By Chioma Gabriel
What do the Igbo want? Is it Biafra or restructuring or a Nigerian president of Igbo stock? This question has become pertinent in the face of a majority tribe in Nigeria becoming a minority. There is a strange statistics that the Igbo are the list registered amongst the ethnic groups in Nigeria and this assumption is being used in many quarters against the people. This assumption is being used to shortchange the people politically and many a political party would not field a presidential candidate or the vice –presidential to the south east.
Personally, I don’t care where the political parties zoned their candidates to as long as we have good governance in Nigeria and problems of infrastructure in the south east are addressed.
But are Igbo minority? The answer is no. If anything, they are the majority tribe in Nigeria. It is only the Igbo that you will see living in large numbers anywhere else in Nigeria. Despite being butchered and hated by many, the Igbo man has remained resolute and committed in what he believes in. Despite being oppressed and intimidated, the Igbo have a dream and have remained committed to that dream. Despite being hated by fellow Igbo, the Igbo man has remained unshakeable in what he believes. The last opinion is a fact. Sometimes, the Igbo is so complicated that it becomes known amongst the others that to deal with an Igbo man, it is a fellow Igbo man that will help and it has been working for them.
But does that make Igbo a minority tribe in Nigeria or the least registered? The answer is no and I will explain.
More than 50% of the Igbos lives outside that southeast, scattered in the north, west, midde belt, south south and outside the shores of Nigeria.
If anything, statistics has shown that Igbo is the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. The South East consists of 99.9% resident Igbo while Igbo have a huge population in other regions. To be fair, at-least Igbo consist 30% to 35% of Lagos populations and Igbo also have big population in South South and Northern States.
According to statistics, North Central has 10,586,965 of registered voters and the Igbo are at-least 700,000. The North East has 9,929,015 registered voters out of which Igbo voters are at least 600,000.
In the North West, there are 18,293,093 registered voters and the number of registered Igbo voters are at-least 1,000,000 even though 25% of people that registered to vote in North West are from Chad and Niger.
In the South South where they have 11,101,093 registered voters : Igbo voters in South South are at-least 3 to 4 million people
In the south east with 8,293,093, Igbo voters constitute at-least 8.2 million people while in the South West with 14,626,800, the number of Igbo voters is at-least 5million people.
Can anyone compare the number of people from other regions living in the south east/south south to those of people from the south east/south south living in other regions? The answer is no. There is no basis for comparison.
The problem is that the Igbo have not been able to stick together to decide on what they want and other zones are taking this to advantage. Nobody from other zones has ever sympathized with the Igbo position. Hence, after since 1999, nobody is thinking seriously about the Igbo in a presidential position whereas others who have had it are striving to have it again and again.
Just the other day, in a reminiscent of Aba women riot of November/December, 1929 in Aba and Calabar Provinces against the policies of the British colonial administrators , the women of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, protested in Owerri .
The Aba women protested the “special task” foisted on the market women having seen it as anti-development and capable of ruining their businesses. They refused to be intimidated and mobilized into the streets to demand that the special task on market women among other things be proscribed.
That show of what many pictured as Aba women riot almost happened again in Owerri when the women said to be members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, numbering over 2000 conquered fear and protested against government actions on proponents for Biafra republic. Since the existence of IPOB, it is about the most pronounced protest by pro Biafra women.
A good number of the women came out topless. They wore black attire. They had with them Biafra insignias. There were young girls, mothers and grandmothers. Some are pregnant.
They met the strongest force of armed police officers and in the process, they were rounded up and bundled to the Imo police headquarters.
IPOB had campaigned against registration of voters exercise and discouraged Igbos from partaking in the exercise which many especially hundreds of thousands of IPOB members obeyed. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some groups in the south east have been talking about restructuring while many others are talking about a different thing altogether.
What do the Igbo want? Is it a Nigerian president from the south east? Is it restructuring or Biafra republic?
Discordant tunes emanating from the south east require that the people go back to the drawing table and articulate a position on what they want in the Nigerian federation.
The way things are, the Nigerian federation has moved on and left the Igbos behind. Currently, this majority tribe is neither here nor there.
Il flotte dans l’air (It is floating in the air)