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Igbo marginalisation or Buhari’s Inability to Unite APC?

By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria – Recently the Igbo ethnic group, also mostly located in the South East geopolitical zone in Nigeria is in the news media complaining that the new Nigeria administration under President Buhari has marginalised the zone. It is necessary to understand the Igbo people, their socioeconomic, political, cultural and academic contributions to Nigeria. It is also necessary to assess their complaint using what other zones are getting, who Buhari is or stands for in Nigeria today, what the Igbo people are demanding. The weights, and scales, and measures we use are to be all according to the standard of fair justice. Surely no just nation will need to be reminded of this in her daily business of running inclusive governance. We must question ourselves that the balances in which we weigh our own and other men’s characters, are they quite accurate? Do we not turn our own ounces of goodness into pounds, and other persons’ bushels of excellence into pecks? 

Of course there are things that are important to each political zone, so we may speak about them. There are also other things so important to them that the words flow out of their mouths in a burst of emotion, rich words, expressive and vibrant, and we don’t need to speak on such. Similarly there are things that shake us to the core about each zone. Things that do not care for the mind’s permission or for the right words—for the mind cannot fathom them, the most poignant words could not contain them. Things that can only break out in a cry, in a scream, and then in silence. Some of them are the insurgencies, broken down bridges and roads, flooding and other disasters. Nigeria cannot neglect it’s communities whether they are in the North or South, East or West. Fortunately we don’t think that the South East geopolitical zone in Nigeria is in any special desperation more than others right now. We certainly don’t think that the zone is less significant than any zone here in Nigeria. Their complaint may be coming from less in-dept analysis of events happening in Nigeria, misunderstanding of the fact that politics is a “winner takes all”, or whether you can vote one way and expect to benefit irrespective, or whether actually the North (where Buhari hails) hates or despises the South East.

Our analysis here is straightforward and tending to laying blames on both the Igbo group and also on a Buhari, who seemingly always taking his own opinions for granted for Nigeria‘s in general. We blame the Igbo on at least three levels. That they don’t think that they have to be fully committed to the so call “Nigeria Project”, whereas in our view they have to. Hence at every little or big frustrating encounter the threat to live the marriage is always too easy an option. Our second perceived observation is that the Igbo dedication to national economy is defined by personal individual family accumulation and what individual office holder can make from the process. The third level is the assumption by Igbo ethic group is that the Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani hate them. I am to assume that all these are false in Nigeria politics and I have been a keen witness as a primary school pupil and a flag holder in 1960 at independence. Igbo are ingenious people to be proud of, hard working, enterprising but very individualistic like any other groups here in Nigeria. Without the Igbo Nigeria history, story, it’s wars, it’s business, ethno-religious politics are incomplete. We should also warn that Igbo survival depends largely on Nigeria‘s ability to survive, not the other way round.

But why with a Buhari’s government make close to 50 big appointments already in his first 100 days in office and zones are complaining? What’s going on in

Nigeria’s politics after the 2015 general elections? I came across a Col Buhari the first time when he was a Federal Commissioner of petroleum and he came to deliver a lecture at Amadu Bello University Zaria sometime in 1976. I was a student then and sat front row to listen. We liked what we heard and loved him since. By the time he took over and a military Head of State on 31st December 1983 I was already in a position to speak for Nigeria in the UK but fell to the Buhari’s excessive search on my personal luggage in April 1985 as I was returning home. Those who, like me, fell victims of Buhari’s boys hard search and those who will now fall again will not like him. After about four hours (I was not the only one) my search was completed and I packed up and returned to Ilorin from Lagos. Hence Buhari is not one of the usual politicians around. He would like things done thoroughly, correctly and honestly. But the politics all over the World focuses mainly growing a national economy, horse trading with opponents and working with coplayers in the game. We have asserted before and we shall repeat same here again; to grow Nigeria economy and do proper horse trading would not require just only honesty and people who won’t touch a dime not belonging to them alone. Some bad guys are excellent politicians, community organisers and nationally economic builders but they may steal a little. This is why there is a law to checkmate them. On the other hands some store keepers would not steal your goods in the store but may not make profits either. Our argument should be giving a Nigerian President a free hand to pick all his officials but they must do national building comprehensively. In the case of Nigeria there is a national constitution. It is an imperfect document not focused on developments but rather on carrying each segment along and therefore Nigeria cannot run faster than its slowest State. Politics is blind, the constitution is also blind, the operators are equally sentimental.

The second point on Buhari is that Nigeria and Nigerians shouldn’t forget in a hurry where we are coming from, how we have a Buhari, and where we are going. In particular by the general elections of 2015 the majority of South East didn’t vote for APC in a political situation that all of us know is a winner takes all. Igbo should be honest and magnanimous to stand by their votes as part of the necessity to build our democracy. However a Buhari is one that the system feared, rejected consecutively thrice previously, and who became a bride overnight because of gross misconduct of the then powers that be. The APC that emerged because of this same Buhari had no control machine on ground politically unlike PDP. What is emerging for APC is their inability to manage their own election success. Each component in the marriage is trying to feed it’s own followers. The President seems to be looking after his many years followers from his ANPP, CPC days, Vice President finding food for AD, ACN, the National assembly finding positions for the newPDP. For APC to demonstrate that the party is in some significant control it has to agree on issues fast without playing to the gallery, run jointly rather than sectional inclusive governance and be concerned and considerate for each zone. Nigeria success is the success of every zone and if a zone fails the entire nation fails.

Unwritten complaints is whether Buhari is overly pro-Islamic and anti-Christianity because the South East is predominantly Christianity. I am deeply a Christian and also a keen observer of religious movements in Nigeria. For all I know about Gen Muhammad Buhari he is a Muslim, a Fulani stock, a first class Nigerian leader, a lover of the lowly and one who will respect other people’s view. He may not be like Obama with a full secularism agenda, or like Osama bin Laden who would call the shoots with the western views or even like Nelson Mandela an African Nationalist. In time both the Igbo and the rest of Nigeria will get to know their current president without anyone introducing him. The cries of Igbo, the women group, the minority groups like Kabba, Ibira, Tiv, Ijaw, the youths of Nigeria etc are in order at this level but we should not expect a response in terms of mere appointments. We need development, peace in our communities and maximum government presence in our areas, after all Boko Haram has grown in Sambisa Forests because it has been unoccupied, and lacking government’s presence.

Therefore the Buhari’s government may not be assessed by mere the distribution of appointments but his ability to entrench discipline, correct value system, accountability and honest business lifestyle in the society. He may use any combination of people, even from the same family but they must achieve our goals and meet our targets. The Yoruba group is a more traditional opposition than any other ethnic group in Nigeria political life, and over the years they master the arts and becoming king makers from that position. I would be rude to the Igbo group by asking them to emulate the Yoruba, their rival. Therefore if the Igbo group is complaining we must look beyond Buhari’s government to find appropriate responses. In the Jonathan regime the Igbo people were actually the backbone and everything even before the Ijaw group that was fewer in numbers. Everyday change keeps occurring and in politics nothing is constant and no condition is permanent. It will interest our readers to note that President Buhari is hated by the powers that be in the North but loved and almost idolised by the talakawas, the lowly and the less privileged. Like the Igbo the Northern elites will soon find faults with Buhari and his perceived too independent mind and administration. Hence the Igbo should put away their swords and praying for a Buhari’s success.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria 


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