By Obi Nwakanma
First, let me note that the IPOB has neither the mandate, nor the power, nor the unction to call for, or enforce a boycott of the coming elections in Anambra state. The Anambra electorate will shoot themselves on the feet if they heed any such foolish call. They would have left their fate for the next four years at least, in the hands of someone of whom they’d have no hand in the making, and who would therefore be less obligated to them, and less amenable to serve their interests, but the narrow interests that would ultimately win, should people boycott the elections, and thus the opportunity to stake their claims, and vote the individual of their choice.
Usually, during any boycott of an election, as did happen last week in Kenya, someone always wins, and those who stage boycotts have to live with the results, willy-nilly. Let me therefore use this medium to urge Ndi-Anambra to ignore any calls for boycott, but to march out in full force, and cast their votes for their preferred candidates.
The only thing that should be boycotted in this election is the “boycottable” – to re-echo that inimitable leader of the Igbo, and powerful anti-colonial nationalist agitator, now almost forgotten by Nigeria, for whose freedom he spent his life fighting, and which as a nation, has never thought it honorable or deserving to name a street in Abuja or a public institution in his memory, even when they name streets and public places for scum, who never did a quarter of what Mbonu Ojike did for the political and economic freedom of Nigeria. Nor has the Igbo, who have never thought it wise to name a public institution, a great highway, or even erect a powerful statue in his memory in Owerri or Enugu. Had he not died suddenly in 1956, Mbonu Ojike would have been Premier of the Eastern Region after Zik.
When a nation ignores its true heroes, it makes only anti-heroes. But I digress. So, do not boycott, vote.Do not carp about bad governments; vote to change bad governments. Participation in the political process is the key to change; to transform societies where individual “super-heroes” must learn to bend and work with regular folk, from whom they seek and derive their mandate to govern – but not to “rule.” I choose this words carefully here: elected governments “govern,” they do not “rule.” The ancient Igbo even have a saying to that effect: “anaghi achi Igbo achi, Igbo anwughi aturu. Igbo nwere ndi Ndu” – no one rules or herds or shepherds the Igbo, the Igbo are not sheep. The Igbo have guardians of the path or leaders.
The replacement of “Ndi Ndu” with “ndi ochi-chi” in Igbo political lexicon was the result of the years of military dictatorships. It is much in the same way the Igbo who rejected the imposition of “kings” began to create them, so much that today we have over ten thousand “ancient kingdoms” in Igbo land; a true shatteringof records.
But as I see it, the continuous break of the many autonomous communities is the natural Igbo response and fear of the dominance of a central power of the monarch, to the point where they will force a return to the key principle of Igbo governance: each family will one day create its own “autonomous community,” so that the Igbo will again return to its first principle: the individual is the first unit of government among the Igbo. It is the democratic imperative, and we fought for democracy precisely to have that choice; that power to have a voice, and a hand in nominating, and electing, and affirming those who will represent our interests at the level of government, while we go about our own daily businesses at the farm, in the offices, in our shops, or in even in our clubs playing cricket or ludo.
I choose this week to emphasize this point for the Anambra electorate not to “boycott” the elections, but to “boycott” any individual who offers them inducement other than a clear plan or program to govern. We hear the story of Arthur Eze and his alleged subvention of the campaigns of particular candidates. That is how it should be: Arthur Eze is using his resources to buy political influence, and secure his long term interest in Anambra. It is an opportunity for anybody, or groups, to raise their own money – collected even if by “toro-toro” and “afu-afu” to back or support the candidate of their own choice, and secure their own long term interests too. And their long term interests should be (a) the safety and security of Anambra villages and cities.
The promise to make certain that people can live their lives without fear of kidnapping or violent robbery or other forms of insecurity. The massacres that happened recently in Ozubulu should never have happened under a more alert and able government, (b) the social-wellbeing of people: how does the state partner with local governments and municipal authorities to provide basic amenities: electricity, pipe-borne water, street lights, well-built sewer systems; efficient, clean and modern public transportation systems, public parks and open spaces for recreation; theatres, art galleries, youth engagement activities, etc that make public or civic life rich and possible? (c) An efficient, well-motivated, and highly modern public service, that is regularly paid, because they constitute a key economic and social bloc in the life of the state, (d) Well-built education and research infrastructure that would prepare the next generation for a competitive century. When you step into Anambra schools, do they meet a global standard in terms of facilities? Can a child on transfer from New York find the same learning environment in a primary or secondary school in Oba?
Does the Anambra state University have the quality of environment, facility, faculty, and staff that would not only teach but could conduct path-breaking research like any other peer universities across the word? In other words, is it properly funded? Is its trust autonomous and representative of the public interests? (f) Investments in trade, industry, and employment.
Does Anambra have a trade policy of the kind that would leverage the population cluster around which it exists, and make it a global trade center? How about a World Trade Center in Onitsha? What policy links Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka, as strategic conurbations, whose developments must take into account, not only the environmental imperative, but also the imperative of turning or re-situating Anambra into an important hub of business in West Africa as it used to be, and as the vital archway into the Eastern economic corridor leading far into the Congo and into the Ports of Walvis Bay. What credit and loans program, and through which banks with its operational headquarters in the East does an elected government in Anambra wish to provide cheap and secured credits or loans to its vast army of potential entrepreneurs who could turn the state into a sustainable economic zone which would in turn open vast opportunities for employment?
How does an elected government in Anambra intend to turn Onitsha into a global city, using the presence of the “lordly Niger” with improvements in housing stock and city facilities and quality of life –nightly and daily – that should be inviting to young, brash investors in new start-ups to come and settle in preference to other competing cities – Capetown, Buenos Aires, Rio, Lagos, Accra, etc. (g) what is the plan for public health? Etc. Let no man therefore blame Arthur Eze, a businessman, for using his resources to secure his political interest under a democracy. What we ask is simple: how many votes can Arthur Eze cast? How many can he buy?
The Igbo again say: “onwere mmadu, k’onwere ego!” – and it is true. Those who bank on people are wealthier than those who bank greatly on material wealth. If the political interests of the Anambra people do not jell with Arthur’s Eze’s interest; if it is at cross-purposes, let Arthur Eze spend his money; let the people take it from him, ruin him if they could, and still vote their conscience. Until we arrive at that juncture when we can pass a law regulating how much a single individual or corporation can spend or offer a political candidate in order not to create or acquire inordinate influence detrimental to the democratic process, Arthur Eze can spend his money to buy political influence. But the only time his money should matter is when his interests jell with the larger interests of a majority of Anambra electorates, because otherwise, I do not see how any man in Anambra state, will, or should, enter his own compound unless he goes through Arthur Eze’s gates. If that happens, all the people in Anambra state – the men and the women – can legitimately be called “slaves.”
No Igbo “diala” born of the loins of his father and the womb of his mother, and irrespective of a current material disadvantage, should ever tolerate to be so insulted. The true Igbo may lose everything, but they keep something that no one else can take from them: their dignity. This election is about the dignity of Anambra people. And over the years Anambra has proven that it can make the right choices: so go vote Obaze or Chidoka or Nwoye or even Obiano. Do not chicken out on this.