The importance of Dr Uche Diala’s post lies in the need for critical thinking, analysis and strategy. It’s therefore without doubt a bold and courageous alternative view in the usual frenzy of popular nzogbu nzogbu herd mindset which rather than produce relief mostly deepen our affliction.
However, his approach and conclusion failed to present a fresh position but a rather, a rehash of an age long defeatist incremental approach embedded in a narrative of false assumptions, misplaced priorities, and a faulty stereotypical conceptual frame.
Consequently he failed to capture and properly define our problem, let alone its diagnosis. Not surprisingly his solution – or prescription – is a return to the cliche of “half a loaf is better than no bread”. Alas we end up traveling this same familiar route, doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result. Well, we are not a mad people as Diala’s prescription fits very well in Albert Einstein’s classic model of madness. Because we are in a season where a lot happens by the seconds, I will summarise my reposte to Diala’s post along a well beaten strategy framework of problem-diagnosis-solution (prescription of coherent actions).
- The Problem: Contrary to the view that the marginalisation of South East is the problem to be solved, I argue that it is a symptom and indeed a manifestation of a carefully contrived inferiority complex programmed and foisted on the people as a result of a lost civil war. An underlying psychology of defeat where its people are being consciously reduced and redefined as second class citizens in Nigeria who no longer matter in critical decisionmaking even when the civil war of “no victor, no vanquished” ended some fifty-two years ago.
Don’t rejoice and be deceived by token gestures, such as Ukiwe’s experience showed. We also recall how Ekwueme was halted when his anticipated emergence and ascendancy to become President of Nigeria by 1987 was considered contrary to their postwar pecking power order. The recent PDP decision on zoning is an eloquent confirmation of the ingrained belief that it’s yet too early to jettison the postwar order and feeling that SE does not matter.
- The Diagnosis: Sustainable development in an emerging nation-state such as Nigeria can only be built on the foundation of justice, equity and fairness to all. This creates an environment of opportunity and self actualisation that promotes inclusive growth and development. A socioeconomic environment that is not discriminatory and is rule-based devoid of impunity. Luckily, more Nigerians are waking up to the new reality that impunity, discrimination and double standards stifle growth and development with dire consequences of unemployment, poverty and insecurity. Our problem has morphed, it has engulfed the entire space beyond geopolitical boundaries. The people are hungry and angry and restive. The issue now is how to navigate, taking into account our current situation. Do we do the same things and pray that this time a desired outcome will follow or do we try something new, guided by a sound strategy? Whilst I concede that herd mentality also betrays original causes, I strongly believe that “there is a tide in the affairs of men”; when serendipity falls on your lap, strategise and take a leap! The worst outcome cannot be worse than the present.
- The Solution: Prescription woven to take advantage of the current dynamic includes a number of coherent actions:
I. Acceptance of some moves already made in spite of certain weaknesses i.e. Peter Obi’s move and timing to LP;
II. Avoid making the momentum a solely South East narrative as our experience has revealed the wicked, treacherous and prependal tendencies of the ruling class;
III. Though the vent of suffering, anger of the young, and failed expectations of consecutive past governments articulated by Peter Obi and his antecedent bring a refreshing difference and the feeling that “yes we can change the system”, the momentum generated has gone beyond PO the man. It must be acknowledged that it is beyond him and the issue of SE marginalisation, it should now be seen as a Nigerian movement;
IV. While it is advisable to sustain the frenzy for PVC, especially in the SE, the end must not be myopic. The goal is to display our true relevance as now being fully awake and ready to engage, using our numbers decisively to secure our interests through the PVC now and even beyond 2023. That we are shortchanged now is majorly due to our aloofness in matters such as census, voters registration, voting, etc, and misguided signal of what we truly want – a separate entity or to mobilize our real strength to secure our due in Nigeria? Whatever may have been the manipulations of census figures and INEC voter registration must be put to an end. We must show interest and come out in full force. We must send a new signal of engagement, including the consciousness of our collective goals professed by us, whether those residing in the SE and outside the zone. That psychology of acquiescence of second class citizenry ever evident in our collective response, including playing second fiddle, must be discarded today;
V. Our response is not sheepish advocacy for all of SE to become members of LP. However, as one with considerable knowledge and experience in Nigerian politics, I hasten to correct certain erroneous assumptions being peddled by incrementalist strategists. First, that LP does not have the political structure to match PDP and APC is a fallacy. Dormant structures do not mean an absence of structure. The LP, now reenergised, repopulated, and with a feeling of co-ownership by both NLC and TUC has created a more extensive network with passionate membership. We may also recall that the so-called structures and members of the leading parties are disgruntled local footsoldiers who continually feel used and disempowered during the sharing of benefits, case in point, the recent bazaars in Abuja when delegates allegedly went home with bundles of dollars. This ground-force can certainly not be relied upon to continue to do the yeoman’s job – their low moral is a clear rejection of “monkey dey work,”! History has shown that this has affected the fortunes of PDP more than once. The point is that the new LP has the network (structures) and passionate membership waiting to be organised and mobilised in line with the electoral needs.
Secondly, eight months is quite a long time given the fact that before the 2022 Electoral calendar, campaigns did not last beyond two to three months after party primaries.
Finally, there is a difference in the ease of rigging in the pre-BVAS era. I’d rather not go into details, but be rest assured that the abuses inherent in the manual accreditation and use of incident forms during the pre-BVAS era may be thwarted by the instantaneous electronic transmission of results. This all amounts to bad news for those relying on what worked yesterday.
VI. Money plays an important role in politics but does not determine victory – winning is not dependent on who spends the most money. Money could even create dysfunction when people fight and grumble over who got more, rather than enabling an effective deployment. In this season of a particularly biting economy, money could also very easily be redirected into private pockets. In 2023, strategy, engagement and sustained momentum will play the most crucial role to determine victory.
In conclusion, we should define our goal not only achieved by PO becoming President in 2023, but more importantly, to make a strong point that we matter and can influence decisions affecting our interests. We thank PO for being the catalyst for this commonly shared national consciousness that every Nigerian, particularly the ill-treated SE, matters.
Dr. Chris Asoluka