A few days ago, some self-styled “Igbo patriots”, boarded several vehicles, others went by air, off to Abuja, and to the nation’s seat of power, Aso Rock. Their mission? To beg our dear President, Muhammadu Buhari, to give Ndigbo President in 2023! That was before the Obasanjo’s bombshell.
Watching that scene on television, tears started to roll down my cheeks. I began to wonder how the Igbo, a proud and courageous people, who the nineteenth century former slave boy, Olaudah Equiano, in his memoir, described as “happy clean people, without unemployment, without prostitution, without drunkards and without beggars”, could descend so low as to begin to”beg” a single Nigerian individual to give them president in 2023!
But how on earth can a right thinking Igbo group decide to go and beg an individual, no matter his position, to make the Igbo President? That is highly infradig, insulting, defeatist and unIgbo. It is foolishness or naivety of the highest order. Perhaps it may not be an overstatement to propose that all those people who made that inglorious trip should be lined up and given twelve strokes of cane each, for dragging the honour and dignity of the Igbo to the mud.
I have been restraining myself from commenting on that visit, but the pressure has become so irresistible that I cannot help than to chip in some few words.
Yes, we want a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, if indeed we are still part of this political entity called Nigeria. Other major ethnic groups have had their turns, but the Igbo are yet to have a bit. This has made many Igbo to become despondent, helpless and frustrated. Others want complete exit from the country.
Many people attribute this to the civil war, fought about fifty years ago, between the Igbo and the rest of Nigerians, which the Igbo lost. As such, a lot of other Nigerians could no longer trust the Igbo as to think of supporting them to become President of the country. That was the desperation that led the South East APC members to go to Aso Rock to beg Buhari to give the Igbo President in 2023.
It’s true that the Igbo fought and lost the Nigerian civil war, and that the Igbo have not been getting what they believe ought to have been their right in Nigeria, some people call it marginalization, but is that enough reason why some people would be rolling on the floor, begging somebody to give them president? I don’t think that is proper.
In any case, even though the war went in favour of Nigeria, Nigerians themselves really know that the Igbo were no pushovers. No other ethnic group could have withstood the country for three long years, in spite of the fact that Nigeria was openly supported by Great Britain, the former Soviet Union, and the entire Arab world.
The Igbo came out of the war penniless, and were further pauperised by the twenty pounds policy, which was the maximum amount one could access in his bank account, even if he had one hundred million pounds before the civil war, as well as the Indigenization Policy, where all the government owned companies in the country were sold to private individuals, at a time when the Igbo had no money. All these notwithstanding, it was not long before the Igbo recovered and became a strong force to be reckoned with in the country.
A lot of people have been wondering how the Igbo managed to recover economically within so short a time. The Igbo recovered because God is with them, and because the Igbo were determined, and they work very hard. They did not beg anybody to help them, or to give them money, after all, was it not the same people that pushed them down that they were going to beg?
Going down a little down memory lane, as far back as the eighteenth century when Leo Africanus visited Kano and Katsina, he recorded “a great store of doctors, judges, priests” and other Islamic scholars, and up to the early 1920s, when, according to J. S. Coleman, the Yoruba had twelve practising lawyers, eight medical doctors and several other professionals, the Igbo had not produced even a single university graduate.
Yet, before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1967, the Igbo had not only caught up with the Hausa and Yoruba, but had surpassed these two ethnic groups with their number of university graduates. How can a people with such fantastic past be begging somebody to make them president? Incredible.
In any case it is not human being that gives power, but the Almighty God. The Igbo will be President of Nigeria when God ordains it. Ten years ago, anybody who thought that the Ijaw ethnic group would ever produce a President for Nigeria in a foreseeable future, would be stoned or said to be dreaming. But God thought otherwise, and gave Nigeria a President of Ijaw extraction in the person of Goodluck Jonathan. The time for the Igbo will surely come whenever it is the will of God and no man can stop it.
That does not mean that the Igbo should simply fold their arms waiting for God to come down from heaven and make them President. While hoping on God, the Igbo should equally assert themselves positively and not wait for somebody somewhere, to out of his or her benevolence, bestow power on them, because power is taken and not given.
At any rate, it is not only by becoming President that the Igbo can assert themselves in Nigeria. While the Igbo have the legitimate right to aspire to the highest office in the land, they can as well channel their energy and resources to what they know how to do best, commerce and industry, and from there, they will begin to rule the country.
Japan has no standing army, yet they are ruling the world technologically. The Igbo can as well put on their thinking cap, deploy their ingenuity, their technological know-how, and their can-do spirit, to assert themselves as inventors, innovators and manufacturers. They do not need to boot-lick or beg anybody in this direction. While it is the God-given right of the Igbo to aspire to the rulership of the country, the Igbo should as well not lose sight to what the Almighty God has endowed in them.
With their God-given talent, the Igbo can make their impact felt in the country. This they can easily do by organizing themselves, building combines, and economically developing their home area. Nnewi and Aba, are good examples. They are the Japan of Nigeria. Many Japan towns can equally spring up in different parts of Igboland.
Similarly, Igbo entrepreneurs and industrialists should emulate Ifeanyi Uba and Innocent Chukwuma in investing in their home region, aku lue uno.
With these, the South East will begin to rule Nigeria and will no longer seek to kow-tow to anybody who, in their wishful thinking, can make them president.