Advise to my Igbo brothers: Short term plan is self destruction
By Godson Moneke
“IT IS BETTER TO STAND BY AND SPEAK THE TRUTH AT ALL TIMES NO MATTER THE PRESSURE “
The Igbos are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. The other two are the Hausas and the Yorubas. They are arguably the most enterprising and broad minded of all the ethnic groups in the country which boasts of more than three hundreds languages and dialects. They are arguably the most socially mobile of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria and it is easy to see them settle in the remotest parts of the country. Their belief in the sanctity of the unity of the country is apparent as they don’t hesitate to invest in any part of the country where they live and carry on businesses. To that extent, they can be said to be arguably the most patriotic of all the ethnic groups we have in this country. However, what they gain in all these they lack in political sagacity, patience and tolerance. The Igbos rank among the most politically and religiously intolerant groups in Nigeria although they are not usually physically violent about disagreements. It is the use of verbally violent and vitriolic means to push through their political beliefs that sane people see as a dangerous addition to the mix. The Igbos are always in a haste to get anything they wish for and have scant regard for the imperatives of long term and strategic planning in their calculations. In social sciences, which political behaviors form part, short term plannings are good but comprehensive long term strategic plannings are better. The failures of the Igbos so far in the political calculus of Nigeria can be located in their incorrigible disregard for strategic planning. Sometime in year 2005 during the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Mr FIX IT, Chief Tony Anenih (now of blessed memory) orchestrated that it would be the turn of the Igbos to produce the president of Nigeria in 2015. No sooner had he finished saying it than Igbos started to inveigh all manner of invectives on his pragmatic soul and persona. The argument of the Igbos then was that year 2015 was too far away. This Igbo way is a fatal character flaw which they must be exorcised of , going forward.
The Igbos conveniently forgot that by the rotation policy of the PDP, after the Obasanjo presidency, it would be the turn of the Northern Region to produce the president of Nigeria. Instead of angling for the Vice-President which was the most probable route to the much sought after Office of the president through the PDP, they remained unconcerned. They were campaigning to be the president instead knowing fully well that it would be the turn of the Northern region after the Obasanjo Presidency. It was against that background that the then governor Peter Odili, an Igbo from the south south geopolitical zone mounted a robust and effective campaign for the Office of the president in Nigeria. There were other Igbos who wanted to be president soon after President Obasanjo without regard to the rotation principle of the PDP. They considered the position of the Vice President infra-dig. In the end, they lost out in everything from the President to the Chief Justice. They could not even get the post of the Vice President which they looked down on or the Senate President which they had during the presidency of Obasanjo , neither could they get the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The highest positions they were allowed were those of the Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. As the tenures turned over they were fairing worse. This called for sober reflection on their part to put on their thinking caps. Every student of politics in Nigeria knows that no ethnic group in Nigeria can win the presidency of Nigeria without a strategic alliance with other ethnic groups. The truth is that even a person from a minority ethnic group in Nigeria can become the president with proper strategic alliance with other ethnic groups. This point should not have been lost on the Igbos but it did.
Rather than sit down and strategically plan by forming partnerships with other ethnic groups, Igbos are behaving like frustrated people blaming their misfortunes on others when it is obvious that they were the architects of their own misfortunes. Those frustrations gave rise to many militant groups who embraced criminalities as their modus operandi. The Igbos now think they can go it alone forgetting that the unjustifiable suspicions weaved around them by their detractors will continue to be a haunting and militating factor. The Igbos have always failed to heed the wise counsel that in politics, it is dangerous and foolhardy to put all your eggs in one basket. This is not only true for politics, it is also true for all spheres of life. For example in investments , a diversified portfolio is better than a one-basket portfolio . Now the Igbos want to go it alone banking on the support of their imaginary youths of this country. They concocted a narrative that their candidate was the required visa to Eldorado. They decided to fly with such self-deprecation notion , convinced that it would stick as the desired pathway. They have deluded themselves that other nationalities would readily buy into that gambit. How can they convince voters that their principal who has been into partisan politics since year 2001 (over 20years) and recently implicated in the PANDORA PAPERS controversy is a new broom to sanitize our politics? You cannot succeed in such hard sell of a tainted principal by CYBERBULLYING and engaging in virulent attacks of whoever holds a critical viewpoint. There remain people like me who do not share in their optimism and who believe that the mood of this country requires cooperation among the various ethnic groups for our collective prosperity. Honestly, we don’t need a one-man riot squad to navigate the mines and bumps to reach our desired destination. Neither do we need a person who would exploit the existing fault lines in this country to achieve election as president. Our fault lines are many and includes; CHRISTIAN Vs MUSLIM, YOUTHS Vs ELDERS, EDUCATED Vs UNEDUCATED, THE PRIVILEGED CLASS Vs NON-PRIVILEGED CLASS, ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS DICHOTOMY , NORTH Vs SOUTH, ONE GEOPOLITICAL ZONE Vs ANOTHER GEOPOLITICAL ZONE, UNIFORMED MEN Vs NON-UNIFORMED MEN and so on.
National cohesion is all we need now as echoed in the words of our former national anthem; THOUGH TRIBES AND TONGUES MAY DIFFER, IN BROTHERHOOD WE STAND. I do not even know why we changed that anthem because it has more meaning and speaks to the soul than the current one. However, that is not the purpose of this writeup. What worries me now is the entitlement mentality and disorder that is pervasive among the Igbos who believe that everybody must have the same political persuasion often dictated by the monied class in their system. There is the mistaken belief among the Igbos that anybody who is wealthy knows everything and in a system where law and order are trampled upon, such monied class can enforce their beliefs no matter how illogical they may seem. The Igbos need to urgently resolve the riddles of IPOB, KIDNAPPERS AND UNKNOWN GUNMEN which have made the southeast a flashpoint of security concerns in this country. The philosophy of IPOB as a SEPARATIST GROUP is antithetical to those of the rest of Nigeria. It smacks of contradiction and appears ironic for the support base of IPOB to lie in the southeast and for the same southeast to be vociferous about producing the president of Nigeria at the same time. PLEASE NOTE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SEPARATIST GROUP AND A TERRORIST GROUP. IT IS EASIER TO ENGAGE A TERRORIST GROUP IN AN ARMED CONFLICT THAN A SEPARATIST GROUP. It would definitely make other Nigerians to be suspicious of their motives no matter how well meaning they are and how unfounded the suspicions are. Here comes the dilemma!!! The political leaders in the southeast need to support the governors by extricating the geopolitical zone from the IPOB trap which detractors of the zone are using against it. It appears nebulous to support IPOB out of fear especially when in the southeast and to criticize them once outside the zone. Such capricious change of posture is unhealthy and hypocritical.
Nonetheless, it is a careless and loose talk to associate any Igbo candidate as having sympathy for IPOB because he is Igbo in the same way as it is wrong to label another candidate as a sympathizer of Sunday Igboho’s Yoruba Nation or OPC because he is Yoruba or call somebody a sympathizer of Boko Haram and Armed Bandits terrorists group because he is a northerner. Such labeling is very dangerous. It is wrong to make dangerous insinuations against somebody without evidence. However, I believe that salient questions should be asked of any candidate if there is a strong suspicion of culpability like in the case of the Vice Presidential Candidate of the APC who is yet to explain his alleged links with the Boko Haram terrorist group. We must be careful of generalizations in the name of scoring political points. You don’t call somebody a thief because he has a relation who happens to be a thief!!!
IPOB is a violent , fearsome , potent minority separatist group which do not have the support of the overwhelming majority of the people in the southeast geopolitical zone. The negative impact of their activities on the economy of the region is already telling on the people who are hapless because of the fear for their lives. I have always advised my fellow Igbos to exercise tact, diplomacy and less noise making in their political pursuits as that would achieve a better result. In politics, noise making is a sign of weakness and never a sign of political sagacity. For example, for more than two years, INEC conducted the CONTINUOUS VOTER REGISTRATION (CVR) for any person who desired registration to quietly get himself or herself registered without drawing attention to himself. But my Igbo brothers never availed themselves of that window but when INEC announced a cut-off date for all new registrations, the Igbos would begin panicky registration as if they were not aware of the the CVR exercise all along and draw unnecessary attention to themselves. At the end of the day when the number of the new registrations is taken, they would feature among the least. So why all the noise? I cannot recall in recent memory when somebody from the southwest had been made the Chairman of INEC or any of its forerunners but they participated in all elections not minding and without shouting discrimination and marginalization. If it were the Igbos, they would have brought down the roof in what they would see as unacceptable anomaly. The Igbos are quick to point to the enviable and brave records of Professor Humphrey Nwosu as the country’s chief umpire for the 1993 presidential election but are quick to forget the uneventful reign of Professor Eme Awa and the ignoble role played in 2007 by Professor Maurice Iwu in superintending the most rigged elections in the history of Nigeria. PARADOXICAL, ISN’T IT?
Another worrisome development is the level of political intolerance among the Igbo supporters of a certain presidential candidate from the southeast geopolitical zone ostensibly because he hails from the zone. Deliberately whitewashing a candidate because you support him is dishonest. The associated hoopla is having the unintended effect. They forget that political beliefs vary as our faces do and that representative democracy encourages people with diverse political persuasions. Democracy is enriched when people share different political ideologies and beliefs. We can’t all think alike but the Igbo supporters of this candidate fail to understand this simple maxim. Any person who does not join their bandwagon is considered an outcast who has no thinking faculty or simply a saboteur who is betraying the Igbo nation. Funny enough, these same people have done nothing to extract good governance from fellow Igbos that superintendent the southeast geopolitical zone as governors. They readily turn blind eyes to the crass maladministration by the people we call our governors in the southeast but are ever quick to blame the federal government for the deplorable state of infrastructure and absence of industrial developments in the southeast. While not exculpating the federal government for its rather deliberate and sinister neglect of the zone, I believe that the blame game is overhyped. When people behave as selfish accomplices of their governors in their orchestrated underdevelopment what they get is a self inflicted injury. It is not always that majority thinkings on issues and beliefs are right, most times they are swarmed by the emotions and irrationalities that go with the mob. In some cases , minority positions are more rational, reasonable and better informed. My position is that we must consider all schools of thought and never be dismissive of any one. It is a popular saying that in a community decision-making, minority should have their say while majority should have their way but it is dangerous to attempt to gag the minority from expressing their views.
Such autocratic tendencies are antithetical to modernity. An educated mind is a liberated mind. Education is not just the ability to read and write or to parade certificates most of which are of doubtful integrity nowadays, it is the ability to be reasonable, reflective and make informed decisions when confronted with choices. You don’t win over people by being hostile towards them and their political beliefs, you win them over by convincing them that your position is superior while at the same time listening to them and being ready to bow to superior reasonings. A brother who forgets that you are brothers first before holding different political beliefs and insists that you must toe his line by the reason of the relationship in spite of your explanations, is not worthy of the much vaunted relationship which he has made toxic on account of your different political belief. Igbos are advised to take a cue from other ethnic groups in Nigeria who achieve their goals without making noise because action they say speaks louder than voice. The coloration and stigmatization of any project as an agenda of any ethnic group in Nigeria is the surest way to guarantee its failure. That is exactly what the Igbo supporters of this presidential candidate are doing. It is common sense that an obvious and vociferous identification with an issue arouses grave suspicion in others about your true intentions. Supporting a project should be based on objective criteria and not on emotions. Igbos should objectivize their parameters in making choices to make them more elegant and sustainable. This Igbo versus Yoruba or Igbo versus Fulani or Hausa horse ride is injurious to the Igbos’ long term interests in this country. I must confess that other ethnic groups play similar ethnic politics which are often exacerbated by their political leaders but I can only admonish the Igbos against it because I am Igbo and charity they say, begins at home. We should discourage primordial politics if we must achieve national consensus and cohesion. INEC has said that POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS will commence on 28th September, 2022, we want peaceful ELECTIONEERING devoid of name-calling, violence and threats because ELECTION IS NOT WAR.
Godson O. Moneke, a quantity surveyor, socio-political critic, advocate, analyst, and commentator wrote from Abuja.