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By: Egbuna Amuta 

It is not in contention that the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria played the foremost roles in the country's nationalist struggle leading to her independence in 1960 from British colonial rule. Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first ceremonial president of the country, was undoubtedly the unrivalled doyen of Nigeria's politics. In order to preserve the country's unity Azikiwe, popularly known as Zik of Africa, and his Igbo dominated political party, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, despite their avant-garde role in the independent struggle conceded the exalted office of the Prime Minister to the Northern region which was reluctant in country's quest for freedom from the United Kingdom.

In those days, Nigeria practiced the parliamentary system of government which she adopted from Britain. After the 1959 general elections, which no political party won outrightly, the NCNC formed an alliance with the defunct Northern Peoples Congress, NPC to form a coalition government at the centre. Notwithstanding the plurality of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the people of the then Eastern region collectively benefitted from that alliance, until the violent overthrow of the First Republic by the military in January 1966.

Similarly, in the Second Republic, the main stream of the political elite of the Igbo nation converged in the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, also led by "Zik of Africa". Even though Zik knew that the an Igbo man was not likely to win the 1979 presidential poll, he nonetheless joined the race to protect the race from being consigned to second class status in country's political calculus because of their principled role in the Nigerian Civil War.

After the general elections, none of the five registered political parties namely; the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, Great Nigerian Peoples Party, GNPP and Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, clearly won in the first ballot. Zik's NPP entered into an alliance with the Alhaji Shehu Shagari led NPN to form another coalition government. The NPN-NPP Accord ensured that apart from the emergence of an Igbo man, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme as the Vice President of Nigeria, late Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the NPP became the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Indeed, Ndigbo were in the main stream of Nigeria's Second Republic until it was rudely sacked by the Army in December 1983. 

The second military interregnum in Nigeria, which lasted from 1983 to 1999, grossly disfavoured the Igbo race. Within that sixteen years the military regimes which held sway at different periods totally marginalised Ndigbo politically and other wise. This explains why the Southeast zone has the least numbers of states and local government areas among the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria today. The Southeast is also unfortunately programmed by the military junta to be adjudged as the least populated in the country.

At the commencement of this Fourth Republic in 1999, the marginalisation of the Southeast manifested clearly when Dr. Ekwueme, the founding leader of the Peoples Democratic Party was brazenly denied the presidential ticket of the party in favour of a retired army general, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was also cajoled by the powers that be in the country to surrender his presidential ticket in the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, to Chief Olu Falae of the APP-Alliance for Democracy, AD Alliance. Again, at the inception of this Republic, the Obasanjo presidency brazenly interfered in the choice of the Senate President which was zoned to the Southeast by the PDP,  leading to instability in the nation's upper legislative chambers and embarrassing constant change of leadership among the five States of the Southeast.

It was against this background that some Igbo intelligentsia irrespective of their initial political affiliations decided to form the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in 2002. In the 2003 general elections, APGA fielded late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as its presidential standard bearer.

Due to what Ojukwu represented to Ndigbo, the party actually swept the polls in the Southeast in the 2003 general polls but was unconsciounably rigged out. It took the party almost three years of legal battles to retrieve its mandate only in Anambra state. Since 2006, APGA governors in the state have consistently  recorded very impressive achievements and Anambra is today unaruably the best governed state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

As the country braces for another general elections the issue of whether Ndigbo should massively vote for a political party largely founded and dominated by their intelligentsia or support other parties which are clearly dominated by leaders of rival ethnic nationalities and former military generals has once again been brought to the front burner of public discourse.

While it is true that Nigeria remains one united and indivisible entity, it is equally a truism that she is made up of disparate tribal and religious groups with different interests. Therefore, no matter how we pretend to be one people, nature has over the years imposed certain cultural differences on the people of Nigeria. We are simply made up of different ethnic nationalities. This explains why the founding fathers of the country and our British colonial masters decided that the we should operate the federal system of government in order to live in peace and unity despite our cultural diversities.

Again, this is why restructuring of the country's present federalism adulterated by the military is imperative. With the return of true or fiscal federalism in Nigeria the marginalisation of Ndigbo and many other tribal groups in the country would abate. The Political party which would bestride the Igbo landscape would therefore be in the position to negotiate with their opponents in other regions of the country to forge Alliances or Accords for overall good governance of Nigeria#

EGBUNA AMUTA, a Political Historian writes from Onitsha.

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