By Douglas Anele
Last week, I tried to put on record in the form of thanksgiving certain individuals that helped me navigate successfully the treacherous waters of 2018. But then, the list was incomplete due to the fallibility of human memory. As a matter of fact, I omitted the names of some really good people who, to be candid, contributed more to my life in the period under consideration than some of those whose names were mentioned in last week’s essay. Therefore, the error has to be corrected before we proceed with the topic for today.
First, is my good friend John Festus Ikechukwu (or Jifoo, as I fondly call him), Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Publishers Express. Jifoo, thank you very much for being a friend indeed. I also remember with gratitude Peter Iheanacho, who demonstrated concretely the true meaning of the Igbo saying “ezigbo enyi kariri nwanne” (a good friend that is greater than a brother). I wish him and his family the very best in 2019. Brother Julius, Dr. Gangan, Gautami and all members of Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University, Ilupeju – I am grateful to all of you for your loving-kindness.
Moreover, although I do not accept some of the fundamental doctrines of your faith, I learnt some useful lessons in humility, non-violence, kindness, contentment, peace and the beauty of simple living by interacting with you. One of these days, I will honour Brother Julius’ invitation to visit Brahma Kumaris spiritual headquarters at Mount Abu in India not as a convert but as a spiritual sceptic willing to learn. I recall with sadness the late Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Adetokumbo Babatunde Sofoluwe.
He not only encouraged me several times to put my versatile academic talent to work and get my professorship as soon as possible, he also sent me materials relevant to my area of specialisation – the Philosophy of Science. Certainly, Prof. Sofoluwe cannot read my thanksgiving to him, and he is not around to witness the fulfilment of his encouraging words after I became a full Professor because he has transited into the unfathomable abyss of nothingness.
However, it is psychologically satisfying to publicly acknowledge his role in my academic progression. Dr. David Ekwoaba of the Medical Centre at the Akoka campus of the University of Lagos is a good example of what a medical doctor should be – knowledgeable, humane, understanding and compassionate. The prompt and sympathetic manner with which he handled my health issues and those of my family and a close friend shows that he is a good brother indeed. I am grateful for his care and expertise.
Now that I have paid my due to these worthy individuals, it is time to discuss the question, supposing it is true, as Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), has repeatedly claimed, that the current person parading himself as our President is an impostor and that Nigeria is a “damnable zoological republic” or “zoo,” what does it portend for the future of Nigeria and Nigerians? In other to understand the significance of that question, it is necessary to situate it within the context of the current political situation in Nigeria.
When Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari contested and won the 2015 presidential election in spite of warnings from Nigerians like myself that he will not be a good President because of his nepotic predilections, advancing age and questionable health condition, dictatorial antecedents, mediocre education, archaic understanding of modern economic management and dubious anti-corruption reputation among others, there was what later turned out to be premature excitement throughout the north and most states in the south-west. Buharimaniacs gloated about Buhari the “messiah” or “redeemer”, “the new sheriff in town” that has finally emerged to undo the damage of the past administrations of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The slogans “Sai baba, Sai Buhari” and “Change” had an intoxicating effect on many Nigerians, to the extent that buharimania, the mental disease characterised by irrational adoration or apotheosis of Muhammadu Buhari, spread like wildfire. It was so contagious that even respected ageing Professors and professionals discarded their thinking caps and uncritically jumped into the Buhari bandwagon.
The unsavoury memories of the military dictator from Daura were deliberately suppressed and his featherweight anti-corruption credentials were hyperbolised beyond what can be historically corroborated. After his inauguration, President Buhari made the very ominous revanchist statement that his administration will render justice to all Nigerians based on the puzzling mathematical calculus of 97% versus 5%, as determined by the quantum of votes he received during the election. And since he received the least number of votes from the south-east, it was evident to discerning observers that Igboland would be dealt with by Buhari. It never occurred to the President that his antediluvian Mosaic attitude of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is decidedly unpresidential in a globalising world in which a democratically elected President is expected to run an inclusive government where every segment of the geo-ethnic architecture of Nigeria must be given a sense of belonging in the areas of critical federal appointments and developmental projects as well as infrastructure.
After Buhari had constituted his kitchen cabinet without an Igbo in it, I realised that he was dead serious about the 97% and 5% inequality and that Ndigbo will bear the brunt of his anger having voted overwhelmingly for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Now, anytime President Buhari is accused of neglecting Igboland, he responds by pointing out the five Igbo ministers in his cabinet, forgetting that he did not do the south-east a favour by appointing them, that he was merely fulfilling the constitutional provision which stipulates that the President must appoint at least a minister from each state.
I have no doubt that without that mandate from the constitution, the five states that constitute the south-east geopolitical zone would be lucky to have two representatives in Buhari’s cabinet. That some Igbo, like the Dr. Chris Ngige, Osita Okechukwu, Joe Igbokwe and Lauretta Onochiie among others have the audacity to justify President Buhari’s unreasonable condescending treatment of their own people shows how low some members of the so-called Igbo elite would stoop in order to continue eating from the crumbs that fell from their northern masters’ table.
Having said that, given what is known about President Buhari from the time he participated in the northern revenge coup of July 29, 1966 through the civil war to the periods he was federal commissioner for petroleum resources, military head of state and chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), there is no doubt in my mind that Buhari has an instinctive indifference to the concerns of Ndigbo which often manifests as disdain for Igboland. I will cite a few examples to buttress my conclusion. To begin with, Ndigbo have been excluded completely from the topmost echelons of the police and three branches of the military, that is, from the core security architecture of the country. This implies that whenever top security meetings are held, there is no one to represent the Igbo point of view, one of the most numerous ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
Even in Customs, Immigration, and Civil Defence, the few Ndigbo there have been reduced to the status of subalterns of northerners. Presently, virtually all the most critical departments and agencies of the federal government are headed by northerners and none by the Igbo. Nigerians from other ethnic groups who criticise Ndigbo for complaining about deepening marginalisation by the Buhari government apparently do not appreciate the symbolic and psychological implications of being treated as inconsequential citizens. Keep in mind that, of all the six geopolitical zones the south-east occupies the last position in terms of duration and number of visits by President Buhari, not to talk of critical developmental projects.
Despite the steady rise in dictatorial tendencies by this government, one must not shy away from stating the obvious, which is that there is a lot of resentment against Buhari’s government by Ndigbo because he has been brazenly unfair to their beleaguered ethnic nationality. Useful idiots from Igboland can twist the truth and invent fake facts showing that President Buhari is a friend of the Igbo. But the average Igbo man or woman feels differently – with good reasons. if the President does not have an ingrained disdainful attitude towards Igboland, why did he exclude Ndigbo from the commanding heights of security and critical departments and agencies of the federal government? Why is it that he seldom visits the south-east, and whenever he does he appears to be in a hurry to leave the place?
In my view, if the President really sees Igboland as an important component of Nigeria, he should have appointed qualified sons and daughters of Igboland as one of the service chiefs and heads of key agencies of government. Besides, he also ought to have cited transformative industrial and infrastructural projects in the south-east as a telling demonstration that Ndigbo have been making mistake by not voting for him all the time he had been contesting for the presidency since 2003.