By Chiedu Uche Okoye
Nigeria, a former British colony, is a nation of nations.It is a multi-ethnic country with diversities in areas like religion, language, and other aspects of culture. One of the features of the British colonial system of administration in Africa was the lumping together of disparate ethnic entities under one administrative unit for the reason of political expedience and convenience. So, the onetime governor general of the colonial Nigeria, Lord Frederick Lugard, amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria.
But, was the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria, which are dissimilar in many areas, not a recipe for the eruption of ethnic rivalry and conflicts in Nigeria? To make matters worse, Nigerians, who are by nature very conscious of their ethnic origins, owe their loyalties to their ethnic nations rather than their country. And they do place their ethnic groups’ interests above the interests of Nigeria. So, our disposition and attitudes sowed the seed of the existence of ethnic disharmony in Nigeria.
Little wonder, during the colonial era, the political parties were formed along ethnic lines. Action Group (AG) was to the Yoruba people what the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) was to the Hausa/Fulani people. And not a few Nigerians believed and thought the NCNC to be a solely Igbo Political Party. Not surprisingly, following the political disagreements that cropped up among our politicians, then, the northern people threatened secession in their nine point programme.
And, upon our attainment of political freedom in 1960, the departing British imperialists helped a northern Muslim, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, to become our prime minister when either Nnamdi Azikiwe or Chief Obafemi Awowolo could have been a better choice. But, sadly,and unexpectedly, the first republic collapsed owing to the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 1966 counter – coup. Consequently, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, our Prime Minister, was murdered.
Since the collapse of the first republic, and until 1999, Nigeria alternated between despotic military regimes and inept corrupt civilian governments with the northern people calling the shots. And since the end of the Nigeria- Biafra civil war, other Nigerians have been treating the Igbo people with utter disdain and suspicion. And the people of Igbo origins are being given raw deal in the areas of education (admission of pupils into Untiy schools), and appointment of military personnel into top securtity positions in the country.More so, now, when compared to other parts of Nigeria, the Southeast geopolitical zone has less federal presence than other geopolitical zones in the country.
Worse still, no person of Igbo descent has ruled Nigeria in the true sense of the word since we became a politically independent country.But, is it fair and just for us to account and equate the murdered Aguiyi ironsi’s brief stay in office (six months) as the Igbo people’s leadership of Nigeria? However, Rtd Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari, Sani Abachi, Murtala Mohammed, Abdusalami Abubakar are northern soldiers, who ruled Nigeria as military men in the past. And at the dawn of the second republic, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a northern Muslim, became our first executive president, having been helped to power by Northern political interests and other king makers. And, he led Nigeria between 1979 and 1983.
In the fourth republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, was helped by the northern people and other interest groups to become our President in 1999 in order to placate the indignant Yoruba people over the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election. And, following the death of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua in office, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan completed their joint tenure and was re-elected for another term in office. While Alhaji Musa Yar’adua was a Northern Muslim, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan hails from the Niger-Delta region, the golden goose that lays the golden egg. Crude oil, the mainstay of our mono- economy, is got from that region.
Now, it is evident to us that the South-East, the homeland of the Igbo people, has not produced the president of Nigeria. Other geo-political zones, save the South-East, have taken turns to produce Nigeria’s national leaders at different times. Thankfully, now, the unwritten principle of zoning political offices to different geopolitical zones has been effective in Nigeria since the inception of the fourth republic. The practice of zoning political offices to different geopolitical zones in the country is intended to engender national cohesion, deepen our unity, and allay the fears of people from the minority ethnic groups, who feel that they are being marginalized and dominated.
Were Nigeria a truly united country, the factor of competence will override the issue of ethnic origins and religion when it comes to electing the President of Nigeria. Sadly, our country has been sundered by ethnic rivalry and religious differences. Now, Nigeria has not become a true nation-state where competence will take precedence over the factors of religion and ethnic origins when electing our President and appointing people into key positions in the government at the Federal level.
So, in the interest of peace and unity in Nigeria, and for the sake of our country’s continued existence as one indivisible country, common sense dictates that all the major political parties in Nigeria should cede their Presidential tickets to politicians of Igbo descent. Each country in our today’s world reserves the right to evolve its own variant of political culture and democratic rule, which can guarantee it political stability, peace and unity, and accelerated national development.
The emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction has become an over-riding imperative for Nigeria, now. When an Igbo person becomes the President of Nigeria, it will disabuse the minds of Igbo people of their feelings and notions that they are second class Nigerian citizens, who are unwanted in Nigeria. Again, the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will decelerate the high tempo of the clamour for the carving out of the Sovereign State of Biafra from Nigeria.
So, I urge my Igbo compatriots, especially Igbo politicians, to close ranks, bury their political differences, build political alliances with other ethnic groups, and support a consensus political candidate of Igbo lineage.
Chiedu Uche Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State