Wednesday, August 5, 2015 12:11 pm
By Joe Igbokwe
I want Igbo nation where I come from to play opposition politics in Nigeria, at least in the next ten years. I want Igbo to be in the opposition in the next ten years so that the world will take them seriously once again in matters of Nigerian politics. In the First Republic, Igbo dominated NCNC formed an alliance with Northern based NPC to form a government at the centre. In the Second Republic Igbo dominated NPP again teamed up with NPN to form the National Government at the centre. In the third Republic during the NRC, SDP era, Chief MKO Abiola won the election fair and square on the platform of SDP but the majority of the Igbo led by the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, (Ikemba Nnewi) the late Evans Enwerem, Okwesilieze Nwodo teamed up with prominent Igbo and even some prominent Yoruba leaders to support IBB, Shonekan and Abacha to sustain the annulment of that election. Again, for 16 years PDP was in power in Nigeria, Igbo was with PDP.
Now the outcome of 2015 elections has forced Igbo to be in the opposition politics. But will the Igbo play opposition politics in Nigeria and hold on to it at least in the next 10 years just to surprise people like us who think it is not possible? Can Igbo shame critics and tell them that spoils of office and love for money will not allow them to play opposition politics? Can Igbo make history by choosing to suffer a little in order to be relevant again in Nigerian politics? Can Igbo show other Nigerians for once that they too can go the whole hog of withstanding the pressure of being in the opposition for a while?
Can Igbo demonstrate capacity and capability now by working with South South, the North and other Nigerians to rebuild PDP whatever it will take and even if it takes 20 years? Will Igbo jettison the love to support any government in power to redeem its battered image of playing Ugba and Okpoloko politics? Can Igbo do this for me and other Igbo like me who feel ashamed that we must support any government in power in order to survive? When did Igbo cease to be a proud people? Did we not fight a Civil War for three years with empty stomach? Did we not prove to the world that we are strong men and women in those three awkward years?
The Yoruba nation I know has been in the opposition even since the inception of Nigeria and yet they are not the worst in Nigeria. After the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola, the powers that be tried to console Yoruba by appointing Chief Ernest Shonekan the Head of Interim Government. Did Yoruba accept Shonekan? No, they did not. They did not come out on the streets with Gbedu Drums to celebrate Yoruba and Chief Shonekan. Yoruba proudly told the powers that be that you can only be the Head of State in Nigeria through two methods: it is either you achieve it through an election or through a successful coup d’état. In case of Chief Shonekan he did not ascend to power through any of these two ways. He was therefore rejected by the Yoruba. Now if it were the Igbo would they have reasoned this way? I doubt it. In the struggle for the June 12 mandate Chief Abiola was put in detention, his wife killed. Several
Yoruba people were in detention and some hounded abroad. Chief Abiola was eventually killed. But did Yoruba go to war or resort to self determination? No, they did not. They fought back using common sense and power of ideas.
In 1998 when the presidency was zoned to the South West because the late Chief MKO Abiola had paid the supreme price, Yoruba preferred Chief Olu Falae but the powers that be forced Chief Obasanjo on Nigeria. Now did Yoruba accept Obasanjo because he is a Yoruba man? They did not. This unique race rejected Obasanjo for eight years he was in office from 1999 to 2007. To date Yoruba still believe that Obasanjo wasted their eight years. OBJ was rejected even in his own ward, in his local government and in the whole of the Western Region. That is Yoruba nation for you. Can Igbo do this? I doubt. After the 2003 elections, PDP stole all the states in the South West, leaving only Lagos because they were afraid of trouble Lagosians will give them.
From one state (Lagos), the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu fought back like a wounded lion with his committed associates to reclaim almost all the states in the South West. He did not stop there; he spread his intimidating political tentacles across Nigeria forming alliances across, building networks and bridges and the result is what we saw on Saturday, March 28 and April 11, 2015. Now, can any leader in the South East achieve this feat? Where is the character? Where is the courage? Where is the wisdom and understanding? Where is the common sense? Where is the discipline? Where is the capacity and capability?
After the 2015 elections where Igbo lost deposit by putting all their eggs in one basket without doing their political and arithmetic calculations very well, many Igbo leaders claimed that Igbo voted right. They have argued that Igbo made the right political choices given the circumstances on the ground then. Dr Ebigwe, Senator Ekweremmadu, Ken Nnamani, Professor Anya O. Anya, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Peter Obi, Ohaneze, Aka Ikenga, Ndigbo Lagos, MASSOB, and even Igbo in diaspora spoke with one voice that Igbo voted well by pitching their tent with Jonathan. Yes, Igbo have said they voted right but in actions and deeds, they have been busy looking for ways to sneak into APC.
After President Buhari trounced Jonathan on 28th March, 2015 panic gripped Igbo politicians, businessmen and women and the traders. They have been running helter skelter looking for where to seek refuge. I remember a night in the house of a very successful Igbo trader in Ikoyi, shortly after the presidential election when it became obvious that PMB had carried the day. They gathered to contribute money to support APC. Even those who travelled home for the Easter holiday donated money from the East just to belong. I felt ashamed that my people cannot defend their honour and integrity even in times of trouble.
On Saturday, 25th July, 2015, a group who worked against APC in Lagos called Igbo United Political Forum organized a reception to honour Governor Rochas Okorocha. Behind the smokescreen was an attempt to sneak through the back door to APC, having missed the front door on March 28 and April 11, 2015. The organizers reaped what they sowed as all the APC leaders they invited stayed away. They licked their wounds and went home to cry. Time and space will not permit me to recall various moves our people have made to find their way to APC. Those who are still very angry about the colossal loss have pitched their tent with the Biafra mantra. When we lose out in National politics as a result of myopic and timid political thinking and calculations the next move is to resort to ethnic politics. Nobody is deceived.
My humble submission is that Igbo should learn how to play opposition politics and the time to do so is now. Igbo will not die if they are not in APC or government in power. After all Yoruba have been in opposition for a long time since the 60s and yet they have not perished. Let Igbo work with other PDP leaders across Nigeria to start re-strategizing, repositioning, rebranding and rebuilding of PDP. This is the way to political rebirth and redemption. If you have many bushes to clear, you have to sharpen your knife very well.
—Igbokwe is APC publicity secretary for Lagos State.
What do you think?