By Obi Nwakanma
By now, it should be clear to any Nigerian observer that the Igbo are ignoring President Buhari and the APC administration. As far as the majority of the Igbo in Nigeria are concerned Buhari is now inconsequential, and his party, the APC, irrelevant to the future and aspirations of the Igbo who very unambiguously made their political choices even in the last election. One more time, the Igbo vote was a referendum on Buhari and the APC. No threat, not even the promise of political lollipop could convince the Igbo in Nigeria to vote for Muhammadu Buhari or the APC.
As far as the East is concerned, the APC, at least under Buhari, does not count for much in the future of the Igbo in Nigeria. It is thus the height of mischief for Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the APC senator representing Abia in the senate to aver in a recent statement in the newspapers that the Igbo should not expect anything from an APC government because, in Kalu’s words, the Igbo “played bad politics” for not voting APC in the last elections. And I say, heck no! The Igbo have played politics consistent with the kind of choice granted by democracy. All elections have consequence.
The Igbo have known, and prepared themselves for the consequence of their political choices, and have neither expressed remorse nor regret for making those choices. Kalu suggests that the Igbo did not deserve to be nominated or elected to become Senate president because they did not vote the APC. And many Igbo say, “so what?” Enyi Abaribe leads the opposition as the leader of the Minority party in the Senate. The Igbo are fine with that. What exactly does being senate president do for an entire Igbo population? The Igbo have been senate president before. In what ways did it change the lives of millions of Igbo people? The point that politicians like Orji Uzor Kalu refuse to understand is that the Igbo do not really put much store on the symbolic offices, and it is the mindless pursuit of symbolic offices rather than the pursuit of the true benefits of politics and political leadership that has affected the Igbo voter much more seriously.
So, what will being senate president get for the Igbo? A few more folks driving around with sirens all over Igbo land, and strutting about in self-importance. The Igbo want something much more solid. As a matter of fact, the Igbo can afford not to be presidents of Nigeria, if only those who want to be president of Nigeria guarantee them the environment that allows them to thrive and do their thing. But in due course, an Igbo shall be elected president of Nigeria, whether those who currently isolate, and discriminate against them like it or not. Time and tide will ensure this. In any case, this president has a shelf life, and his clock is ticking. He is due out of office in three years and some, and the days run quickly when you have the patience to wait.
The Igbo have the patience to wait out Mr. Buhari. He is not going to be president forever, and that’s the beauty of democracy. The Igbo can afford to wait. It is Buhari who is in a hurry. The wise Igbo knows this because they know the ancient truth – “aku fesia, o dara awo” – the winged termite might fly all it wants, but it falls in the end to the patient toad. Mr. Buhari and the APC have a right to pursue any anti-Igbo program they wish for the remaining period in which they’ll be in office. The Igbo will still be there when we close the lid on this administration, and consign it to the dustbin of history, because indeed that is where it is headed. The Igbo will never forget that APC’s national political program is right wing, and its agenda is anchored on a clearly anti-Igbo political philosophy.
It is a party for jobbers and self-seekers, who are currently ascendant by a fluke of history, and change shall come to Nigeria ultimately by the will of the people who are already seeing through APC’s corrupt and segregationist ploy, not so different from the program of the Nazi party in Germany with the rise of Adolf Hitler. But even the National Socialists – the Nazi – had a nationalist vision anchored on Aryan superiority and ascendancy, and had the technical capacity to pull it off. But Buhari’s Fulani supremacist program anchored on convenient partnership with the Kanuri, and the occasional bird-droppings and crumbs he leaves to quisling politicians of the Yoruba west, and the handful of “how-for-do” Igbo politicians like Kalu, Okorocha, Ngige and Onu, cannot pull it off.
As I have said, democracy gives Buhari a very short shelf life. There was once in 1984, when the late Sam Mbakwe was being driven in a Black Maria from the Tribunals that the Buhari dictatorship of 1984 had established in Lagos, back to the Kirikiri Prisons. The prison driver was churlish and rough. Dee Sam, witty as ever, and sagely, said to him, “driver, be sure that you’re gentle with me now that you’re on the driver’s seat, because if you’re not, the next time I’m on the wheels I too shall be rough.” And as the great Zik once prophetically said to Ukpabi Asika still drunk with power, “No condition is permanent.” The current experiences of the Igbo under an APC led government, and under the presidency of Mr. Muhamadu Buhari is a temporary setback, and is a political price the Igbo have chosen willingly to pay. Not voting Buhari and the APC as far as the majority Igbo are concerned is the fullest expression of their rights to make a free choice, to dissent, and to express difference in political opinion.
These are all rights guaranteed under the constitution. It is a badge of honour. Nothing to regret. What else can Buhari or his party do to the Igbo? Under the ploy of “operation python dance,” Mr. Buhari authorized soldiers to invade Igbo land and kill Igbo youth peacefully protesting injustice and claiming their rights to self-determination, he has denied the Igbo appointments and jobs, and other benefits of organized government and full citizenship; he has ruined Igbo businesses with targeted policies; closed the gates on government contracts against the Igbo; the South East remains under-invested by the Federal government. But the Igbo are still there. Waiting for his time to come up, and it shall come up. Many Igbo are of the mind therefore that Buhari and the APC at this stage could do no worse to the Igbo.
The Igbo can no longer be intimidated by the threat of neglect or political oppression. They are used to it now, and frankly, have little expectation from Buhari’s administration. The Igbo have resolved to ignore Buhari, and wait him out. It is surprising how a lack of expectation, how knowing that you have nothing to gain or lose from any government in power, frees you from political anxiety, or from unnecessary expectations or disappointments. Buhari or his party can no longer disappoint the Igbo. He has no such power over people who have no expectation of the presidency or his party. The Igbo will not be the worse for it.
The entire apparatus of state, from the presidency downwards is currently in the control of a region of the country. What the Buhari presidency has thus done is to set a tone and a pattern for a future government of Nigeria. Nigerians now know that an entire apparatus of the nation – from the presidency downwards – can be occupied by one section of the country, and the heavens have not fallen. The Igbo watch and learn. When it comes time, credible and purposeful Igbo politicians shall provide Nigeria governance of the most brilliant and astute kind. That time will come because it is inexorable. And Nigeria will not be the same under a government in which the Igbo have a say. Nigeria will be prosperous, respected internationally, sovereign, and stable. Nigeria will rebuild its civil service and armed services, and return meritocracy to its place.
Because Buhari has basically helped in throwing away any pretense of a “federal character” under which the fraudulent ploy of a “quarter system,” was used to create discriminatory policies against sections of Nigeria, a government in which the Igbo have a say will continue this very radical policy, one of the best things to happen with Buhari, who has basically established the fundamental right of the president to choose whomsoever he wishes to work with, irrespective of tribe, religion, or region.