By Dele Sobowale
God save me from my friends [and relatives and ethnic group], I can take care of my enemies.”
After spending years on this page promoting Igbo Presidency – especially for 2023 – I almost lost hope when the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, selected their presidential candidates without an Igbo person emerging as candidate. It was heart-breaking for me; because at 78+, it is doubtful if I will live for another four years to launch another campaign.
Then, suddenly, Peter Obi, who withdrew from the PDP contest, went and brazenly captured the Labour Party, LP, nomination. To be honest, it was, and is still, a funny political relationship. Obi is a confirmed capitalist; he likes to call himself a trader. The LP was supposed to represent workers. I thought it was a joke which would soon fizzle out. I was not the only one; and we were wrong for one reason.
ANGER AND AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
“An invasion of armies can be resisted; but, not an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo, 102-1885.
“Anger supplies the arms” – Virgil, 70-19BC.
Those of us who wrote Obi off in the beginning have been proved wrong for two reasons: The power of an idea coming at the right time and pent-up anger against the political establishment of ‘APDP’. Take a look at the members of the APC and PDP today and you will find that they were on the other side at one time or another. “Politics without principles” (Ghandhi), which has brought us to ruin, is now the norm and not the exception since 1999. The youth, women and Ndigbo had been shut out of Aso Rock. Experience has taught us that we cannot trust a candidate or party to fulfill their promises. The first thing they do, after winning election, is to appoint eminent and erudite media persons as Senior Special Advisers, Ministers, Commissioners for Information – who spend their entire tenure white-washing every atrocity. Nigerians seriously want a change.
So, to some extent, Obi is not the cause of the popular uprising; he is the beneficiary. He is the anti-establishment candidate; and that partly explains why most ‘Obi-dients’ overlook all the character and competence faults to which those opposed to him are now pointing. Since it is not the aim of this article to discuss Obi’s qualifications, I will probably not dwell on them.
My reason for writing this article is actually more personal than most of the articles ever written on this page.
I am angry and bewildered that after all the years of struggle to get a fairly credible (not perfect, but who is?) Igbo candidate, Ndigbo have turned around to stab their own brother in the back. In the process they have left people like me, non-Igbo, who have canvassed for this idea, to appear foolish.
MEET MY SAGE OF SAPELE
“You are never too old to learn.” Like a few people seeking wisdom, I knew very early in life that learning is a life-long process. One of the wisest persons I know is my Uncle A–; who lives in Sapele. We talk all the time; and he is the first person to have loaned me over twelve wonderful books; because he knows that reading is my passion.
The last three were over 500 pages long. I read them. I am now tacking one 662 pages. Apart from lending me books, Uncle A—talks sense into my thick skull. He never gets angry when out of idiocy of relative youth I obstinately refuse to accept his advice.
For as long as I can remember, Uncle has been asking me to drop the promotion of Igbo President. For him, it makes absolutely no sense for a Yoruba person to be canvassing for Igbo President after what Azikiwe colluded with northerners to do to Awolowo by sending him to jail on trumped-up charge. I always replied by saying that Nigeria cannot progress without large doses of forgiveness all around. And, the place to start is to bring about closure to the Civil War by electing an Igbo President. Uncle was never convinced; and I would not bulge.
Uncle, however, always made another point during our discussions. He was convinced that when an Igbo candidate emerges, his own Igbo people will rise against him. Once again, I seriously disagreed. I honestly believed that once a fairly credible Igbo candidate emerges, he would receive almost 100 per cent support from Ndigbo. Today, I feel it is not only Obi who should feel betrayed by his kinsmen, I also feel betrayed. Am I now to believe that my confidence in the people was misplaced? True, I was always amused whenever any election for governor in the South-East brought out 100 candidates and the campaigns of calumny that ensued.
But, I also always thought that the presidential election would be regarded as something special; that the leaders of Igboland would rise up and provide exceptional leadership; in order to save the political class from their usually destructive tendencies. That has not happened. Instead, the worst attacks on Obi have come from South-East governors and politicians.
My Uncle must be laughing now. I have avoided talking to him because the first statement from him will be “I told you so.” He was right and I was wrong.
ET TU SOLUDO?
“Some misfortune to portend, no enemy can match a [kinsman]” – Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745.
Despite the political opportunism involved in a die-hard capitalist representing Labour, it was, to me, the only game in town – so to speak. I was certain all Igbo leaders would line up behind him. Soludo being the latest and unsoiled governor in the South-East, as well as the best known, who has a wide network of non-Igbo Nigerians to call upon, was the one to lead the crusade. To be quite candid, I expected him to partly set aside the task of governing Anambra State and undertake the fight to get Obi elected.
I was not particularly worried when Governor Umahi of Ebonyi first announced that he would not work for Obi. Ebonyi is the rump of the SE; Anambra is the head.
Even when the first signs of Soludo’s opposition to Obi appeared, I wrongly expected that he would limit himself to just ignoring the campaign, issuing “No comment” statements whenever pressed for his views. That way, if Obi fails in his bid, Soludo would not be held responsible.
INTELLIGENT NOT WISE
“He who sets out on revenge must first dig two graves” – Chinese proverb, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 215
Soludo’s utterances have reminded me of that description of the Harvard University professors who advised two American Presidents to go to war in Vietnam – a war the US lost. David Halberstam in his book, The Brightest and The Best, had shown the world how very intelligent young men lacking wisdom can create political disasters. High intelligence and hubris are quite often Siamese twins. Intelligent people sometimes think they know everything and others must accept their ideas.
But, intelligence is not wisdom. After reading part one of Soludo’s demolition of Obi’s reputation – which is vital to success in the presidential race – I could not help having the feeling that revenge, clothed with fine patriotic language, was the motive.
The lack of wisdom in the action taken can be seen from the repercussions. Sonala Olumhense, in the PUNCH of November 20, 2022, has taken Soludo himself to the cleaners – virtually alleging that the former Governor of the Central Bank, CBN, committed heinous crimes while in office. One of our regular readers sent me a message asking me to send my articles on the failure of Banking Con-Soludo-tion, as I called the fiasco unleashed on the banking sector under Soludo. He wants to publish it as an advertorial to prove that Soludo is a fake reformer – who does not deserve to be governor. Our own Obi Nwakanma took his turn at Soludo bashing on the same Sunday; so did others.
Obviously, Soludo has damaged Obi; but, he has damaged himself even more. Obi is not yet President. So, he has very little to lose. Soludo is governor; and he will be seeking re-election. From my experience, he will spend the next three and a half years defending his administration from attackers – in and out of Anambra State. Irrespective of what happens to Obi, Soludo has made a lot of life-long political enemies. They will never let him forget this blunder.
NIGERIA NOW AN ALMAJIRI NATION
133 million Nigerians poor – NBS (VANGUARD, NOVEMBER 18, 2022)
The United Nations declared last week that global population had reached 8 billion; Nigeria’s population now estimated to be 216 million. That means 63 per cent of Nigerians are now poor. That was not the situation Buhari met in 2015.
And, where are the poor people located? Kano 10.51m, Kaduna 8.04m, Katsina 6.92m, Sokoto 5.81m, Jigawa 5.75m, Bauchi 5.75m top the list. Again that means that 42.75 million or almost 33 per cent of poor people live in those six northern states. Their numbers have increased significantly since Buhari took over in 2015. We are now a certified Almajiri Republic. Yet, Baba thinks he is leaving Nigeria better than he found it. Thank God, eight wasted years will end in 2023.