After reading that former President Olusegun Obasanjo has canvassed the emergence of the next Nigerian president from the south-east geopolitical zone, I suspected he had voiced a decision of the kingmakers.
Nobody becomes Nigeria’s president without the endorsement of the kingmakers also called “godfathers”, “the cabal” or “the mafia”. Elections are mere rubberstamps.
Like everyone else, I know an Igbo will become president someday, so long as the south-east remains an important part of Nigeria. My personal projection was that this would happen in 2023, after President Buhari’s two terms. That Obasanjo wants it to happen sooner rather than later must rank as one of the surprises I’ve witnessed in Nigerian politics.
I’ve no thanks to give Obasanjo for recognising that it’s time to let someone from the south-east become Nigeria’s president. Nigeria was founded on a tripod: Eastern, Western and Northern regions. A pot won’t balance well on a tripod that has lost one of its legs. Having a Nigerian president from the south-east is likely to kill current agitations for Biafra instantly, and turn Nigeria into one of the fastest-developing nations on earth. But these may happen only when the godfathers choose a true leader from the south-east, not from the type Mr Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa (“Charly Boy”) has called “scammers, riffraff and fraudsters in the Ibo Kingdom called leaders”. When it comes to appointments, Obasanjo is not noted for selecting the best from the south-east.
2019 is not far away. Already, a few aspirants have begun making their fireworks. What is not clear is whether President Buhari has chosen the “Mandela option” – a decision to quit after his first term in 2019. Or could it be the reason former Senate president Kenechukwu Nnamani, Jim Nwobodo and scores of other politicians recently joined the APC? It’s perhaps the Igbo’s moment!
Desirable as it is to have a presidential candidate from the Igbo stock, I won’t support a non-credible one. In fact, it will be better to have a candidate that is untainted by the ills of the past – one who has never played Nigerian politics either as a civilian or as a military man.
After reading Oputa’s essay last week, I was tempted to suggest that he run for the office whenever the whistle goes. I put up a post on Facebook asking friends to comment on the likelihood of electing Oputa. There have been many negatives and a few positives! But I’ve reminded my friends that Donald Trump of the United States has shattered all the rules. During a conversation with a Hausa-Fulani friend, sometime in July 2015, I told him that Trump could emerge the Republican Party’s candidate and go ahead to win election as president. He laughed heartily, and then asked me, “Can Charly Boy win a presidential election in Nigeria?” “Why not?” I said, and he started laughing again.
I plead with all Nigerians to consider the candidacy of non-conformists like Oputa for the job next time. Nothing says an entertainer can’t make a good leader. Ronald Reagan was an actor, as was Arnold Schwarzenegger who became governor of California. And now here is Donald Trump, a real estate businessman who was also into show-business.
It is in the DNA of the average Igbo to seek progress wherever they are. In this period of economic recession (or depression), Nigeria will benefit immensely from this trait. The new president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, has just written in the same vein: “I am aware that in the DNA of the average Igbo person are bold strands of ingenuity, resourcefulness, intelligence and the ability to survive and thrive in the face of various odds and challenges. This is our gift from the Almighty God which has served us well, again and again. Ndigbo constitute the arteries and veins upon which the Nigerian economy runs.
“The head of the political division of the American Embassy, Abuja, once said that Ndigbo constitute the largest block of highly educated black population in the United States and that they are all in significant professional occupations. He stated that if Ndigbo in America saved 40% of their earnings, it would be more than half of the total annual oil revenue of Nigeria.”
Through a set of written and unwritten rules, Ndigbo have been marginalised for too long. That is so clear that even the blind see it. However, there can’t be any justification for shutting out the most hardworking, dynamic, technologically savvy part of the country from “strategic” positions all these years. The greatest losers have been Nigeria and all Nigerians. Does this not explain why the nation has been marching backwards while Malaysia, Singapore, India, the Koreas and others that started with Nigeria on equal footing have been far ahead? We have been sacrificing competence on the altar of mediocrity all these years just to “punish” – and not to benefit from – the race that produced “ogbunigwe” and rocket launchers, made trucks and tanks from scraps, refined fuel at kitchens, built airstrips overnight and achieved other incredible feats more than 47 years ago. Under an Igbo presidency, Nigeria won’t crumble. Nigeria will begin to overtake the “Asian Tigers”.
To make this dream realisable, let thoughtful Ndigbo curtail the excesses of their brothers who are wont to boast or talk others down. They can only reach out to others in an atmosphere of peace and friendliness. Needless to add, it’s in Igbo’s interest to keep the country as one. Rather than seek a separate state, we should expand into ECOWAS and the AU.
It’s time to forgive all and forget all. The current leadership of Nigeria headed by President Buhari should let Nnamdi Kanu and others detained for their perceived threats go. Peace and justice come before progress in any nation.
Muhammadu Buhari has been president for 20 months. I say congratulations to the man I admired more when he first ruled as head of state. He was four days short of his 20th month in office when the Babangida coup occurred on August 27, 1985.
Now that he has achieved this milestone, President Buhari should work to make his admirers happier than they were in 1985. He still has two more years to make a mark.
This column is wishing him a fruitful tenure and at least 30 more years of good health on earth. Down with rumour-mongers!
by Aniebo Nwamu