By Ikechukwu Amaechi
But my attention was drawn to an opinion piece written by Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, chairman of DAAR Communication Plc., which was a more insidious regurgitation of the “power not served a la carte” barney. Reacting to an article titled, “Is Dokpesi suffering from inferiority complex”, published in ThisDay newspaper on Sunday, October 17, 2021, which apparently was a response to his earlier statement that the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, returning to Aso Rock in 2023 is better burnished if Ndigbo are excluded from the power permutations, Dokpesi only doubled down on his cynical proposition.
But he was only smart by half. While claiming that his “statement pertaining to the PDP’s best chances of winning the 2023 election being tied to the PDP producing a Northern candidate” was not based on his “ties and relationships with prominent northern businessmen and politicians and having an inferiority complex about Southern Nigeria’s political ambitions”, Dokpesi only ended up confirming just that. Of course, like every other Nigerian, Dokpesi has a right to his political fancies. Even if he is driven solely by self-serving interests as it seems to be the case here, that does not in any way obviate that right.
But what is unacceptable is Dokpesi’s inelegant attempt to use the state-sanctioned difficulties of Ndigbo as a stepping stone to his own political ascendancy. It has been said in certain quarters that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has promised him the highly coveted office of Chief of Staff if he becomes president in 2023, but that position, as lofty as it is should not be at the expense of Ndigbo. In the article, Dokpesi said he unapologetically believes in one Nigeria and believes Nigeria can only remain united and in peace on the basis of fairness, equity and justice as he romanticised the idea of zoning as the basis of inclusion.
“Since 1960, only 10 states have produced presidents or heads of state in Nigeria. Whilst some of these 10 states have produced more than one president, the entire Southeast region hasn’t produced president or head of state since the First Republic and still another region, the Northeast, has never ever produced neither president nor head of state since 1960 – date.”
This is factually incorrect. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first and only prime minister, hailed from Bauchi, one of the six states that make up the Northeast region. In a parliamentary government, the prime minister is the head of cabinet and leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government.
In other words, Balewa, as prime minister of Nigeria between October 1, 1960 and January 15, 1966, was not only the de facto but also de jure head of state. Had Dokpesi stopped there, this article would not have been necessary. But in his zest to throw Ndigbo under the grinding wheels of national prejudice, he dredged up arguments that are asinine and absurd.
Even as he admitted that “the politics that have governed how leadership is determined under both military and democratic systems of governments have been unfair to both the Northeast and the Southeast regions”, he is of the opinion that the “injustice” meted out to the Northeast should be redressed in 2023.
What about Southeast? He said, not yet! Why not? The same stale, unimaginative and hackneyed reason. “On January 14, 1966, soldiers of mostly Igbo extraction led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, an Igbo from Okpanam near Asaba, present day Delta State, eradicated the uppermost echelon of politicians from the Northern and Western provinces. This and other factors effectively led to the fall of the Republican Government. Though Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, was purportedly slated for assassination, he effectively took control of Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory (at the time).
“With President also an Igbo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, refusing to intervene and ensure the continuity of civilian rule, Aguiyi-Ironsi effectively compelled the remaining members of Balewa’s government to resign seeing that the government was in disarray; he then allowed the Senate president Nwafor Orizu, another Igbo who was serving as acting president in Azikiwe’s absence, to officially surrender power to him, thus ending the First Nigerian Republic,” Dokpesi wrote.
Because of the coup, Ndigbo should be denied of their rightful place in the country’s leadership table, Dokpesi contends. That is cheap! But I will come back to this issue shortly. The second reason, according to Dokpesi, why Ndigbo should be denied the presidency in 2023 is because “the emergence of IPOB and its influence across the Southeast has complicated and undermined the agitation for patriotic Nigerians of Igbo extraction to lead this nation as far as the 2023 election is concerned.”
Dokpesi said the concern of other Nigerians “is that if Nnamdi Kanu plays the role of Aguiyi Ironsi in leading a militant revolt against constitutional government in the Southeast under Igbo presidency, the president will be pressured by his base to facilitate the UN processes for the Southeast to call for independence from Nigeria.
Thus an Igbo president may be compromised in protecting the political and geographic boundaries of Nigeria whilst Nigeria remains under the threat of IPOB’s secessionist activities.” Unbelievable. So, Aguiyi-Ironsi led the militant revolt against Balewa’s government?
That is a new one on many Nigerians and it is shameful. Coming from a man of Dokpesi’s standing makes it even more so. Dokpesi frets about IPOB’s secessionist rhetoric, yet he wants someone from Northeast, the home of Boko Haram, a group that is fighting for an Islamic state, to be president.
He said his interaction with leaders of other regions proves to him that they are not willing to trust the Southeast with the presidency in 2023. The problem, he said, is compounded by the perception that “leaders of the South East have not done enough before now in dealing with and addressing the challenge that IPOB poses to their aspirations in leading Nigeria.”
Pray, what have leaders from other zones, including South-South where Dokpesi comes from, done in addressing the challenges posed to Nigeria by sundry militant groups? Northeast region typifies the Hobbesian state of nature where life is brutish, solitary and short. If anyone from the region, and indeed, the entire North qualifies to run for the presidency, why would someone from the South, Southeast in particular, be excluded?
Dokpesi said “by supporting Atiku Abubakar from the Northeast to victory in 2023, the rotation of power across Nigeria will have come full cycle.” Really? How will that be? He then went on to say that after Atiku’s presidency, the agitation for a Southeast presidency will be better accepted and appreciated by other regions in subsequent elections after 2023.
So, after Atiku’s turn, Nigerians will no longer remember that Ndigbo plotted the January 1966 coup in pursuit of an ethnic power grab agenda? They will also forget that IPOB will collude with a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction to seek a referendum?
It is morally reprehensible for Dokpesi to lie against Ndigbo in order to ingratiate himself to Northerners. In case he does not know, the New York Times on Wednesday, August 3, 1966 wrote about Awolowo’s release from prison thus: “Thousands of Yorubas in Lagos and throughout the West celebrated into the early hours today over the release of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the hero of the Action Group who was jailed for subversion in 1962. The decision to free Awolowo and his associates had already been made a week ago, July 27, by General Ironsi and they were to have been released tomorrow, Thursday, August 4. But the public did not know this.”
In his book, Nzeogwu, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said this about the so-called Igbo coup: “There was no intention on Chukwuma’s part, to collude or conspire with Ibo officers in the army and with Ibo politicians and academics, to lead a coup for the purpose of ensuring the political leadership of Nigeria by Ibos. No doubt, Ibos and non-Ibos, gave a sigh of relief when the coup took place.”
If Igbo people were the President, Senate President, Supreme Military commander prior to the coup, what other leadership position would have prompted the conspiracy? Ndigbo are not the reason why Nigeria is in this mess. Dokpesi and his ilk should spare them. Even if there is no urge to remove the glass ceiling over their heads, insufferable lies should not be added to the injury.