“Every reasonable person watching affairs in Nigeria, would likely conclude that the greatest issue in Igboland today, is neither the much-advertised Second Niger Bridge nor the nightmare people go through to access federal roads in the area, because of their impassable nature.
Certainly, these are huge problems that raise concerns of monumental proportion. But they pale into insignificance when laid side by side with the question of locating the place of the Igbo man in Nigeria’s socio-political architecture, and which, more recently because of Biafra and all the concomitant attachments thereto, has now assumed a new meaning, having become, somewhat, a matter of life and death.
Yes! Life and death, because, never in the history of the nation, 50 years on, since the civil war, has the situation of Ndigbo become this precarious. Whether real or imagined, the reality is that countless Igbo people envisage danger and the smell of death in their land.
Not that there had been anytime in the last decades after the war that the Igbo did not have issues with Nigeria. In fact, at the historic Mkpoko Igbo conference in 1994, where they articulated their position for the 1995 Constitutional Conference, under the late General Sani Abacha, they had encapsulated all else into a singular mantra – marginalisation.
The claim is that the Igbo people have not only been encased in a glass cage, but their relationship with and in Nigeria is that of Jonah in the belly of the fish. However, though the problem did not disappear completely, but through some political brinkmanship and manoeuvring, which appeared to nibble at it, the din of this singsong, had ebbed considerably over the years, until now.
Recent events have escalated the echoes of this unpalatable song several decibels over. The two-year plus government of President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to have eroded all the gains achieved in this regard. In fact, if the situation had remained at the level of pre-democracy times, many people would have been less worried. But there are actually many who fear of a cataclysmic eruption that would lead to fire and brimstone, raining on Igbo people not only in the South-east, but in many parts of the country.
Even though the recent quit notice to the Igbo to leave the North has come and gone without any bad news so far, its implication in addition to the recent military operations, such as the Show of Force that led to the alleged invasion of the Afaraukwu, Umuahia, Abia State, home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Operation Python Dance, that has succeeded in throwing a huge military pall across the entire Igboland, has gone a long way to increase the fear that something sinister is actually in the offing, if not now, then in future.
So, why is every other candidate in the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election next month not making Biafra an issue in their campaign? Why keep mute on an issue, which is as dangerous as an exposed dry gunpowder?
Why, for instance, is Chief Willie Obiano, Governor of Anambra State, who today is the number one citizen of that state favouring the mundane, banal, insipid and totally fanciful mantra of exporting pumpkins abroad as his campaign talking point than this matter that strikes at the very existence of the same people he wishes to continue leading? Does he think that forcibly getting youths in his state to remove the insignias of Biafra from their shops, vehicles, keke and other belongings or stopping them from carrying out open demonstrations in the streets would cure the anger in his state at the moment? Why the obvious morbid fear?
Of course, it is obvious that it is more politically correct to keep silent over the issue, because speaking in any manner could be interpreted as an affront and thus, offend the powers that be, who assumedly, hold the key to any election. For that reason, it becomes a no-go area.
How infantile! Now, if you are afraid to speak to the very issues which tug at the very soul of your people, or paper over them, ostensibly, in order not to give offence, what right have you then to aspire to govern over the same people? Has political office become that alluring and sweet that it has to be bought at the price of cowardice?
Leadership goes beyond building roads or providing water. It includes pointing out the direction in which the people you superintendent over their affairs should follow. How many people can point out the roads or bridges built by Ojukwu of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, or Chuba Okadigbo? But today, their names resonate with the people, because, at critical periods in their times, when the bells tolled, they stood up to be counted among their people, because, all politics, as they say, is local.
Is that not why the candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Osita Chidoka is making such waves at the moment in the same political arena, having seemingly linked up to the conduit connecting leadership to the people’s heartbeat and aspiration?
How come it is only the former Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and former Minister of Aviation that seems to have dared the odds, picked up the gauntlet and presented the case of the Igbo people in the manner he is doing presently? Of course, nothing in his conduct has indicated an open support for the wrong actions of the Biafra agitators. But he has equally not thrown the baby away with the bathwater. Recall that he was the one that went to personally drive Kanu in his own car out of Kuje Prison a few months ago. Yet, he has never failed to denounce each wrong step the IPOB leader took, such as no-election stance of the group and even street agitations.
He has continued to tell anybody who cares to listen how, as a governor, his main task, would be to interpret the Igbo people to Nigeria and vice versa. He has taken time to explain in practical terms how he intends to accomplish this task. This included an immediate campaign for a referendum through the National Assembly for the creation of another state in the South-east, to bring it at par with other zones in the country, personally meeting with Buhari to present the case of Ndigbo and ask him to treat them better, and pushing for the abolition of State of Origin, as an official requirement in the affairs of governments in Nigeria.
Hear him: “I’m asking all the Igbo youth who are aggrieved, who are angry about the situation in Nigeria that our war will no longer be in the streets. Our war will be of intelligence. It will be a war of Uche, Uchu na Egwu Chukwu. We will not be afraid of making Nigeria work for you.”
Now, in which way would this sort of mind-set constitute an affront, offend the powers that be or be interpreted as confrontational? Instead, would it not provide an elixir and a soothing balm to the already festering pain the Igbo nation and indeed Nigeria is undergoing at the moment and benefit both sides in the end?
You only needed to attend one of the Chidoka rallies, such as the one to flag off his campaign, which held at Amorka, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, on September 30, to see how the same youths who did not mind to stop bullets with their bare chests, are now buying into the mantra of using the political process to pursue their aspirations. That is the effect of strategic thinking.”