I have been married for about nine years now. My experience in my nearly a decade of being grafted to another being has taught me to maintain the sacrality of my union. No interloper allowed, even at times when the tempting thing to do is to succumb to the emotion of letting in an outsider.
I have come to understand that not all those who come to grief with you or provide you a shoulder to recline on at your time of vulnerability are really ‘’grieving with you’’. Most will exploit your low point to arrogate to themselves some importance and even offer gratuitous suggestions to nail you to the wall of guilt.
This is the sitch of the Igbo in Nigeria today. Everyone is now an adroit opinionist on what the ethnic nationality must do to ‘’get presidency’’, as if the group is one undeserving lot that has to grovel to get its due.
I must admit we have our own peculiar challenges as a people, and so do other ethnic nationalities in the country.
Really, I reckon as condescending the statement of Ismaila Isa Funtua, an associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, that the south-east must review its ways of playing politics in order to get the presidency.
He said the Igbo do not play inclusive politics and they like “do things on their own”.
According to him, “They (Igbo) should belong. They should join the party. They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo, we should dash them the president? That was the reason I said is it turn by turn Nigeria Limited?”
He also said: “With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the south-west chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near the power. To a large extent, the north in terms of religion and culture are closer to the south-west than to the south-east. When Ekwueme contested (for the PDP ticket), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo defeated him.
“I know Nigerian politics, you chose your candidate who will be able to bring votes to you to win election, not on regional basis, not on tribal basis. Is he going to be the president of the North, East, South-west, South-south or whatever? If the Ibo wants to be president, then they must belong. If you don’t belong, then you can’t be the president.”
As a matter of fact, Funtua’s statement reeks of corpulent arrogance, bigotry and acute sense of entitlement. It reinforces the stereotype that his section of the country bullies any region that does not kiss the ring of the caliphate.
If Funtua says ‘’Nigeria is not turn by turn limited’’, then is our unity still non-negotiable? Why should any group stay in the union when they are by design sequestered from taking the lead role in the marriage? You cannot hold a people in abusive nuptials, and still insist on relegating them to subjects.
I need to emphasise this, we have always pledged to Nigeria’s unity. But we have not gone beyond this perfunctory humbug to work at it. How can we assert, “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”; yet we constantly chip away at the umbilical cord that holds us together?
It is obvious that the ‘’leadership quarantine’’ of the south-east is deliberate. The region may never be considered good enough to hold the highest office in the land no matter how much it bends over backwards. Really, what does Funtua mean by ‘’the Igbo must belong’’. They must submit themselves as vassals? I do not get it because there are many Igbo politicians and supporters of the APC. In fact, my staunchest critics are members of the APC from the south-east.
Political balance is a sine qua non for nation building. We cannot pontificate on unity and be insensitive to issues of political equity. The fons et origo of strife in society is inequity and imbalance.
How do we build an inclusive country with deeply lacerated political imbalances? How do we foster oneness with this depressing level insensitivity to matters of national unity? Igbo presidency in 2023 is an issue too critical to ignore.
A country as enormous, diverse and delicate as Nigeria cannot evolve organically when a part of it is marooned and confined to the fringes of political exclusion. The argument has always been, “the Igbo are not ready”, and “they are not playing the right politics”. But this argument is classically insipid and hollow. In fact, it is an untenable rationalisation of the marginalisation of the Igbo.
It is now a moral burden on Nigeria that a president of Igbo extraction emerges in 2023. If we are serious about our unity, then we must take cognisance of the country’s sensitivities. Our unity becomes truly not-negotiable, when all Nigerians matter.