Presidency: A Haram for Igbo race?
If the Igbo race thinks that a Nigerian president of an Igbo extraction can come through by mere promises made by the present presidential candidates of the major political parties for the April 2011 general elections, they may just continue in their hallucinations of decades. I am one of those who strongly believe that an Igbo president in Nigeria is long overdue. Each political dispensation that comes, the Igbo are often used to play out the game with baskets of promises which seldom attract very little to them, in terms of democratic dividends.
For over forty years now after the civil war, no Igbo man has been played into the presidency. It is either they are fixed at the head of the Senate for them to carry out the biddings of the president, or they are let to head political parties where they play out a president from other races. Who is to blame? Nigerians or the Igbo people themselves! Has the position of the president become a sacrilegious thing (haram) for the Igbo?
I am very worried with the way majority of the presidential candidates are proudly going round the Igbo land making beautiful promises to hand over the mantle of leadership to the Igbo in 2015. And more worrisome is the way some of the governors of the Igbo states have turned the political rallies to a do-or-die affair for what is really not for their people – when they are only being used. Why should an Igbo governor stop any Nigerian from campaigning in his state, if not for inferiority complex and the quest for personal favour by the candidates? How long will it take the Igbo to know that there is no perpetual friend or enemy in politics?
A swift flash at the strongest campaigners shows that none of them even has an Igbo man as a running mate. The incumbent President Jonathan has Namadi Sambo as his vice. Sambo is a Muslim believed to be from Kaduna state. And many Nigerians can still remember the controversies that trailed his selection to deputize President Jonathan when former President Umar Musa Yar'Adua passed on. Remember that the president came on board as the vice in 2007 amidst strong contenders. So what will Sambo or the north do if, per adventure, the South takes the president's position after April 9th? Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has Pastor Tunde Bakare who is not an Igbo as his vice. Dr. Ibrahim Shekarau has Mr. John Euboyanwan Kenneth Odi as his vice and Nuhu Ribadu has Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola to deputize him. As a pool of opinions can attest, these are the four major contenders in the April 9th Presidential polls.
Without prejudice, if the Igbo join forces with these people basically because the next president in 2015 will be from the Igbo extraction, it may be a hard truth. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the presumed strongest party cannot hand over the presidency to the Southeast in 2015. A great hindrance to this is that the Igbo seem to be so satisfied with the position of the chairman for the party. Again, if the party's internal arrangement of power rotation between the north and the south is finally scuttled, then I'm afraid the Igbo can pay the cost of the fight to claim the presidency in 2015 under the party.
Power is intoxicant anywhere in the world especially in African and Nigeria is no exception. People who have never expected to lead Nigeria in their life and suddenly finds themselves there by Providence do often attempt to betray their consciences. Former President Obasanjo continually comes to memory in this respect. A man who thought it was over, suddenly regains freedom, then was made to ascend to the presidency and thereafter tactically, through divide and rule, refuses to leave power.
It is just the African Power Lust (APL). Sometimes, one who goes into it with good intentions turns out to be worse than the predecessor due to unforeseen circumstances. Two politicians made confessions. One who became very rich within six month proclaimed that there is no business more rewarding than politics in Nigeria. If you get into it and succeeds, you will never think of leaving it. The other said, “I did not know what politics entails in Nigeria until I had entered it. It is hard and consuming. When you get it, there can be no going back.” So, the Igbo should allow the incumbent president (Azikiwe) to have enough of the tenures he desires. Then, if there is no problem between him and his vice, the vice will take over for some tenures. Then, before another gentleman agreement that may perhaps favour the Igbo is to be implemented, another minor ethnic group would be drafted in.
This can be no surprise. After all, the special adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji has made an assertion. Hear him speak, not merely as a politician but as an insider that, “It is very clear, Vice President Sambo will step in, as soon as Jonathan finishes. It's like this, it goes to the North back and to the South, then to the North and back to the South, then in the South it can go to the South East, South West or South-South.
Continuing, “In the North, the same applies and so now, Jonathan is serving the South-South ticket, so then it will come to the North and when it happens, we will want the institutional memory to be there, we don't want too many dislocation that will set us one step forward, two step backwards and all of that. It is my dream and the Vice President has the experience and he is rightly positioned.”
The truth is that Abba-Aji could not have made this statement out of carelessness. He is a caucus member of the PDP and one who has been on the corridor of power for long. He talks to and hears from those in power. He knows what is revolving in the minds of some of them. He equally tapes the sentiments, reasons and wisdoms of some of them. Such statement, if swept under the carpet by the Igbo, then it is just normal that they should continue complaining to no one or keep talking without action.
Why should an Igbo not be president? The effects of the civil war have continued to trail them. But has there not been great civil disturbances in the country since 1970. Who has been punished so mercilessly for the disturbances that have claimed hundreds of Nigerian souls: in Niger Delta, Zaki Biam, Odi, Plateau, Borno, among others? I have repeatedly stated that the Igbo should understand that bitten once twice shy. They should not continue to be mere political allies at all times. Being the president of Nigeria should not be Boko Haram for them. They have to work hard to get it, just like other components of Nigeria. They should not expect that Obasanjo or any president will ever hand over power to them, Christians or Muslims amongst them.
Dr. Alex Ekweme has been the only second citizen of the Igbo race. Forty-one years now, the presidency has been between the Hausa-Fulani-Nupe-Yoruba-Ijaw. The minorities have also tasted it under democracy. What benefits can the States of the Southeast claim to have got at the federal level by massively belonging to PDP since 1999 – insignificant ministerial portfolios.
This is not a campaign for or against any party. It is a case for the wise, the strong and yet the hopeful. If the Igbo must inhabit the Aso Rock Villa in 2015, they must rearrange the plans in their hands and make wider and more focused consultations with other nationalities in the country, but not to depend on promises by mere political power mongers.
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]
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