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Merger talks: Implications for Igbo presidency

POLITICAL balancing in a heterogeneous polity as we have in Nigeria has over time become an acceptable method for ensuring equity, justice, peace and harmony.

In the case of Nigeria, the founding fathers of our political system from both divides, that is North and South found a way to guarantee that all sections of the country  at one time or another have access to political offices, whether at state or federal levels.

Even during the military era, it was the need for balancing that informed General Ibrahim Babangida’s decision to appoint then Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as his deputy, and when the intrigues of power play led to his exit as number two man, another Southerner, Admiral Augustus Aighomu, still replaced Ukiwe.

This balancing tradition continued even during the Abacha era with General Oladipo Diya and Mike Akhigbe occupying the number two position. Prior to the military interregnum, the Shehu Shagari civilian regime had contemplated the emergence of a Southern President to succeed the Sokoto born Shagari except that the military putsch of December 1983 thwarted the plan.

This genre of power balancing played out greatly when Nigeria rested on a tripod as we had North, East, and West and later Mid Western regions. Since the six zonal structure reared its head in our political lexicon to the extent that today, resources are shared based on this structure, it is common knowledge that apart from the South East, all the other geopolitical zones have had a shot at the presidency, either during the military or civilian era.

Simply put, since 1966 when the late General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi’s short-lived regime was toppled, the Igbos constituting about 45 percent of Nigeria’s population have yet to produce a president (Head of State). With the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan from the South South geopolitical zone, it is expected that to guarantee equity and political balancing, the next president after him will be an Igbo man.

Regrettably, this dream still remains far fetched, especially with the latest merger arrangement being worked out by the opposition parties. It is still a puzzle how the merger will guarantee geopolitical power balancing and ensure justice in our heterogeneous society. Or do we say that zoning, power sharing and balancing have been sacrificed at the altar of opposition merger. Even the ruling party, from all indications, seems not to have a clear-cut plan to ensure that all the six geo-political zones are assured of having at least a two- term shot at Nigeria’s number one top seat. This is taking into consideration that all the zones have tasted the coveted seat with some even double as with Obasanjo. If Umaru Yar’Adua had been alive, obviously he would have done a second round.

Admittedly, in other climes, ethnic origin may not be a criteria for ascendancy to the presidency, but for heaven’s sake this is the reality of things in Nigeria, and a necessary burden on our shoulders.

It is indeed funny, if not contemptuous that despite several decades of outcry over marginalisation by the Igbos, Nigeria is yet to address the issues at stake. For example, the South East has only five states, while all other zones have six, with the North West having seven states. What an injustice?

Lack of federal presence in the entire South East is equally a cause for concern, as well as appointments into key Federal Government positions. Yet, we pretend as if everything is alright. I beg to differ like millions of Igbos and other well- meaning Nigerians that the status quo should be maintained.

In truth, Nigeria as a nation needs a surgical operation and a redefinition before we can truly count ourselves as one united and indivisible country. Truly, it is disgusting to hear some Nigerian leaders say that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. This is outright falsehood and deceit, for in the evolution of man and history of countries, one issue that has always been on the negotiating table is the continued unity of such a state. Recently in America, the State of Texas and some others started contemplating secession from the United States. Same can happen in Nigeria where all indices of disintegration are ever present.

It is not possible to subdue a group of determined people forever with incidences like the Ezu River floating corpses still occurring. While it may not be wise to embark on armed struggle to gain independence, it is still in the best interest of Nigerian leaders to make necessary amends by addressing areas of neglect, or else nature will throw up revolutionary situations which may be unavoidable. It is indeed better to remain one indivisible nation, but not on the terms of those who see themselves as oppressors, as no evil deed lasts for ever.  Only truth endures.

It is time for restitution in Nigeria, not deceit; it is time for equity and justice not avaricious manipulation by opportunistic politicians. And as the sage, Uthman Dan Fodio said: “Conscience is an open wound, only truth will heal it”.

CHUKWUDI ENEKWECHI  journalist, wrote from Abuja.


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