Ndigbo. Let not your heart be troubled

3 months ago | 590

Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu

By Prof. A.B.C Nwosu

I became greatly rattled after reading Mr. Ike Abonyis excellent write-up titled: “South East, PDP, and matters Arising”, on the back page of the “DAILY TELEGRAPH” Newspaper of Thursday May5, 2016. It was an incisive and illuminating piece that contained plenty of food for thought for Ndigbo, the PDP, the APC and Nigeria. He began with a quote that reminds us that “one cannot cross a sea by merely standing and staring at the water” and then posed the all-important question: “should the South-East remain in the Peoples Democratic Party?”

This burning life or death question has been, since 2015, the subject of enlightened Igbo political discourse since the emergence of the APC – controlled Federal government under President Buhari. This is not surprising as the Southeast voted massively against APC in the 2015 elections and has no regrets about its action. Personally, the write-up has provoked me into very serious thinking about my politics, Ndigbo and Nigeria. However, for me the central issue is whether the South East and Ndigbo have at this moment any alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party PDP). Put differently, is it in their best interests for Ndigbo to embrace the APC and the President Buhari led Federal Government which has in one year clearly demonstrated an intense dislike for Ndigbo and the South-East like no other Federal Government in recent history? Even the post Nigeria – Biafra war Supreme Military Councils (the highest decision-making organs of the Federal Government at the time) included at least one member from the then East Central State.

It was from this precarious post–1970 position of the then East Central State that Ndigbo rebounded, armed only with their God-given “Igbo DNA” and faith in Nigeria; the punitive and wicked “Banking Obligations (Eastern States) Decree of 1970” i.e. the £20 ex-gratia nonsense notwithstanding. In spite of the celebrated but not implemented 3Rs policy of the Federal Government there was no East Central State Reconstruction Commission. Yet Ndigbo survived and rebuilt their destroyed homes and social institutions at such a rate that by 1979 when the Second Republic was ushered in Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the Vice-President and the South-East had a viable “Voice” and “influence” at the center because of the NPN – NPP accord. Since the advent of the Third Republic in 1999, especially from the post-Obasanjo era, Igbo voice and South-East influence at the center has been on the decline. President Obasanjo whatever his shortcomings, had labored to build truly Nigerian decision-making organs and institutions. For example, the choice of the Vice President, the zoning of the offices of Senate President and Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, the appointments of Chief of Staff, Secretary of Government, National Security Adviser etc. reflected “National Character” without compromising competence. Even in the initiation and composition of the Board of EFCC under Ribadu, President Obasanjo ensured that the six geopolitical zone structure of the country was not violated.

The PDP–Presidents had been made by the Party to realize that for effective government and harmonious socio-political and economic discourse in Nigeria, ethnic groups, big and not-so-big, should be given a say in the exercise of “Federal power.” This is to say that no group should be excluded in organs, caucuses, and bodies where key “Federal” decisions affecting all zones are taken. Not to do this is VERY BAD POLITICS which always generates tensions and is antithetical to good governance. Put simply BAD POLITICS and GOOD GOVERNANCE cannot co-exist because bad politics always begets bad policies and bad governance. Therefore, the continued existence and stability of our dear country depends to a large extent on how Presidents and our political leaders accept this matter of “inclusive politics” as an imperative.

Today there is a very bad feeling by Ndigbo (a significant ethic group comprised in Nigeria) that as a people they are being deliberately excluded in the exercise of political power in Nigeria. This bad feeling is very widespread among Igbo Youths, exacerbated by unemployment and hopelessness regarding their future as Nigerians. As presently configured, the political influence of the South-East geopolitical zone in the APC and the President Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria is zero. Zip! Any Igbo person, and indeed any Nigerian, who does not see this is either an appointee of the Federal Government, or is politically blind, or a plain political opportunist. And any Igbo person who is happy with the situation needs to have his “Igbo DNA” reanalyzed. Ike Abonyis write-up reminds us that group politics is not like a singles tennis game because any geopolitical zone whose group negotiating power is weak in the major political parties becomes weak and effete and marginalized and remains confined to the fringes in the exercise of Federal power in Nigeria. Even the very existence of that ethnic group in the polity becomes threatened.

So, with this as background should the South-East remain in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? My position is that Ndigbo should look at recent happenings and use their tongues to count their teeth. Two very recent examples will suffice to bring the South-East situation in today’s Nigeria home to every Igbo person.

The first is the brutal murder of Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme in Kano, and the second is the Nimbo massacre in Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State. The intense and bestial nature of the two incidents are troubling to the extreme – a criminal brutal, beating to death in Kano of Septuagenarian Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme, in front of her husband whilst the public watched and did nothing; (reminiscent of the beheading of Gideon Akaluka followed by a victory dance with his head in the same Kano, decades ago); and the Nimbo early morning massacre where the perpetrator Fulani herdsmen delighted in taking macabre pictures of the death throes of their victims who were slaughtered in their God-given village. Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

With these two horrid incidents at the back of my mind I analysed the reported closed-door meeting of the national Security Council on Thursday 30th June 2016. THE PUNCH Newspaper of Friday 1st July 2016 (p.15) listed Security Chiefs and officials of the Federal government who attended the meeting. Neither Security Chiefs nor officials of the Federal government present at the meeting was from the South East. It was not so with the other five geopolitical zones of the country. For the South-East and Ndigbo this meeting stands out as a clear demonstration of their exclusion from Nigeria. There is no other way of looking at it. The truth is that in the current President Buhari-led APC Federal Government, no Igbo person has been found good enough or can be trusted enough to be brought into the inner circle of decision-making in Nigeria. This is a bad development and a bad augury for national cohesion. The truth also is that it hurts Ndigbo very badly to see themselves and the entire South-East geopolitical zone being completely excluded from important decision-making organs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Federal Government which their grandfathers and fathers played a significant role in bringing and nurturing into being.

I shall now conclude on what I consider to be the major concern of Ndigbo in Nigeria – the issues of good governance, sustained nation-building and national development, and the creation of a just, fair and caring society under a democratic and truly “Federal” Government that cares for ALL and not just for SOME citizens of Nigeria.

The “Igbo DNA” equipped Ndigbo to embrace the entire Nigeria before and after independence as a welcome outlet for their enterprise, and not to treat others as they would not like to be treated. Consequently, Ndigbo regarded every part of Nigeria as “home”, establishing shops, hospitals, schools, hotels and various businesses outside Igboland and contributing in no small measure to the development and internal revenues (IGRS) of non-Igbo States. Numerous times Ndigbo have paid a heavy price with Igbo-blood for their peripatetic nature and enterprising spirit. The most serious challenge which they now face in this APC-led Federal Government is that of establishing their full citizenship under a Buhari Presidency. They are very determined that their marginalization (which is very acute in this administration) should stop because Ndigbo cannot and will not be second class citizens in their own country.

It is to address this challenge that Ndigbo have been unrelenting in their insistence for restoring Nigeria to TRUE FEDERALISM which was the form of Government negotiated by the founding fathers of Nigeria at independence in 1960. Departure from TRUE FEDERALISM (including FISCAL FEDERALISM), caused by the Nigeria – Biafra war and prolonged military rule has stymied the growth and development of Nigeria and produced SUBORDINATE beggar-Federating Units which constantly seek for BAIL-OUT FUNDS; instead of economically buoyant States running competitive COORDINATE governments as the Federating Units. Ndigbo are therefore in full support of extensive devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources (funds) from the centre to the Federating Units. (Whether these Federating Units are States as presently configured or as Regions as per the geopolitical zones does not matter!). For Nigeria to resume rapid and sustained national development and nation-building, TRUE FEDERALISM must be restored in order to check delinquent States from forgetting their roles as Federating Units and running to the centre for bail-out funds!

Many prominent Nigerians including Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Alhaji Balarabe Musa have expressed support for restructuring. Recently, the traditional rulers at their national meeting in Abuja have given support to the 2014 National Conference. Yet some have turned deaf ears to the widespread desire and agitations for restructuring Nigeria and restoring it to TRUE FEDERALISM. These very well-placed Nigerians regard calls for “restructuring” and TRUE FEDERALISM as a distraction, and the 2014 National Conference as a non-event. They say that the real problem is good governance and development. They are mistaken. Take the Minister of Solid Minerals who has invited States to participate in the exploitation of solid minerals in their States. I wonder how this can be done without changing item no 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which lists: “Mines and Minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas”. States’ participation in mining is therefore a hollow promise in the face of this item in our Federal Constitution. The committee on Devolution of Powers of the 2014 NATIONAL Conference adjourned five items on this thorny and vexed issue. I was a member of that Committee and know that devolving or even modifying item No. 39 is not an easy matter. We wait to see how this Government shall divorce solid minerals from petroleum and gas from item 39.

Many have expressed fears as to whether Nigeria can survive without restructuring and extensive devolution of powers, responsibilities and funds to the Federating Units from the Centre. (The bail-out funds to States are a ridiculous concept in a Federal State). Many have also expressed fears as to what might happen should Nigeria fail to restructure and should President Buhari’s well-intentioned efforts fail to yield the desired results. I recall that similar fears were expressed during President Obasanjo and President Jonathan resulting ultimately in the 2014 National Conference. Yet Nigeria stutters on; alive yes, but unable to realize its potential. This is because Nigeria is bigger than any single person – President or no President. However, it is now time to stop the drift and take the bull by the horns to restore Nigeria to TRUE FEDERALISM.

The story has been told of a young lady seated calmly in the business class of an aero plane, reading her book unperturbed in the middle of a really strong turbulence whilst all around her there was panic. When she was asked why she was unperturbed, she responded that her father was the pilot. I see present day Nigeria as that plane in turbulence where Ndigbo are fully aware that their father is not the pilot, but still are calm because they know that the pilot cannot save his precious daughter alone.

It is either everyone in the plane survives, or everyone perishes. So, I say to Ndigbo “Let not your hearts be troubled”. Ndigbo are an important component of not only Nigeria, but of the world. We are a people who

should have disappeared from the face of the earth especially when decades ago we were massacred, bombed, blockaded and starved in a manner unprecedented in modern times, in order “to keep Nigeria One”, But we survived. Because survival skills are encoded in the “Igbo DNA”. Trusting in our God and ourselves we should therefore continue as nation-builders which the same “Igbo DNA” has condemned us to being. The Almighty God who created Ndigbo as a distinct human race and bequeathed this “Igbo DNA” to them ain’t finished with us yet. The bones shall rise.

***Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, former political Adviser to President Obasanjo is the former Minister of Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria wrote this piece on Wednesday, 6th July,  2016.

- Oct. 13, 2021 @ 3:22 GMT |

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