NDIGBO AND 2011 (1)

By NBF News

This week, I start a series on a political roadmap for Ndigbo in the South East and South-South zones in order to chart a course that could guide our people in making informed choices in the ongoing political permutations for 2011, in such ways and manners that would be most beneficial to us as a group rather than as self-serving individuals who are in jostling for politics as an end in itself. In doing this, I am not going to beat about the bush trying to apologize for what and who we are, nor am I going to be bothered about the likely accusation that I am canvassing what should be a secret in the open. This series might be interrupted, now and then, to make way for my comments on topical issues that might demand my comments. But I promise that none of its aspects would be presented when it would have become late to do so.

Of course, Ndigbo are a very open people; we do not hold secret meetings because our lives are an open book and we are not used to indulging in subterranean activities that could expose us to suspicion. Moreover, because we live and peddle our businesses in every hamlet in Nigeria, every political plotting we engage in must be that which benefits us as it should also benefit every other Nigerian community. I have said this in my several articles and books that if the Nigerian political community had known its onions, it would always insist on making an Igbo person a leader because he is the only Nigerian who commits to wherever he domiciles without looking back, and most often, at the expense of his autochthonous home base. That is why while Awka and Umuahia continue to look scanty, 75 percent of investments in Abuja is Igbo, according to the former FCT minister, Nasir el-Rufai. There is, therefore, no further need to insist that to Ndigbo, everywhere in Nigeria is - or should be - home.

Another introductory remark is that it would be foolish of any Igbo man, woman or child to continue to be worried because he believes that everyone else in Nigeria hates him, hence this tantrum that once in a while rears its stupid ugly head, when the kite of neo-Biafranism, which seems to have a romantic appeal to many untrained minds, is periodically flown by people who do not even believe in it even when they are making loads of money out of it. Rather, it is such action of some Igbo and their misguided groups that scare other Nigerians and bring about the consequential and inevitable hatred. How do we not expect other Nigerians not to be unsettled by the idiotic antics of MASSOB which so regularly sows the climate of fear both in Igboland and elsewhere?

The disastrous nature of MASSOB is that while it has never brought an iota of benefit to the people and place it claims as its territory, it has rather brought many tangible and psychological disasters to Ndigbo. Take the issue of the national census for example. During the last national headcount, while other geographical and political groups embarked on all manners of strategies to boost their demographic figures, MASSOB mounted a very big effort to frustrate the census in Igboland to the effect that most of Igbo people were not counted. The truth is that today, the figures being paraded as the official population of Ndigbo are, in fact, only about half of what they are in reality. No thanks to the lack of understanding by many Ndigbo which has been serially displayed as to what really constitute the fundamental foundations of politics.

Politics is anchored on the foundations of demography and geography. Put another way, democracy is a game of numbers. However, this 'number' has nothing to do with a crowd that is ensconced in beer parlours postulating noisily nor do the heavy congregations in churches and marketplaces count in democracy, beyond the realm of providing nuisance value, which is often ignored or crushed. I have heard many Igbo people boast to me that Ndigbo constitute more than half of the population of Abuja FCT or more than 20 percent of Lagos or other places. However, these people fail to appreciate the uselessness of these numbers when they recall that Ndigbo have not been able to elect even a councilor in Abuja since Princess Anazodo won overwhelmingly as the chairperson of the Abuja Municipal Council in 1996. In democracy, a non-voting population is only a mob.

The reason is that in a democratic dispensation, the vote is the power and anybody who does not have a voter's card is practically useless in the political scheme of things. The other truth is that in Lagos, Abuja FCT, as in other places in Nigeria, Ndigbo are too busy and too big to go out to register and even those few who have voters cards feel too 'I-don't-care' or too busy to go out to vote. When the results are returned Igbo names progressively become absent because in Nigeria, voters still cast their ballots for people who campaigned to them in their vernacular languages - an overwhelming advantage which an Igbo candidate would have enjoyed on account of the 75 percent of their people who reside elsewhere outside Igboland.

So, the first milestone on the political roadmap towards 2011 is for Ndigbo to take advantage of the forthcoming voter's registration exercise to ensure that every Igbo person of 18 years and above legally obtains a voter's card. In fact, the mobilization for that is already getting late, in spite of the yeoman efforts of some people who think in like terms. Ndigbo must realize that because our present and future political life depends on it, Igbo leaders of all endeavours must lead in a serious mobilization effort to ensure that everybody registers, no matter the inconvenience. Fortunately, there are town unions in every part and cranny of the country outside Igboland, and where communities are not populous enough to form town unions, there are gatherings at LGA levels. The governors of Igbo states must coordinate these efforts, while the Ohanaeze Ndigbo should immediately form committees to coordinate these efforts among Igbo communities in Delta and Rivers States that have governors who are hostile, if envious, of the guts of Ndigbo.

In fact this should be pursued with such seriousness that anybody who fails to register should be ostracized by his home community as well as by those where he or she lives in the cities. This has nothing to do with being partisan or not. This most important aspect of my political roadmap is of such a crucial nature that every other aspect would be utterly useless if Ndigbo do not have voter's cards. In fact, what I would say in upcoming series would be completely dependent on the assumption that the people I would be addressing have registered to vote are planning to do so. In other words, if you have not registered or do not intend to register in the few weeks that the registration exercise would start, then do not bother reading the future parts of this series.

I have accosted many Igbo young men and women at mechanic workshops, market stalls and institutions of learning and their responses were like a rehearsed chorus: 'why should we vote, what has the government done for us…have our votes ever counted?' Good logic, but is it not also true that most Nigerians from every part of the country are working day and night to ensure that our votes start to count, and even the international community is seconding our efforts. The president has even committed to that desideratum both before the Nigerian and international audiences. So, suppose Nigerians got it right and our votes counted this time around and Ndigbo's votes were absent from those that counted, what would be our response?

Or must we continue to complain when in spite of our demographic advantages we make ourselves minorities and orphans yet again in the political scheme of things like the proverbial lizard that brought a ruin to its own mother's funeral? Who would we blame, this time around?

Think about it and take action. Our church, market, community, town union, age grade, political leaders and more…the ball, as they say, is now in your courts. Olugo n'omume!