By Chioma Gabriel
Traditional institutions are supposed to play a neutral role in politics but one cannot say same of Nigerian traditional institutions. Now it appears they are trying to rope in the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe into the politics of the up-coming Anambra guber election.
Since Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola ‘deported’ some south-easterners living in Lagos whom he branded as destitutes and dumped at the Bridge Head, Onitsha; neither Fashola nor anybody who had anything to do with the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the South-East has had peace.
Basically, Ngige committed both ‘sin’ of omission and commission during his flag-off campaign for the November 16 gubernatorial election in Anambra and that landed him in trouble! He flagged off his campaign in Onitsha on the day the Obi was celebrating his Ofala and worsestill, he didn’t pay him homage!
The incumbent Gov. Peter Obi was also allegedly playing into the sentiments of Ndigbo by making a mountain out of a perceived molehill; putting Ngige on his toes, making him spend time defending himself and the APC instead of campaigning.
Ngige visited Lagos recently and spent most of the time trying to convince journalists from the South-East that most of the rumours being peddled about him were false. He even went as far as printing a booklet on the achievements he has made so far in the Senate to counter the notion being created that all he does was sleep during plenary and topping the list of non-performers in the senate.
Ngige blamed his opponents for doing their worst, accusing Gov. Obi of master-minding all manner of lies in a bid to project his candidate, Willy Obiano in the coming election. And I wonder if Gov. Obi is as guilty as charged. Was he master-minding these allegations against Ngige for no just cause?
And less I forget, Ngige also tried to convince journalists that contrary to the campaign going on that Fashola just dumped these Igbo indigenes at the Bridge Head, Onitsha, some kind of communication transpired between Lagos and the Anambra governments. But rumours apart, half of those dumped were not Igbos! Ngige confirmed that from the books! And so, Fashola had to apologise for the over-zealousness of his henchmen who did the deed!
But what is the business of Obi of Onitsha in Ngige’s matter? As a traditional ruler, is he taking sides politically as being alleged? Has he expanded his job responsibilities and reign over traditions and customs to dabble into state partisan politics as being alleged in some quarters?
Mischief makers alleged Igwe Achebe placed a curse on the APC candidate which Ngige has personally debunked. So, what’s up?
Annual Ofala festivals of traditional rulers in Igbo land are highly respected and traditional institutions are reverred as signified in the red caps worn by titled chiefs.
Ngige played the ‘good boy’ by dismissing allegations of any curse being placed on him, believing instead that the message of the respected royalty was lost in translation from Igbo to English as the Ofala prayers were not offered in any other language, but Igbo. Hmmm!
What however, I am not sure of is whether it is a taboo in Onitsha for a marriage ceremony or funeral ceremony to take place or for a political party to hold a campaign rally at the same time the Ofala is going on! And Igwe Achebe allegedly said, ‘if anybody defiles the land, the land shall defile the person.’
Well, every Igbo man knows that Igwe Achebe is well educated and also versed in the tradition of Ndigbo and also highly esteemed. I don’t see any wisdom but foolishness in anybody attempting to disrespect him. Anybody that harbours it in his thought or imagines to do that is obviously acting in ignorance or missing his way completely.
Ngige is not a push-over either in matters of tradition and so knows the truth of the situation. Courtesy demands that he should have paid a visit to the Obi on arrival at Onitsha!
Those who are not in the know about the traditional implication of Onitsha in Igboland need to be refreshed historically. The Onitsha traditional dynasty is one of the oldest in Igboland. The people are drawn from the settler tribes of Edo (Benin), Igala and Igbo extractions. It has villages, comprising Edo (Benin) immigrants with four villages in number; two Igala villages of Ogbodu and Obigboru and the four Edo-influenced villages are the ruling families. The present Igwe Alfred Achebe, is the 21st leader of the Dynasty founded over 600 years ago or in the 16th century.
The Onitsha dynasty is the fourth in rank in the Igbo traditional dynasties. The first and oldest dynasty being the “Nri’ in Anambra which is over 1,000 years; followed by the Aro Chukwu dynasty in Abia State, which is also over 1000 years. The Agbor dynasty in DeltaState, representing “pastoral Igbo people”, is up to 900 years. While the Nri and the Aro Chukwu dynasties represent “sedentary Igbo people”, the other represents “returnee Igbo people”.
The Obi of Onitsha is traditionally and nationally rated in the same category with the Emir of Kano in Northwest Nigeria; the Gwong Gwom Jos in North-Cental Nigeria; the Emir of Gwandu; the Shehu of Borno; the Alafin of Oyo; the Atta of Igala and the Oba of Benin. The sacredness of these traditional institutions have existed for centuries.
All is fair in war and love and if the allegations that Gov Obi is tackling opposition in the state by propagating fallacies and hoodwinking the people of Anambra to vote for Obiano are true, he alone knows. Peter Obi plays politics but I don’t know about fallacies.
But did he need to do that? Politicians should not play politics with sacred traditional institutions or use such as a means to an end. Any traditional institution that is joining partisan politics or taking sides in a gubernatorial election is opening up itself to the abuse that accompanies partisan politics. But as an indigene of a state, a politician should not flag-off his campaign in a town on the day the town celebrates its traditional glory, otherwise it becomes a spite!
Igwe Achebe is known to have played safe politically and has never associated himself openly with any candidate in Anambra elections. That indeed is honourable! He is known also to have distanced himself from the zoning in AnambraState governorship elections and so, should be accorded the respect he deserves!
…Of bathroom vocalists and bedroom heroes
When you listen to the words of some Igbo leaders, you will understand why it will be difficult for the Igbo to rule Nigeria. The other day, a frontline politician from the South-East geo-political zone and publisher of a dying national newspaper urged Nigerians to give President Goodluck Jonathan a second term. But that is not the issue.
The issue is that this politician told the Hausa community in the South-East zone that President Jonathan is an Easterner and therefore should be allowed to complete eight years since he is the first Easterner to become President!
I never knew it but now I do, Jonathan is an Easterner! So, this top politician from the South-East said ‘This is the first time someone from Eastern Nigeria is President, let him complete eight years and after that, power can shift to wherever and if 2015 is not properly handled, it will be tragic for the country’.
By saying so, he has sold the chance of Ndigbo because if South-East leaders of his calibre toe similar line, the South-East will never have a chance to produce Nigeria’s president!
Goodluck Jonathan became President of Nigeria today not just because people sat down and said it is an entitlement but because, others bought into that vision and mission.
So if the South-East has to produce Nigeria’s president, others have to be made to buy into that mission, and that is a lot of work! We should not be ignorant of the fact that Nigeria is a nation of great diversity, different tribes with different orientation, different beliefs, different religions, and so, Ndigbo must have a cross section of Nigerians buying into that mission and that is possible.
One of the problems though is that the people don’t seem to believe in themselves and so, they begin to claim that Jonathan is one of them simply because he adopted the name Azikiwe and bears the name Ebele which is not even Igbo. The Ebele that President Jonathan bears is an Ijaw name that has an entirely different meaning. So, what are they telling us? Agreed, he is the Igbo brother, but not in the context it is being taken!
Audu Ogbe once described Nigerians as bathroom vocalists and bedroom heroes because they complain inside their bedrooms but keep silent outside. This has been the lot of the Igbo. The true test of a hero is one who stands up to be counted when it matters most.
Nigerians from the South East have been treated as defeated people since the civil war and the body language of the people portrays them as having resigned themselves to that fact. They have given up on the Nigerian nation as stakeholders and have progressively degenerated from playing second, third and fourth fiddle to no fiddle at all!
And now, they are consoling themselves by claiming that Jonathan is their brother from the East! Optimism that the support the South-East has given to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) since 1999 should attract favourable consideration in the sharing of top political offices is still hanging in the balance.
The people lack the willpower to fight for what should be their rightful place in the Nigerian nation. It is time for Ndigbo to work on their neighbours so as to get what should be their right in a country where might is right.
Ahead of the 2015 presidential elections, two camps have emerged among the Igbo regarding Jonathan’s quest to get another term in office. This same Jonathan promised a crop of Igbo leaders to hand over to them in 2015 during his campaign in 2011! It is pertinent to note that all four previously elected presidents hailed from either western or northern Nigeria.
As the Igbo vote could be crucial in the presidential elections of 2015, the political dichotomy in Igboland warrants an examination of the issues surrounding its emergence, and their implications for an Igbo Presidency. All things are possible if the right things are done at the right time. Are the right things being done at the right time? Power is not given. It is taken.
It is not given at concession and so they have to prepare themselves and say the right things. They have to meet, discuss and form coalitions.They have to love one other, they have to get others to buy into their ideas. Others have to buy into their mission.
The amalgam of tribes which make up Nigeria are locked in a fierce contest when it comes to grabbing juicy political offices. These ethnic rivalries are more focused on the offices occupied by the members of these ethnic groups than what the occupants actually do in these offices to better the life of the ordinary Nigerian.
The Nigerian President wields enormous influence and his office is the most powerful democratic office in Africa
. As a result, the tribes that make up Nigeria are engaged in bickering, struggles and fights to ensure that they produce the President. The tribes also view the office, rightly or wrongly, as capable of having far-reaching and positive impact on the economic and infrastructural advancement of the tribe fortunate to produce the President.
A good number of Igbo people have been led to believe by their political class that a true integration of the Igbo people in the polity of Nigeria will occur when an Igbo citizen assumes the office of the President. But the truth is, the Igbo elite and political class have to entwine the political, social, educational, infrastructural and economic development of the Igbo tribe if they want to occupy this office.