BY JOHN OSHIMIRI
THEY want to eat their cake and have it – scream for Igbo presidency in 2015 until they froth in the mouth, knowing this to be unrealistic, knowingly being deceptive – selling us down the drain in the dark but, simultaneously, presenting themselves as champions of the Great Igbo cause during the day.
Those who are only tactically gunning for the presidency while really intending to settle for the vice presidency should be advised to desist. Such negative signalling is neither sufficient to meet the intensity of the debate nor the scale of our demand. Our battle line is boldly drawn. It’s pointless, therefore, to beat about the bush.
A Narrow Path to the Vice Presidency
President Goodluck Jonathan is a far more calculating and aggressive politician than prevailing wisdom concedes. If he does his math and arrives at the conclusion that he will be less than likely to have the required numbers during the PDP primaries, he might not willingly plunge into a predictable humiliation. The numbers are, of course, the governors and the governors are the numbers. In such a circumstance, the President will unquestionably impose his own candidate – most likely a northern Muslim (almost certainly his Vice President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo – although the VP’s detractors deny his northern patrimony and allege that he is actually “Nnamdi from Edo State”!). This scenario will favour the Igbos to a degree. A northern candidate will certainly be deputised by an Igbo man or woman.
However, politicians being what they are, and Jonathan being a consummate politician, the instinct to gamble even against unfavourable mathematical odds, might overwhelm him.
The starting point for the Igbo debate must be a recognition of the inescapable reality that if Jonathan gambles and wins, a potential Igbo presidency will be deferred to 2027. If he gambles (with the Igbos in lock-step with him) and loses, an Igbo presidency will be deferred to 2039. Either way, the Igbos will lose out. First and last, let Igbos engage in this debate in the open.
The Joker in the Pack
The South-West is playing at the top of its political game right now, to the admiration of all serious students of politics with any gift of depth. The unfolding Buhari/Tinubu entente cordiale has riveted the nation, as the platform of the West-North political solidarity firms up. The West is fielding its first-eleven but in two opposing teams at the same time. Proportionately, six stars are fielded in ACN/CPC and five in PDP, with world class talents on the reserve bench in the Labour Party – all three parties hold executive power at either state or federal level. It is a game they can afford to play to great regional benefit and they know it.
The East is stuck in a monogamous marriage of convenience with Jonathan. An entirely barren marriage from the Igbo perspective, thriving on the life blood of sentimentality – but sentimentality as a political strategy is bereft of rationale and thought and, therefore, doomed.
If a Yoruba man becomes a vice president in 2015 and a president again in 2023, Nigerians, who are witness to current events, will be entitled to disregard the inevitable uproar that will rise from the East. You cannot reap where you have not sown.
Binary Coalition for Peace and Harmony
A non-binary coalition of purely southern Nigeria or purely northern Nigeria as a strategy to maintain central power in perpetuity, or at least until demographics compel a recalibration, is a recipe for a national disaster. Similarly, it would be catastrophic the day Nigerians consciously cleaved purely around religious faith as a political strategy to win federal power. For, whichever faith triumphed, the heart of its policies and style of governance would be inhabited by inflexible theology. It would portend many ills among which would be the cessation of secularity in our national life and the curtailment of our freedoms and liberties on a scale that would recall totalitarian theocracy.
At its level of political maturity, our pluralistic society can best thrive in conditions of peace and tolerance if we cultivate, in a deliberate fashion, a cross-cultural, cross-religious and across-the-Niger coalitions in the running of the central administration. Once we attain a higher level of political sophistication and social maturity, such that a civilised and liberal-minded middle class reaches a critical mass, meritocracy and ideas-driven politics will naturally assert themselves and gain currency as the norm. We are far from being there.
A Moses from Our Own Israel
Igbo support for Jonathan in 2015 will translate to acceptance of the deferral of Igbo presidency to 2027 – on the assumption that PDP maintains the reins of power. If that is the case, let the discussion be in the open so that the generality of Igbo people will weigh the implications and come to an informed and consensual resolution. This is too important an issue to Igbo people to be handled in the dark rooms by a few individuals on the basis of selfish personal bargains.
We are a people who have been condemned, with the connivance of some amongst us, to the political wilderness for over 40 years. The way out of our wretched ignominy is not to choose to follow a Moses called from a different land to lead us to our destiny. Our resolve must be to find and follow a Moses called from within our own Israel.
President Jonathan is the last man standing from the Class of 1999. An already extraordinary personal history might be eclipsed by the one that beckons, but which might be ominous for the future prospects of the Nigerian people. By 2015, Jonathan will have been Deputy Governor for six and half years, Governor for one and half years, Vice President for three years and President for five years. He will have exercised executive power at both the state and federal levels for a consecutive period of 16 years – a record of individual domination of power without a historical parallel since independent Nigeria was proclaimed in 1960. If he prevails in the impending political hotwire of 2015, he will, by 2019, have done so for 20 years. He will have passed, by some distance, the stage at which, by historical evidence, the absolute corruptive influence of power amongst African leaders begins to manifest, followed by the onset of the demi-god impulse and paralysis in the arena of policy delivery. His power and influence over the events of 2015 will be nearly determinative because he will draw on an unprecedented wealth of iterative experience of the PDP-type politics. But this knowledge should not make cowards of us.
*Dr. Oshimiri, a political analyst, wrote from Boston, USA.