Ndigbo must negotiate with Atiku and PDP and reposition for the future, writes Gozie Irogboli
I have monitored with interest the clamor for the Igbo man to be given the chance to be elected president of Nigeria in the forth-coming presidential election in 2023. That is a highly desirable thing that among other things would have brought genuine reconciliation, ended years of marginalization of Ndigbo, promoted national unity, accelerated national development, bring an end to separatist agitations and in real terms facilitate the re-integration of Ndigbo dislocated from Nigeria after the war back to scheme of things. But unfortunately, such clamor for Igbo Presidency as it has come to be known, has not been matched with any affirmative action as the result of the just concluded PDP primary has shown. There was clamor for PDP to field an Igbo man as its standard bearer without a corresponding pressure on APC to do the same, a move that was seen by many to mean that it was a ruse to get PDP to pick a candidate that would make the election contest easier for the ruling APC. It was also seen as a move externally instigated to distract and destabilize the opposition.
Taking power is a serious business that requires rigorous planning processes. Nobody surrenders power to you because you think you deserve it. It is not wishful thinking. It is delusional for one to sit down and do nothing and wake up few months to election and shout that it is your turn to produce the President. It is like a student who refused to study when he should and then when exam draws nigh, he claims that he is supposed to make a first class because he is intelligent.
You don’t get to the presidency by wishful thinking or noise-making. You have to plan and strategize, make rapprochement, build alliances, engage stakeholders for collaboration to allay fears of reprisal action. Ohaneze Ndigbo has not done the real situation analysis before now otherwise they would have defined the right route to the Presidency. What are the Igbo voting power? Igbo land is disadvantaged politically. Igbo land has the fewest number of state, local government, constituencies and representation at the national level. Fighting to get power will be an uphill task except there is collaborative effort. I have said in an earlier piece that the only way to get the Igbo man to the Presidency is if the two major political parties each field an Igbo candidate or the party in power uses its strength to promote and install an Igbo man. I have also observed that under the regime of APC with winner-takes-all ideology it is impossible.
Moreover, I have also observed in different fora that by virtue of sentiments expressed about Ndigbo, that Nigerians are not yet ready for a president of Igbo extraction. My independent investigation shows that 19 out of every 20 Nigerian will vote against Igbo interest. The late Prof. Chinua Achebe put it aptly in his book, There was a Country, that Nigerians are united in their hatred for the Igbo man. There is high level of anti-Igbo sentiments in Nigeria expressed in the form of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, wrong attribution, stigmatization, displaced aggression inter alia for no reasons other than wrong perception and adherence to stereotypes promoted and sustained by the sectional and negative Nigerian Press. But behind all of that is envy and jealousy. The Igbo man’s case is similar to that of the Jews who are hated because of their intelligence, industry and successes. The Igbo man is naturally intelligent, hardworking, resourceful, innovative and successful and therefore easily attracts envy. And because he is everywhere in the country, he is made vulnerable to attack.
Since after the civil war, there have been serious propaganda and debilitating campaign of calumny in the media against the Igbo man. Indeed, the Igbo man is in a dilemma situation in Nigeria. When he smiles, he is said to be mocking others. Hard work of the Igbo man is interpreted to mean love for money. He is said to hate his people because he is not clannish. When he insists on fairness and equity, it is said that he is proud. When he insists on what is right, he is lawless. When he talks about merit and level playing ground, he is arrogant. When he celebrates success, he is insensitive to the feelings of others. Worse still, the Igbo man seems to be in a helpless situation. The lack of federal presence in Igbo land leaves him with no choice but to migrate to other areas in search of opportunities thereby making him politically susceptible to intimidation and manipulation by his hosts. And this also tends to make him politically lethargic.
Without fear of contradiction I must say that Ndigbo have one of the most capable candidates for the office of the Presidency in this era and as always. And since the advent of this democratic dispensation, Igbo sons on federal appointments have distinguished themselves creditably well in office. By every standard, Dr. Peter Gregory Obi is the ideal candidate for every political party. He has the track record behind him. He has what it takes to lead—competence, ingenuity, capability, integrity and all of that. But the pertinent question is: is Nigeria ready for a personality like Obi? Remember that every society deserves the kind of leadership it has. Can Nigeria rise above petty differences? Can Nigeria put national interest above primordial sentiments? Can Nigerians rise above regional and religious politics? Is Nigeria ready for politics of ideology and national interest? Can all those social media tigers shun political apathy and participate in the electoral process? How many of those social media crowd rooting for Obi have PVC? How many of them can resist the allurement of cash during election?
Obi is a humanist, a moralist and a puritan. He is a statesman, a patriot and a nationalist of no mean stature, in the mould of the great Zik of Africa. In his heyday while Zik the Pan-Africanist was playing national politics his contemporaries were playing regional and tribal politics. Just as Zik was ahead of his generation Obi is far ahead of this generation of Nigerian. The politicians of this generation with cash-and-carry mentality cannot accommodate somebody like Obi who would not indulge in vote buying. They and even the civil servants and public officers would not want one who will come to reduce or eliminate wasteful spending and unproductive investments in the public sector. It was smart of him to have withdrawn from the PDP primaries for he would have his reputation damaged if he had remained and probably scored zero votes at the PDP primaries.
Without doubt, Nigeria needs a leader like Obi at this time to manage its resources prudently to usher in a new phase of economic progress in the land. Nigeria needs him to replicate that which he did while he was the governor of Anambra State. Obi is a brand that is sellable. How has Ohaneze Ndigbo leveraged on this? How has Ohaneze used the platform provided by IPOB to renegotiate its position in Nigeria? The Yoruba took advantage of the menace of OPC and the nuisance value of NADECO in the 1990s to get the two major political parties in 1999 to field all Yoruba candidates. But what does Ohaneze have? Ohaneze has no plan, no goals, no strategy let alone fall back plan. It is said that he who fails to plan, plans to fail.
As it stands now the option left for Ndigbo is to work with PDP. I have said it for the umpteenth time that Ndigbo have no portion and no future in APC. The controllers of APC have nothing but disdain for Ndigbo. So many people are sponsoring noise trying to distract Ndigbo while behind they are jostling to supplant their place in the party. Ndigbo have been the major supporters of PDP since inception and therefore cannot lose their position just like that. Many of those telling Ndigbo to insist on the Presidency are surreptitiously lobbying for the party’s VP slot at present. Ndigbo must negotiate with Atiku and PDP now and then reposition for the future. There is hope for the Igbo man when PDP reclaims power from the exclusionists and revanchists APC.
Part of the reposition process is not just for future elections but to holistically review and appraise the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria with a view to correcting the wrong perception, stereotypes, attributions and stigma attached to the Igbo man so that the Igbo man can take his rightful place in land. Ohaneze must work hard to get Ndigbo think home to develop Igbo land and then eliminate political apathy and complacency among the people.
 Irogboli is
an economist, novelist and public policy analyst
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