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The Igbos recently have been gripped by a new consciousness and it has to do with what role it will play as the nation-state of Nigeria grapples with power-sharing come 2023. The respect, attention and momentum that it has gathered so far in the Southeastern region indicate that the topic has been abandoned for over a period of time. However, broaching this issue has met with a lot of discord among Igbos because as alignment and re-alignments continue, the main political actors are divided into three broad groups, which are, those angling for an Igbo Presidency come 2023, those clamouring for the restructuring of the polity, as well as those who are only interested in the declaration of a Sovereign State of Biafra.
The traditional and classical culture of the Ndi Igbo reveal a fascinating approach to the issue of political leadership. The Igbo man is by default a man who has a problem with singular authority, thus the ‘Igbo ama Eze’ (Igbos know no king) mantra. But this has evolved over time with the coming of the White man’s colonisation and the White man’s Government, and now the Igbo region consisting of other Igbo states like the rest of Nigeria have a three-armed Government structure which is overseen by the Federal Government and they have Executive leaders in form of Governors who oversee the States.
Igbos also have a form of Socio-cultural form of leadership organisations and groups who are in charge of overseeing the welfare of Igbo land, Igbo cultures and traditions, and other trivial aspects that have to do with the Igbos. But in all these, it has been noticed of recent that the Igbos in Nigeria have been completely marginalised, discriminated against, and prevented from major activities that determine the polity of Nigeria.
Nigeria as we know her today is a British colonial legacy. Following the amalgamation of the various kingdoms, chiefdoms, and peoples of Nigeria in 1914, by the colonial governor of the territory formerly known as the Niger Area, Lord Frederick Lugard, Nigeria’s journey to nationhood began. The various peoples who suddenly found themselves under a common umbrella accepted their new status with mixed feelings and reservations, with each group seeking a better deal within the constitutional framework of the new nation. One group of people who embraced the modern state of Nigeria without reservation was the Igbo. The independent spirit and unbridled republican nature of the pre-colonial Igbo society fostered in them the spirit of competition, the culture of hard work, and a societal reward system that was based largely on merit. Coming from this background, the Igbo saw an opportunity in the prospect of a modern state to unleash their energy and enterprise. Regionalism opened up the Igbos economically and politically. This continued until the military coups and the subsequent civil wars which saw the Igbos getting massacred and sent back to the Southeastern region under very devious circumstances. The aftereffects of the war also saw the Igbos being left out in the main say of Nigerian politics for fear of dominating and manipulating the polity to suit them and emancipate them from the political stronghold they have been put in by the Fulani-Northern controlled Government.
The need to restructure the Nigerian state has gained populist currency in the past few years. Especially, since after the recent elections, it has become a consensus call coming from almost all the ethnic, political, and geographical sections that make up the corporate Nigerian state. Recently the champions of this call for a new and different Nigeria have gained an overwhelming numerical strength. Therefore their voices are increasingly getting stronger, louder, and urgent. The fear and seemingly mysterious fog that earlier surrounded this now deafening call for change and the enthronement of a new order seem to have suddenly cleared up. And now with a clearer picture, the argument to restructure Nigeria becomes more compelling and can simply not be ignored or wished away any longer by those who traditionally oppose it. As the days go by the rank of those in opposition to a restructured Nigeria continues to decline and pale in the face of so many incontestable and overpowering evidence in support. It has now become clear that the current Nigerian state does not and cannot work as it is presently structured. The majority of the country’s stakeholders have finally accepted that the existing Nigerian state structure is not viable and cannot be sustained any longer. Many genuine patriotic Nigerians are seeking real solutions and a considerable majority tend to believe that what is needed is a Nigeria that works on a structure where the diverse ethnical, political, religious, and social units form a confederating union.
However, the only panacea to this agenda of restructuring can only lie on the fact that it is impossible if Igbo leaders do not have a major say in it. There have been meetings after meetings by Southeast leaders and Governors, important political bigwigs, and top entrepreneurs alike. These meetings, though structured on restructuring and political realignments seemed to have deviated more to the aspect of Igbo presidency more than to the pressing issue at hand which is restructuring. Igbo leaders have in all failed to understand one very crucial detail, there will not be an adequate front for an Igbo President if the country is not restructured. Igbos too will continue to suffer marginalisation and discrimination if the country is not restructured.
Maybe, these Igbo leaders understand these facts, but due to personal sentiments and financial gratifications from members of the political elite who run Nigeria, most of these leaders would rather choose to remain under the current marginalised Nigerian Government where they manage to get a tiny piece of the National cake at the detriments of their Igbo brothers and sisters.
Political and social corruptions are not recent phenomena that pervade the Igbo leaders in Nigeria. Corruption and self-interest among Igbo leaders are some of the major reasons for many unresolved problems that have critically hobbled and reduced development in Igbo land. It has led to the poor state of electricity, major hitches in the transport sector, health sector, education sector, road infrastructure, and communications which are core precursors to poor economic development and a major handicap for doing business in the zone. Many Igbo leaders have openly declared their stance with the Federal Government while pushing aside any form of restructuring agendas being sold to them. Some of these leaders include Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo state, a well known right-hand man and benefactor of the harsh system of Government that malign the Igbos; Another terrible example of a roguish Igbo leader is the two-time Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu. He was the Peoples Democratic Party’s star governor in the South-east in 1999, priding himself as a founding member and a major financier of the party. He is also a well-known benefactor of the Federal Government who have shielded him from prosecution for his many corrupt crimes of fund embezzlement and misappropriation in return for his unbridled loyalty. He also single-handedly installed his stooge and fellow benefactor, Theodore Orji as Governor who in turn facilitated the election of the present corrupt Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpezu. There are also other corrupt Igbo leaders who have sworn to dissipate any agenda of restructuring that would cost them the little gratifications they are getting from the Northern led Government.
The truth is that Igbo leaders who hold back or try to suppress calls for restructuring Nigeria are simply delaying the inevitable. Nigeria is not working. Nowhere in the developed world do we encounter a replica of Nigeria in terms of its approach to education, the economy, managing ethnicity, and development policies. Oil in its crude and unprocessed form is the mainstay of the economy. The refineries are not functioning at full capacity. After nearly 60 years of independence and discovery of oil in commercial quantity, Nigeria still imports finished products from other oil-producing countries. The states, ostensibly the federating units of the federation are not economically viable.
Igbo leaders need to push for restructuring because the country needs justice and equity. The country needs to do away with the current constitutional structure of Nigeria where the concentration of power at the center in Abuja favours some parts of the country and disenfranchises others, in particular the Southeast region from which the natural resources rents support the current structure. It disenfranchises them because they have no control over these resources (which should not be the case in a truly federal state), and also because the arrangement places excessive political power in the hands of whichever groups control power at the center.
Igbos in Nigeria need to realise that the push for restructuring is more than what the Igbo leaders can give. It is a collective effort that involves the resilience and hard work of the average Igbo man. Igbos should deviate fromthe clamour for Igbo Presidency and the agitation for secession of Igbo presidency and the agitation of Secession and focus on the most important agenda at the moment which is restructuring. The restructuring also is essential because it will help democracy in Nigeria achieve better governance which will in turn benefit the Igbos. The restructuring will also bring greater accountability and transparency to governance because power and responsibility will devolve closer to the people giving them room to question bad Governance and call out leaders who are misbehaving with their exalted roles. This will help evolve a better culture and quality of leadership, and will also foster competitive development between all regions of Nigeria.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK