Opinion: Ndigbo: Between political leadership and native strategic advantage

By Steve Orji

Ndigbo may have been possibly characterised as the “weeping” ethnic group of the Nigeria tripod. It is for their unrelenting outcry of “marginalisation” in a country they feel sufficiently entitled for eminence.  Rightly so!

There has since been a ring of cynical disaffection in the Igbo discourse. That alone is another fuel in the already burning hearth of the Igbo quest for self-determination.

It does not do anyone any good to either deny or impugn the fact that Ndigbo is considered a major irritant, an undisguised threat to the claim of supremacy of the other ethnic groups in Nigeria. This is often denied by the prattling politicians and ethnic lords who have since tried to exploit the situation to score strategic political advantage for their own enclaves.

Contemporary political realities in the country, considering the marginal or non-existent presence of state-enabled incentives in Igboland, can only reinforce the historical reasons by successive governments in using every possible means to scupper the Igbo enterprise. Namely, Igbo’s achieved audacious national success almost in every important sector of the nation in a short time within the colonial context.  This gave the Igbos commanding presence on the national stage.

Of course, it was not going to be an endearing native virtue for Ndigbo to the rest of their comrades.

It was to become the seed of the genetic fear and loathsome disaffection for Igbo people by the rest of Nigeria. Soon enough, this kind of morbid fear put on glaring attire during and after the civil war, and has since become a part of an unwritten charter in Nigeria’s political catalogue. Hatred for Ndigbo and means to scuttle their prominence are good business for Nigeria.

Ndigbo to date stifles from the thick-plot conspiracy of the Nigeria state, and the thrust of such conspiracies was meant to frighten, intimidate or completely dislodge the aspiration of the Igbo people from attaining consequential political positions in Nigeria.

There are questions that naturally sneak up on the podium of our political spin rooms, considering the loss of viability of a centrally managed Nigeria system; how dire is the need for Igbo presidency?

Should Ndigbo approach the quest for national political leadership in Nigeria with a do-or-die temperament? The response to these rather rhetorical questions is as follows:

Ndigbo already have well-honed survival instincts that can put them on a vantage position in the Nigeria scheme. The burgeoning commercial energy of Ndigbo and their exploits in technology and education are all potent virtues that have burnished their credentials as giants of fate, coming through a civil war that pulverised their enormous achievements into mere rubble. The gift of enterprise, a bold and unwavering audacity is already an enormous strategic advantage for Ndigbo. Ndigbo quickly shook off the backlash of the war and have since reclaimed their social and economic viability. No thanks to Nigeria.

The quest for ministerial positions and political power at the national level by Ndigbo could well prove a distraction to the more strategic vision of forging an autonomous economic and commercial enclave for themselves that will make political ascendency in Nigeria an inferior ambition.

Nigeria’s plot to dismember the Igbo political unit partially paid off. It was a tactical move by the then federal government with the help of the British government to have balkanised the territories that shared historical and political fate with Ndigbo, the Delta and Igbo-speaking communities of southern Nigeria, a ploy that poisoned the fountain of the Igbo fraternal political community.

The resulting states created out of then then eastern Nigeria by the Gowon administration, would rather seek political autonomy for themselves than galvanise solidarity with its Igbo political ancestry, and this came on the backdrop of sustained inducements by Nigeria’s political elites, to further weaken the foothold of Ndigbo in Nigeria’s political turf.

Like Okonkwo lamented in Chinua Achebe’s things fall apart, “the Whiteman put a knife on the thing that held us together and we can no longer act as one”. At present, Ndigbo may not likely achieve any meaningful strategic political partnership with any group, even with its estranged kinsmen, knowing how deep and profound the disaffection for Ndigbo stands at this point in time.

Enough cry of woes by Ndigbo. Enough sulking. Enough blame and self-pity. Enough of the victim-mentality. Ndigbo have all it takes to sublimate their lacklustre political fate in Nigeria into a strategic advantage.

What have the Igbo governors and leaders done so far in rehabilitating the innate innovative capacities of Ndigbo which garnered eminence and respect for them in the Nigeria context, years past?

What Nigeria cannot defeat is the Igbo persona and essence. The five Igbo states have sufficient strategic assets in terms of human capacity and creative resilience to advance the forte’ of Ndigbo beyond the perennial cry of “marginalisation” and “Igbo presidency”.

The development index of the Igbo states, coupled with an attractive macroeconomic environment could well prove attractive to discourage migration to states outside their domains. In spite of the lack of federal presence in Igbo land, Igbo land is humming with new energy a spark of living hope. Strategic entrepreneurs of worth are emerging in igboland, growing profile and spread of Diaspora resources, fertile sense of a new Igbo nationalism, profound investments in education, all provide inspiring force to the reality of the Igbo dream.

Should the leaders of the Igbo nation weld together like they did in war times, the governors of the five-star states of Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi and Imo aspire to lead a charge in providing resourceful and revolutionary leadership that will impact the whole of Igboland, its people, agree to foster the vision of  building Ndigbo to become the emerging 21st century power house, it will only be a matter of time  for the Igbo nation to hoist the flag of a new nation, not as nation outside Nigeria but a land that teems with prosperity and enduring success. This in itself will be a critical mass, a towering force; an all conquering march that Nigeria could have elusively tried to stop but couldnt. And may never!

Even an Igbo president cannot achieve this. Punch

Orji is a social entrepreneur and policy analyst based London, United Kingdom

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