Rebuilding the Igbo Nation through Strong Political Leadership

By Uzorma Nathan

For a lasting rebuilding of the Igbo nation, there is need of strong political leadership, dedicated to patriotism and service to the Igbo nation. Like deference, leadership in the Igbo nation revolves around age, and this age is stratified into old and young, which the elderly are almost revered as nature-bestowed leaders.

Besides this age-based fundament, ascription, which is measured by remarkable or observable constant charismatic qualities and endowment, is another basic mind-set on leadership. Leadership in Igboland is thus fundamentally on these two qualities: Age and ascription. Ascription today has also been extended to professionalism. This is one of the reasons of the contemporary individualistic claim that Igbo enwe Eze.

The Igbos we know operate a political democracy, which is founded on communalism and ohacracy. This foundation sustains the saying, ‘Igbo enwe Eze’- The Igbo has no King. This according to T.U. Nwala has double meaning. “It means that the Igbo do not accept despotism or any form of autocracy. It also refers to the political and social attitude of the Igbos, which is equal rights for all and special privileges for none (privilegium- outside the law).” Geared to total freedom to soar and with the bag of responsibility of the communal base and vision, the contemporary Igbo have derailed to individualism. This derailment has done a lot of harm to the existence, maintenance and projection of strong Igbo political leadership in Igboland.

Secondly, for the Igbos to build a strong political leadership, the present leaders who the entire ethnic nation looks upon as illustrious sons and daughter, and thus leaders by ascription, need to stop the prevailing un-Igboing attitudes and self-disassociation.

Stanley Ilba Uzoh on this self-undoing and contemporary attitude of Igbos, makes a very big generational remark that “the greatest political danger facing the Igbos as a race in the future, is a salient but growing process of de-Igbonisation taking place; which is a process by which many Igbo sons and daughter are disowning or denying their Igbo identity. For instance, for allegations of non-consultation of apex Igbo leaders (Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, etc., other than only Louis Mbanefo and Akanu Ibiam) before opting for war, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe withdrew his support for Biafra in the middle of the civil war. [ii] Secondly, the lack of unity in understanding with regards to universal affairs of the Igbo nation between Azikiwe and Emeka Ojukwu, “to a large extent, have left the Igbos in the lurch.” [iii] This de-Igbonisation process for J.N. Uwalaka, “started since after the war when certain Igbo speaking areas saw it as an act of liberation to disown their Igboness and corrupt their Igbo tongue. Even some areas in Igboland have never regarded themselves as real Igbos.” [iv]

Thirdly, there is need to run an ethnic political party like the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the United Progressive Party (UPP). Since the history of electoral politics in Nigeria, all political parties, affiliations and allies, opposition or ruling parties, extinct or extant, were ethnic political parties that had at first strong ethnic hold that struggles either for central leadership or lobbying for coalition and nationalisation. Since the pre-Independence, Independence and post-Independence era, till date, it is out of ethnic political partyism that President Buhari emerged from APP to ANPP, to CPC and to the merger APC. It is also from strong ethnic-based political party that the Yorubas ran AD, ACN, which later merged to form APC. The Igbos in the pre-Independence era attempted an ethnic based political partyism and it was successful, at least with the later merger antic that saw to the success of the First Republic.

Fourthly, there is need to exhume some ideal Igbo human resources from diverse fields of life, for the rebuilding of the Igbo nation. It is highly perturbing that the Igbos have these great sons and daughters of Igboland who have distinguished themselves in their various professions and spheres of life, even in political leadership in the country, yet our Igbo nation appears to be lagging behind in proper cohesive ethnic and national advancement, and worse still in maintaining strong political leadership.

For the quest to rebuild the Igbo nation to be successful there is need for the distinguished and patriotic-minded scholars in Igboland, to set up studies on the problems of the Igbo nation, and proffer lasting solutions to them. For instance, at present, the South-East League of Professors drawn from diverse universities in the South-Eastern States have picked each of these distinguished Igbo sons and daughters, for a communal intellectual harvest on rebuilding and repositioning the Igbo nation, in the Book titled: Faces that Will Change the Igbo Nation and Nigeria at Large. The Igbo leaders are drawn from the entire five South-Eastern States and from the Academic, Entertainment, Entrepreneur, Judiciary, Politics, Religion, Security domains in their States

Certainly, Igbos constitute a great proportion of professional experts in various fields of life that make Europe, the Americas and Asia great in development. Why is it so? Can’t we bring all these sons and daughters of our great tribe back and build a formidable nation that civilisation and development would be a project of barely 10 years? Why is it that since after 1960 and the Junta regime of 1966, the Igbos have never ruled the country?

As a result of this inability to rebuild and restructure the Igbo nation, Igbos have suffered strong marginalisation in the executive arm of government in Nigeria. It is a historical fact that in the Independence Parliamentary System of Government (1960-1966), Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe emerged as Governor General/Head of State, while Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister and Head of Government. With the January 15 1966 coup that introduced military interregnum in Nigerian politics, Major General Ironsi became the Head of State (Jan. 16-July 29, 1966), and thereafter till date (2017), no Igbo man has ruled Nigeria again, either as a Junta or Civilian Head of State.

Thus, Nigeria has had a total of 14 Heads of State (from 1960-2017), with 2Igbos as Heads of State (1960-66), 3 Yorubas- General Obasanjo (Feb. 14,1976-Oct.1, 1979), Chief Shonekan (Aug. 27, 1993-Nov. 17, 1993), and Chief Obasanjo (May 29, 1999-May 29, 2007). The Hausa/Fulani have 9 Heads of State and 1 Head of Government- Alhaji Balewa (Oct.1, 1960-Jan.15, 1966), General Gowon (July 29, 1966-July 29, 1975), General Mohammed (July 29, 1975-feb.13, 1976), Alhaji Shagari (Oct.1, 1979-Dec.31, 1983) General Buhari (Dec.31, 1983-Aug.27, 1985), General Babangida (Aug.27, 1985-Aug.27, 1993), General Abacha (Nov.17, 1993-June 8, 1998), General Abubakar (June 9, 1998-May 29, 1999), Alhaji Yar’Adua (May 29, 1999-May 5, 2010) and Alhaji Buhari (May 29, 2015-till date). In all these, the only time a Head of State emerged from a minority tribe (Ijaw), ruled Nigeria is May 6, 2010-May 29, 2015 (Dr Goodluck Jonathan).

Below is a pie chart depicting these facts, which the South-East League of Professors saw as grand marginalisation of the Igbo nation as well as a result of their inability to rebuild themselves positively and united, to ensure a strong political leadership that would push them to central government position in the country.

This chat gets worsened when the duration on seat that each the presidents/heads of state has stayed in office is displayed vis-à-vis the number of years Nigeria has stayed as an Independent State. The table below gives a clue to this claim.

Similarly, since 1966 till date (2017), Nigeria has had 16 Deputy Heads of State/Government or what is generally today called Vice Presidents. Out of the 16, six are civilians while 10 were military, and in all these, only 1 Igbo man emerged as civilian Vice President- Chief Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme and 1 Igbo man also emerged as military Vice President- General Ebitu Ukiwe during first part of General Babangida’s regime). Ever since then, no Igbo man has tested such position. The Yorubas have had a total of 6, the Hausas/Fulanis have 3 and other tribes have 3 (J.E.A. Wey under General Ironsi, A. Aigkhomu under General Babangida and Goodluck Jonathan under President Yar-Adua). The diagram below shows the distribution of the imbalance in the position among ethnic groups in Nigeria since 1960.

These and many more are the views of the South-East League of Professors who have gathered and engaged themselves in an elaborate research and study on the FACES THAT CAN CHANGE THE IGBO NATION. This land-breaking Book is at its revision state, and I urge us all to come up en masse to also digest and assimilate its contents, and put them into life as it has become obvious that the Igbo nation needs to be seriously rebuilt and through strong political leadership.

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