Are we fair to the Igbos?

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Nigeria’s multi-ethnic composition no doubt creates room for political competition, especially at the centre. As such, there have been polemics over whether certain tribal groups have been fairly treated and this has brought about agitation for political inclusiveness, equity and fairness. Often times, we have heard Nigerian proximate political actors argue about rotational presidency as a panacea to perceived political marginalisation.

Going down memory’s lane on our contemporary politics and governance, one can but say, the evidence of political injustice, unfairness, marginalisation of the Igbo extraction in the affairs of our country are crystal clear. This perceived political injustice to the Igbos is particularly evident since the advent of our nascent democracy in 1999; the Igbos have been unable to produce any of their highly qualified and industrious sons or daughters at the seat of power in Aso Rock, Abuja, Nigeria.

Unlike the other two major ethnic groups in Nigeria, namely the Hausas and Yorubas, the Igbos’ dream of ruling the country still remains a tall order. For instance, in 1999 the Yorubas had their share of power when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected. Obasanjo spent eight years and was succeeded by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner whose tenure was cut short due to terminal illness. Then came the Otuoke man, President Goodluck Jonathan, from a minority ethnic group in the South South region of Nigeria, a region on whose oil resources Nigeria breathes.

Jonathan’s journey to Aso Rock was what I refer to as accidental constitutional opportunity based on the doctrine of necessity as a result of President Yar’Adua’s untimely demise. Had it been President Yar’Adua’s life was not cut short, there’s an opinion that the possibility of Jonathan becoming his successor would have been a tall order. As we know, Jonathan completed the joint tenure of his late boss and contested in 2011 and won. He spent his single term and lost re-election in 2015 to the current President Muhammadu Buhari.

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Fast forward to 2015, in the year Nigeria’s political baton did go back to the North with strategic political alignment, coalescent of the then major opposition political parties, overwhelmed political support from proximate political actors and power breakers of South Western Nigeria and a hyped media propaganda against Jonathan’s administration that later resulted to punitive electoral outcomes.

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The North, once again, returned to the corridors of power in Aso Rock. And the sole beneficiary of this psychological outcome was an ex-serial presidential candidate loser and the man from Daura in Kastina State, north of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. As the 2023 general election approaches, the subtle race and strategic positioning for the next presidential election by politicians across the country are already ongoing. However, central to this ambition is the renewed agitation for fairness, justice and equity, clothed in “rotational presidency”.

The Southern people of Nigeria believe that for equity and political balancing, the next president must come from this region. But this is a generic agitation that in itself inherents another specific geopolitical agitation among the political class from the Southern part of the country. For clarity, the term Southern part of Nigeria is made up of these three geo-political zones: the South East, the South-South and the South West.

So, the polemics are: which of these three regions takes the turn to paddle the affairs of the country if fairness, equity, justice and rotational presidency were to be our yardstick? Or should it be left open for the best among the politicians in the South East, South West and South-South? I am of the opinion that some political clarity is needed here.

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However, my opinion is that the answer to the above poser is not in a state of obscurity and too difficult. Going down our contemporary nascent democratic experience, the Igbos deserve to be treated fairly as far as this matter is concerned. Of course, like other major tribes, Igbos have many well-qualified sons and daughters across many disciplines. The Igbos unarguably are the most enterprising and highly industrious people, not only in Nigeria but anywhere you find them.

The Igbos also have a plethora of highly educated persons, political and economic colossus with sterling achievements both locally and internationally. Examples of these individuals abound – Berth Nnaji, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Charles Soludo, James Esielo, Chidi Amuta, Kate Anolue, Peter Obi, Kingsley Moghalu, just to mention but a few. So, the Igbo nation has much more to offer and for justice and fairness, should be given the chance to rule Nigeria.

Nevertheless, while I feel the pains and understand the agitation for rotational presidency to the Igbo nation, I am equally of the view that our Igbo brothers and sisters should speak with a united voice and present us the best amongst them that is not only politically experienced but emotionally matured to rule a complex country like Nigeria. The Igbo land has so much to be proud of and should be treated fairly and the time is now.

Ojo, a media communications professional and entrepreneur, wrote from Lagos.

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