Posted by By Amanze Obi - [firstname.lastname@example.org] on
If we divest the Igbo presidency project of the brutal frankness of Orji Uzor Kalu, the Governor of Abia State, we will be left with an agenda that does not believe in itself....
If we divest the Igbo presidency project of the brutal frankness of Orji Uzor Kalu, the Governor of Abia State, we will be left with an agenda that does not believe in itself. If we leave Kalu out of the project and properly dissect the utterances and disposition of the rest of the flock that sporadically clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in recent years, we will be left with a breed that revels in apologia. It is either this breed do not believe in the agenda they are propagating or they do not see it as realizable.
Until 1999, when Dr. Alex Ekwueme made his first bold attempt at clinching the presidential seat, the issue of an Igboman occupying the exalted seat was not elevated to the status of a national discourse.
The Rt.Hon.Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the most charismatic politician that Nigeria has ever had, attempted in 1979 and 1983 to clinch the presidency. But he did not get close enough to the seemingly elusive office.
Then, the Igbo were not as passionate as they were about the presidency when Ekwueme stepped out 16 years later. The turn of events was to be expected. Zik shot at the presidency at a time the Igbo were still going about with fresh memories of the Biafran War. Then, the Igbo did not really see Zik’s efforts as one that would translate to a Nigerian president from Igbo land. The Igbo merely rallied round him as a psychological booster. They needed Zik’s exploits to remind themselves that they still had a stake in the Nigerian Federation.
But all that changed under Ekwueme. In the intervening years between Zik’s presidential quests and Ekwueme’s, so many things had happened. All manner of military adventurers had seized power and had reduced Nigeria almost to a banana republic. The Igbo had and still do not have any high stake in the military and were therefore not in the mainstream of the administrations that the military rulers ran. A return to civil rule after about 10 years of further emasculation by the military was, for the Igbo, a welcome development. The Igbo needed and still need civil governance in Nigeria to be able to compete favourably and keenly with their fellow Nigerians.
Incidentally, and to the satisfaction of the Igbo, Ekwueme was a mainstream politician by the time the military chose to hand over in 1999. He stepped out gallantly in the quest for the presidency. But he lost. Even though his loss was heroic, his kinsmen, the Igbo, felt the wound. They felt a deep sense of loss. When therefore he chose to try again in 2003, his Igbo kinsmen were not as enthusiastic in his quest as they were four years earlier. Not too surprisingly, Ekwueme still failed to find the road to the presidential throne.
That was the lot of the Igbo in their race for the presidency until President Olusegun Obasanjo, the beneficiary of Ekwueme’s losses, began to entertain strange ideas about life presidency. But it was this Obasanjo’s strange idea that came to pass as the real litmus test which the Igbo presidency project has faced lately. The tenure elongation agenda presented an opportunity for well meaning and serious – minded Igbo to step out boldly and state their case. It was a development that the Igbo needed to use to tell the story of their loss and lack, especially as it concerns the office of the president.
Only very few Igbos understood this. The rest joined the life presidency bandwagon of the seating president and forgot too easily and cheaply their father’s names. But a few life Kalu came to the rescue. Kalu campaigned against the agenda at home and abroad.
Every little gathering provided him with the opportunity to review the lot of the Igbo. After the grueling experience of the civil war, the Igbo, he would tell you, needed to be psychologically rehabilitated. A shot at the presidency would simply do the magic for the Igbo.
Besides, equity and justice demand that the Igbo, given their preeminent role in the evolution and development of Nigeria, deserve to be supported in their quest for the highest office in the land. Kalu has been and is still telling this story. Apart from the vision which he has for Nigeria, he equally believes that as an Igbo, he , more than any other presidential aspirant, deserves to be given a chance to occupy the highest office in the land. But while Kalu is striving to tell his story, some elements who have condemned their psyche to defeatism have rather preferred to see the governor as positioning himself for the office of the vice president.
So if Kalu has his eyes on the vice presidency, where do the other Igbos who do not even believe that an Igboman can be the president of Nigeria have their own eyes?
While we wait for the cynics to answer this question, my real worry is that the Igbo presidency project, as is presently being enunciated, is lacking in conviction and drive. That is why most Igbos who have argued against the return of the presidency to the north have not come out categorically to say that the office should go to the South East. Instead, they would tell you that either the South East or South south should have it. Why ther either/or option? I have never heard anybody from the south south say that the office of the president should either go to the south south or the south east in
2007. They simply insist on south south.
So, what does this prevarication by the South East say of the zone? It simply means that the Igbo do not really believe that the office should be given to them as yet. They are merely behaving like bystanders who would gladly step into a room prepared for another should the occupant fail to turn up. There is no real plan by the Ibo to plunge headlong into the project. They are merely taking a chance. It was this lack of conviction that made our men in very high places to fail to be on the side of their people when Obasanjo was trying his hands on tenure elongation. Now that tenure elongation has failed, they are hiding their head in shame. Some have stepped out, rather timidly, to say that they want to run for the presidency in 2007. What a pathetic display of lily-liveredness. What a demonstration of lack of principle.
Today, we should lament the unpreparedness of the Igbo to fight for the office of the president. But even if the Igbo think that the conditions are not yet ripe for them to fight doggedly for the presidency, those apologists who, through their actions and inactions, insult the Igbo mentally and psychologically, should save the rest of us from the agony they are inflicting on us. We need a committed and principled leadership, not the quislings and sell- outs that presently populate the Igbo political landscape.