The 2023 political/electoral season has opened. The search for the next president is on. While some Nigerians want the next president to come from their regional or ethnic section, others are calling for the prioritisation of “merit” without defining what it means in the context of Nigeria’s politics.
As we debate, may I subtly remind Nigerians that there is a very important unfinished Igbo business? Fifty-two years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War, Nigeria has not made up its mind exactly what to do with the Igbo nation. The entire country, with the help of our British colonial master and her allies and even foes, came together to stop Biafra’s secession attempt.
After every conflict, efforts must be made to ensure that the war ends both on the battlefield and in the minds of the protagonists. The former enemies must agree to become friends and brothers again for progress to become possible. The Bible says that two cannot walk together unless they agree.
The theatre of war must be rehabilitated. After World War II, the victorious Allied Powers created the Marshall Plan to rebuild devastated Germany and Japan after committing them to henceforth pursue only economic, rather than militaristic, paths to their futures. Something similar happened even here in Africa after the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda which claimed over 800,000 lives. The Hutus and Tutsis decided to forgive each other and resume on a clean slate. It worked in Europe, Japan and Rwanda. It always works.
Have you ever pondered why Nigeria started sliding downhill shortly after the war? The answer is simple. The “No Victor, No Vanquished” declaration was a fraud meant to get the Biafrans to drop their arms. The “Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation” policy was a mere “419”
The war continued in the minds of the hawks, especially the “federal” military. They took it to the political, economic and social arenas against the Igbo. If not for that mind war, the late former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, would have emerged as president of Nigeria in 1987 or 1999. But each time, the military thwarted him because he was Igbo.
On the other hand, the North voluntarily forwent the ambitions of their sons in 1999 and brought out General Olusegun Obasanjo whom they had jailed for the coup. They rallied the rest of the country to make him president to assuage the Yoruba nation of their hurt over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election and the murder of its winner, Chief Moshood Abiola, in detention.
They found it convenient to appease their war allies (Yoruba) rather than their enemies (Igbo). Since 1999, the North has been president twice (nine years so far), South West (eight years) and South-South (five and half years). All of them want to have another go, while the Igbo keeps being thwarted and blamed thereafter.
Since the end of the war and with the unfinished Igbo business, progress has eluded Nigeria. Poverty and insecurity bestride an otherwise blessed and mighty country like a colossus. Our education, health and infrastructure have gone to the dogs. The North, which led the war against Igbo and guzzles the lion’s share of resources, is in abject poverty and under attack by its own sons.
They are drifting to the South for greener pastures. Even their people who occupy every visible post in the Muhammadu Buhari regime cannot protect them. Yet, the economic circumstances of the Igbo are among the best. There is karmic effect at work. Nigeria must sit down with the Igbo, end the mind wars and forgive one another. They must agree and decide on a new direction. As a confidence-building measure, a competent and patriotic Igbo must be given the mantle of leadership and full support just as Obasanjo got.
The second option should be to loosen the Nigerian Federation and allow each part 75 per cent autonomy to decide its future. If both options fail, the Igbo must be allowed to peacefully leave the Federation. When you put something in your mouth, it is either you swallow it or spit it out. If it stays in your throat it will choke you to death! Nigeria’s unfinished Igbo business must be addressed now.
Imo: Rebuilding a war zone
Imo State is a war zone. The eight years of Rochas Okorocha as governor was a war. He built so many things that needed to be either demolished, fortified, abandoned because they simply made no sense, or recovered for the Imo people.
The second war is still ongoing. Imo was one of the states where the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, set up camps for its Eastern Security Network, ESN, to fight herdsmen invaders. But some disgruntled politicians hired mercenaries from the North broke the Owerri Prisons and commenced a systematic reign of terror which Muhammadu Buhari’s government passed off to the IPOB. Imo is the only state in Igboland where the Nigerian Air Force had dropped ordnance since the Nigerian Civil War.
The mental image created of the state is that of its governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma being a “gift” from the Supreme Court, sit-at-homes, unknown gunmen and systematic killings of Igbo youth suspected to be IPOB sympathisers.
Beneath all this, however, life still goes on. In the past two years since Uzodimma took charge, he has tackled Okorocha’s mess, restoring some order. Massive underground concrete channels are being built to de-flood the state and there is a heavy focus on roads and other infrastructure that will promote economic activities. Major investments are being committed to the health and education sector.
There is too much political noise, especially in social media. Happily, the people who are beneficiaries of the government’s efforts are in a better position to decide if what Uzodimma is doing is enough for them to give him a second term.