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BY: Egbuna Amuta 

In spite of the disadvantageous position they found themselves soon after the Nigerian Civil War, which ended in January 1970, the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone of the country were able to re-assert themselves in the country's politics between 1979 and 1983, before the second intervention of the military in the nation's affairs. Since then they have, to a very large extent, been effectively sidelined from the main stream of the country's politics.

From December 1983, when the Shagari-Ekwueme Presidency was ousted, up to this period, the grand conspiracy between former military regimes and other ethnic groups in Nigeria against the Igbo nation has unfortunately endured. Before, the overthrow of the Second Republic, the Igbo had a political party dominated by them, known as the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP. The party controlled the old Anambra and Imo made up of the present Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, in addition to the old Plateau state made up of the present Plateau and Nasarawa states. The defunct NPP, also had a very strong presence in Benue state. The people of the Southeast were equally very relevant in the then ruling party in the country, known as the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. 
In that Republic, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was the Vice President of Nigeria while the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of blessed memory. Indeed, Ndigbo were a force to reckon with in that defunct Second Republic, as was the case when Nigeria gained independence in 1960 and six years after. They belonged and participated actively in the executive and legislative arms of the federal government.This was as a result of the alliances formed in both Republics between political parties dominated by core Igbo political elite and their counterparts in Northern Nigeria.

The misfortune of the people of the Southeast in Nigeria actually began taking a turn for the worse when the army overthrew the Second Republic. Save for the brief period when retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe was the Chief of General Staff, the equivalent of the office of the Vice President during the regime of retired General Ibrahim Babangida, no person of Igbo extraction has till date occupied the foremost or second most powerful political office in Nigeria. The patriotic and courageous efforts of Dr. Ekwueme, under the military dictatorship of late General Sani Abacha and retired General Abdulsalami Abubarkar, to bring about the present Fourth Republic, and his attempt to become the pioneer presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was frustrated by a cabal of ex-military men, who through intimidation and manipulation ensured that one of their own, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo became the party's flagbearer and subsequently the first President of Nigeria's Fourth Republic in 1999. Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who that same year won the presidential ticket of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, was cajoled by the powers that be in Aso Rock Villa, to surrender his mandate to the candidate of the All Peoples Party and Alliance for Democracy, AD coalition, a contraption foisted on Nigeria by the military. That Alliance of strange political bedfellows threw up the Chief Olu Falae and late Umaru Shinkafi ticket which eventually ran against the Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar joint ticket of the PDP.

From that period till date, the gang up by other political interest groups in Nigeria against Ndigbo has regrettably persisted. Due to faint heartedness, greed or naivety, many members of the Igbo intelligentsia have succumbed to the wiles, coercion and manipulations of their political traducers. They have therefore unfortunately accepted second class or minority status in a country they are evidently one of the three most populous ethnic nationalities. 

This explains why the Southeast is today the zone with the least number of states and local government areas as well as the least representation in the National Assembly. Today, the political elite of the South South made up of minority ethnic groups of the former Eastern and Midwest regions are apparently more powerful, self confident and audacious than their peers in Igboland. After all, one of their own had become the President of Nigeria, and one of them who is the national chairman of one of the major political parties in the country recently had the temerity to disrespectfully tongue lash, and threatened to sack a supposedly fearless federal minister of Igbo extraction who was a one time governor of Anambra state.

Some political pundits believe that all the indignities being suffered by Ndigbo since the end of the civil war is as a result of lack of unity of purpose by the elite of the Southeast. They say that the present crop of the Igbo political leadership has failed to learn lessons from the intelligent, diplomatic and pragmatic approach to issues by late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and has also not been able to synthesize them with the courageous  and outspoken disposition of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. As a matter of fact, Dim Ojukwu in 2002, joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA for exactly the same reason why Dr. Azikiwe joined NPP in 1978. The duo at different periods in the country's history wanted Ndigbo to be relevant, clearly identified and respected in Nigerian politics like their Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba contemporaries, as was the case during the country's independent struggle and in the First Republic.

Whilst totally shunning seccessionist tendencies because of historical and present realities, most members of the Igbo political class should discard petty jealousy and converge in one major political party, preferably the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. They should equally vigorously and steadfastly agitate for the Restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. Ndigbo should practically shake off inferiority complex foisted on them as a result of the outcome of Nigerian Civil War. The Igbo nation cannot continue to allow itself to be haunted by the outcome of a conflict which ended forty eight years ago. Ndigbo should continue to work hard, and totally embrace the AKU LUE UNO clarion call, in order to develop their home stead with internally generated revenues and resources earned from the Diaspora, instead of relying solely on allocations from the federation accounts. Since their forebearers were in the vanguard of Nigeria's independence struggle and have been able to contribute immensely to the socioeconomic well being of other climes throughout the world, nothing stops Ndigbo under a visionary and focused leadership from replicating the same in their  home stead? 
It is only when the Igbo nation is able to do this that other ethnic nationalities and interest groups in Nigeria would once again begin to respect them and unwittingly allow them to freely exercise their inalienable rights in the Federal Republic of Nigeria#

EGBUNA AMUTA is the Senior Special Assistant on Grassroots Media Mobilisation to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.
Wednsday, July 25, 2018.

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