Prof Boniface C E Egboka
The people of the Southeast Zone or, in fact, the Igbos must work out the right strategy in order to become involved or accommodated in the present governance of President Muhammadu Buhari. As of these days and months, Ndigbo of the Southeast and even the Southsouth people are hardly-involved properly in the governance of the present Federal Government. There is utter neglect of the people in terms of proper recognition and consideration, appropriate representation, issuance and necessary accruement of desired services, benefits and respect for human rights; lack of required sense of belonging to the people of these areas. Ndigbo are neither appointed into the inner-circle cabinet of the President where most sensitive decisions are made nor were they considered for an appointment as one of the Defence Chiefs. The Igbos are viewed with disrespect somehow vis-à-vis with regards to governance issues by the Federal authorities. It seems that these neglected people of the southeast and southsouth are only grudgingly-appointed into high offices where it is mandatory that the Constitution has made it compulsory and forced the President to do so; and even where this has been done, the strength/value of the schedule of appointment into such offices are weak or unpalatable. There is no Igbo in the President’s inner cabinet; there is no Igbo in the service Chief etc. There are conflicting reasons and reactionary shades of opinions as to why this negatively-unwholesome and lopsided scenario in Federal governance exists and continues to play itself out up to these days while no one wants to do anything to change and ameliorate the situation. Accusations and counter-accusations on why such a status quo exists and should be maintained even in a thriving Federal system of democratic governance have been bandied about. This unhealthy development may continue ad infinitum cum eternum if something positive is not done to reverse it.
Any educated or matured Igbo man and leader ought to have a fairly-good idea of who our President, Major-Gen. Buhari is and what he stands for: his Fulani ethnic group, his military life, military-cum-political career, his religious life, his seemingly-cold relationship with the mainstream Igbos, his resilience and taciturnity etc. People ought to know about all these before electing him to head the country for four good years; they should also know how to work or interact with him no matter the odds; that is the essence of democracy irrespective of issues based on sentiments or naivety. Any serious-minded politician who is worth his salt should be able to have enough idea of who PMB is, particularly if you must have and work with him as our Head of State and government. In similar manner, one must credit PMB with possibly-having good knowledge and ideas of the different peoples of Nigeria and their ethnic nationalities including the Igbos; PMB, having fully-participated in most recent political Histories of the country. One can safely-say that any Igbo leader ought to fairly-know and understand Gen. Buhari well; and one can also safely-assume that the President ought to know the different peoples whose fate he is supposed to be administering over; a moral assignment he is bound to perform with a clean and unbiased mind irrespective of his personal mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. The prevailing scenario shows that the President won an election where many people voted. Majority of northerners voted for him while some did not; majority of southeasterners did not vote for him while some voted for him. This being politics, the election period is now over while national good governance for all has ascended upon the saddle; and the President should know this, such that consuming self-interest and party politics are placed at back burner while the common weal of national governance prevails where fairplay, justice and equity for all take precedence.
It is hard to believe that civilian President Buhari is a war monger even though he is a retired Major-General who has fought in battles including the Nigeria-Biafra war. One does not think he would enjoy sending out troops into battle to kill, be injured or to die. No soldier or officer likes to die except as a professional in defence of his/her fatherland. It is even more difficult to go for war in a democracy where dialogue is preferable for settlement of disputes. The present boko haram encounters are unavoidable mess that must be obliterated. The President must be advised not to engage in any further wars with anybody or group in Nigeria, be it in the Niger Delta, Middle Belt or in Igboland. Gen. Buhari became a Nigerian Army Officer in about 1964. He knows what caused the Nigeria-Biafra war: the Western Nigeria election; the consequent coups and counter-coups; the pogroms against the easterners that gruesomely-followed; the abused Aburi Accord and the consequent bad faith/failure that followed; the savagely-fought Nigeria-Biafra war; the utter neglect of Biafran refugees/IDPs; the non-implementation of General Gowon’s 3Rs after the war etc. I am convinced that Gen. Buhari knows the depth of injustice meted out against Ndigbo in Nigeria since 1966 till date; I also have a hunch that he would not be a party to the further pauperization of Ndigbo anymore as a Father of the Nation and for all her peoples. Wars are not good for anyone. One can see what the high costs on the present military conflicts in terms of losses in human beings and materials; one can then imagine another war with the Niger Deltans or IPOB etc. and the comparative consequent costs in both men and materials. Most of the present leaders who had experienced these sordid events should emphasize the option of dialogue in preference to war-mongering; and advise our President accordingly.
On the part of Ndigbo and the southsoutherners, we must not constitute ourselves into an unrealistic opposition group. Majority of our people voted for GEJ who lost bravely. We must not go into our shells sulking and indulging in undue blame games. As democrats, our leaders should go back into their combative trenches to replan/restrategize accordingly. These Igbo politicians should find safe havens within their parties to plan for the next time around. We fought a war to get out of Nigeria but it was no success. People must realize that even though we lost on many sides; that if we did not fight it could have been worse on our people; and that any more wars in this country may not be palatably-acceptable anymore; it shall be an evil wind that would blow no good. We must become innovative in deciphering the appropriate democratic process that may take us out of the woods. Our people in the different political parties should do their homework to decipher where the enduring wind of progress is blowing and get adapted accordingly. Our people are in the PDP; we must continue to hold on and possibly-advance. We also have strong people in the APC who can provide Ndigbo as a formidable force in the PMB government. The Ngiges, Onus, Okorochas, Amechis etc. of the ruling APC are to be trusted and emboldened to ensure that we get our proper share in the scheme of things. There are Hon. Ministers of Igbo stock in the administration; these people must not be neglected but serve as veritable tools, close enough to the President in Executive Councils. Our Governors whether of PDP or APGA must be encouraged to interact fully with the President and his government. Let us not condemn any of these Governors who want to get closer to the Federal authorities.
Ndigbo should find out Gen. Buhari’s friends from the Igbo race and arrange appropriate outreaches to him. Ohaneze Ndigbo should brace up, gird up its loins and give a credible leadership role along this direction. This organization ought to have experienced cream of Igbo leaders from different political, religious, cultural divides in Igboland who can courageously and wisely step out forward to voice out the stand of Ndigbo at all times. As at now, Ohaneze is not as strong as is expected by the Igbos. Unfortunately there seems to be undue rivalry within the group and as a result, there are mushrooming of Igbo organizations that has resulted in disunity and weakening of our human infrastructure. As at now, strategic defence of Igbo course is left to a few articulate Igbo leaders such that the impacts they make are not convincing enough. We only hear the shrill voices of the Ezeifes, Ikedifes, Achuzias, Ochendo Okekes etc. that hardly-make the desired impacts on the reactionary haters of Ndigbo in particular and the polity in general. When the Arewa or the Afenifere fora speak, their voices convey a group communicating effectively just like during the times of the Igbo Union Congress or the Ohaneze Ndigbo during the Oputa Panel. Our people should not continue to allow political pundits, jobbers, gerrymanderers, illiterates etc. to make unsolicited, negative and destructive inroads into the body politic of Igbo lives. We all can make a new beginning to stabilize our corporate existence.
There is a great need for a continuous national dialogue where people can talk to one another instead of regular deployment of the military on the streets. The President should cultivate the Philosophy of mutual dialogue; that he is a retired army General is no reason to declare military actions against anybody or any groups that have any case to make. He said that he is now a democrat, he should behave accordingly. There have been retired army Generals in parts of the world who became democrats and served their people well in the US, France, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan etc. The President said that he is for everybody but contradicted himself when he stated that those who voted for him would receive a lion share of Nigeria’s resources while those who did not vote for him would get a pittance. This attitude is unacceptable in a democracy. Northern leaders should develop measures to fully-provide modern education to their people to cure mass poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. President Buhari should empower some leaders from the Niger Delta to discuss and solve the problems in the area and discourage recourse to armed conflict. In like manner, the President should also get together credible leaders from the concerned areas to discuss the issues of IPOB and Biafra and discourage the present threats of military intervention. The concerned northern State governments should set up cattle ranches with support of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to stop and prevent the present gory/fatal Fulani herdsmen invasions of farmlands of farmers in parts of the country. Ndigbo must not unduly withdraw and sulk or create an unhealthy impression that we do not like President Buhari; it may not move him or his feelings. In politics like and dislike are transient phenomena; they are not permanent.
- Prof Boniface C E Egboka PhD, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; Email: email@example.com