Antidote to Igbo Thoughtlessness


Former INEC chairman Maurice Iwu once hinted that he would not welcome election monitors to Nigeria in 2007. Only election observers, he said, would be allowed. Not claiming to be an authority on the use of English words, however, the professor of pharmacy later accepted the fact that an election monitor was the same as an election observer.

I had Iwu at the back of my mind when I travelled to the south-east and south-south to see things for myself during the presidential election. To avoid a confrontation with my kinsmen who had stoutly discredited my prediction that APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari would emerge victorious, I chose to “observe” and not “monitor” the election. My findings? I have waited until this day because my testimony would no longer damage any candidate’s chances, nor would I be invited by a kangaroo election tribunal.

In a number of polling booths I visited in the south-east, result sheets were missing. Election officials and materials came about noon or later because party stalwarts, drinking and smoking at hidden places, had been filling the result sheets and thumb-printing on the side of the umbrella symbol. What eventually reached polling stations were photocopies of the manual register. But the stalwarts were not perturbed by the malfunctioning card readers – manual “accreditation” was going on smoothly. The agents of opposition parties could not utter a word for fear of being killed. Nor could I say anything – as an observer!

Across the country, however, such vote stealing was commonplace. Every party that could rig did. My guess is that the final outcome of the poll therefore reflected the wishes of Nigerians.

By Sunday, March 29, morning, I had gathered that Buhari had won fair and square. I re-established contacts through text messages to my brother stalwarts who had sworn to me, long before the poll, that it would be business as usual. “False information,” one of them wrote. “Wait for INEC.” Another told me that they were working and that I would be stunned in the end.

As it turned out, peace and fair play spoke through INEC chairman Attahiru Jega. I’m sure the electoral umpire would have voided the results from Rivers and Delta states, if Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and other states in the north had not delivered equally incredible vote numbers to the other party. And, had the card readers worked as planned – by recognising only accredited voters – the total votes cast in either Enugu or Jigawa wouldn’t have come near 200, 000.

Parts of the south-east and south-south were like a graveyard after the announcement of the final result. Once again, Ndigbo have been boxed into a corner. As the pattern of the presidential election result showed, the only states Buhari could not muster 25 per cent were those that once belonged to Biafran territory. After May 2015, there will be no APC senator or House of Reps member from the south-east, thus automatically denying the Igbo the position of Senate president or House speaker. The old cry of “marginalisation” is being resurrected even before the end of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.

The incoming APC government would do well to ignore the protests of selfish Igbo champions. We warned them in advance. They put all their eggs in one basket and now the basket has fallen from their head.

In the early days of the Jonathan administration, the Yoruba said they were marginalised in appointments; in the Buhari regime, the Igbo should not hope to get any of the topmost 20 appointments. Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State may get a position in the top 10, but the Ikwerre do not regard themselves as Igbo. Once more, Ndigbo may be left in the cold. It will be the necessary antidote to the thoughtlessness of self-appointed Igbo leaders. Even in the 21st century, Ndigbo have failed to recognise one person as their leader: Were they to be asked to produce a Nigerian president, no fewer than 2,000 aspirants would emerge.

President Jonathan showered the Igbo with political appointments. The next president should shower Igbo-land with projects instead. The Igbo states got nothing tangible from appointees in the Jonathan regime. They were busy accumulating illicit money or giving miserable civil-service jobs to unemployed graduates from their home villages. The second Niger Bridge has remained on the drawing board. Not even Zik’s mausoleum has been completed. Roads in the south-east remain the worst in the country. No new airport has been built; the Enugu airport was simply upgraded. No government policy has favoured traders most of whom are Ndigbo.

One man that is also curing the Igbo of their malady is Oba of Lagos Rilwan Akiolu. When Oba Akiolu threatened to deal with Ndigbo who failed to vote for APC governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode, he really meant business. Even before the election took place, the Lagos king had started carrying out his threat: he ordered that shops be shut down at Idumota on a day the APC candidate had a rally at Orile. More of such directives should be expected in the next four years.

No matter how provoked Ndigbo living in Lagos have been, they could not have changed the result of the governorship poll held yesterday. Many of them had been prevented from collecting their permanent voter cards because the indigenous Lagosians knew their voting characteristics. But for the Igbo, Jonathan wouldn’t have got up to 15 per cent in Lagos.

Let the Igbo continue to lick their wounds until they realise the strength hidden in unity. Obasanjo knew what he was doing when he replaced credible Igbo leaders with riffraff and money-miss-road during his presidency. Now, another Yoruba has emerged vice-president of Nigeria (and may become president) after Obasanjo’s eight years, while no president of Igbo extraction is still in sight.

President-elect Buhari has promised to be president of all Nigeria. I know he will keep his word. But how I wish he were a more ruthless leader! Persecution of the Igbo on account of their recklessness would have been potent medicine: they would be united by grief.

Now that the PDP stronghold has been restricted to the south-east and south-south, should we expect a virile opposition? Not likely. Nigerian politicians (not just Igbo politicians) are known for opportunism. Before long, they would all migrate to the ruling APC. May God save Nigeria from selfish, unprincipled politicians.

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