By Dons Eze, PhD
To have Nigeria restructured, and to have an Igbo President in 2023, are two things very dear to the Igbo at this point in time. The Igbo want Nigeria to be restructured, and they also want a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023.
It may be pertinent to point out, however, that not only the Igbo are agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria. Other ethnic groups in the country equally want Nigeria to be restructured.
But for the Igbo, in particular, which of these two should take precedence? That is to say, between having an Igbo President in 2023, and having a restructured Nigeria, which of the two should come first, or are the Igbo asking for both at the same time?
There is no doubt that majority of those who currently jump from one political party to the other, together with their likes, will prefer an Igbo President in 2023, to a restructured Nigeria. And they have many reasons for that.
One, the last time an Igbo man was at the commanding height of political power in Nigeria was about 54 years ago, in 1966. And it was for a very short period of six months. Since then, no Igbo man had called the shot at the summit of government, even when some other ethnic groups have ruled the country several times and over. Therefore, having an Igbo man seated at Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, in 2023, will be the most fulfilling and appropriate thing for the country.
Two, an Igbo President of Nigeria will give psychological satisfaction to the Igbo, a feeling of belongingness that they are now part and parcel of the entity called Nigeria. For long, the Igbo have seen themselves as second class citizens, having been denied the highest office in the land, no doubt, as a result of the role they played in the civil war that happened over fifty years ago. A Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023 will therefore heal the wounds of the civil war and reconcile Nigerians with themselves.
Third, it will be an opportunity for the Igbo to put their ingenuity at work for the benefit of all Nigerians. Thus, given the opportunity of an Igbo man occupying the highest seat in the land, he will mobilize his fellow Igbo brothers and sisters to support him in the task of building a great Nigeria. Hitherto, the Igbo have been playing from the sidelines, but having been accepted and integrated into the mainstream of Nigerian society, they will pull themselves together and put their patriotic zeal to ensure that the country attains greater heights.
Fourth, the Igbo are cosmopolitan and broad-minded. A forward-looking Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will treat all Nigerians on equal terms, and will encourage investment opportunities for everybody in all parts of the country.
For the Igbo, in particular, a visionary and courageous Igbo President in 2024, who is not a vassal or a willing tool of his masters, those who put him in power, who made him President, can do many things for the Igbo people.
First, he can fix all the dilapidated roads in the South East and make them motorable all year round. He also can fill all the erosion sites in the South East, which for many years have been threatening to swallow many towns and villages in the area.
Again, he can dredge all the major rivers in the South East and make them navigable, or link them to the Atlantic Ocean, so that Igbo land will no longer be landlocked.
Equally, he can link all the major towns in the South East, down to the seaport, Abuja and Lagos, with standard rail gauge, and also site strategic industries in the South East, in order to create employment opportunities for millions of unemployed Igbo youths, etc.
These are lofty tasks for the would-be Igbo President in 2023, and this will require someone with exceptional qualities of individual initiative, patriotic zeal, extra courage and personal commitment. But can we find these qualities among those currently jostling to be Igbo President in 2023, a President who will serve Nigeria diligently, and at the same time, is capable of driving the Igbo agenda or aspirations? May be, may not.
For long, we have been wondering, why, in spite of the struggles, the labours, the fights, by some Nigerians to have a President come from their own particular area, at the end of the day, such Presidents have ended up not living up to expectations, or failed to do anything meaningful for their people.
Olusegun Obasanjo was military Head of State as well as President of Nigeria for eleven and half years, yet Ogun State where he comes from, and the South West zone in general, could hardly point at anything he did for them.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari were from Katsina State and presided over the affairs of Nigeria for almost ten years, and still counting, yet Katsina State remains one of the poorest states in the country. That is why bandits have almost taken over the state, and have been slaughtering people everyday, while their own son, who is President and Commander-in-Chief of armed forces, could not do anything.
Equally, Goodluck Jonathan who is from Bayelsa State and had ruled the country for six years, could not even tar the only road leading to his village.
While some people may attribute all these to selfishness or self- serving, incompetence, opportunism, lily-liveredness or lack of political will, etc., at the base is the political structure of the country which hamstrungs, or which prevents any Presidents from realizing his set goals. Perhaps, an Igbo President in 2023 will be quite different! We hope that he will perform miracles and wonders for the South East, and thus breaks the jinx. We live to see it.
Generally, the Igbo are industrious, hard working and enterprising. They do not need any handout, or any special favour to survive. All they need is a level-playing field, and the creation of enabling environment to enable them ply their trade without let and hinderance.
The Igbo equally want freedom of opportunities and not discriminated in a country where they say belongs to all of them. Above all, they also want protection in their lives and properties in every part of the country.
But the Igbo will prefer every section of the country to be on their own and to be allowed freedom to utilize the resources in its area and to embark on its own course of development in accordance with its pace. This will be better than to have a lame duck President whose interest, like others before him, will be to accumulate personal wealth, to build political empire, to enrich members of his family, his friends, and his cronies, but not do anything for the people of his area.
A regional autonomy will make for a faster growth of every section of the country, where each section will be engaged in healthy competition, and may not have time on who is sitting at the remote centre of government as President, who may not even be helpful to them.