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2023: Why the Igbo should produce president

By Luke Onyekakeyah
25 May 2022   |   3:03 am
If the much-talked-about Nigerian unity is anything to go by, the 2023 general elections would prove whether or not the “unity” exists in reality or is a mere paper tiger.

If the much-talked-about Nigerian unity is anything to go by, the 2023 general elections would prove whether or not the “unity” exists in reality or is a mere paper tiger.

Unity, in the sense it is portrayed in Nigeria, gives the impression of a strong affinity, in which all the ethnic nationalities receive equal treatment in the scheme of things, in the national interest.

And the fact that national interest is the overriding concern means that no section of the country is cheated or marginalised, while another presides and dictates who gets what. Once there is no equity in the way and manner the commonwealth – power, resources, position, or whatever, is shared or allocated, there is discontent, or, some call it marginalisation.

Obviously, there is no equity in the way things are being done in Nigeria, which explains the mass discontent from different sections of the country. The country is besieged by different armed militant groups making different demands.

Among other things, the Igbo, a major ethnic group in Nigeria, feel highly marginalised in the scheme of things. Although the ill-treatment was not there from the beginning, the Nigerian civil war served as a springboard that worsened the plight of the Igbo in Nigeria.

Ever since the war ended, the Igbo have been treated with disdain, to the disadvantage of Nigeria. But time, they say, heals all wounds except it is picked. By now, the wounds of the civil war ought to have healed.

Thus, anyone who still picks on the civil war as a basis to marginalise the Igbo is an enemy of the country.
Against the foregoing background, the issue of national unity is facing the most historic challenge in the wake of the forthcoming 2023 general elections if the Igbo ethnic group is edged out again from producing the country’s president.

More than sixty years since independence in 1960, the Igbo, which is one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, is the only one that has not had the chance to lead the country. The six-month interregnum of Major General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi was truncated by a military counter-coup in July of 1966. Since then, the Igbo have remained on the sideline in Nigeria.

The overwhelming demand from across Nigeria for the Igbo to produce the president in the forthcoming 2023 elections underscores the changed consciousness, understanding and patriotism towards the Igbo in Nigeria’s body politics.

Thus, for the first time since the end of the war, all the major ethnic groups that hitherto appeared antagonistic and nonchalant are now speaking out with one voice in support of an Igbo presidency. The unwavering position of elder statesmen such as the Leader of Afenifere, the Yoruba Socio-Cultural Organization, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and the Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in support of an Igbo presidency in 2023 is unprecedented. Nigeria should take a cue from these avatars.

These and others from the Middle Belt and the core north who have come to the realisation that the time is ripe for Nigeria to benefit from the ingenuity of the Igbo cannot be wished away. Since equity is a central pillar in any progressive society, no society grows without equity. It is not surprising that things are obviously not okay for the country. The refusal to let the Igbo spearhead the effort to build a progressive virile nation has not paid off; it could hold the key to healing the wounds of the civil war and saving the country.

It is remarkable that the Igbo spirit has remained undying despite the disdain. Despite the onslaught and trauma, the indomitable spirit keeps propelling, thereby putting the Igbo at the forefront of national accomplishment in different areas to the chagrin of the rest of Nigeria. It baffles the rest of the world that Nigeria has not given the Igbo the chance to move Nigeria forward. The Igbo have the capacity to lead Nigeria to be among the leading industrial, economic and technological powers in the world.

But why are the Igbo not allowed to steer the ship of state? The answer is rooted in ignorance and unfounded hatred. Lack of open mind, coupled with misconception and misrepresentation of the Igbo, has robbed Nigeria of stellar Igbo ingenuity. The time to forget the past and chart a new course for the future is now.

The forthcoming 2023 general elections present another golden opportunity for Nigeria to right the wrongs of the past in order to save the country from imminent collapse. The deplorable state of affairs caused by years of anomie in leadership is a huge embarrassment to Nigerians and the world. And looking at the awful state of affairs, nobody is sure what becomes of Nigeria tomorrow, especially, if the 2023 elections failed to deliver the right leadership.

How else do you test the resilience of the Igbo who have been sidelined in the country’s leadership for over 60 years? That the Igbo fought an unfortunate civil war cannot remain an eternal reason why the highly productive ethnic groups should be discountenanced in the leadership of the country. There are a host of countries that have fought the civil war and still bounced back to greater achievements after letting the past into the dustbin of history.

A classic example is Rwanda which fought a ferocious civil war in 1994, in which ethnic Hutus slaughtered about 800,000 Tutsis in a spate of 100 days. Despite the heinous atrocities of that civil war, today, Rwanda presents one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, where no one is profiled or discriminated against on account of ethnicity.

That being the case, it is pertinent to ask for how long will the echoes of the long-gone civil war remain in the psyche of Nigeria and hinder progress? How long will the Igbo be treated as second class citizens instead of taking advantage of their ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness?

It is high time that the pangs of the civil war were forgotten to make room for progress. It is also high time that the Igbo were made to belong in Nigeria. Equity demands that the Igbo should be integrated into Nigeria in the national interest.

The Igbo have all it takes to lead the country. The notion that democracy is a game of numbers doesn’t hold whenever the country, for strategic reasons, decides to give power to a person. For instance, in 1999, through deliberate political engineering, General Olusegun Obasanjo (retd) was chosen to be president. It did not matter that his Yoruba ethnic group generally refused to vote for him. But the mere fact that the country decided to make Obasanjo president, as a way of compensating the Yoruba for the annulment of the 1983 election which Chief MKO Abiola was presumed to have won. And that was how Obasanjo was installed, president.

There is a need to do the same political engineering in the case of the Igbo. The mistrust and suspicion created by the civil war should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Let the civil war feelings go so that the country could begin on a fresh note to save our collapsing fatherland.

The onus is on the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to do the needful by zoning the presidency to the South-East. The political class owes history a duty to set Nigeria on a path of prosperity and progress. History is watching what legacy the political class would leave for the generations yet unborn.