By Chiedu Uche Okoye
Nigeria, which is founded on the tripod of the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and the Igbo ethnic nationalities, is still contending with the divisive problem of bitter ethnic hatred and rivalries. In fact, the January 1966 coup, which threw up Aguiyi Ironsi as our Head of State, was alleged and believed to be an Igbo coup. And it contributed in no small way to the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war. That fratricidal civil war pitted the Igbos of the South East of Nigeria against the rest of the country.
But, sadly, today, since the end of the civil war, the Igbo people have been receiving raw deal in the Lugardian contraption called Nigeria. They’re always targets of attacks plotted and executed by Muslim extremists in the North, which is a hot-bed of ethno-religious crisis. More so, people of other ethnic groups treat them with deep-seated hatred, distrust, and suspicion. Consequently, the Igbo people are with the feeling that they are unwanted second-class citizens in Nigeria.Igbo
Yet, the mistreated Igbos, who are dispersed in every in every nook and cranny of Nigeria, have been contributing significantly to the economic and technological advancement of Nigeria. When Nigeria was laboUring under the yoke of imperialism, it was Igbo people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mokwugo Okoye, and Nwafor Orizu , who teamed up with other nationalists and freedom fighters to fight for the political emancipation of Nigeria.
But, today, the South East, which is the home place of the Igbo people, is neglected. The federally-owned express-ways in the South East are dilapidated. For example, the Enugu-Onitsha expressway is presently in a deplorable condition. That expressway, which is rutted, is a death-trap on which many travellers had died as a result of frequent accidents while travelling on the road. I also twice escaped death by hair’s breadth on that road owing to its terrible state. And there is also the unanswered question of whether work is ongoing on the second Niger-Bridge.
Worst still, excluding the Igbo people, the other major ethnic groups and the Ijaw people had each produced President of Nigeria. Having a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will allay the Igbos’ fear that they’re being politically dominated by people of other ethnic groups. And it will disabuse their minds of the notion that they’re unwanted in Nigeria for their secessionist bid in 1967. More so, if an Igbo man is elected the President of Nigeria, the agitation for the creation of the sovereign State of Biafra will abate as the Igbos will feel that one of their own is at the helm of affairs in the country.
In December 1983, the brass hats and Jackboots toppled the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari probably to truncate the emergence of Vice President Alex Ekwueme as the presidential candidate of the then ruling NPN after the expiration of Shagari’s second term in office. The military, however, adduced corruption as the main reason for staging the coup.
It should be noted that the Igbos are their own worst enemies, although people from other ethnic groups are antagonising them. Since the end of the civil war, Igbos have not become politically united. Their individualistic proclivities have often been blamed for this. They will place their selfish and egoistical interests above the collective good of the Igbo people when issues affecting us crop up. Unlike the indignant Yoruba people who formed NADECO to fight for the re-validation of the late MKO Abiola’s stolen mandate, the Igbo top politicians, who were members of PDP, sold the late Dr Alex Ekwueme down the river during the PDP’s presidential primary election in the late 1990s.Then, Dr. Ekwueme was in a pole position to clinch the presidential ticket before his ethnic compatriots betrayed him.
Now, it is evident to even dim-witted people that the Igbo political elite(s), who are very selfish, cannot address the vexed issue of the marginalisation of the Igbo people in our country; neither can they reach consensus on issues critical to the survival and progress of the Igbo ethnic nation.
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It is the absence of responsible selfless and visionary leadership among the Igbo ethnic group that led to the emergence of the discombobulated and dilettante ideologue and rabble rouser called Mr Nnamdi Kanu as the leader of IPOB, a separatist group. Now, a great number of impressionable young Igbo people, who are either artisans or unemployed people, are his followers and disciples. They listen intently to his incendiary ramblings on Radio Biafra, which they believe to be the gospel truth. Mr. Kanu can manipulate and exploit their naivety and ignorance and incite them to perpetrate violent acts, which can jeopardise our continued existence as one country.
Today, Nnamdi Kanu’s followers are trumpeting secession as the solution to the Igbo marginalisation in Nigeria. But Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP’s presidential candidate, who picked Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, has promised to restructure Nigeria if elected the President of Nigeria. Restructuring Nigeria can solve the problems of the Igbo ethnic group and pave way for the rapid development of Nigeria. And if Atiku wins the presidential diadem, it may open the door for an Igbo man to come close to Aso Rock, the highest seat of power in our country.
But the secessionist alternative, which the IPOB members are romanticising will lead to a civil war with its disastrous consequences.
So now is an auspicious time for the Igbo political elite(s) and monarchs to close ranks, subsume their animosities, prejudices, and selfish interests beneath our collective good, and reach consensus on issues critical to the survival and progress of the Igbo people in order to put the South East on the path of sustainable irreversible and rapid economic and technological development.
*Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.