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Buhari’s superficial Igbo appeasement (1) – Ochereome Nnanna

DAN Nwanyanwu, the pioneer National Chairman of the Labour Party, was on Africa Independent Television, AIT, on Tuesday morning and he said something that conformed to what I have always believed: the person looking for power is hardly the same as the person on the seat of power. So many variables intervene to bring about changes in his disposition. In many cases the person may not know. The person looking for your vote is usually a pretender, but the person on the throne is the real thing hidden from your sight while he was looking for your leg-up into the seat of power.

Buhari in Igbo attire

Nwanyanwu disclosed that in 2011 he had approached General Muhammadu Buhari countless times to run for president on the Labour Party platform. During their interactions Nwanyanwu noted that Buhari was full of passion for Nigeria and spoke effusively on how he would develop the country and bring everybody together.

Well, Buhari has been in power for 29 months. It is up to you to decide just how far he has gone in “bringing everybody together” and “developing” Nigeria. I can only see a president who on assuming power, said he would not treat all Nigerians fairly and proceeded resolutely to do as he said.

What about the development aspect? I have not seen any signature or regime-defining project or policy he has initiated, or any ongoing project he met which he has concluded or is close to completing. He has spent most of his tenure saying he inherited “nothing” from past regimes, which is simply laughable as far as truth is considered. Perhaps, having inherited “nothing”, he is determined to leave “nothing” behind? It is only when we see what a president has developed that we can even talk about even distribution.

President Buhari took deeply into his heart the fact that some sections of Nigeria refused to give him their votes. He felt really hurt by it, so much that he openly declared that he would allow it to define his regime. Define his regime it did, but before we look further in that direction, let us answer this question: why did the Igbo nation refuse to vote for Buhari in 2011 when no one from among them was involved in the run for the presidency or vice presidency of a major political party? If Buhari had bothered to ask that question before taking the anger arising from it into the revered office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his problems with the Igbo section of this country, and also of the South East and South-South, would have been very minimal.

In 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan, having completed the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua wanted to run on his own steam, the Igbo nation decided not to field a presidential candidate to jeopardise his chances of winning. The Igbo could easily have provided a running mate to either Muhammadu Buhari or any other Northern candidate on another major political platform. If that had happened and the Igbo electorate massively supported Buhari in 2011 he would have defeated Jonathan the same way it happened in 2015 with Yoruba massive support.

I witnessed pre-election meetings of Igbo leaders  in Lagos and Enugu where a decision was made that the Igbo nation would not field any presidential candidate or running mate in 2011 so as to give their total support to Jonathan. The strategic reason for this was that a total support for Jonathan would solidify the burgeoning South East/South-South political partnership and end the long history of infighting among peoples of the former Eastern Region. It was decided that Igbo nation must make the necessary sacrifices to build lasting political bridges with their immediate cousins and next door neighbours, the South-South geopolitical zone, which also harbours a large number of indigenous Igbo groups.

At first, neither Jonathan nor his chief tribal promoter, Chief Edwin Clark, understood the difference the power and depth of Igbo support could make. Jonathan had been quoted as saying that the Igbo nation had “very little electoral value”. His tribal godfather, Clark, ever the agent provocateur, quipped that the Igbo nation would vote for the “highest bidder”. The Igbo political leadership proved them wrong by mobilising millions of Igbo ballots and sentiments for Jonathan. The results of the 2011 election showed that the difference between success and failure for Jonathan was decided in the South East.

Overcome with emotional gratitude, Jonathan opened his arms and welcomed the Igbo nation into his government. He brought out the Nigerian army to give Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu a state burial fit only for a former head of state. Ebele Jonathan became an “Igbo president, not only in the eyes of the Igbo people but also those of his political enemies as well. It is often argued that the North and West alliance in the All Progressives Congress, APC, was created to snatch power from the South East/South-South alliance which also propelled Jonathan in the 2015 election.

The Eastern alliance lost the 2015 election, but not by a landslide. But the main purpose of the alliance – building a strong South East/South-South political identity, has remained intact. It is obvious that by the time the North and West alliance runs its normal course, it will result in a shift to North and South East/South-South alliance. The fact that the two Eastern zones are now identified together is more important to them than the old situation of infighting, which rendered them respectively vulnerable to manipulation by other contending regional powers. Both zones can now stand on their feet and make demands from Nigeria without looking over their shoulders. The Igbo sacrifice of 2011 and 2015 has paid off, though it resulted is a revanchist political backlash from President Buhari.

Why is Buhari now desperate to appease the South East with tokenist measures? Let’s talk about it on Monday.


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