By Moses Oludele Idowu
Some prominent persons have expressed the views that the inability of the Igbo as a race to produce the President of Nigeria is an injustice committed by Nigerians and a conspiracy of sorts against the Igbos. I disagree. Some others believe that it is a gang up due to envy of the Igbo as a people. It is false.
It is my purpose to show in the following narrative that far from being a conspiracy or an injustice it is in fact the logical outcome and consequences based on the choices made by the Igbos in the past and even in the present. Life is not so much about conspiracies or injustices, it is also about sowing and reaping; about causes and consequences. Life operates on definite spiritual laws and principles; the earth operates on eternal principles that cannot change and will never be changed. These are what determine what goes to one and what comes to the other, without fear or favor, “doing nothing by partiality.” It may appears as if the world is chaotic and a bedlam, a mammoth of iniquity and disorder; yes, on the surface, it is so. But as sure as night follows day the world rewards principles and punishes compromises and treachery; if not at the beginning then at the end.
What about manipulation and scheming? Even these do not change the laws of nature and the principles that govern the earth. As I will soon show in this paper, it is this, the Igbo political culture of compromises that is at the root of the lacklustre, unenviable position of the Igbo as a people in the political process and equation rather than any conspiracy or gang- up as their scholars and hagiographers have always maintained.
Before I go on and to properly anchor this discourse let me make a detour to Israel to illustrate the power of political principles, honour and integrity and how our nation needs this today. Somehow I think Nigerian politicians need to learn a lot more from Israel than even from Britain and America.
In 1948 David Ben- Gurion became the first elected leader of Israel in the first ever election after Israel fought its way out of the British Mandate. He was also the most prominent among the leaders and fighters for Israel liberation and the leader of the Labour Party. Thus the Labour Party became the ruling party from the beginning and most prominent people of Israel and the Who is Who’ gravitated to “where it is happening”. In fact General Sharon noted in his autobiography that even among the generals and the prominent soldiers, they too belonged to the party. Except him.
Against this political hegemon were a number of fringe and small parties along various ideological and religious lines. The most notable was the one led by the dreaded Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun liberation movement during the days of struggle against British imperialism and treachery. He became the leader of the Opposition in the Knesset and played that role so diligently and marvelously that he put the Labour Party government on its toes continually. He was subjected to ridicules, insults by the leadership but he never wavered, serving the people of Israel as Opposition Leader and making government accountable. The point is you don’t have to win election; serving the people as opposition too is service and would be rewarded some day at the appropriate time. Losing an election on principles is actually winning, if you stand by your principles to the core. Menachem Begin was a Jew to the core and he stood for that and fought for it. He was poor, his followers were poor because they were not in government but as Opposition for years. Still they continued to serve the people. And the people took notice and even the Earth took notice.
For more than 30 years Begin served without compromise and without looking back. Then came a day when the Labour Party, intoxicated by its own success and pride was rocked in terrible financial scandals and the people of Israel yearned for a change for once. At the same time Ariel Sharon, warrior and hero of Israel’s wars now discharged from the army decided to pitch his tent with Menachem Begin rather than the Labour hordes. A military strategist he carried that art to the political realm and gathered all the fringe parties under one banner. Thus came the Likud Coalition headed by Menachem Begin, the man of principle without compromise.
Thus in 1977 Israel rejected the Labour Party and opted for the Coalition. Thus Menachem Begin became the Prime Minister of Israel in a fair and clean contest having won the largest votes and seats in the Parliament. His more than 30 years of serving Israel as Opposition Leader was rewarded by the people. He eventually got to the highest peak not by compromise but by principles. Principles attract favor, support, reward even if it takes long in coming. It was Begin’s principles that attracted Sharon, the most notable of Israeli army generals, Moshe Dayan, arguably Israel’s greatest strategist and Yitzhak Shamir, among others.
Principles matter. To die as a leader of Opposition on principles is better than been a president on compromise. This is what our politicians ought to learn about Israel who are changing party like clothes. You won’t create a great nation like this except a nation of yahoo boys, SARS, criminals and thieves.
With this background let us not now go into the subject of this essay. Why does political power at the center elude the Igbo? Why has political power continually evade the Igbo race till now? Most Igbo intellectuals and even scholars believe that it is conspiracy. Even our man of letters, Chinua Achebe, against the train of logic and pure reason lends his weight to this pernicious and utterly jejune “conspiracy theory”.
In this essay and in this section I wish to show that far from any conspiracy or gang-up, it is the Igbo race herself that has set herself up for the very situations she now find herself today by her wanton culture of political compromise, playing the “beautiful bride” (an euphemism for political prostitution), by her readiness to play the second fiddle to any rather than stand on her own principles and on her own ground. This, more than any conspiracy or gang-up has been the albatross on the neck of the Igbo race and why it has now been consigned to national political oblivion. I sympathize with many young and energetic Igbo compatriots who have more zeal than knowledge and I feel very sorry for them because they have not really taken the time to study the history; instead they have been armed with the same old jaded false narratives, old woman’s fables, doctored silly jibes, traditions, libels and innuendos handed to them by their elders, perverse falsehoods that cannot stand the test of historiography. Thus their minds have been poisoned against everyone and every tribe because they see others as against them; which is false. If there is anything against the Igbo it is the very culture of compromise, always willing to compromise; always wanting to win and be relevant in all regimes and dispensations. It is a weakness. And this foundation was laid by their own leaders from the very beginning.
Look at it.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo offered Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the platform to be the Prime Minister and he would be in charge of Education and Finance. Awo wanted to create the same wonder that he did in the West about education in the whole nation. If that experiment and Coalition had sailed we would not be in this mess today because Free and Compulsory education would have been a reality in all the length and breadth of Nigeria. Imagine where Nigeria should have been today! At least the religious rascals who say book is haram now fighting the state in Boko Haram group and the thousands of youths that have now turned the North to a wallowing desert and demographic disaster as bandits, kidnappers and criminals would not be doing that today. Alas, Zik refused. He preferred instead a marriage with the Hausa-Fulani as a junior partner where he would be a ceremonial President without power. You talk of “a leader who prefers to follow” – an apt expression used by the Cicero of Esa – Oke, Bola Ige himself. I am happy that even Zik and his associates confirmed this in their lifetime so its authenticity is not in doubt.
That was the foundation of political compromise on which the Igbo would build their shaky political edifice the consequences of which we now see today. Yes it could be argued or surmised that Zik was discouraged and embittered with the way he was treated by the West in 1953, the Great Carpet Crossing in the Western House which made the Zik and his party, NCNC to lose the Premiership of the West. Achebe has even gone to the world to tell how he witnessed the “sellout” in the Western House in his polemic, THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA. This incident is most unfortunate and Zik probably never recovered from it. Yet, let the truth be told, the issue of carpet crossing is allowed under Parliamentary system of Government. It is not a crime. Also Zik was expecting too much from the West and the Yorubas as early as that time.
It is unlikely any tribe would elect or allow someone from another tribe, no matter the degree of its acclimatization to become the first Premier of a region. Even the Igbos or the Fulanis would not allow it in their domains. This is reality and how human nature works and it is ignorant to continue to flog this issue as if it is strange. Zik, as a political scientist should have read the handwriting that all politics is first local, that the politics is still primitive and not yet sufficiently grounded and advanced to the point where people would not ask those type of questions. He should have fielded Adegoke Adelabu, the stormy petrel of Ibadan politics to challenge Awo; then the case of NCNC would have been made because Adegoke is a son of the soil. At the worse he could remain and be the Leader of the Opposition.
Instead he went to the East to do the very thing he accused Awolowo of doing against him, to wrest power from Akannu Ibiam and thus setting the Igbos permanently at loggerheads with the Eastern minorities which would later boomerang during the Civil War as they too refused to support the Igbo quest and even subverted it. This was how the foundation was laid of what we see today. We sympatise with Zik, a man of learning and erudition, but he probably overrated the Yorubas, he expected them to do what his own people would never have done, both then or now. It was a mistake and a political error of judgment. It was this incident that probably colored Zik’s cold reception to Awolowo’s offer during the Independence election of 1959 and forced him into the alliance with the North, thus making the East the “beautiful bride” of Nigerian politics – a phrase that emanated from the very mouth of Zik himself and thus laid the foundation of political compromise and prostitution which today has now earned its rightful consequences and wages by consigning the Igbo as a race into political oblivion and Siberia at the national levels.
Sure, the Igbo race gained enormously from their alliance with the North in that Independence government. Since they had more educated people than the Northerners they filled all the vacant positions with their kinsmen. This was how Chinua Achebe, then a young graduate became the Director of Broadcasting Service. This was how the Igbo got into all top positions in government while the Yoruba’s as Opposition remained in the lurch – and not because of any distinction or intellectual achievement on the part of the Igbo race as falsely claimed by Achebe in his badly-edited and badly-received book. THERE WAS A COUNTRY. On the other hand the smarter Northerners took all the strategic facilities and amenities to the North. That is why today we have all our Military Schools, Defence Academy, Aviation and the military-industrial complexes in the North along Kaduna-Zaria axis.
The Yorubas were left in the lurch since they were in the Opposition and they got nothing. Achebe has told a monumental lie that his tribe is the “race of achievers” referring to how Igbo’s occupied most of the positions of influence in the First Republic. But this is not so, it was not because of achievement but on the altar of compromise as I have shown because it was their parties in power. As is often the case with all alliance built on compromise rather than principles the two soon went their separate ways. But not without consequences, the worst of which is the Civil War which at the end neutralized all the gains made by compromise. That is the wages of compromise.
Then came the Second Republic. Five parties eventually emerged: NPN, the metamorphosis of the same feudal and aristocratic Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the UPN, which was the renewed form of the same old (AG) of the West, the NPP led by Zik with the remnants of the old NCNC and his associates, the PRP of Aminu Kano that called the shots in Kano and Kaduna and the last party GNPP by Waziri who also controlled Borno and other places. Again it was clear no party had the wherewithal to win the controlling share of the votes that would make it the ruling power. So again alliance was called for. Here again Zik had an opportunity to change the narrative but alas, he reinforced the error by again proving himself and his Igbo race as the “beautiful bride” by joining the NPN in an accord thus forming the Federal Government and sharing the plums of the office.
The Opposition proposed that in the interest of Nigeria it is not good for the same party to control the Executive and also the Legislature. So the legislators of NPP and the UPN were in talks with a view to enter into an accord to form the Opposition at the National Assembly against the NPN. Unfortunately while the NPP, the Igbo party was talking with UPN it was also talking with the NPN legislators. The result both NPP and NPN formed the government at both the executive and legislative levels. This was why Joseph Wayas of NPN became the Senate president and Edwin Ume Ezeoke of the NPP became the Speaker of the House of Representatives thus leaving UPN which had more senators than even NPP in the cooler. This was how Abraham Adesanya became leader of the Opposition. What I write here is not what I am told or read, I am a living witness to the events of the Second Republic. Thus for two times Igbo had an opportunity to forge an alliance with progressives from the West on equal and even senior partnership but they chose the feudalists in the North and as junior partners.
In the 1964 UPGA, another alliance between Igbo and Yoruba parties agreed to boycott the Federal elections that year. In the West and Yoruba areas the agreement was followed but in the East elections went on in spite of the Agreement. To hear some of these Igbo upstarts talk these days you would pity them and their abysmal ignorance of even their own history. They say Yoruba’s are traitors and I asked what Accord have you reached with them that they reneged. It is always you who reneged.
You say Yoruba’s are cowards and I asked you which battle have you fought against them that you have won? A Yoruba youth took a radio station at gun point to make a broadcast and he did not run away thereafter; he waited to be tried as the “mystery gunman.” Another Yoruba lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, dared and fought a military government to standstill in what even Tai Solarin calls a “voluntary suicide.”
Another Yoruba soldier returned home to face court martial or even firing squad when his colleagues took power after he was away rather than seek asylum in foreign land. He is Tunde Idiagbon.
A Yoruba politician and civilian engaged his military assailants and coupists in shoot out and even fatally wounded one of them before he was killed. He is Samuel Akintola. While his counterparts in the East ran home to change to their wive’s dresses to avoid been shot and the leader of government himself hiding in a foreign land in the guise of medical trip while the nation burned. Adekunle Fajuyi would not allow any gang to take his host away; he went out to confront the coup plotters. Do all these sound like cowardice? Does that look like a race of cowards? I think not.
Obasanjo was warned outside the country of the plot Abacha laid out for him; he still returned.
How do you refer to a race that has produced all these as a tribe of cowards if you are not ignorant and blinded by prejudice beyond recovery? On the other hand, we know the bearded soldier who led his people to war and then ran away to Ivory Coast. We know the president of a country who traveled abroad for a medical leave and refused to return to take charge at home even after the expiration of the leave because he was afraid of the consequences. We know one Emmanuel Ifeajuna who after plunging the nation into an unpremeditated coup ran away and we know from where he came from. We know the young man who declared a State of Biafra and thereafter took Okada and ran away from the country. What of Tony Nyiam and Mukoro, did they not run away leaving Gideon Okar, the hero of that abortive revolution, to his fate? Are they Yorubas?
Another one has surfaced in IPOB, he too has ran away, a fugitive from justice.
Thus we have a tribe that produced more “run aways” and another that has produced more “stay to fight”. Unfortunately it is the race that has produced “runaways” that is calling the “stay and be damned” a race of cowards, traitors. Enough said. I digress.
Although the Yorubas played crucial roles in bringing Jonathan to power especially after the sickness of Yar’ Adua and when the cabals were hellbent on frustrating him; it was not long before the Igbo cornered him and possessed him. This culture of political compromise and marriage to the North continued through the Third to the Fourth Republic.
Bashir Tofa of the NRC got his running mate from among the Igbo to fight Abiola. You would see why many prominent Igbo politicians supported the annulment of June 12 election and when even IBB was minded to deannul the elections it was mainly Igbo ministers in government who dissuaded him. The book to read is Professor Omoruyi’s book, THE TALES OF JUNE 12. That was when the foolish narrative was spawned by some Igbo men that the “annulment is not the only injustice that has occurred in Nigeria”. We know the roles played by Arthur Nzeribe and his ABN, Akpamgo, Chukwumerije, Walter Ofonagoro etc in sustaining that annulment. But how has that helped the Igbo race? Stopping another person does not advance you. As President Roosevelt once said, “You can’t keep another person down without staying down yourself.” And when Obasanjo came in the Fourth Republic and Muhammadu Buhari decided to run against him it was to the East, the traditional place of Northern political alliance and marriage that he went to shop for Chuba Okadigbo.
Then came 2010. Shehu Yar’Adua was in power but sickly. His deputy was Goodluck Jonathan from the South South region. Against all machinations of the cabal and with the active support of the Civil Societies mostly led by Yoruba sons, Jonathan became Acting President and ultimately President.
By the time Dr. Clueless of Otuoke finally came to power he has become adopted Igbo and he too took the name Ebele, Azikiwe – a name which like John the Baptist – is unknown to his kinsmen and forebears.
Thus began another marriage between the Igbo and Jonathan. Here the Igbo took over Jonathan presidency so completely and totally that even if an Igbo son had been President they could not have gained what they did. All the sensitive positions went to the Igbo. In fact Dr. Clueless virtually gave all the sensitive posts and the entire Finance sector to the Igbo without considering the consequences. He is an economic illiterate so the consequences of such decision did not occur to him. Thus we have the Finance Minister, SEC D.G, CBN governor etc all from one tribe in a nation whose diversity was its major characteristic. So also was the Aviation minister, Chief of Army Staff, Secretary to the Government…
In point of fact it seems to be that whenever any position was vacant the Igbo had the right of first refusal under that hideous and profligate government. The Igbo never saw anything wrong with this as long as it favoured them as a tribe, the same thing for which they are now accusing Buhari of doing for his own people. Again Jonathan left Yorubas in the lurch in spite of what they did to enthrone him.
But payday always come. Pay day came for Jonathan and his advisers. It was against this backdrop that the 2015 election was held. Jonathan really provoked the Yoruba’s by his lopsided appointments and discriminatory procedures but much more by his monumental corruption that seems to empty the treasury in an era when “stealing was not corruption”. It was here the Igbo race made one of its biggest blunders and miscalculation. Sure they made their biggest gains under Jonathan so it is not surprising that under that government they suffered their biggest setback. It is always like this to those who are mindful of the lessons of History. The German Jewry recorded their biggest gains and breakthrough in Germany but also it was the same Germany they suffered their greatest setback.
Thus at the 2015 election the Igbos cast all their eggs into the Jonathan basket in spite of the serial shortcomings and flaws of that corrupt government. They not only voted for him, they also, according to Okey Ndibe, “rigged for him” because he promised them 65% of the offices if he wins. So the Igbo put their tribal interest above national interest by attempting to return a government whose corruption is attested to worldwide. And by so doing the Igbo fell out of favour with the national spirit.
Look at it. How fair is it for someone to promise you 65% of the positions in a nation where there are more than 370 tribes? Yet the Igbo accepted this unfair equation because it would benefit them even if it hurts others and even the Constitution. So really the Igbos are not against nepotism, they are only against it when it works against them. The 2015 election proved that. I knew then that the Igbo for once has made a mistake that would keep them out of power for at least 16 years barring a miracle.
Today the Igbo race cannot be found in any of the prominent offices in government from the first to even the sixth position. Even the Senate President that used to be reserved for the Igbo’s no matter what has now been lost. Today I look at the political radar in this dispensation and the Igbo race is missing in action, not because of any conspiracy or gang-up but as a natural consequences of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping.
If you use your money, all your money to buy shares in a company and the company folds up, is that the problem of the Security and Exchange Commission? Can you really blame them for ganging up against you or manipulating the market against you? Can you blame anyone but yourself for not studying the fundamentals before investing?
Those who are accusing other Nigerian tribes of being unfair by not surrendering power to the Igbo come 2023 do not understand the rules of the game. The office of the President is not a right but a privilege so there is no injustice anywhere. You cannot reap where you have not sown. That rule is true even more so in politics.
In First and Second Republic Yoruba’s played the role of Opposition and lost a lot as s result of not being in government. Has anybody thought of that? Yet the heavens did not fall. But one day the earth rewarded the Yorubas for their principles when June 12 happened. Still the kill joy’s, enemies of progress aborted it without knowing or realizing that they were aborting their own glory as well.
Again the Yoruba’s continued in their Opposition which was finally rewarded with the nation finally surrendering that the 1999 election must produce only Yoruba candidates. This is the reward for standing by your principles and fighting for them rather than playing double game and compromises. That was why I cited the case of Menachem Begin in Israel at the beginning. Everything has its rewards, price and wages. Compromise may fetch you quick gains and sudden fame but at the end it fills the mouth with gravel. However a life of commitment to principles will pay back handsomely in future with patience.
In essence I wish to say that the present state which the Igbo race finds itself in the political affairs of Nigeria is not an injustice but it is the natural consequences of the law of cause and effect. This is what the wages of compromise have brought upon the Igbo. They can change their script to change the narrative or they can continue and remain in oblivion. It is their choice. Power does not come only by blackmail or threats; that only make things worse for everyone. It comes by standing on your ground, on your own principles and allow others to meet you based on that, not by falling head over heels for others for quick political gains.
Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, did something for the Igbo that is even of a major significance than fighting for the Civil War. An Oxford graduate of history himself he knew that the Igbo would never be truly relevant until they too build their own power concretized in a political form. He knew that from history this is how all structures and contest for power through political forces and formation begin. What did he do? He started a party among the Igbo – APGA. This should have been a veritable tool which all Igbo’s should have rallied round and form into a national party. With Igbo’s and their economic interests everywhere this should not have been difficult. Then this platform would have reached out to other opposition in other regions and partner with them as senior partner. Unfortunately most Igbo politicians never saw it.
Archimedes wrote: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” The trouble today is that the Igbos has nowhere to stand. In the PDP even, the South South has the upper hand; in the APC, the Igbos are a junior partner who is not in the reckoning. APGA that should have been their own is comatose, sick and, as some would say, nigh unto death. So how would an Igbo Presidency come to fruition under these circumstances?
Would you tell those who financed their parties and built it into a fighting instrument for power with their money to vacate so that the Igbo can have a shot? In essence I feel the Igbo race offers us an object lesson in political participation and essentially on the wages of compromise. I love the Igbo people because I know them, their strengths, potentials, power and their principal flaws and weakness. They are committed, generous, energetic but somehow it seems a mystery to me that even they failed to see some if these hindrances and encumbrances around and about them. Already a trap is being set up before them on the path of 2023 by the same “uneducated Northerners” and I am not sure they are aware of it or have seen it. They are deceiving them and they too cannot see that they are being deceived. Again the carpet crossing has started into APC with Umahi where there is nothing for them and leaving the PDP which by now they should own. At the end it will be a return to square one. But I spare you..
Thank you dear reader, thank you for your patience.
©️ Moses Oludele Idowu October 13, 2020