By Douglas Anele
The I-don’t-care attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari to the concerns of Ndigbo is not new; it was the stock-in-trade of military dictatorships headed by northerners from August 1, 1966 to 1979, and from 1984 to 1999.
The issue now is that Buhari has not learnt the important lesson that marginalisation of Igboland is detrimental to national development and integration.
Additionally, his nepotic approach to governance is a negation of constitutional provisions put in place to promote national unity, because it is beneficial to few members of his ethnic group, religion, and political party, thereby consolidating mediocrity, ineptitude, banality and corruption.
Femi Adesina’s list of “wise men from the east making a difference,” the so-called “voices of reason from the region,” is dominated by individuals with sagging political influence seeking political redemption and relevance in the APC.
His bizarre criterion of wisdom and reasonableness is uncritical or unquestioning support for President Buhari, not the possession of appropriate mental attributes and dignified practice of life traditionally associated with wisdom.
For instance, Orji Uzor Kalu, judged by his mediocre performance as governor of Abia state for eight years and self-serving survivalist campaign for Buhari’s re-election in 2019, is definitely, in my view, not a wise man; neither is garrulous Fr. Ejike Mbaka, who oftentimes speak before thinking.
Adesina hyperbolised the negative aspect of Ndigbo voting for former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. In his view, that “mistake” consigned the Igbo “to perpetual opposition politics, playing in the periphery. For such an illustrious and enterprising people, that was unfortunate, if not tragic. If they continued that way, there was no silver lining in the sky for the future… The Igbo should naturally produce the President one day that is what fairness demands. But how would that ever happen, if they continued to play poor politics?… But now, things are changing.
The wise men are making a difference.” These are inaccurate and patronizing hasty claims about Ndigbo, their political future and how they voted in the last presidential election. Adesina erred in arguing that voting for Jonathan was a mistake, the result of poor politics, simply because the latter lost to Buhari.
By Adesina’s logic, all the northerners that voted for Buhari on three previous occasions when he was defeated played “at the periphery,” and if Buhari had lost in 2015, it would have meant that northerners and the Yoruba that voted for him played poor politics! I was one of the millions of Nigerians nationwide who believed (and I still do, anyway) that Jonathan, despite his weaknesses, was a better presidential material than Buhari.
After over two and half years in office, that belief has been vindicated notwithstanding the spirited efforts of Buhari and Buharimaniacs to use Jonathan as a scapegoat for the failure of this administration to fulfill its campaign promises to Nigerians.
Therefore, Ndigbo did not play poor politics in 2015. Like other Nigerians they exercised their constitutional right to vote for a candidate of their choice. Given the worsening existential condition of average Nigerians since Buhari took over, it is clear that APC’s change shibboleth was largely a placebo for Machiavellian revanchist politics by the north and south-west against the south-east, south-south political coalition.
Even some sincere supporters of the President now acknowledge that his performance is below average: no amount of encomium by Adesina can convert Buhari’s uninspiring D score into a B, let alone an A. His claim that the mistake of 2015 consigns the Igbo to perpetual opposition politics has no basis in Nigeria’s political history. From 1960 to 1966, 1979 to 1983, and when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power for sixteen years, the Yoruba played opposition politics.
However, it does not follow that they would do so perpetually, as is evident from what is happening right now. Consequently, Adesina committed the fallacy of hasty generalisation by suggesting that voting for Jonathan has consigned the south-east perpetually to opposition politics. And what is wrong with opposition politics anyway, especially if it is based on sound principles that can deepen democratic culture in Nigeria?
Besides, the implicit acceptance by Adesina that it is only by voting for a victorious presidential candidate or producing such a person that any section of the country can benefit from the system signposts what is seriously wrong with our politics – primitive nepotism.
Granted that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should have done more for the south-south and south-east in terms of infrastructural and industrial projects, his achievements in the north demonstrate that a section of Nigeria does not need to produce the President before it would enjoy “the dividends of democracy.” This is one area where Jonathan can justifiably claim to have outperformed Buhari.
Adesina’s patronising remark that fairness demands that Ndigbo should produce the President one day at first sight seems innocuous and reasonable, but it cleverly sidesteps the critical question: why have the “illustrious and enterprising Igbo” not produced a Nigerian leader since 1970?
The answer is that, having defeated Biafra caliphate colonialists and their cohorts in the south, especially prominent military officers and their civilian counterparts, tacitly reached a consensus that the Igbo should be kept away from the highest political office for as long as possible. Perhaps, that was why the coup which brought Buhari to power on December 31, 1983 was staged to prevent the possibility of late Dr. Alex Ekwueme succeeding Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President in 1987, and again in 1999 and 2003 when caliphate hegemonists manipulated PDP presidential primaries to ensure that a compliant southerner, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, became President.
An Igbo President might have a positive integrative effect on a broad section of Ndigbo by giving them a sense of belonging.
Nevertheless, massive federal investment in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing across the south-east is more important than having an Igbo as President, because there is no guarantee that such a President would not be prevented by caliphate surrogates from working for the south-east, whereas massive federal investment will open up the economy, create more jobs and make south-east the economic and manufacturing nerve centre of Nigeria.
So, my chairman, not every Igbo is obsessed with the Igbo presidency project. What reasonable Ndigbo expect from President Buhari is fairness, justice and equity, important values he seems to neglect in dealing with matters concerning Igboland.
Adesina celebrates the reception his boss received in Ebonyi and Anambra states, and continued the mistake of over eulogising governors, politicians, and traditional rulers who conferred on the President chieftaincy titles that, in my considered opinion, he did not deserve.
Those “eye service” traditional rulers that gave Buhari the titles of Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi and Ochioha Ndigbo did so without considering how Buhari has treated Igboland and its people, first as a soldier and military head of state and, second, as someone who had occupied important positions of authority. They never asked themselves relevant important questions such as: What was Buhari’s role during the coup of July 29, 1966?
What did Igboland benefit when he was federal commissioner for petroleum resources, chairman of PTF, military head of state and, now, the President? Moreover, the connotations of the titles do not fit the man. Maybe, they should have conferred on him the title Onye Obia Nnukwu 1 (Important Visitor) or Ochiagha 1 (War Leader), because President Buhari has not really shown himself to be a good friend (Enyioma) of Ebonyi state or a loving leader (Ochioha) of Igbo people. That said, he has collected his titles. Time will tell whether he would treat Igboland according to the significance of the titles he received or continue with his indifferent condescending attitude towards the east.
Adseina was misled into thinking that the crowd that attended what essentially was a campaign stop by the President to garner support for Tony Nwoye’s failed governorship aspiration in Anambra state is a reliable index for measuring genuine sentiments of the people towards Buhari. Crowds can be rented; people attend rallies for several reasons unconnected with the politicians slated to address the crowd.
Poor and hungry Nigerians go to campaign rallies and political gatherings in public spaces out of curiosity, with the hope of free food and drinks, whereas petty thieves see it as an opportunity to steal from unsuspecting onlookers.
So, unless President Buhari begins to expeditiously implement programmes dear to the people of south-east, his electoral fortunes will not improve significantly in 2019 if he decides to go for a second term. It is interesting to note that Adesina did not mention a single federal project Buhari started or commissioned in the two states he visited because there was none. Enyioma 1 indeed!
In closing, Femi Adesina, as a good human being, an omoluabi, should avoid the errors of Paul Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda. He needs to be more circumspect in praising the President, especially when it involves exaggerations and misleading information. To paraphrase Socrates, the iconic ancient Greek philosopher, an unexamined life in public office is not worth living. Concluded