Who’s Afraid Of Igbo Nation?


As the race for the choice of a geopolitical zone that would produce the next President gathers momentum, the thrust of the debate is defined by three pillars of argument: equity, numerical strength and qualified detribaalized nationally accepted Nigerians regardless of race, religion etc.

Let me begin from the last criterion for obvious reasons. Nigeria is bedeviled almost by insurmountable problems and currently hanging on the precipice of insecurity, unemployment, high inflation, diminishing standards of living, kidnapping and banditry and other sundry criminal activities.

The thinking is that, Nigeria is passing through these harrowing experiences because of past and present bad leadership. To stop this recurring phenomena, stakeholders are beginning to discuss new ways to throw up a credible and visionary candidate that would be accepted pan-Nigeria. A candidate who would take Nigeria as his constituency regardless of where he comes from or his religion. This is the current thinking of a section of the political class.

The second consideration is to throw the race open to every qualified Nigerian. In the end, who ever can muster majority votes will carry the day. This is essentially the beauty of democracy which is built around the ideal that it is of the people, by the people and for the people.

In Nigeria where the north alone has 19 states including the federal capital which is predominantly populated by northerners, the north alone has a commanding lead of 20 states ahead of the south which has 17 states.

This position is canvassed by a coalition of 75 northern groups under the aegis of the Northern Consensus Movement (NCM) which claimed that the north has a population of 120 million, with additional 40 million Fulani people to close at 160 million

The NCM president, Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu is confident that the next Nigerian president would be a northerner.

“We are ready for it. We believe in democracy. We know politics is a game of numbers. We know leadership is by ballot box. Leadership is by PVC, leadership is by election and that’s why we are calling our people to come out enmasse to get their PVCs.

“The 120 million northerners should get their PVC. The 40 million Fulani should get their PVC. Put together, 160 million. We will elect another fresh northern president by February 2023,” he stated.

Figures credited to the National Population Commission census of 2006 still records Nigeria’s population at 140m with the north having 75 million while the south recorded 65 million people.

Now those kicking against this approach argue that relying on the numerical strength of your bloc to win a presidential election engenders winners takes all and does not build a cohesive and united country.

This set of people arguing against the use of numerical strength by a dominant group to control power rather seeks inclusiveness built around compromise and consensus. They are the ones seeking the consideration of equity in building political alliances.

The foundation of this argument lies with the consideration that while the north has been in leadership position for decades through military and civil rule, every zone in the south except the South east is yet to lead the country. The nearest the region could boost as proximity to the corridors of power was during the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) when late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was vice to Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

According to unconfirmed sources, the military struck in 1983, when it became apparent that Ekwueme would emerge President after Shagari’s last term. So, who is afraid of the Nigerian President of South east extraction? The north unarguably has a phobia for the Igbo because of the audacity of Chief Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu to declare a sovereign state of Biafra.

In the union that culminated to Nigeria today, it does appear the Igbo were endangered species from the get go. The Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello speaking with a foreign journalist then accused the Igbo of inordinate ambition. According to him, “if you hire an Igbo man as a laborer, tomorrow, he would want to become head man.”

He stated then that under his reign, no Igbo would be employed in his One North enclave. To him, rather than employing an Igbo chap, he would hire a foreigner on contract and pay him to do the job. His reason was that he had to preserve those opportunities that are reserved for northerners only.

It is not surprising that that the Sardauna’s philosophy has endured to this moment and has been elevated to state policy. Today, notwithstanding the federal character policy, the north has taken over every viable parastatals, ministries unchallenged.

Again nursing the same sentiments that greeted Ojukwu’s launch of Biafra, President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking on Arise Tv interview said the group, Indigenous People of Biafra who are like a dot in a circle have continued from where Ojukwu stopped would be dealt with summarily.

“So that IPOB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere. And the way they are spread all over the country, having businesses and properties. I don’t think IPOB knows what they are talking about language that they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them,” the President assured.

Given these scenarios, the Igbo feel alienated and marginalised, they do not see themselves as part of Nigeria especially several decades after the civil war where no victor and no vanquished was declared, a section of the country still would not accept them back into mainstream politics. But why?

After General Yakubu Gowon declared the end of hostilities and no victor no vanquished, the Igbo had expected to be reintegrated into mainstream politics. And indication that it was not going to happen manifested immediately after the end of the war following the enactment of certain laws targeting them.

Igbo people believed as it later turned out to be that some of the laws enacted after the war were made to disenfranchise them in Nigeria. For instance, the Public Officers (Special Provisions Decree no. 46 of 1970): With the Decree many Igbo officers who participated in the civil war on the part of Biafra were summarily dismissed or compulsorily retired. This was against the earlier directive and assurance to the world by the Head of State that all officers would be reabsorbed to their former positions before the escalation of hostilities.

From the economic front, the Banking Obligation (Eastern States Decree): Banks in the Igbo region were made to pay all account owners a flat rate of 20 pounds independent of what they deposited in the banks before the war. The same with the Indigenisation Decree of 1972: With this law, Nigerians were given an opportunity to get involved in the country’s productive enterprises. Igbo people, because of their post-war situation, feel they were not ready for such exercise and were alienated from the nation’s economy.

In Rivers state, there was the Abandoned Property Policy by the Alfred Diete Spiff administration. This policy of confiscating properties in the Rivers state by the state government was seen as an economic attack on Igbo people, who fled the state during the war. Igboland, which used to be one of the three major regions of the country, became the region with the least number of states of the six geopolitical zones in the federation till this day.

Now let us also not forget that in addition to losing their means of livelihood, abode, entire life savings, over 3 million Igbo lives were lost during the civil war. By any form of punishment, the Igbo have sufficiently paid the supreme price for the civil war. The current hiccups perpetrated by MASSOB and IPOB are reactions to the punitive actions of the powers that be to continually rub it in and subjugate the Igbo to second class citizens in a country that they are equal partners in.

Let us be clear, I am not an Igbo, even if I was, I would be proud of my rich heritage which is what the Igbo parade. The Igbo come from a long history of struggle, enterprise and self determination. How many people know that long before Nigeria was amalgamated by Lord Lugard in 1914, the Igbo had already organised themselves into a nation state seeking self determination from the colonial masters?

According to the Blackpast website, an Igboman was the first to propose an Independent Igbo nation state in 1865 about 39 years before the amalgamation of what will later be known as Nigeria. It was neither Mungo Park nor Christopher Columbus, his name is James Africans Beale Horton.

Horton who was born in 1835 was the first to publish and send to the British government his proposal titled, “The EMPIRE OF THE EBOES/HACKBOUS/HEEBOS/IBOES/IGBOES/EGBOES, with the Requirements Necessary for Establishing that Self Government Recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons, 1865: and a Vindication of the African Race.”

His proposal included a concrete plan for a Self-governed independent nation, an army, currency, Support for modern civilization and economic empowerment. You can imagine where the Igbo nation would have been today had the British granted this approval.

A corollary of all this is that the Igbo remain a very formidable ethnic group that needs to be accommodated and given a sense of belonging. Rather than fanning this needless fear, Nigeria indeed stands to gain more from Igbo enterprise and ingenuity.

For instance, if not for the sentiments and hatred for the Igbo, Nigeria would have benefited more, curated and improved on the major technological groundbreaking breakthroughs recorded by Biafran in the area of refining, construction, bomb manufacturing etc.

It is about time we reduce the tension especially in the South east, IPOB is no threat to Nigeria or the federal government except that they have been given unwarranted and unnecessary attention. The use of a sledge hammer to kill a fly produces negative outcome. It is rather better to adopt a political solution to douse the tension.

Finally, as parties jostle to produce the next President, 2023 presents a golden opportunity for Nigerians to support the only zone that is yet to lead the country. There are innumerable safe hands in Igboland to guide Nigeria to Eldorado. Fear of secession is needless and would evaporate forever the day an Igboman is entrusted to lead the country and that time is now.