Biafra Agitations And Igbo Presidency Project—My Thoughts

How do the Igbo(s) hope to achieve maximum political relevance that befits their status as one of Nigeria’s majority ethnic groups? Are they playing their political cards in line with their justifiable aspiration of one day emerging as the occupant of the highest office in the land – the presidency? Can they step back a bit and reassess their political strategies so far? Is Biafra the only viable option? If yes, are there no other effective ways of pursuing this dream than the resort to methods that could provoke violent conflicts?

These and many more are the questions that have been bothering my mind since Buhari’s presidency. The most virulent and unrepentant critics of Buhari government are unfortunately the Igbo(s). They had supported somebody they consider one of their own, former President Goodluck Jonathan in March 2015 presidential elections.

As fate would have it, Jonathan not only lost the election but also conceded defeat thereby aborting what would otherwise have caused a major political upheaval in the land had he chosen to hang on to power. In doing this, he saved Nigeria the unpleasant consequences of contesting the conduct and the results of the elections. Great political sportsmanship, you would say. And he is reaping bountiful harvest from this.

Considering the fact that the Igbo(s) had voted for Jonathan as a preferred candidate of their choice, it ought to have followed that his decision to concede defeat would also be accepted by them. As it stands presently, Jonathan had since moved on while most of his Igbo supporters are still in their trenches launching unceasing political attacks on Buhari.

This, in my opinion, is a misstep. And the consequences of this type of political behavior could prove costly. The first major miscalculation in this dispensation was that the Igbos failed to factor in the emerging political realities and so did not return a Senator/House of Rep member in the then opposition APC in the 2015 elections. Had they done that, Nigeria would have had a more coordinated and smooth running Senate/House of Representatives than we do today because the leadership crisis that engulfed the both Houses (NASS) would have been avoided.

The South East would simply have walked into the office of the Senate President/Speaker of the House of Representatives almost unchallenged. By putting all their eggs in one political basket, they fluffed that chance. I know some of them would say there is nothing special about the office of the Senate President having occupied that office in recent past. But would it not have been better you hold on to what you are sure of while pursuing the ultimate?

Talking about pursuing the ultimate leads me to another political misstep that the Igbo(s) may live to regret if they do not find a way to retrace their steps and make amends. The Igbo Presidency project. This is an issue that ought to have taken a centre stage for the Igbo(s) from all walks of life. Everything that would ensure they succeed would have been vigorously pursued.

They would have started building bridges and alignments across all political divides and enclaves in Nigeria. They would have courted the friendship of other equally powerful political blocs so they would have links to tap on when the time comes. And the time is fast approaching!

How come most of them do not seem to realize that they cannot ignore the Northern political power bloc if they must produce a president in Nigeria? How come they do not seem to appreciate the fact that the period for building trustworthy alignments is now? It is preposterous to dream that they would one day walk into the office of the President of Nigeria without necessary footwork and bridge-building. And such footwork must be directed particularly towards the North and the South West. The North is a region that their power of votes can deny you the ultimate if they decide to go against you. Ask Jonathan. This has nothing to do with complex of either kind. It is the reality that must be faced.

To appreciate the true animosity currently existing between the Igbo, Yoruba(s) and especially the North, there is no better place to gauge it than the social media platforms. Comments and observations thrown from all directions clearly depict the big gulf existing along the regional or tribal divides which cannot be wished away.

It is outright fantasy to believe that the Biafra project would materialize between now and 2019 0r 2023, that is if it will ever materialize. So why risk your opportunity on something as futuristic as Biafra when you can effectively and rightly lay claim to Nigeria’s presidency during this period?

The West has taken its turn through Obasanjo, the North took theirs through Yar’adua and now Buhari and the South South has taken its (partially?) through Goodluck Jonathan. What then would have stood against the Igbo(s) laying in wait for their turn? Who would have had an acceptable argument against their seeking to occupy the seat of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come possibly 2023?

It is therefore important that Igbo leaders re-strategize and drop this garment of unrelenting opposition while concentrating their energy towards convincing other Nigerians that they are ready and are one with them. This does not mean Igbo(s), like other Nigerians, cannot criticize the Buhari’s FG if and when there is need to do so. In doing this, they could constructively proffer alternative routes on issues of national importance.

Biafra? Again I ask, Biafra? Poorly conceptualized now. Leadership structure of present day crusader(s) – lacking in in-depth methodology. Foundation, weak. Inclusive approaches, almost non-existent. But in any case, the Igbo(s) would not forget in a hurry that we in the East are still part of Nigeria today because Azikiwe – an Igbo – preferred it so. He made the choices without compulsion. He believed in one Nigeria and so refused to take the opportunity for peaceful break up when it mattered most. And the result is what we are today being confronted with. We fought a bloody civil war losing millions of lives which could rightly be traceable to that infamous decision:”Although the Eastern Region was ready to assume independence, its attainment without the North would lead to balkanization of the country. The Eastern region would therefore rather suppress its appetite for independence and the obvious gains it would entail, until the Northern region is ready”. – Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Another fundamental miscalculation by the present day Biafra crusaders is their disastrous public relations thrust. There are reasons to believe that there has been no consultation – formal or informal between this group and its neighbours on all sides. Thus the opinion and fears of those neighbours which ought to have been listened to and assurances given where necessary have been wantonly disregarded. Even if the Igbo(s) have the capacity to slug it out militarily, politically or otherwise, they cannot discount the value and strategic importance of friendly neighbours.

Does it not occur to them that they needed to launch aggressive but peaceful campaigns within their reach to keep their neighbours either on their side or at worse, neutral in the Biafra struggle? This could effectively breach the possibility of the neighbours opening their flanks for “enemies” to launch attacks against them, hypothetically speaking, that is.

Even if you are taking the diplomatic options, you would still require the support and understanding of these neighbours. Presently, the Igbo(s) are busy insulting and shouting down whoever offers alternative opinion on the Biafra issue.

The minorities in the former Eastern region are not spared any adjective of scorn and disdain once they seek to express what comes to their mind. Most of the Igbo(s) are not in any mood to listen to others; whatever anyone else says makes no sense. How can you only listen to yourself? Where is the platform for inclusive engagements and closing of ranks for effective campaigns of whatever kind?

Talking about inclusive engagements; it is instructive that Igbo leaders have not been able to muster cohesion in their flanks as to speak with one voice. The much awaited meeting between the South East governors and leaders of pan Igbo organizations slated to discuss Biafra could not hold due to some inconsequential reasons part of which is the venue.

While Rochas Okorocha who probably wanted to sponsor the meeting would prefer Owerri, others believe Enugu should serve as the venue. Pray what is in a venue that both sides cannot easily resolve? If they cannot resolve this, what happens when the real issues are tabled for decisions to be taken?

If they continue with this attitude, I am afraid they would have given others the political pellets to throw at them when the time comes. I believe that if really Biafra is all they want, they could do something about it while in office as the president not outside. As it stands now, the Igbo(s) appear to be erecting walls against their future political interests in Nigeria. This might turn out disastrous with the unintended consequences of denying them both ends – the presidency and/or Biafra.

I write as a friend. I feel this must be said now. While I agree they may not have had the best of what they desire, they could open other doors working constructively within. There is need for the Igbo(s) to grab the opportunity that is so close and achievable instead of sitting back to blame others for the consequences of what decisions they take presently. The choice as to what they want lies with them. What fruits they reap tomorrow clearly lies with their life’s choices today, politically speaking that is.

That is my little contribution to the Igbo Presidency project. Take it or leave it, I have discharged my conscience. If my friends here chose to, they can descend on me with their now familiar choice of language. Truth is I have nothing against their agitation so long as they keep it on the path of civility.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed on this site are those of the contributors or columnists, and do not necessarily reflect TheNigerianVoice’s position. TheNigerianVoice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements in the contributions or columns here."

Articles by Eyenisong Ibibio