2023: Who Really Is An Igbo?

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Ike Abonyi

By Ike Abonyi

IT’S not possible to be in favour of justice for some people and not be in Favour of Justice for all people” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) began its 2020 General Conference on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The conference has elicited unusual interests from both lawyers and non-lawyers because of the controversy generated by the invitation and the de-invitation of the controversial Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as one of the speakers at the conference. El-Rufai’s inclusion incensed a cross-section of young lawyers in the NBA family who articulated their grievances to their leaders who also could not overlook the weighty issues raised by the youngsters-lawyers. The theme of the conference for which El-Rufai was scheduled to speak is “Who is a Nigerian?….

A Debate on National Identity.” I am a strong believer that no one is really a Nigerian going by all the nation’s socio-political challenges since independence in 1960. Rather we are all ethnic bigots parading as nationalists when standing in front of cameras and newsmen and tribal champions in our hearts and actions. That is why after the irresistible points raised by the anti-El-Rufai lawyers, some persons are still working hard to inject ethnic and religious sentiments to it.

The El-Rufai imbroglio has inadvertently kick-started the debate on the theme of the NBA conference long before the actual meeting. Can anything happen in Nigeria that will not have ethnic identity? We all actually belong there and living a pretentious life as Nigerians.

The real problem with Nigeria is saying we are what we are not. NBA action against El-Rufai seemed patriotic but the reactions from a section of the body based on ethnic and religious inclinations say it all who we really are, a people driven by ethnic and religious considerations over and above national interest. Those who thought that El-Rufai’s antecedents are not patriotic enough to merit him such privileged platform and that he should not be given the opportunity to reap from a farm he did not partake in the sowing may be driven by reason and genuine concern for the society. But what do we say of his scrubby supporters without any cogent or verifiable reasons? They have their own definition of justice and they have followers.

Political Musing colloquy this week is actually centred on identity crisis as it pertains to some Ndigbo in our polity ahead of 2023. The issue of Nigerian President of Igbo extraction has been in the front burner in our political conversations for long and it’s just necessary that we get it very clear who is an Igbo in this instance. A crisis develops in one’s identity when he/she is unsure of his role in life or you feel either you or people around you do not know the real you. The Jewish psychologist who developed the identity crisis theory, Erik Erikson believes that it’s one of the conflicts people face in development.

He defines an identity crisis as a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. Erikson’s study derives from his own background; he was raised a Jew and he appeared a Scandinavian and often he felt outside in both of them. Identity crisis is as old as history and biblical also.

Even Jesus in his days while on earth tried to resolve it while preaching in the City of Caesarea Philippi when he asked the famous question to his Apostles, who do the people say I am? Recall that it was Peter’s correct answer to the question that merited him the enviable status of the Rock of the Church and also helped in resolving the identity issue of Jesus to the Apostles.

It also marked the institutionalizations of the Church on earth as a rock for those in faith. Lately, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has been flaunting his Igboness ahead of 2023 against the backdrop of his ambition and the growing inclination for a President of Igbo extraction. Until lately Amaechi uses to be known as an Ikwere man from Rivers State although their language and culture are Igbo, they stopped being Igbo after the civil war to ensure the full execution of the unfortunately abandoned property fallout.

For purposes of ambition and 2023, Amaechi has been trying to bring himself back to be Igbo and this has been generating some if squabbles among the Ikweres. But for the rest of Ndigbo in the South-East and Delta State, the Ikweres are Igbo that is why they always have somebody in the executive of the umbrella body of Ndigbo, the Ohanaeze and the leadership rotation of the body also includes both Rivers and Delta states. This identity crisis is not peculiar to Amaechi alone. The Sarakis in Kwara State also go through similar situation. I recall as a political reporter in second republic, the challenge the elder Saraki, the second republic Senate leader, Dr. Olusola Abubakar Saraki had when he contested for Presidency over who he was, whether a Yoruba or a Fulani.

He printed three campaign posters, one in babariga with Abubakar as his name for the North, one in Buba with Olusola for the Yoruba of the South-West and another on suit with the two names for the other parts of the country. In one of the media chats he explained it jokingly “those of us who are lucky to be from more than one place shouldn’t fail to take the advantage.”

So it seemed at a point but it still had enormous disadvantages also for him. The Yoruba never really accepted him as one of them as they saw him more as a Fulani, the Fulani also took him more to be Yoruba and not a full Fulani. The current Chief of Staff also from Kwara State faces similar crisis, he likes his Yoruba name Agboola but finds Ibrahim more politically gratifying for obvious reason.

In this light, therefore, can Rotimi Amaechi Presidency be regarded as an Igbo Presidency? If a Saraki becomes President will the South- West dominated by the Yoruba take it as Yoruba Presidency? But the truth of the matter is that the so-called Igbo President is a blackmail. Nobody hears of Yoruba or Fulani Presidency, only Igbo, why?

The power zoning has never been on ethnic basis but on regional basis. When Olusegun Obasanjo took it, was it not for the South-West? When Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari took it, was it not for the North although the duo are Fulani? Even when Goodluck Jonathan came by default was it an Ijaw thing or the South-South? What is emerging in all these are deliberate creation of an alibi for the shortchanging of the South-East. For some people, the geographical entity called Nigeria is better off without the South-East zone. To such people what you can get in other places why go to the South-East? If Nigeria’s political elite are ready and willing to hand over power to the South-East, it should do so and not be injecting tribalism and turning a geographically induced zoning arrangement to an ethnic one just to ensure that the region remains out of it in some person’s lifetime.

If the truth as Ghandi said never damages a cause that is just, why all the rigmaroles and extra tasking to show unfairness to the people of the South-East. Everybody knows it as a fact today that nothing will calm the political nerve of this country more than producing a President of South-East extraction in 2023. Anything otherwise without a restructuring of this country would be like sleeping on one’s urine, getting wet and absorbing the smell all at the same time. People should therefore not be afraid to deliver justice to people if really they cherish fairness in their own life endeavour.

It’s perhaps due to this clever by half scheming going on to ensure that power never gets to the South-East that has made many Ndigbo agree to this African proverb as it concerns the ruling class that “Corn can’t expect justice from a court composed of chickens”.

Nigeria political elite is trying to make justice a game and shame is such a country. Everybody pretends to be working for peace in the country, yet they refuse to imbibe Martin Luther King Jr’s definition that ‘true peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.”

If therefore Nigeria is now ready to end the civil war after 50 years by giving an Igbo the Presidency of this country, it should go ahead and do it correctly by going to the South-East. As I conclude this discourse, I recommend an Igbo saying to Nigeria leaders which urges us to ‘salute the deaf; if the heavens don’t hear, the earth will hear’. God help this country.

 

This column by Ike Abonyi was first published in New Telegraph

– Aug. 27, 2020 @ 12:35 GMT |

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