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By: Egbuna Amuta

It is an open secret in Nigeria today that the Igbo race which contributed most vigorously to the country's liberation from colonial rule is presently forced by circumstances to occupy the back seat of the nation's political affairs. It is equally a truism that Ndigbo who are evidently one of the three most populous ethnic nationalities in the country are being compelled to accept the status of a minority ethnic group in Nigeria. 

This explains why their geopolitical zone, the Southeast, has-been programmed by past military regimes in the country to have the least numbers of states and local governments among the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. While the Northwest has seven states, the Northeast, North Central, Southwest and South South are alloted six states. The Southeast which is predominantly Igbo has only five states.  

For this reason, the Southeast gets the least revenues and representations in the executive, legislative and judiciary arms at the federal level of government in the country. It must be emphasised that the military regimes which deliberately  reduced Ndigbo to minority status were dominated and influenced by men from Northern and Western Nigeria. They consummated this diabolic plot against the Igbo race in conspiracy with members of their political class. 

As Nigeria prepares for the 2019 general elections, the plot against the people of the Southeast is still very much alive. This explains why all major political parties except the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, are already poised to pick their presidential candidates and running mates from the far North and Southwest respectively. It is equally a glaring truth that the national hierarchy of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as presently constituted do not have Igbo politicians in any meaningful position of influence. 

It would be recalled that despite the premier role played by a former Vice President of Nigeria, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who was an Igbo man, in the formation of the PDP, the ruling cabal in the country denied him the Presidential ticket of the party during the 1999, Jos Convention of the PDP. The cabal, in Ekwueme's stead manipulated the convention to ensure that the then insolvent retired General Obasanjo, who came out of jail a few weeks earlier was made the party's flag bearer in that year's presidential poll.  

The obvious marginalisation of Ndigbo in the country has been attributed to the fact that they were the arrowheads of the defunct Republic of Biafra which lost out in the Nigerian Civil War, fought between 1967 and1970. However, it is unfortunate that forty seven years after the civil war, the gang up against the Igbo race by other ethnic nationalities has persisted in the political permutations of the country. 
Perhaps , this explains why in spite of the extraordinary contributions of the people of the Southeast to the socioeconomic well being of the country before and after the imbroglio, deliberate and conscious efforts are still being made by their traducers to ensure that a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction would not emerge in the near future. In fact, they are being taunted with the exalted office by other Nigerian politicians as demonstrated in a recent political rally organized in Owerri, Imo state by Governor Rochas Okorocha, for the present ruling party in the country. During the rally, a very top official of the federal government arrogantly told Ndigbo that their political future depends solely on a particular Dramatis Personae in the nation's power game. 

That apparent disrespectful statement has elicited the tongue lashing of the Oheneze Ndigbo and one of the surviving foremost nationalist in Nigeria, Chief Mbazulike Amechi as well as many other perceptive Igbo persons. That notwithstanding, continued lamentation over the marginalisation of Igbo speaking people of Nigeria would not make their suppression to easily go away. Igbos take the bull by its horns and make conscious and deliberate efforts devoid of irascibility to salvage themselves from political bondage and slavery.  Secession should be completely out of the question. This is because Ndigbo have invested tremendously in the socioeconomic well being of Nigeria than their rivals. More importantly, the international community is more often than not averse to secession. Let us therefore not walk the same path and the ugly experience we suffered in the hands of virtually all the Super Powers during the Biafran War. 

Indeed, the time has come for the Igbo political class to re-embrace the political philosophy of the greatest politician ever produced by Nigeria. In his heydays, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the first President (although ceremonial) of Nigeria, popularly known as Zik of Africa, made sure that Ndigbo (his kith and kins) were not completely schemed out of the country's power game. He did it with the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC and Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP in country's First and Second Republics. During the Civil War, when Dr. Azikiwe realized that the odds were heavily stacked against the defunct Republic of Biafra, he quickly negotiated with the military government of retired General Yakubu Gowon to give soft landing to the Igbo race when it was being rumoured that they would be further massacred after the Civil War in 1970. 

Again , in 1979, Azikiwe joined the NPP, in order to once again make Ndigbo relevant in Nigeria's politics, given the fact that the then National Party of Nigeria, NPN and Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN were re-enactments of the former Northern Peoples Congress, NPC and Action Group which held sway in the then Northern and Western regions of Nigeria. Zik's political manoeuvre and savvy ensured that Ndigbo were not overwhelmed or submerged by their rival ethnic groups in the country's Second Republic.

The former Biafran leader, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu took similar commendable step in 2003, when he joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and became its Presidential candidate in the 2003 general elections in Nigeria. Save for the unconscionable rigging of that general polls by the federal government led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired army general, APGA, actually swept that polls in virtually all the five Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. 

The then ruling political party in the country effectively exploited its power of incumbency and coercion to foist itself on Ndigbo and many other states in Nigeria for a very long period. It is necessary to observe that neither Zik nor Ojukwu actually went into the presidential contests in the Second and Fourth Republics respectively with the intention of winning the polls. Rather,  they contested in order to sustain the relevance of the Igbo race in the politics of this country.

Be that as it may,  the time is nigh for the Igbo political elite to once again generally band together in one political party as was the case in the First and Second Republics. Even though they might not be able to win the 2019 presidential election, their party is capable of sweeping all elective offices in the five Southeast states and beyond. The Igbo political class should in the name of honour and integrity say no to political servitude or slavery in Nigeria. Given their natural endowment for hard work and enterprise, Igbo people can survive socioeconomically more than their contemporaries in Nigeria. Even under the prevailing inequitable political system of the country, good leadership in the Southeast can effectively utilize their meagre allocations from the federation accounts and Internally Generated Revenues, IGR,  to build very strong economy as was the case under the Premier of defunct Eastern region, late Dr. Michael Okpara. This is being replicated today in Anambra state by Governor Willie Obiano.  

When this happens, the other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria would once again begin to respect Ndigbo for their unity of purpose. The Southeast would then speak with one voice and also be in vantage position to negotiate the interests of their race in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which they have so much stakes. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA is a ready-made political platform for Ndigbo to accomplish this noble objective. Luckily, the party is presently being led by the pragmatic, organized and very courageous Governor Obiano of Anambra state. If Igbo intelligentsia shun petty jealousy, most of them could join APGA to collectively  liberate their race from obvious marginalisation in the Nigerian polity. 

At this juncture it is pertinent to note that the so-called quest for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is by far less important than the urgent need for the anachronistic Nigerian political system to be Restructured or for the country to return to the practice of true federalism as was the case before the rude interference of the military in the nation's political affairs since 1966. 
Even though Nigeria seems to be practicing democratic federalism today, the reality is that the country is, in essence actually practicing the system in its breach. If the truth must be told, Nigeria is presently more of a unitary state than federal. This is because persons with military background and orientation are still very much in charge of the country's political life. A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction without the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation would definitely  not perform creditably#

EGBUNA AMUTA is the Senior Special Assistant on Grassroots Media Mobilisation to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.

Friday, July 6, 2018.

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