Late in May of this year, I had published a paper on Igbo political miscalculations based on our political alliances; in that paper I had laid out scenarios that could have put Ndi Igbo in a position to occupy Aso Villa four years earlier, in 2023, than a possible 2027. I, also, proffered reasons why even a 2027 Igbo presidency may not be a possibility. This paper will, drawing from some of the scenarios of the last paper, explain why the decade of 2013 to 2023 could be considered a lost decade in Igbo political history.
This analysis, review, or whatever one might choose to term this paper, is much more necessary now that, as I predicted in my May paper, the two major political parties, APC and PDP, have selected their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The APC had maintained the status quo of the current president and vice, while the PDP nominated, Alhaji Atiku Abubaker, former Vice President under Obasanjo, former APC member, and a constant and an astute political operative in the wild and unpredictable political climate in Nigeria, as their presidential candidate. Atiku in turn, and predictably, picked an Igbo political non-politician, Peter Obi, a former banker and two-term governor of Anambra state under APGA, as his running mate.
Now, I have read some comments, more prominently from Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, one of the members of the Atiku presidential team that he has promised to serve just one term, if the PDP wins the 2019 presidential election. This, if it happens, will put Ndi Igbo in a prominent position to take over the presidency. By 2023, Atiku will be 76 years old, and may very well decide to focus on his business and for the rest of his useful years. This comment has not been confirmed, or denied, by Atiku himself, and no one else in his inner circle has seconded or confirmed it. So, as things stand now, only Senator Bruce heard this.
So, why a lost political decade? Because, by 2023, it would have been 10, or more, years since the Igbos either played any role of prominence in, or directly benefitted from, the political process in Nigeria, The last two years, if not the entire five and half years of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, could be considered a loss for the Southeast and his South-south base, considering the massive political support these two regions gave him in 2011. In a winner-takes-all political dogfight, Jonathan, after securing a win, decided to leave everything on the political table. Following in the footsteps of, albeit few, former southern presidents before him; he cannot, today, point at anything of substance in the southeast, or his south-south region, to remember him by; except for massive levels of corruption at all levels of government. For a region which suffered serious neglect, in terms of development and key appointments, under the Obasanjo and Yar’Adua administrations, the expectation was that Jonathan, our son and “brother”, would come to the rescue. Unfortunately, this never happened.
These results notwithstanding, the Igbos voted massively for Jonathan again in 2015; a 98% vote allocation to Jonathan, and a pittance of 2% for his opponent, Buhari. This massive Igbo support was for two reasons: one, his opponent was a northerner perceived by many among the Igbo leadership to be anti-Igbo and anti-Christian; the second was that Buhari will definitely stop the financial largess falling from Jonathan’s many feast tables to the so-called southern elder statesmen, because he is widely acclaimed as a miser. Relying on the power of incumbency to return Jonathan to power, Igbo leaders and political analysts failed to read the mood of the rest of the zones. So, with their massive support for Jonathan, they voted themselves out of Nigeria’s political system; at least, for four years – a very critical error to make in Nigeria’s increasingly fluid political dispensation. Thankfully, the apex Igbo cultural organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo, seem to have realized this error, and are working hard to correct it and position Ndi Igbo for a more inclusive role in 2023.
As I predicted in May, and restated earlier in this paper, the two prominent presidential candidates have emerged from the North, with their running makes from the South. If PDP wins in 2019, and their candidate runs for a second term in 2023 (regardless of what Sen. Bruce said), an Igbo will be the PDP presidential candidate in 2027, not doubt. With the APC re-nominating Buhari for a second term, the Yorubas stand a chance of fielding the presidential candidate in 2023, four years earlier than the Igbos, and 16 years after a Yoruba handed over to a northerner. So, if the Igbo had dispensed with tribal politics in 2011 and 2015, and immersed themselves deeply into both major political parties, they would have had a considerable chance of fielding a presidential candidate under the APC in 2023, on the basis that all the major regions have produced the president except Ndi Igbo. This would have drawn nationwide sympathy towards them. Now, could my thinking have played out? Let us analyze some scenarios, first.
Despite photo-ops and social media publicity, there is widespread disenchantment among Nigerians, though very premature given their short time in office, with the current APC government; so, given that by 2023, the Southwest would have been out of office for 16 years, and since it is due to no fault of any other region that the Igbos have been in the political wilderness, the likelihood of the Yorubas conceding to, or supporting, and Igbo presidency in 2023 is very remote. Instead, they will likely make a go at it with either Osinbajo or Bukola Saraki; alternatively, Tinubu and his lieutenants could engineer another coalition of political parties for the top post in 2023, as they did in 2015.
Deep-Rooted Regional Suspicion
The Buhari administration have , from inception, witnessed unprecedented verminous attack from some Igbo groups, especially amplified by the Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB in the last year, that the ebbing mutual suspicion between Northerners and the Igbos have been gravely reinforced. As one Igbo elder lamented to me, recently: “the trust which took us 40 years to restore has been destroyed by one stupid boy in just a few months”. So, with the North-South distrust at its highest level in recent years, the northern voting public will not likely support or vote for an Igbo candidate. The sliver of hope is that 2023 is still far away, and before then, these two regional enemies could begin to see eye to eye. This will take a considerable effort by both sides to repair the damage already done, and to prevent a continuation of antagonistic rhetoric.
The Right Political Alignment
No doubt, the numbers are in the North. For anyone to win a presidential election in Nigeria, that person has to corral two of the three northern zones, and the Southwest. Specifically, for an Igbo candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria, that person will have to win the 3 southern zones, plus one northern zone; then, capture, at least, 25% of the remaining two northern zones. Anything short of this calculation will not get an Igbo candidate elected president in Nigeria
A scenario where a Yoruba is running alongside an Igbo candidate will pose a near-insurmountable challenge to a successful Igbo presidency in 2023. Because the north is more comfortable working politically with the Southwest than the Southeast, they will more than likely back a candidate from that zone than one of Igbo stock. The same politically alliance could be expected between the north and the southwest if a northerner was running against an Igbo candidate; because, in spite of public comments and postures, the Yoruba will not support an Igbo over a northern candidate, except that Igbo has a Yoruba as a running mate. Unfortunately, a Southeast-Southwest presidential ticket will never be acceptable in Nigeria.
The same relationship problem Igbos have with the Southwest exists with their next door neighbor in the south-south, though at a much manageable level. The South-south seem to share a much closer relationship with their Southwest neighbors than with the Southeast; due, largely, to fear of Igbo economic and political dominance, amplified by IPOB’s forceful annexation of this region, by the South-south. It is relatively easy for Igbos to adopt and support a South-south candidate against a Northern or Southwestern candidate, than it is for the South-south to return the favor in the case of an Igbo candidate. The seeming inability of Igbos to understand the political formula required to win a presidential election, will keep them from occupying Aso Villa as resident-in-chief for a long time.
Of all the previously mentioned reasons why Igbos may not win the presidency in 2023, or even 2027, the biggest impediment is lack of unity among the Igbos themselves. The oft-quoted republican nature of the average Igbo can be considered more of a curse than a blessing. No two Igbos can agree on a course, or the strategy to pursue that course; the multitude of Igbo organizations, both locally and in Diaspora, are like Jacks of all trade, but masters of none. There are no specific organizations focused on specific issues like education, manufacturing, agriculture, political and social integration, infrastructural development, safety and security, healthcare, wealth creation and management; instead, goals and objectives overlap, and no cohesive relationship exist between any two organizations to champion any of these courses. Rather, what exists is simply a multiplication of roles and responsibilities, which further exacerbate the confusion, incoherence, and disarray among the people.
Most damaging is the insistence by particular groups and prominent individuals that their identification, and definition of, the Igbo problem is supreme; therefore, their proffered solution or course of action must be the only acceptable one. This myopic belief, adversely, affects their approach to political relationships and party affiliations. The feeling in some certain quarters that, almost 50 years after the civil war, the inability of Igbos to form a cohesive political force could be blamed on the North is simply an attempt, now widely acknowledged by others, at offering a reason for a possible failure in 2023 and beyond.
Lack of a Clear Vision
Everyone in Nigeria acknowledges that Igbos want something; what is not clear, especially among the Igbos, is what that thing is. In the absence of a uniform plan or program for, and by a majority of Igbos, it is impossible to convince or coerce others to join your course. Where there is lack of a national agenda by a presidential candidate, capable of energizing his or her traditional base, it becomes much more difficult for anyone else to take you seriously. Restructuring, devolution of powers, states creation, regional autonomy, and outright secession are some of the items on the Igbo’s bucket list. Unfortunately, these all mean different things to different people among the Igbo tribe; the leadership team, or an Igbo organization, that is able to understand this and fashion out an all-inclusive action plan that incorporates the needs and desires of the many different ethnic groups within the Igbo nation, and sell-able to the rest of Nigeria, is very likely to deliver an Igbo president in 2023 or 2027.
Unfortunately, this will not happen before 2023, given the damage done by the resurgence of Biafran secessionists championed by Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB; however, the current state of political wilderness should not be allowed to extend beyond 2023. Yes, the three years between when we lost our all-or-nothing bet on Goodluck Jonathan and 2018 has been one of anger, frustration, and concealed regret; but, from 2018 to 2027 is almost a decade away, and we should not lose the opportunity to re-write our political history in the Nigeria we currently call our own. If, and when Biafra comes, we will take it and run with it; until then, we have to make our presence felt in the now that is Nigeria. It should not take another ten years
I write about Igbo issues, because I am Igbo to the core and care about my people; and, I do invest time and energy to continuously study and understand my people. Yes, I rub some Igbo readers the wrong way because I am independent-minded, and not so easily swayed by some sweet-tongued or fiery preachers of hate and discord in the name of Igbo self-determination. The elections are here, so my focus for the foreseeable future will turn to the candidates and their plans for Nigeria, which Igbos are still part of.