Nigeria has come of age, and for a nation which got its independence fifty nine years ago, much ought to have been achieved in terms of general development more so considering the nation’s abundant human and natural resources. But the reality of life suggests that it is difficult to have any real progress in an atmosphere of rancour induced by brazen injustice. The way and manner leadership positions have been rotated in Nigeria since the end of the thirty-month Civil War show an open lopsidedness visible even to the blind. And years of being shortchanged in the scheme of things have continually fanned the ember of disunity, the most recent being a renewed agitation for secession by the affected region. On its face value, it’s possible to dismiss the activities of those mounting call for segregation with a wave of the hand and brand them as disgruntled elements. But if fairness is the watchword, it becomes imperative to put oneself in the position of the victims to feel where the shoes pinch. There’s no way Nigeria’s history will be written without a mention of the Civil War orchestrated by people from the South East. It was a war which meant different things to different people but most importantly it showed clearly the nation’s volatile nature. Following the ceasefire that signalled the end of the war however, Nigeria’s leaders dubbed it as a: no Victor, no vanquished encounter and then promises of reconstruction, reintegration and rehabilitation were made. The sad truth however is that decades after the open war was said to have ended, some silent war of discrimination still exists even if no one would openly admit it, and the Nigerian nation, it seems, still has some axe to grind with the Igbo nation. Even if no one would own up to obvious conspiracies, what is clear to all discerning minds is that there is the likelihood of a grand design to deny the Igbo the opportunities open to others in a land where other members expect them to believe as their own. Even if other facts are hidden and controversial, the biggest proof that there is a clandestine move against the Igbo is the complete relegation of people from the South East since the inception of the current democratic dispensation with regards to consideration for the nation’s number one seat. Yet, the Igbo were among the first group to respond to the creation of political parties at the time the military began to draw the time table for the return of the country to democratic rule. Members of the G-18 and G-34, led by Alex Ekwueme actually started the People Democratic Party and indeed Ekwueme was its first Chairman while Jerry Gana was the secretary. Things however took a new dimension when some retired army officers joined the party, and in a way, hijacked everything. A visit to the former Head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo in Ota shortly after his release from the gulag culminated in the choice of the elstwhile leader as the party’s flag bearer in the 1998 election. Agreed that such arrangement was reasonable in the bid to mollify the Yoruba many of who were still alarmed at the annulment of an election purportedly won by their son. And the rest is history.
But quite surprisingly, there has never been any arrangement at any of the period under discussion to have an Igbo take on the number one seat. Alex Ekwueme who at least ought to have been put forward being among the very first Nigerians to form a party that eventually held sway for many years was pushed into oblivion, and the gentleman, cool-headed and peace loving as he was never raised any eyebrows but rather took everything in his strides. Well the nation could be said to be the loser since no one who knew the sterling qualities of Ekwueme would have been left in any doubt as to what he could have achieved for the country. But since the nation’s king makers often prefer the loud impostors over and above those truly endowed to rule, the persistent quagmire the nation continually finds itself should not be surprising. Until the nation learns to put its square pegs into the square holes, nothing will change. Whatever the nation wishes to achieve, it’s time to right all wrong and move the nation towards the path of progress propelled by justice. All agitation of secession occasioned by what some Easterners view as deep hatred and relegation of Ndigbo in Nigeria enterprise must not be allowed to continue as Nigeria is better together. Twenty years down the line are enough to allow someone of Igbo extraction to take a shot at the presidency. It may be what Nigeria needs to move forward considering the fact that the Igbo are highly enterprising race specially blessed with unequaled entrepreneurial acumen and unbeatable survival wisdom both of which put them above and ahead of every other tribe as far as trading is concerned, ironically in a nation they claim they are not accepted. Even though Nigeria is made up of so many ethnic groups, the most popular are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. Besides the story of liberation struggles as far as Nigeria is concerned has two main dominant figures namely Herbert Macauley and Nnamdi Azikiwe. If it were possible for people to look back, how would Azikiwe feel to see a country he labored and sacrificed so much to build subject his own people to such treatment as the Igbo are forced to live with?
Since the Yoruba have had the opportunity of leading the nation for eight years and the Hausa are currently running another eight-year leadership, is it not appropriate that the third most popular ethnic group be allowed not only to also prove its mettle but also to show there is no grand design against Igbo presidency? Although admittedly, politics is a game of numbers, and those with the majority support ultimately win. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. If the nation’s leaders agree on anything, nothing can stop them from achieving it. Let the dominant party in Nigeria at the moment which undoubtedly is the All People Congress zone the next presidency to the South East and push forward a notable individual who has distinguished himself as far as governance is concerned. And suffice it to mention that the region is well endowed with many such achievers.
Oyewusi, an educationist, wrote from Lagos.