At a recent luncheon hosted for some top hierarchy of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari emphatically stated that he did not hate the people of the South East and that was why he gave them four senior ministerial positions and one junior minister, in spite of the fact that the people of the area gave him only 198,460 votes out of about 14 million votes he secured during the 2015 Presidential election.
Ordinarily, one would only but say kudos to our President for such a “magnanimity”, but when it is realized that the appointment of ministers is a constitutional issue, which requires that every state of the federation must produce a minister, one then begins to be circumspect and to think that the President had not really done any extra favour to the people of the South East, afterall nobody from the zone is in his security council.
Again, the issue of assigning portfolios to each of the ministers is a relative one, which depends on how the President himself perceives them as well as the areas of competence or specialization of these appointees, while the President can at any given time reassign or give any of them other portfolios as it pleases him.
In any case, what have the Igbo or the people of the South East benefited from these ministers, whether senior or junior, since they were appointed to their various positions? We are yet to see it.
Does it then mean that these ministers do not want to help their people or that do not want to assist them to be among those who enjoy government patronage, such as attracting government industries to their area, assisting their brothers and sisters to secure employment, or contact awards for businessmen from the area, etc? We do not think so.
These South East ministers may be willing to do many of these things, only that they are incapable or are not in position to do them, which means that they are not actually in charge, in spite of their bloated ego.
In any case, do the Igbo or the people of South East actually hate Buhari? I do not think so.
The Igbo have no need to hate anybody, after all they are cosmopolitan, they are upward moving, and they are gregarious. There is no part of the world you cannot find the Igbo residing and doing one business or the other. They live in peace with their hosts and neighbours, and make friends with them. They speak their language. They marry their women, etc. How can people with such disposition afford to hate anybody or any group of people? It is not possible.
Pioneer Catholic prelate, Bishop Joseph Shanaha, having fully interacted with the Igbo, concluded that “The Ibo has a child winsomeness. He loves fun and banter. If you show him the good side of your character, he will show you the best side of his. The people know a good man when they see one. Their own souls aspire to goodness, and they have not stifled that aspiration. It is my firm convinction that we shall meet great numbers of our Ibos, pagans as well as practically all our Catholics, in heaven”.
The Igbo however have retentive memory. They do not forget things easily. They know those who love them and those who do not fancy their way of life. They try to manage both situations even though it may be difficult or challenging. But when it becomes too unbearable they will begin to do a rethink.
In his first outing as military head of state in 1983, General Muhammad Buhari appointed only one Igbo man, Chike Ofodile, into his nineteen-member Supreme Military Council (SMC). His function was merely to knock out decrees for the regime and he perfectly did the job.
Again, Buhari seemed to have seen practically every notable Igbo politician as a thief or a criminal. That was why he rounded up many of them and dumped them in Kirikiri Maximum Prison. Among these were former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, who was put in prison while his principal, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was merely placed on house arrest – a case where the conductor is punished for crashing the vehicle, while the driver is left untouched.
Other notable Igbo jailed by the regime was Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in spite of the fact that he did not occupy or hold any political position during the second republic.
Also imprisoned were Chiefs Christian Onoh, Sam Mbakwe, Jim Nwobodo, etc. Some of these people were jailed for up to 200 years. Many Igbo did not fancy all these.
When Buhari came again in 1995 as head of Abacha’s Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PTF), there were high hopes that he would redress many of the anomalies of his first outing, but it never happened as the PTF projects were skewed in favour of a particular section of the country. Not only that there were very few PTF projects allocated to the South East zone, these few projects were also either haphazardly excuted or left abandoned.
The mindset of majority of the Igbo when Buhari entered the murky waters of politics as presidential candidate in 2003 therefore, was that of suspicion and lack of trust, based on their previous experiences. That Muhammadu Buhari was yet to strike a strong tie with any notable personality from the South East, apart from a brief political marriage between him and late Chuba Okadigbo in 2003, did not help matters.
The 198,460 people from the South East who voted for Buhari in 2015 appear to be those who bought his campaign promises and that of the APC, and who believed that Muhammadu Buhari had the capacity to deliver the goods. They did not want to look back or to remember what had happened in the past.
Perhaps, there would be tremendous improvement in the perception of Buhari by most Southeastners in 2019, if the administration uses the carrot rather than continue to apply the cane. Those who formulated the “97 percent versus 5 percent voters” reward after the 2015 election did help the regime . Instead, it alienated it from the people.
Someone may say let us ignore the South East after all we made it in 2015 without them and we can equally make it this time around without them. That may not be a good proposition if Nigeria wants to move forward because there is no way the country can progress if any of its section is complaining or agitating. That was what created IPOB and the reinvention of Biafra.
Oga Dons,thanks for putting the records straight. Perhaps any one who wants to perceive the south east behaviours should rightly do so. This is a good piece. Remain blessed.