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What Does The Igbo Want?

Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
This question stems from the maiden media chat of President Muhammadu Buhari. In that entertaining session, he had asked to know exactly what the Igbo want. He had also asked “who is marginalizing who?” But the most serious of the questions he asked was to know what the Igbo want. Unfortunately, none of those on the panel could give him an insight.
Something tells me that in addressing the Nnamdi Kanu detention issue, with the disdain he attended to it, President Buhari seems not to see the hero he is creating out of the young man. In the end, even if he lands the guy in prison –as he demonstrably shows- he would have only successfully created something bigger than he intended. Like I had always argued, we don’t seem to like learning the lessons history presents to us. It is either we are simply daft or we pretend that history holds no lessons for the future. Either way, we pay the prize somehow.
In seeking to know what the Igbo want, Buhari made the same classical mistake of overlooking Nigeria’s geopolitical zones as necessary units of negotiation for a true federal structure. Somehow, he says he does not believe in the geopolitical zones, which though are not constitutional creations, have however, been accepted as factors of political expedience.
It was surprising then to hear President Buhari, who ought to know that Nigeria has six geopolitical zones argue that an Igbo is governor of the Central Bank. Statutorily, every state ought to have a minister. So, the Minister of State for Petroleum, though an Igbo, holds the state slot for Delta state and not of any state from the Southeast geopolitical zone. In the same manner, the Igbo, who holds office as CBN governor, is a federal government appointee from Delta state. From my last check, Delta is one of six states in the south-south geopolitical zone. Buhari is therefore mortally wrong to argue that appointing an Igbo from Delta state satisfies allegation that he had marginalized the south east in key appointments into his kitchen cabinet. He could as well argue that Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, an Igbo from Ikwerreland in Rivers state, satisfies the yearning of the Igbo for adequate representation in his cabinet.
Such error, as expressed by the President himself, is at the root of several misconceptions about the genuine desire of the Igbo for true accommodation in a federal state that Nigeria is. This is also at the root of opposition, from the north, against bringing number of states in the southeast to be at par with those from other geopolitical zones. Somehow, those who stand against a sixth state for the south east, insist that the south east be looked at from the prism of old eastern region. Eastern region, old or new, does not exist. What exist to the knowledge of Nigerians are six geopolitical zones. These had formed the basis for political negotiations since they were created. By his reference therefore, Buhari shows that he is not ready to move a step away from stereotypes that has held Nigeria down.
Besides, a peep into the real pains in the agitation of the pro-Biafra demonstrators show a genuine and logical demand which ought to be address if indeed we are willing to put an end to such agitations. In executing its war against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram targeted churches and later places of commerce and trade because of their propensity for high population and, high casualty figures. This deliberate targeting of business places displaced a lot of Igbo traders. Some lost their shops and goods to bombs. Some lost their lives. Some lost their transport vehicles. Most Igbo, who became victims of Boko Haram bombs, became displaced and ran to the south east for safety.
Their losses are not compensated in any form. But the Federal Government has a Victim’s Support Fund which has attracted some billions of Naira. About N5b was added to the fund form the supplementary budget of 2015. The 2016 federal budget has about N20b worked out for victims of Boko Haram. As it is, NEMA has spent hundreds of billions taking care of internally displaced persons. Ask, are victims of Boko Haram bombs restricted? No voice has been raised, from any quarters, for those Igbo traders, or traders from other southern zones, who lost their businesses and means of livelihood to Boko Haram. While FG is bent of rehabilitating the north east –a move that is welcome- does it have any program to accommodate those Igbos who lost their shops, transport lines, and other genuine means of livelihood to Boko Haram? Are they going to be treated as foreseen but unavoidable victims of terror and as such left to their fate? As it is, those Igbo traders are both internally displaced and economically displaced. They are fuel to any serious agitation because driven by hardship, frustration, neglect and abandonment they are most likely to be available to any dissident movement.
Besides, if the agitations become so uncomfortable for Buhari, he may not need to look elsewhere to see another cause. His tongue! His pronouncement on 95% as against 5% can fuel arms struggle. Unless we try to play the ostrich, Buhari was unpresidential in that remark. And he has remained so, refusing to make good. Therefore, it is not quite illegitimate for a section of the country, which had been told that it does not belong in the equation, to seek to be heard, using the same option which has become very established and deeply entrenched in the power dialectics of Nigeria. I had expected President Buhari to make good, but his ego and messianism wouldn’t allow. In my learning, it is not a mark of greatness to remain stubbornly fixated to wrong and faulty propositions especially when such is capable of causing social disjointedness. Buhari does not think so. That is not leadership of the type the 21st century recommends. However, it is not too late to amend or clarify

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