Who is afraid of an Igbo president? By Tochukwu Ezukanma

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Who is afraid of an igbo president

Without any legitimate grievance, but desperate to justify the need for the Igbo to secede from Nigeria, neo-Biafran propagandists have a penchant for disgusting falsehood. They make weird and wacky allegations like the Igbo are enslaved and being exterminated in Nigeria, and Nigerians are afraid of an Igbo president. Undoubtedly, these are resounding nonsense for the Igbo are not enslaved, and not being exterminated in Nigeria and no one is afraid of an Igbo president.

The distinguished American diplomat, John Galbraith, once wrote that “Every human endeavor is geared towards the acquisition of power and glory”. While our strive for glory is readily evident, it may not be as obvious that we all crave power, if power is seen just as political power. But power, in this context, is protean. It includes the power a pastor exercises over his congregation, a teacher, over his students and a wife, over her husband’s patience and money. Not surprisingly, every human relationship is defined by a struggle for power. There is a struggle for power, no matter how subtle and benign, within the home, between siblings, and between husband and wife.

Inevitably, there is an unremitting, unrelenting struggle for power, especially political power, in this heterogeneous and very complex country of ours. It is refreshing that the fight for political power in Nigeria is no longer determined by guns and bayonets, but by the ballot box. The global advance of democracy and its associated peaceful transfer of power made obsolete Mao Tse Tung’s maxim that “Power flows from the barrel of the gun”. However, the contest for power remains incredibly awful and excruciating. No wonder, a onetime American president, Richard Nixon, once wrote, “Power is not for everyone. It takes a unique kind of man to win the struggle for power”.

After his election to power, President Donald Trump was asked about the electoral campaign. He replied, “That power thing? Wow! It was tough. It was rough. It was nasty.” The fight for power in an enlightened and established democracy was “tough, rough and nasty”. What then is expected of it in this our vast scene of confusion, Nigerian? It must be ghoulish, deadly, and macabre. It is therefore only the gritty, resilient, and tough-minded with an enormous capacity for expediency and intrigues that can win the struggle for presidential power in Nigeria. In addition, to win presidential power in Nigeria demands political appeal and support across the ethnoreligious divides of the country.

Moshood Abiola perfected the art of making political friends and cementing political alliances across the many Nigerian fault-lines that even with his Moslem/Moslem presidential ticket, Nigerians still voted for him en-mass. Similarly, propped up by a very broad-based political party that bestrode regions, religions, and tribes, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olusegun Obasinjo triumphed in the 1999 presidential election.

Before his victory in the 2015 presidential election, Mohammadu Buhari had lost three earlier presidential bids. Why did he keep losing? He kept losing, not because Nigerians had any personal hatred for him or group hatred for his ethnic group, but because he had a very narrow political power base. He was yet to build political bridges and form political alliances. Just prior to the 2015 presidential election, he merged his political party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), with two main political parties, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and a splinter group of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). As the presidential candidate of the emergent massive political party, All Peoples Congress (APC), and its extensive political power base, he was elected president.

The failure of an Igbo to become the president of Nigeria, since 1999, is not because of hatred for the Igbo or fear of an Igbo president. It is because we are yet to present the right presidential candidate and build the necessary political bridges and coalitions. Our ability to make political friends and form political alliances continues to be gravely hampered by the ghost of Biafra. The Biafran propaganda taught us that we have done no wrong, offended no one, and have not, in any way, contributed to the problems of Nigeria, but have been unconscionably dealt with by a coalition of, murderous and unscrupulous, other Nigerians: targeted for extermination by the Hausa/Fulani, betrayed by the Yoruba and sabotaged by the minorities in Biafra.

The lingering grip of these monumental, barefaced lies on the Igbo psyche is devastating. It fuels our self-pity and persecution complex. It makes us paranoid; suspicious and distrustful of other Nigerians. And without trust and confidence in other Nigerians, it is impossible to form and cement political alliances with them. The 2023 presidential election provides a wonderful opportunity for the emergence of an Igbo president. We have a number of seasoned and formidable contenders for the office of the president. With a proven record of incorruptibility, probity, and vision, Peter Obi is the most distinguished of this pack; he will make an outstanding president.

It behooves us to realize that we are not totally harmless and blameless and that the other peoples of Nigeria are not a band of the vengeful and murderous united in a common plot to annihilate us. This will enable us to cultivate a new attitude towards Nigeria, an attitude premised on the trust of the other ethnic groups of Nigerians. Trust is an indispensable ingredient in forging the necessary political alliances and coalitions with other Nigerians, without which, there cannot be an emergence of an Igbo president.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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