The Case For Igbo Presidency

I am an Igbo man and I believe in one Nigeria. I love my ethnicity and I love my country. Given a chance to re-incarnate; I will choose to be Igbo. My being Igbo presupposes that I am a Nigerian. This may not necessarity apply to other ethnicities within Nigeria, who can be located elsewhere in the West African sub-region. Every Igbo man is a Nigerian; there is no guess work about that because Nigeria is the only country on earth where you can find the Igbo.

Many factors set the Igbo apart as a distinguished group with a strong cultural heritage that has in some ways resisted Western indoctrination. The sonorous symphony of the language easily achieves a sophisticated accent that bears heavily on any second language, in this case English. The Igbo, by nature, are debonair, enterprising and hardworking. Their knack for success drives them far and wide into diverse parts of the world although they have been berated for their incessant quest for wealth, which is a strong denominator in a generation of obsessive materialism. The Igbo are peaceful, often associated with elegant carriage but sometimes with a majestic poise that can irritate and offend – a trait they share with their Oriental counterparts.
The Igbo have prospered with multi-million naira businesses across Nigeria. They live wherever they want to live in the country, flourishing and doing well. They have distinguished themselves in politics, business, sports, academics, entertainment, civil service and many other areas of human endeavor. In the light of the above, I strongly repudiate the assertion that the Igbo are marginalized in Nigeria. Although I am not a student of politics, I have often interrogated the recurring themes of politics in literary criticism and I am aware that socio-economic injustice is a brutal reality of political engineering. No doubt, the Igbo since the end of the civil war have been victims of this injustice; however it has brought out the best in them and should spur them to attain greater glory in Nigeria’s socio-economic arena.

To be fair, Nigerians, irrespective of ethnicity, are a wretchedly exploited group languishing daily in conditions often little better than bestial. I have traveled around this country and I have seen palpable, excruciating poverty, the underclass wallowing in abject misery, marooned in a backward country side, with a pervasive lack of medicare, basic amenities, food and shelter. Such are the unpropitious conditions of our existence in this progressively benighted socio-economic order which pays no attention to ethnicity, race or religion. In this, we must all be united. First big question: is it possible for any of the ethnicities to exist without the other seeing that there is an established culture of mutual dependencies among us in terms of friendship, business, marriage, political association and other existential reciprocities that characterize our daily lives?

The historical struggle for independence in Nigeria is replete with the efforts of eminent nationalists from different parts of the country with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Belewa, Obafemi Awolowo and Anothony Enahoro, all playing significant roles. Perhaps, without the noble contribution of any of these nationalists, Nigeria’s independence may have been aborted or suffered an undue delay. Since the emergence of Nigeria as an independent country, the political leadership has favoured the North more than any other ethnicity although that can be blamed on the enactment of the Lugardian administrative superstructure in 1914. Since independence, Nigeria has had many heads of state and commanders-in-chief all from different ethnic groups. Barring the six months Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi was a military head of state in 1966, barring when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a ceremonial president without executive powers during the first republic; no Igbo man has occupied the exalted position as an elected executive president of Nigeria.
In as much as I do not begrudge other ethnicities who have occupied the presidential seat, I think it borders on natural justice for the Igbo man to serve Nigeria in the capacity of an executive president. Many times I have heard mischief makers submit that the Igbo man cannot be trusted with power after the events of the civil war, I have dismissed such utterances as sheer prejudice coming from enemy nationals who I cannot associate with genuine intentions.

The Igbo man has served this country in different capacities and acquitted himself honorably. Second big question: why has the Igbo man not occupied the seat of the presidency? I agree that the seat cannot be offered to the Igbo on a platter, it is a function of sustained political participation, friendship and affable consultations. To be honest, the Igbo have not done this well the way their Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Niger Delta brothers have done. I want to start the agitation for the emergence of an Igbo man as the president of Nigeria in 2019 and I believe this is a legitimate endeavor. I, therefore, call on all Igbo of good conscience to rise and imbibe the spirit of this agitation. The time is now for us to do the needful, instead of wallowing in self-pity, spreading hate speeches and singing the stale and sterile song of marginalization, let us come together and began to make friends, create awareness and indeed prove that we are capable of producing a worthy son or daughter to be the president of this country.

Instead of IPOB, I propose the acronym IFOP which means Igbo for Presidency. Let the slogan resonate across the length and breadth of this country that the time has come for an Igbo to be the president. The Igbo cannot successfully produce the president of this country if they continue to see other ethnicities as their enemies. Therefore, let all genuine Igbo stand up and embrace other ethnicities in Nigeria in our march to the presidency. No doubt, the activities of IPOB have painted the Igbo man in a bad light, but we can turn the situation around, imbibe a reconciliatory spirit and reach out to our other brothers across Nigeria. The continued shout for marginalization will further alienate the Igbo from the power centres of this country and further enmesh us in seismic controversies.

The best way to eternally bury the ghost of marginalisation is to let an Igbo man become the president of Nigeria. Now, I am addressing the power brokers in this country, those who control the mechanism of party politics and protocol. Let all the major political parties zone their presidency to the South East and the incessant agitation for secession with its attendant loss of lives will be avoided. Although I have many times doubted the ideological leaning of the Igbo socio-cultural group Ohaneze Ndigbo, this is the time for them to work for the establishment of the Igbo ethnicity in Nigeria’s political aviary instead of making pronouncements that will only entrench the status quo. Let Ohaneze begin to visit different political blocks in the country and present our case for support to the presidency. Let us saturate the airwaves and social media with this consciousness.

Adiele writes from Department of English, University of Lagos.

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