a pattern of elite conspiracy manifesting among the Igbos. During the Governorship election in Lagos, we read how Oby Ezekwesili was tweeting and asking for election results and condemning the actions in Lagos while pretending as if nothing is happening in the East or elsewhere similar to what happened in Lagos. The issue of MC Oluomo was made an isolated case while those who called out Lagosians and their “ stupid Obas” and would “chase them out of Lagos” when they “ take Lagos” were seen as no issues.
Also, I find it curiously conflicting the “expose” by Sam Amadi, a voluble protagonist to Puritanism and intellectualism about the issue of the Justice Ariwola in what is now known as “Ariwolagate” upon which he quickly tendered an apology.
Can anyone tell us with clear conscience that the statement credited to Dr. Ezeife was a happenstance or the very erroneous, illegal and invalid twin condemnation of the Supreme Court and its Justices and the demand that the election petition be concluded within seven (7) days before the May 29 inauguration of the Asiwaju Presidency by no less a man like Dr. Olisa Agbakoba. Where is it coming from?
Why did he not make such suggestions before the election? If his candidate Peter Obi had won the election would he had asked that the inauguration of the Obi presidency be delayed for a minute? Would he have asked that the statutory 180 days be abridged to his seven (7) days off-cut demand? Would he has said that the best interpretation for Section 134 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and Section 299 of the Constitution if read conjunctively and the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Buhari V Obasanjo should all be set aside to accommodate his strange thinking that Abuja is a numero uno or a “weighted” community and must be won by any Presidential candidate before he could become the Nigerian President even if he had won the rest 36 States? If Obi had changed position with Asiwaju, would Olisa had advocated such snide position?
Furthermore, one of the reasons cited by Agbakoba for his strange admonition is that the whole system is heated up and there is the need for the nation to be calmed down. But pray, Olisa kept mute when political institutions and structures in the South East was been attacked and destroyed, when security agents were being killed. Where was he when the South East was been locked down every Monday and anyone who ventured out was been murdered in cold blood? What did he say about IPOB, Biafra agitators and their agitation? How many press interviews did he grant concerning the murderous Unknown Gun Men (UGM). Before deciding to run and hide in London to arbitrate on issues of other nationals how many times did Agbakoba address the press on the assault on the sensibilities of Lagosians or sympathize with the people of Lagos for their loss during the EndSars riot when pro-Biafra agitators on the instruction of Nnamdi Kanu asked IPOB to kill Tinubu and Sanwo-Olu? At least, he rose to national prominence in Lagos and made his money from Lagos.
The icing in the cake was the very bad intentioned and regrettable letter by Madam Ngozi Chimamanda Esege ( Nee Adichie) to the President of the United States denouncing the 2023 election on the basis of the Obi/LP allegations. The totality of the letter points to the fact that there is a strong correlation between the sustained indifenssive allegations of rigging been propounded by Obi and his Ibo cohorts and the silence of their elites.
The totality of the above is to the effect that the Ndigbo is their own greatest enemy and biggest threat to their actual assimilation into the Nigerian society. It must be noted the idea of fixing an “ iron curtain” around the South East will only engender a further self immolation and segregation from the epicenter of political power in Nigeria.
Also, this behind the scene support and culture of “ hear no evil, see no evil “ been adopted by the leadership of Ndigbo will not birth any positive result. If for anything they should learn from a neighbor like the Yoruba people who have adopted “ constructive engagement” as a political strategy despite the seemingly disadvantages. Anything short of this will be a “ night too far and morning not in sight ” for the South East and they should blame mo one else except themselves because they made their choice.
The leadership of Ndigbo must recognize that any society been run by elements like Nnamdi Kanu or Sam Ekpa cannot win in a plural society like Nigeria. They must be checkmated. The Yorubas have proved that with the OPC and recently with Sunday Igboho.
They must also recognize that politics is all about “ negotiating, negotiation, negotiating, and more negotiation”. It also has its consequences.