For more than four decades, the Nigerian oligarchy and its subjects
have been strutting on, as if the Igbo nation does not exist. Of
course, we do not need the powers of a clairvoyant to let us know
that Ndigbo are a conquered people. This is not the issue at hand.
What I am talking about here presents a pungent and poignant question
which borders on fair play, equity, justice and political correctness
or lack of it in the Nigerian context.
For good or bad measure, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),
sensationally and predictably elected President Goodluck Jonathan
as its candidate for the April 2011 presidential election. The PDP
would have based its choice of Jonathan rather than former Vice
President Atiku Abubakar on two cardinal points namely: There is
a military saying that it is not good to drag a commander, a general
for that matter, to a battlefront and leave him bare, without back
This simply means that it would not have been in the best interest
of the party and indeed Nigeria, if PDP had abandoned President
Jonathan in the middle of the road and left him to his own fate
in the primaries which brought him as the presidential candidate.
In other words, Jonathan did not cause his predecessor’s death,
thus the anger and frustration of his departure cannot be visited
on him. Simply put, PDP said it is not good for the party to have
disgraced a seating president out of office because of an infinitesimal
nomenclature called zoning.
Secondly, since democracy encourages individual aspiration and ambition,
and whereupon Jonathan indicated his interest to contest the 2011
presidential election, political loyalty demands that all party
faithful should rally round the President or be accused of anti-
To make my stand clear, I was one of those who had expected President
Jonathan to have completed Musa Yar’ adua’s tenure and
leave. But Jonathan had other ideas. Supported by almost all the
intimidating arrowheads and forces in PDP, he declared his interest
to continue in office against the party’s zoning principle
which was enshrined in its constitution . This is where I have questions
for Nigeria, for I am convinced that the story would have been otherwise
if Jonathan had been Igbo.
If he were Igbo, the Nigerian state would have rallied against him,
reminding him that he was an ungrateful fellow. He would have been
labeled an usurper, a greedy man who wants to destabilize Nigeria
because of his personal interests. Nigeria is always at peace whenever
the Igbo is disillusioned. This is an incontrovertible fact, if
you consider the following factors.
After the January 15, 1966 coup, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi emerged as the
Head of State and Commander - in- Chief of the Armed Forces. Ironsi
could only last for six months as he was maliciously overthrown
in a bloody coup that also consumed about 162 army officers of Igbo
stock. The plot to oust Ironsi was gradual but steady. To make his
ouster very easy, all sorts of lies were leveled against him, even
from those who knew that he was too patriotic to carry out a dastardly
act like a coup.
Ironsi was a martyr who died for sins he never committed just because
he was Igbo. On the day of the January 15, 1966 coup, all accounts
from the principal actors indicate that he had no hand in the mutiny
that ended the First Republic abruptly. Rather, he did his best
to foil the coup and that accounted for why the coup was largely
inconclusive. Instead of commending him, the army turned against
Ironsi, sabotaged, abducted and eventually assassinated him in a
most wicked way. Sadly, the unitary system of government which Ironsi
adopted to govern via the much vilified Decree 34 was the same means
successive military rulers in Nigeria adopted in another name.
Yet Ironsi died for it and is almost forgotten. Since 1966 till
date, Nigeria has seen so many coups but none was as cruel as that
which swept Ironsi under. Look at this account from Chuks Iloegbunam’s
IRONSIDE ‘ The Supreme Commander General Ironsi, asked Major
Danjuma, ‘ ‘ what do you want’’. Major Danjuma
replied: ‘You are under arrest. You organized the killing
of our brother officers in January and you have nothing to bring
the so-called dissident elements to justice because you were part
and parcel of the whole thing’. You see, Igbo is always unwanted
as you can glean from this account.
Although, Ironsi was the first and so far the only head of government
with executive power the Igbo has produced, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (
Zik) was a ceremonial president and he got the same treatment that
was meted out on Ironsi in another fashion. In 1951, Zik, in his
bid to prove his true nationalism and to confirm he was a shrewd
politician, worked hard with his NCNC to win most of the seats in
the Western House of Assembly. It was an unprecedented feat and
a victory never expected. But before anybody could say Jack Robinson,
the Western NCNC members who were elected to the House cross carpeted
and declared for AG, just to deny Zik victory. Zik was furious and
We all know that between 1979 and 1983, Zik contested the presidency
on the platform of the now defunct NPP. That he lost the election
is not our concern here. Our interest is that the then South –South
states of Rivers (which had Bayelsa State where Jonathan comes from)
and Cross River (today’s Akwa Ibom State was a part of Cross
River then) rejected Zik and whatever he represented. Don’t
forget that both Melford Okilo of Rivers and Clement Isong of Cross
River led their people to Shagari’s NPN rather than Zik’s
NPP. You can see the frustration of the Igbo.
In the wake of the 1966 disturbances, it is on record that three
principal Igbo army officers played heroic roles to quench the January
15 coup and they succeeded 80 per cent. They were, Ironsi, Alexander
Madiebo and Odumegwu Ojukwu. Ironsi foiled the coup in Lagos; Madiebo
stopped it in Kaduna while Ojukwu put it off in Kano. Yet the coup
was regarded as Igbo oriented, no matter. Six months later, in July
1966, the rampaging Northern forces attempted to take over the government
by force. And they got their desire.
They succeeded in the North, Lagos and West, but Ojukwu not only
opposed it but he also stopped it in the East. In the process, Ironsi
had fallen and became a victim alongside his host, Col, Adekunle
Fajuyi. As a disciplined and professional soldier, Ojukwu demanded
that due process should be followed and insisted that the army should
not name any Head of State until the whereabouts of the Supreme
Commander had been ascertained, maintaining that Yakubu Gowon was
the most qualified to rule even if Ironsi was missing. For his insistence
on due process, Ojukwu was labeled ‘ a rebel, warlord and
a troublemaker’. Overnight all the coup plotters became national
heroes that ended up ruling the country at different occasions,
allocating oil blocs to themselves while Ojukwu was demonized, castigated
and battled to stand still.
One of the brightest brains the Igbo nation has produced was the
late Dr M.I. Opkara, the former Premier of what used to be Eastern
Nigeria, present day South-East and the former Eastern minorities.
The lies the then Eastern minorities now South -South have always
told against Okpara was that he built Igbo land without bringing
any development to their own region. The insinuation here is that
Okpara never minded the present day South- south in the discharge
of his duties. But it is not true. It is all lies. It is an extension
of the discrimination against Igbo elite. The truth is that Opkara
was quite fair in his duty post as the Premier. According to Chris
Offodile, Okpara’s biographer, the late Premier was one of
the most detribalized administrators Nigeria has ever produced given
how he touched all spheres of the former Eastern Region during his
reign . Offodile wrote: ‘ Okpara was responsible for setting
up many farm estates such as the COLARO Estate and the QUA FALLS
Estate both in the former Cross River State.
The Trans Amadi Layout was one of the biggest projects that Okpara
built in Port Harcourt at the cost of three million pounds. He also
set up the Michelin Factory and the Glass Factory also in Port Harcourt
as well as the five million pound cement factory located in Calabar.
In regard to hotel industry, his government built the Hotels Presidential
in Port Harcourt (and Enugu). Okpara also built the Obudu Cattle
Ranch and Hotel Complex in Cross River State. He had started the
Ahoda\ Mbiama Road (in present day Rivers and Bayelsa states) project
before the civil war broke out. He worked closely with Chief I.U.
Apkabio (from present day Akwa Ibom) and Dr S.E. Imoke (from present
day Cross River) both today have their sons as governors of their
respective states.’ Despite these well documented feats, Okpara
is not even remembered but maligned and dismissed as a failure and
tribalist because he is of Igbo extraction.
What of Dr Alex Ekwueme? He was victim of grand conspiracy. In the
Second Republic, Ekwueme was the deputy to President Shehu Shagari.
This was in 1979, and both men ran the government of the day in
the first tenure on the platform of NPN. When NPN was returned to
power in 1983, expectation was rife that at the expiration of their
tenure in 1987, the NPN would then give the presidential ticket
to Ekwueme. This was a perfect plan and would have worked wonders
for Nigeria, but it was not to be. Ekwueme must not rule. To stop
this from happening, the military struck and overthrew the Shagari
administration with Ekwueme as the heaviest casualty. Really, the
1983 coup was meant to stop Ekwueme from ruling Nigeria because
he is from the South-East. Again in 1998\99, despite leading the
G34 that fought dictator Gen Sani Abacha to submission, and later
transformed into PDP, Ekwueme was dragged to Jos in the PDP convention
and disgraced as he lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in the primaries for
the presidential elections. Of course, he lost again in 2003 in
The case of Ebutu Ukiwe was even more pathetic. A published report
put it this way: ‘ Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe became the first
Chief of General Staff in General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime.
It was a tragic mistake. In months, Ukiwe was sacked and retired.
But he had done no violent action. He had not plundered the treasury.
His hands did not drip of human blood. A reporter had asked about
Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic countries
(OIC) which was contrived by Babangida, and Ukiwe replied that the
matter had never come up in the deliberations of the Armed Force
Ruling Council(AFRC). And for this he was fired!’
What of the misfortune that befell Rear Admiral Alison Amechina
Madueke ? ‘He was the first Chief of Naval Staff in Gen Sani
Abacha’s regime and the first Igbo to be a service chief since
Ironsi in 1965. Another terrible mistake had been made. In months,
Madueke was sacked and retired. His offence was that he had advocated
during Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) meeting that MKO Abiola,
Yoruba, should be released from detention and engaged in dialogue.’
Unarguably, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the immediate past Central Bank
of Nigeria Governor, brought so many gainful changes to the apex
bank and he got both national and international awards to that effect.
Almost all the Nigerian newspapers celebrated him and gave him awards
upon awards. But today, he is out of favour with nearly all the
same media that celebrated him to the high heavens. The answer is
very simple: Soludo is Igbo. He is now the most vilified public
servant in Nigeria and that is what we are complaining about.
Remember also that the Savannah Bank, owned by former governor,
Jim Nwobodo was closed down and its license revoked when it was
glaring that the bank was healthy for operations. In the same vein,
Orji Uzor Kalu’s Slok Air was axed and booted out of operations
for no just cause, just as Sir Victor Ikwuemesi’s Sosoliso
Airlines was closed down and ordered out of the skies. Ditto Mr
C.M. Ibeto’s Cement Group which was embargoed out of production
and circulation. We can go on and on.
With the above examples, it is clear that Jonathan would not have
got the PDP ticket, given the same circumstances that played itself
out in recent memory, if he were Igbo. Do not tell me that we are
the cause because it is a matter for another day.