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Okupe on why Igbo can’t be president

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[FILE] Former Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Mr. Doyin Okupe.


Dr. Doyin Okupe’s revelation in a Vanguard interview that as far as the 2023 general election is concerned, the North has not forgiven Igbo for Ahmadu Bello’s death and as such, the Igbo can’t be president in Nigeria is thought-provoking and shocking. It has laid bare all the deceits, pretenses and shenanigans being played out to hoodwink the Igbo on the issue of Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction while covering the truth.

The Igbo, in all honesty, without habouring any animosity against any person or section of Nigeria, have been forward-looking to a time an Igbo blood would be allowed to become president in Nigeria. This is despite the fact that in terms of making sacrifices to build Nigeria, the Igbo have been in the forefront.

And in terms of bearing the brunt of the unfortunate civil war, the Igbo were made the scapegoat. The Igbo suffered genocide that is comparable to the worst the world have ever experienced; lost their wealth and infrastructure; yet the Igbo took all these with equanimity and open mind and decided to consign the ugly and awful experiences to the pages of history, while looking forward to a permanent healing of the wounds and a brighter and prosperous future. The Igbo have forgiven everyone that participated in murdering its people. The Igbo bears no grudges anymore. But it is unfortunate, going by Dr. Okupe’s revelation that the same Igbo have not been forgiven.

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Going by the personality and clout of Dr. Okupe, I have no reason to doubt what he said. Dr. Okupe has swarm in the turbulent waters of Nigerian politics and came out unscathed. Though a trained physician, he was the National Publicity Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Under the Abacha military junta, he was once detained and disqualified from participating in the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) primaries. He once contested for governorship of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State. Okupe served as the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Olusegun Obasanjo and also Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan. I have tried to dig into the profile of Okupe to show that he is not an outsider in Nigerian politics and so knows what he was saying.

That brings me to the issue of Ahmadu Bello’s death that the North has allegedly not forgiven the Igbo. The events of January 15, 1966 that saw the killing of some of Nigeria’s finest founding fathers in a bloody military coup remains unfortunate in the annals of Nigerian history. Sir Ahmadu Bello, the then premier of Northern Nigeria at the time was one of the victims of that coup that was led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu an Igbo. Military pundits have tried to explain the purpose of that coup regarding whether or not it was an Igbo coup, but that is not the issue at stake at the moment.

What is uppermost now is whether or not an incident that happened 55 years (more than half a century), should still be carried forward in the political affairs of the country, knowing full well that that incident was a major dent on Nigeria and arguably responsible for the awful state of affairs in Nigeria today. Which is better and in the public interest, to begrudge the Igbo ad infinitum (till thy kingdom come) on account of an unfortunate historical incident that has kept Nigeria down or to let go of that page of our history and let Nigeria move forward? Time they say heals all wounds. What wound is it that refuses to heal after 55 years except that men are picking on it? That is why it keeps haunting Nigeria. No doubt, the coup has had profound and lasting impact on the Igbo in particular and Nigeria as a whole. The Igbo and Nigeria as a whole are at loss.

Since 1966, scores of coup d’états have taken place across many countries in Africa and beyond in which important political leaders were assassinated and yet reconciliation has taken place. No sections of those countries that suffered the loss refused to forgive those responsible for the killings?

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According to Google, of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history, meaning that humanity has been at wars and conflicts for 3,132 years or 92 per cent of recorded history. What is responsible for this is in depth animosity that has made peace and progress to elude humanity.

The Second World War (WWII) ended on a disastrous note after the United States of America on August 6, 1945, dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and three days later, on August 9, dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people and with long term effect of radiation from the “black rain” that fell thereafter. Today, America and Japan are very close allies and partners. The ugly history has been put aside.

Again between 1941 and 1945 during the same WWII, Nazi Germany carried out a vicious genocide of European Jews by systematically murdering some six million Jews across German occupied Europe in what is known as the Holocaust. The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings by policy of extermination through work in concentration camps and gas chambers chiefly in Auschwits.

Today, Israel and Germany maintain a “special relationship” based on shared beliefs, Western values, and a combination of historical perspectives. Among the most important factors in their relations is Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.

Here in Africa, the Rwanda genocide took place between April 7 and July 15, 1994 amid the Rwanda Civil War. During this period of around 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu, were slaughtered by armed militias. The most widely accepted estimates put the deaths around 500,000 to 600,000 Tutsis.

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It is interesting that under the uncommon charismatic leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has consigned the ugly and heart-rending massacres to history. Today, Rwanda is a masterpiece in Africa. The policy has changed to recognize one main ethnicity: “Rwandan”. There is no more Hutu or Tutsi. No ethnic group can lord it over the others.

The coup of January 15, 1966 was a huge mistake on the part of the Igbo who spearheaded it. The coup led to a chain of events that culminated in the fratricidal civil war in which over three million Igbo died. Prior to the war, there was a pogrom in the North and parts of the Western Region in which the Igbo were targeted and massacred. The Igbo abandoned their wealth and assets in parts of the country and ended up as famished refugees in Igbo land. The Igbo were forced to fight a civil war in which they lost practically everything.

At the end of the war, every Igbo was paid meagre 20 pounds sterling irrespective of the millions they had in banks. The monies were forfeited to the Federal Government. Also, Igbo properties were declared as abandoned properties and were never returned to their owners. The January 1966 coup for which the Igbo are still held in bondage was a colossal loss and a huge mistake. The Igbo regret everything about that coup. Is it not time to let go of that disaster and chart a fresh course. Nigeria is losing by not harnessing the technological and enterprising mind of the Igbo to leverage a sham of a country that has become a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

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In this article:
Doyin OkupeNRCUNCP
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