Opinion: How Igbo politics affects the rest of us

by Niran Adedokun


NdigboThose who accuse the Igbo of not voting right in the last elections advocate a collaboration of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria and that would have amounted to a conspiracy of the majority and an inherent entrenchment of the injustice that trails the history of this country.

Since the conclusion of the March 28 presidential election and the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress as winner, I have come across assorted commentaries on how the Igbo are the losers. About how they have lost the opportunity of a life time by voting for Buhari’s opponent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, and not giving the APC the chance of winning just one single Senate or House of Representatives seat in the South-East zone. Some of these criticisms, the most scathing in fact, have come from native Igbo themselves and so you are lured into taking a keener look at the issues.

Simply put, the point is that if the Igbo had voted for the APC, thereby joining the three zones in the north and the South-West zones in not just giving the day to Buhari but also returning people like Chris Ngige to the Senate, the zone would have been in a good stead to cling the Senate Presidency position- the number three seat in the country. But that is not going to happen!

So, a lot of Igbo men and women and their friends sympathise with this remarkable group of people for the wilderness that they would be for the next four years. On the flip side, those who have never seen good in the Igbo gloat over yet another evidence of the tendency of the people to orchestrate their own undoing.

If you live in a country where credentials for leadership are mostly hung on descent like Nigeria, you would most definitely understand why some would mourn while others rejoice at the inability of a major ethnic group to take its position in the country’s politics. As it is, the loss of the Igbo is the gain of some other ethnic groups that “delivered.”

Most analyses that I have read tried to identify reasons why the Igbo would almost always find themselves in this place of dryness. One of the very common arguments that I have heard in the past two weeks is that the Igbo are legendary at not being able to speak with one voice. In other words, they are so opinionated that they are unable to aggregate opinions in the interest of their kin.

The second argument is that the Igbo do not trust the two other major ethnic groups to wit, the Yoruba and the Hausa essentially as a fallout of their collaboration against the former during the civil war which ended 45 years ago! They are also accused of always putting their eggs in one basket.

But I find these arguments either impeachable or not peculiar to the Igbo. The first, in my opinion is, not sustainable beyond its mention, at least as far as it concerns the March 28 elections.

Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria occupy the five states of the South-East zone and a part of Delta and Rivers states which fall into the South-South zone. At the end of the elections, all these states without exception voted for President Jonathan. Now, I do not know how a people could possibly speak in unity more than this. Unless we are saying that speaking in unity is equivalent to voting for the APC.

But let us for a moment assume that the Igbo did not speak with one voice in the recently concluded elections, I want to suggest that they are not alone in this failure. I suggest that even the Yoruba, in spite their eventual gain, did not speak with one voice on the presidential election. As far as I recollect, the only group that is known to speak for the Yoruba is the Afenifere and it indeed rooted for Jonathan!

The prime position that the South-West finds itself today is through the effort of one man and his foot soldier governors. And I would be shocked if anyone suggested that these men were particular about the interest of Yoruba when they embarked on the venture that resulted in the victory of Buhari. After all, it was this same set of people that denied the Yoruba the opportunity of having the Speakership of the House of Representatives in 2011.

I am sure someone will describe that as strategising. And that may be right but I will return to the subject later. Not even the North, which made up its mind to fight for the return of power which is the same as the presidency to Nigerians since 2011, could be said to have spoken with as much eloquent oneness as the South-East as Jonathan and his PDP still made some good show in the North-Central and the North-East.

I also do not think that having all eggs in one basket was anything peculiar to the South-East during the last elections. The North-West and the North-East voted exclusively for Buhari while the South-South voted exclusively for Jonathan. It is only in the South-West and the North-Central that both candidates made gains.

On the inability of the Igbo to trust the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani, I posit that the Igbo are not alone in the trade. The three major ethnic groups in Nigeria must be honest enough to agree that there is mutual distrust among them and it is disingenuous to continually posit that it is only the Igbo that have refused to move away from the event of 1967-1970.

Those who accuse the Igbo of not voting right in the last elections advocate a collaboration of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria and that would have amounted to a conspiracy of the majority and an inherent entrenchment of the injustice that trails the history of this country. They accuse the Igbo of some selfishness and of lacking the capacity for “strategic thinking like their Yoruba counterparts” insisting that this is why they may not make it to “power” anytime soon.

But some questions agitate my mind when I hear these arguments. Does an ethnic group need to have people in government before it feels a sense of belonging in a country? How far can Nigeria go with this level of strife in spite of its immeasurable resources? How does strategising on how to get members of your ethnic group into national offices even help that group?

For instance, it is on record that the individuals from the north have governed for 37 out of its 55 years yet the region has nothing to show for it except grinding poverty and lack of opportunities. Thanks to Northern Nigeria, this country has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world! This means that the North is not just lagging behind, it is not preparing for the future. Poverty is highest in the North-West and North-East of the country with rates put at 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. The condition of the woman in Northern Nigeria is one of the worst in the world. It starts with lack of education, followed by early marriage cum pregnancy and the lack of adequate medical attention which could lead to anything from lifelong deformation to maternal and infant death. What did the eight years of President Olusegun Obasanjo do for the South-West? Has President Jonathan’s five years improved the lot of people of the South-South remarkably?

This is why I am hoping that the incoming administration would do a good job of national integration. That it would address the structural imbalance in the country and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging irrespective of where they come from.

I do not only see this as an important task, I see it as a very urgent one, central to the success of the administration. These primordial sentiments and the prominence that they have gained in national life are at the root of some of the most disturbing problems, including corruption and mediocrity, that beset our nation.

Without bringing the tribes together, this blessed country of ours would go nowhere in spite of the potential that it holds for African and global development. Without bringing the tribes together, making everyone feel like an essential part of the country, this giant will remain a dwarf.


Niran Adedokun tweets from @niranadedokun

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Comments (2)

  1. Brilliant! GMB has an urgent task – to gain the trust of all Nigerians, especially those who feel they have been marginalised over the years. He will not gain their trust by putting their people in public offices, but by ensuring that developmental efforts are equitably spread across all regions.

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