Hassan Gimba had written an article on the Igbo debacle, which was forwarded to a WhatsApp Forum in which I belong to. The write-up was very long and I confess I did not read all of it. But Hassan Gimba started with a familiar line of reasoning, in the Migerian discuss which I have chosen to concentrate on, in this write-up, and it is to the effect that , up to the Jonathan’s government , which terminated on May 29, 2015, Ndigbo had , for time immemorial, benefited and had always been included in governance and not excluded. I agreed with this view, but felt he had missed the crux of the matter . If I understand the crux of the matter correctly, it is about non- inclusion of the Igbos in the Buhari’s government, now, and not an issue of the past because the past belong to history. Whether or not the on going violence and threats in the South-east, are the right ways to express their grievances, depend as well, on the kind of reception given to the problems by Buhari and his government ? I responded and said :
Hassan Gimba, you are getting it wrongly. After all, if we use your line of reasoning, ( and I am not a spokesperson for the Ndigbo. They are more than qualified to defend their cause), wouldn’t we say that the Ndigbo dominated all parts of the Nigerian firmament right from before independence , up to July 1967 ? Wasn’t Azikiwe an Igbo ,the first President of independent Nigeria ? Have they not been participating in all governments proportionately, until now ? Did they not participate actively, under the Jonathan’s government?
The fact that they have been participating in the past, is not the crux of the matter if we are to understand their grievances well. The crux of the matter is that they feel Buhari’s government has not handled their inclusion in his government well. We do not understand the complaints to be about the past. By Buhari’s disposition and actions, he has tended to send signals, or show a “dislike” for the South-east. And this may not be for nothing. For the previous six Presidential elections Buhari participated in, the South-east can be said not to have voted for Buhari. Perhaps, in Buhari’s cabinet, apart from Ngige, and a few, others one may regard inconsequential, the Igbos feel side-lined by the Buhari regime. And Buhari does not seem remorseful for this inadvertance.He seems to maintain some air of justification for this.However, as President, he is President for all. The Ndigbos seem to have began to feel they were not wanted in this union called Nigeria. We must concede that they are humans, with emotions. It is a truism that people react differently to different situations. The Ndigbos may have felt one of the ways they can react to this non-inclusion is to say, “alright, since you do not like me, then I am opting out of the union.” “Afterall, we did not have a cogent reason in 1967, yet we chose to opt out.Today, the reasons are more obvious, and cogent ; so we want to opt out.” The Yorubas, inspite of being favoured in this dispensation, are also threatening to leave, and have come up with their Oduduwa Republic demand. But this particular agitation, by the Yorubas is understandable, if one looks at the circumstances. They include the fact that Buhari had tried for three previous times and did not make it to the Presidency. He only made it when he forged an alliance with the Yorubas. This alliance was on the understanding that after Buhari, it would be the turn of the Yorubas, and particularly, the arrow-head for that alliance–the Asiwaju, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But during Buhari’s final term, the Yorubas began to hear discordant tunes from the Hausa/Fulani, to the effect that the alliance agreement would not or may not kept, that any qualified person could be President. The arrow-head for this school of thought came from Buhari’s nephew , Mamman Daura, who is seen as the power behind the throne. The situation would seem dire for the Yorubas . Then ,their militant wings were revived and began to sing break-away songs. The formation of AMUTEKUN by the Yoruba Governors, took over. Those were signals to the Buhari government that they must stick to the initial agreement. Then, in the usual game of “divide and rule”, by the Hausa/Fulani, ( they are said to be adept at that, having learned it from the British), they began to reach out to the Governors of the South-south and the South- East. They are good at building bridges across the south, one part at a time, because they need only one part to stay atop. At least, that seems to explain the crossing over from the PDP to the ruling APC by the Governors in the south . The South-east Governors too had been moving to the ruling party . There seems to be a competition by the Governors on the crossing over game.
A former, one term President, of the South-South extraction, is being touted as a likely candidate for the Presidency by the north. The Igbo states’ Governors are not left behind in the competition, which was most likely engineered by the Hausa/Fulani of the North. Unfortunately, unlike the Yorubas, the Igbos seem to be novices in this complicated game of Nigerian politics. The militant wings of the Igbo aspirations have made matters worse for them and the Igbos in general. It seems it would be hard for the Igbos to win the sympathies of the other parts of Nigeria, for the Igbo cause. Things have not been helped by the Igbo “republican” nature of doing things. This nature is only good in commerce and business, where all moves are individualistic. But it is not good because of the prebendal nature of Nigerian politics. It is not yet certain, whether or not, Buhari and his northern people will still use the Igbos in the ” divide and rule” politics, against the Yorubas. They always keep their cards close to their chests. One of those cards is Goodluck Jonathan, who it is said , has support, not only in the South-south, but substantial following in almost all parts of the country, and this is based partly, on his previous appearance as President, and partly, based on party affiliation- the PDP, his party. It would seem the north does not intend to keep the Presidency very far from it, and hence the preference for Goodluck , who when elected, would only serve one term only. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the hawks( in the APC and the North, including Buhari), succeed in getting Goodluck to cross over to the APC, for that ticket. Certainly, by such an act, Goodluck’s hold on the PDP would become tenuous. When it becomes so, would that still be an advantage to the hawks in the APC and the north, who would want him to cross over ?
For the Igbos, I foresee a pitiable situation : it is like being between “the devil and the deep blue sea”. As politics is a game of numbers, it will be difficult to see how those positioning the eastern governors as the ” beautiful bride” , would still want to do so, particularly for a people who want to break away.
However, Nigerians should not take what is happening in the South-east lightly. If they are allowed to go, Oduduwa Republic will go as well, and the Middle-belt will go too. It is usually a conditional thing, with each group taking advantage of the moves by each. Even if this will involve war, I warn my Northern brothers to be very careful and not to rush into war thinking that the pattern would be like what happened in 1967–Jan. 1970. It will be everybody to himself, and nobody to the other, and probably the core north will be the target for revenge, for various reasons, by all the other groups. This must not happen. The solution lies with Buhari and his government. When you use the “stick” , you must also use the “carrot.” But in this case, the carrot is a better option. The stick can be used to tackle all the criminalities in all parts of the country. People, with no exception, must be held accountable for their actions, without exceptions. The constitution is there and the laws are there.May God help this country.
Joshua D Ephraim writes from Abuja