Presidency: If Peter Obi Were Not Nigerian Igbo
“Having undergone a course of suffering, the [Igbo] must therefore enter into its heritage by asserting its birthright, without apologies.” – Nnamdi Azikiwe, June 25, 1949.
If Peter Gregory Obi were not an Igbo man and achieved a masterclass showing in the last polls, he would have been declared the President-elect. Could it be that his origins more than any other variable became the determining element in the unfolding gang-up against him? Why is his ethnic origin, more than other germane issues, the deciding factor? Didn’t he say, repeatedly too, that no voter should be persuaded by his tongue or creed? Why are Ndigbo bearing the brunt of Obi’s pan-Nigeria appeal as proven by the presidential polls of February 25?
Short answer: There is a penalty for being an ethnic Igbo in Nigeria. Every Igbo, whether you call it a drawback or stumbling block, must live with it to be a Nigerian. QED.
It is a costly accident to be born an ethnic Igbo in the geographic contraption called Nigeria. Nobody seems to know why but being Igbo-born comes with many unavoidable challenges. Whatever other ethnic groups go through being Nigerians, there are always extra for the Igbo stock. Not to suffer as an Igbo in Nigeria is to resolve to be a second-class citizen or decide to publicly deride Ndigbo, ostensibly to win the favor of others as represented by one Nnewi lost son in Lagos. That means living in serfdom or vassalage and being the exact opposite of what God had destined you to be, meaning you have to discountenance the egalitarian nature of Ndigbo and choose to play the second fiddle.
It also entails in all circumstances you have to rank yourself low and accept the degrading they ascribe to you. So, why wouldn’t Ndigbo accept these fallacious dispositions and live in peace rather than show up their needless talents and potential and get punished in the process? Is it not clear that the elite of Nigeria, afraid of stiff competition, do not want an Igbo and have to ascribe a bad name to the noisy and garrulous for the hangman’s attraction?
Since 1999 when the current dispensation began, the Igbo of Nigeria have been very convenient cannon fodder, being remorselessly used to support or add to the vote count. In 1998, after former Vice President Alex Ekwueme successfully organized the politicians that pressurized the military out of power, they resolved among themselves to give the presidential ticket of the then-dominant party, the PDP, to Dr. Ekwueme.
Everything was set in Jos, Plateau State, for the first national convention of the party in 1998. All the delegates to the convention left their states believing Dr. Ekwueme will pick the presidential ticket of the party. Besides being the leader of the political class and former Vice President, Dr. Ekwueme was easily the best in terms of experience, antecedents, qualifications, and competence. The quality he displayed as second-in-command to President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983 stood him out. He was competent, loyal, and downright corruption-free.
When the military seized political power in 1983, they held Shagari in a guest house and Ekwueme in prison. After he was already humiliated and tried, they left him with a clean testimonial that he was even richer before he took the position. So there was no question of corruption around him. So, with this essential testimonial referencing his character, it was easy for him to back him up have the PDP ticket, but it did not turn out so, why? The junta that ousted civil rule in 1983 did so to abort a possible handover of Shagari to Ekwueme after Shagari’s second term that just kicked off in October 1983.
Rather than Ekwueme, the ruling military bloc chose in his stead one of their own, General Olusegun Obasanjo, just been freed from incarceration. That was how the 30-month civil war that would have formally ended in 1999 with a President of Igbo extraction was prolonged to date.
The reason Ekwueme did not become President in 1987, and 1999. Now, the present opposition against Obi in 2023 may not be unconnected with the high cost of being Igbo in Nigeria. Ever since Ndigbo continued to support other Nigerians aspiring for the presidency. Ndigbo voted for Obasanjo twice in 1999 and 2003, the late Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, and Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 and 2015 even though he lost and Atiku Abubakar in 2019 also lost. In all these votes, there was no problem with the Igbo until 2023 when they decided to vote for their own, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who was the best of the lot for hiring.
The Igbos did not vote for Obi in 2023 because he is Igbo. He was the best of the lineup for the job and justice also demands that after 24 years and power having gone around the major ethnic groups, it is only fair for it to get to Ndigbo. In the past, even when their revered late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was on the ballot, Ndigbo had voted for others based on their reading of the politics for equity and justice. They voted for Obasanjo because the nation felt it was nice to heal the wound of June 12, Yar’Adua to be in tandem with the zoning formula of power returning to the North and then Jonathan. After all, he was a providential choice and the need to accommodate the minority ethnic tribes which he represented. Supporting Atiku in 2019 was still in the spirit of power staying in the North. But when the power was due to return to the South and naturally the South East, where it has never been, all the two leading political parties looked away from the region.
Ndigbo decided to support their own in the Labour Party which incidentally was able to convince the rest of the Nigerians based on Obi’s antecedents. Because Igbophobia was unable to stop the voting population, haters decided to use Prof Mahmoud Yakubu to do incalculable damage to our democratic psyche through electoral fraud.
Having beaten the child and expecting him to cry, they directed Obi to go to court, believing they are in control. But chased by the shadow of the enormity of their electoral crimes, they are concocting all kinds of things to blackmail, either making Obi an ethnic champion or a religious bigot. Not getting what they want in turning the minds of Nigerians against Obi, they now fly the interim government kite.
The hidden hands giving some officialdom to the anti-Igbo game lately are obvious and conspicuous even as they think people do know not their game. The devious characters in the latest soap opera are not exhibiting any intelligence. If they were smart they would not have used the same dummy character who acted against Obi a few months ago being punished by some gunmen for wearing Obi’s polo shirt to act in another uninspiring drama last Saturday in an aircraft in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. And soon after the actor was displayed and taken away from the aircraft somebody appeared as his lawyer saying he is not normal and needed treatment.
These camouflaged agents in the APC garb must be taking Nigerians to be morons.
If they had stopped there, they would have turned the heat on Ndigbo, setting their business places on fire and arresting and killing them indiscriminately. Perhaps, the most curious of all is sowing white uniforms to some gangs in Aba, Abia State marching on the streets as IPOB for Peter Obi. IPOB which has been there faceless since the Buhari regime outlawed it, was now organized enough just to add terrorism to Obi’s tag.
If any other ethnic group had featured a Peter Obi type, first among equals, the election would not have been rigged against him, and all the shenanigans going on against his Igbo ethnic group would not have been necessary. Electoral offenders, rather than Ndigbo, would have been arrested, and interim government kite flying would have been needless.
The glaring truth staring us in the face is that the organized elites are raising the stakes for the Igbo to exist in Nigeria unknown to all that they are just riding a tiger because injustice to one is an injustice to all; it’s only a matter of time.
Given the foregoing, the glaring refusal of the selfish elite to let the Igbo be in Nigeria, let us revisit the advisory of the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, in 1949, eleven years before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. “The [Igbo] people have reached a crossroads and it is for us to decide which is the right course to follow. We are confronted with routes leading to diverse goals, but as I see it, there is only one road that I can safely recommend for us to tread, and it is the road to self-determination for the [Igbo] within the framework of a federated commonwealth of Nigeria.”
We may have followed the wrong route ab initio but self-determination is still inescapable. As for Peter Obi, the obidients have chosen to heed the words of the great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, that said “When a bunch of known corrupt people unite against one man and spare no effort to ridicule him, blackmail him, attempt to assassinate his character, blindly follow that one man” God, help us.
By Ike Abonyi