By Emmanuel Onwe
THE theoretical case for the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction has been eloquently established beyond any reasonable doubt. The economic case is persuasive; the legal case, which is a derivate of the constitutional principle of federal character, is incontrovertible; the political case is self-evident and the moral case is utterly compelling.
But the establishment of the case at the intellectual and theoretical plane is quite clearly insufficient to meet the rigorous demands of our ambition. Genuine ambition is contingent upon action.
Ndigbo have, for decades, expressed the desire and the thirst for the prime political office in this country. We have clearly shown, by oral advocacy, why we have that desire and thirst. Now we must take the forward steps in the direction of the oasis from which we hope to quench our thirst for justice and our desire for equity in Nigeria.
The next step is the crusade that will take our case to the other three cardinal points of our nation – West, South and North. The legwork and mobilisation that must underpin the theoretical case has been commenced by Njiko Igbo. Igbos should crave, plead and obtain – rather than presume, expect or demand – the support and solidarity of all Nigerians.
The component tribal groups that make up the Nigerian republic have unique experiences arising from their history of participation in the union; but none is quite as unique as the Igbo experience, made so by being the only tribe to have pledged allegiance to two different nations within the same territorial borders – first to Nigeria and then to the Republic of Biafra and then back to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In between this shifting citizenship have occurred pogrom/genocide, starvation and conquest.
This history and experience place us in a complex category in our union. And no Igbo citizen should be in any doubt that our quest for the presidency has remained a mirage precisely because of this unique experiential history – and nothing to do with the popular myth about disunity amongst us. Accordingly, our challenge in attaining the prime office in this land remains herculean and requires efforts of corresponding proportions to prevail.
No authentic Igbo citizen should fold his or her arms and wait to be recruited into, or consulted about, this dream. Instead, our recruitment efforts and consultations should be directed at non-Igbo Nigerians. The focus of our pleas and arguments should be firmly directed at those who remain unpersuaded or unsympathetic to the justice of our cause.
This crusade is an Igbo one, the staff and the rod is Njiko Igbo. But Njiko is not claiming an exclusive right to arms. Other warriors are welcome and, in fact, encouraged to rise to the occasion. Our job is to motivate, consult, mobilise and persuade both Igbos and non-Igbos alike. Additionally, Njiko Igbo is a platform for debate and exploration of deeper ideas about the place of Ndigbo in the Nigerian federation.
What I have said elsewhere bears repetition on these pages: “As an Igbo man, I harbour a deep sense of sadness at the manner in which we, as a people, have been consigned to the peripheral reaches of the Nigerian power structure for more than four decades. Where is the justice or equity or the idea of equal opportunities in a pluralistic society such as ours?
“When shall these be accorded Ndigbo in order that we can have the assurance that, yes, we are not Osu (outcasts) in a nation family where we have played a brave and distinguished role to make its history more solid and more enduring? As a Nigerian, observing our unending national degradation, I feel a sense of outrage that the Igbo option appears never to be in contemplation as a legitimate instrumentality through which our national challenges could be finally confronted in a manner that could genuinely yield transformation.”
Of course, it’s self evident that we cannot achieve our goal without first putting our house in order. We must show a unity of purpose which must be demonstrated through the pursuit of this one and irreducible ambition.
It will entail the sacrifice of the personal on the altar of the collective – which must be demonstrated through allowing ourselves to be dedicated to a purpose greater than our individual selfish commitments.