For Ndigbo, another chance beckons in 2019. Yes, in 2019, Nigeria will go through another election process. After the self-inflicted tragedy of 2015, the coming election should be an opportunity for Igbo to mend or further mar their chances in a Nigeria that is built on multi-ethnic chassis. Will it be a period for Igbo to undo the mistake they did to themselves in 2015, which has worsened their fate? Will Ndigbo use that golden opportunity to make political peace with the rest of Nigeria and most importantly, signify their intent, their readiness, and their suitability to handle the baton in 2023? Or will Ndigbo fail to seize the current and rather make another egregious political miscalculation that will reduce their chances of leading the country in 2023? These are critical questions, whose answers are still whirling in the wind but which, one way or the other, must be answered by how well the Igbo play their card in 2019.
To be clear, Igbo made an egregious mistake in 2015, by packing all their political eggs in one fragile basket. Call it political naivety. Call it political myopia or anything but it was a costly mistake that boomeranged. The ripple effects of that regrettable political mistake resonate in the noisome clanging the Igbo have made their primary business in Nigeria since 2015. That mistake finds expression in a poorly articulated and awfully hatched Biafran utopia, whose contradictions charges fully at the chaotic demand for it. Ndigbo may strive to underplay the effects of the 2015 political mistake but the acrimonious darts and furious allegations of marginalization and dissenting clamors that emanated after the 2015 election show that Igbo is faced with the consequences of its political choice in the last election. As escapist as the Biafra agitation is, Ndigbo must stay in Nigeria and fight it out with other constituent units. Demanding to be given Biafra, with all the inchoate arguments and the real promises of a more conflicting life in the said Biafra, if granted, amounts to a defeatist way of walking away from a problem one inflicted on oneself and which one must confront.
To get what they desire or what belongs to them in Nigeria, Ndigbo must realize that there is no shortcut; there is no room for the self-pity, which had dotted most of their agitations since 2015. There is no room for beggarly appeal. There is no room for the victim mentality the race has stubbornly stuck to. There is no room for the kind of group think Ndigbo have adopted since 2015. Ndigbo must realize that they will make their bed in Nigeria the way they want to lie on it. In politics, power is never given on a platter of gold. It doesn’t come for free. It doesn’t land on your laps just because you have made enough appeal to be pitied by others. It doesn’t come to you because you have made the loudest noise. It doesn’t come to you because you have cried loudest. It is struggled for and the best way to struggle for power is for a race to first, embrace introspection. This is a time the race goes into its inner covens, reviews its moves and strategies so far, tells itself the home truth and adopts new, workable and acceptable strategies to get what it wants.
Sadly, one of the major deficiencies Igbo have is the lack of capacity for introspection. Igbo have not yet fangled out a forum where it looks itself in the mirror and tells itself the truth, no matter how unpalatable it may be. This deficiency has accounted for why any reprobate, miscreant and scoundrel seizes the center stage, with cheap popular mantra and every other person follows. This is the sad stage Igbo are today and this can never elevate the race in any sphere of human endeavor, talk less of politics. Igbo must recreate its society and allow the philosopher-king to assume his rightful place to dictate where and how the society is headed. Igbo must disperse the illiterate rabble that has seized its throne and get for themselves a credible leadership that would not shirk from telling them the unpalatable truth and exile the rabble from the throne to the lowest rung of the society where it belongs. A tail does not wag the dog, as we are seeing in Igboland today.
Next, Igbo must evolve a credible political leadership that is not ruled by selfish and narrow interests and who will not sink the collective ship for its self-interest. This blight has been the singular most portent atrophy that has held Igbo down at present. Those clubs of evergreen political profiteers who have made a life business of making a profit from Ndigbo must be retired. This emergent political leadership must sit down and mobilize the good brains in Igboland to chart a political way forward. No one should be afraid of hearing dissenting opinions on how best to achieve the goals. No one should seek to take the quest to the unthinking mob, believing to reap the aftermath. This is what led Igbo to the political valley it is in today. Whatever political roadmap Ndigbo comes up, en route and beyond 2019 should take full regard that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural entity so whatever political course must adequately take care of the interests, the fears and the assurances of other ethnic groups. It must, while attending to the Igbo political needs, accommodate the fears and interests of others.
Then, Igbo must follow up by identifying political platforms that will make it practically possible for them to realize their interests and build support for that platform. This, by no means, will amount to outlawing other platforms but rather the concentration of efforts at supporting or building such identified platform. Such platform could be APC, PDP, APGA or any other platform but Ndigbo must ensure they live with the consequences of supporting such platform and living with the aftermaths and not sulk or seek dismemberment because their chosen platform lost in an election. That means more than a narrow perspective will come into play in deciding what platform Igbo need to back to realize their political ambitions in Nigeria.
Based on the choice of platform, which I presume, must be built on future strengths and prospects, Ndigbo should proceed immediately to repair and rebuild damaged bridges with every other ethnic group in Nigeria. Igbo should employ its brightest and best for this task and ensure that no stone is left unturned in cementing the deep crevices that have been carelessly created in the bridge that links Ndigbo and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. The aim is to eliminate mutual suspicion, anger, and acrimony with other Nigerians for the 2019 and subsequent elections. Bridges mended, Ndigbo should look deep enough to get the best Igbo that is not only Igbo enough but trusted by other ethnic groups to steer the Nigerian ship to fruitful anchor and prepare such person for the 2023 presidency.
With the foregoing, Ndigbo can go into the 2019 election with deep conviction that whatever move they make in 2019 will affect the future relationship between Igbo and other Nigerians and of course, prepare the grounds for the long expected Igbo presidency in 2023. Igbo should note that how well they play the 2019 card will determine how they achieve the 2023 goal. If they misuse their cards again in 2019, they must embrace the reality that their 2023 quest for the nation’s presidency will get greatly damaged.
On the other hand, if Igbo elects to approach the 2019 election with the reigning post-2015 election mindset, with the grudge, bitterness and deep-seethed anger they are carrying over from their historical mistake of 2015, then they should be prepared to warm that role longer than 2023. After 2023, they will realize the truth in the saying that power is never surrendered on a platter of gold. One has to work to get the power he dreams of. Again, it is very difficult in Nigeria today to get power while antagonizing or working at cross purpose with the majority of other Nigerians. It is impossible to get power while building a wall of hatred, antagonism, and bitterness. It is impossible to access power while erecting reclusive garrisons around one self. We must open up, reach out to others and generate a pan-country understanding that will tremendously assist us to realize our just political ambition. How we play our cards in 2019 will determine how ready we are for power and Ndigbo must start now to work towards making the very best use of that golden opportunity. Posterity will not spare Ndigbo if they fail again to make use of this golden window.
Biafra? Perish that thought. It is an unrealizable utopia for now.
Peter Claver Oparah
This article was first published in September 2017. The 2019 election has come and gone and the question of Igbo presidency in 2023 has risen to make the re-publication of this article imperative