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Un-Masking IBB’s Trojan Horse for Ndigbo

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq
Published November 8th, 2010

Snapshots:
  • IBB is the least qualified for the job he’s applying for in a democracy. If the job was for the headship of a military regime, he would, of course, be the most qualified of the entire bunch of presidential aspirants in all the parties. But if the job is for the headship of civilian administration in a democracy, he’s the least qualified of all; in fact, he need not apply at all, because he’s way off the mark. Unfortunately for him, the available position in the presidency requires no military background whatsoever, which is, in fact, considered a minus for a candidate. But that’s all he has in his resume—an out and out military resume with nothing else associated with it even after his retirement in 17years! With no visible means of livelihood, he might have been quietly living off the $2.4 Gulf war oil windfall that he’s failed to account for till date despite repeated demands. The only position open for him to contest is the Kirikiri State House to join Bode George, not the Abuja State House.


  • IBB has no experience or exposure whatsoever in democracy not even by association. He has held no position even at a local government level in a democracy and he’s not even an active party member who is associated with the workings of the party institutions in particular and democratic institutions in general. He just cannot be expected to democratically relate to others and institutions and that’s revealing itself even in his crude campaigns as was demonstrated during the Abuja bombing incidents. He’s the greenest of the greenhorns when it comes to democracy. Heck, he’s not even a politician, and he’s by no stretch of the imagination a democrat for that matter.


  • Now, Senator Nnamani is an honorable man and a distinguished Igbo son at that, who acquitted himself creditably in the eyes of many as Senate president. And I do not for a moment seek to impugn his character or to question his motivations for offering himself as the arrowhead of the IBB project in Ibo-land, nor am I suggesting that he loves Ndigbo less than he loves himself. Yet he must grapple with this simple question: if every geo-ethnic group in the nation considers IBB not good enough for endorsement, what in the world makes him think that IBB would be good enough for Ndigbo to endorse? Is Ndigbo now a dumping ground for presidential materials rejected by other geo-ethnic groups in the nation? And when he’s done answering that poser, he should please tell his people how IBB helped the cause of his people when he was in a position to do so as the nation’s maximum ruler for nine years. And by the time he’s done telling us, who knows, he just might be able to get Franklin Otorofani, Esq. to his side.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.
Long before it was offered, presumably through the good offices of Senator Ken Nnamani, immediate past president of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a distinguished son of Ndigbo, this writer saw the poisoned bait coming the way of Ndigbo. He saw a Trojan horse being prepared as a gift for Ndigbo and wrote about it in an article published back on August 3rd 2010, titled: Permutations and Projections into Nigeria’s 2011 General Elections. Below are some excerpts from that piece on this issue:

“The Ibos will not pitch their tent with a dead horse even though IBB will try to lure them with a promise to hand over power to the Ibos after doing just one term in office. But no one will swallow that bait from him due to his past antecedent. He is his own worst enemy as his atrocious past eventually catches up with him.

Besides that, Ndigbo is keenly aware that given its historical records and attitude towards the region, the North would prefer to support the South/South to produce the next president in 2015 after its turn might have run out should the presidency be zoned to the North now till 2015. Therefore, any promise from the North to Ndigbo of supporting the zone to produce the president in 2015 is at best an empty promise and at worst an insult to its intelligence. It’s the bait that would not make a catch.”  

Since its publication about three months ago, however, we have witnessed the astonishingly rapid fulfillment of many of the predictions and projections contained therein, one of the most poignant being the reported attempts by IBB to woo Ndigbo to his side with an offer of the presidency to Ndigbo in 2015 after doing one term in office.

And in order to sell this obvious fraud, he has chosen or appears to have chosen the former Senate president as his running mate, who, in fact, has made the inchoate attempt to rally Ndigbo to declare its support for the evil genius at an aborted event slated for the Concord Hotel Owerri, Imo state, with a handful of co-opted, albeit distinguished Ndigbo sons in attendance, such as the former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. The aborted event, which has been blamed in certain quarters on the ill-disposition of the state government, the owner of the hotel, to the IBB project in the state is a telling reflection of the widespread disapproval of the people to Nnamani’s IBB gambit in the region. 

When a former self-styled military president, who is otherwise not known to be too friendly to Ndigbo cause suddenly decides to present a horse to Ndigbo in an election year in which he’s a presidential aspirant seeking his party’s nomination with major input from the south/east, such a horse cannot but be a Trojan. It’s pretty much obvious and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. And it is gratifying to note that the region as a whole has seen that horse for what it is and denied it entry into the land of the legendary Azikiwes, Ojukwus, Okparas, Okadigbos, Okigbos, Mbadiwes, and the Achebes.

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Now before I go any further to expose the fraud that it is, this promise by IBB to hand over the presidency to Ndigbo in 2015 as if it is his personal property to hand out as he pleases, which it’s not, presupposes that he will be accepted by Nigerians and proceed to win the presidency in the first place. However, every indication points to a certain contrary outcome for IBB’s ambition even from the assessment of the Ciroma-led Northern Leaders Political Forum (NLPF) currently in the self-appointed process of vetting northern presidential aspirants under the PDP platform.

How popular is IBB with Nigerians at the present time? The answer is probably as popular as the late President Augustus Pinochet of Chile or Pol Pot of Cambodia! But hold on a second—let me check his numbers in the opinion polls just to be sure I’m not expressing a personal opinion here. Here we go! IBB is trailing Atiku, Gusau and Saraki in the ratings in the NLPF score sheet as reported by the Tribune 11022010 edition:

“Sources in Abuja..confirmed on Monday that Babangida had been worried by consistent media reports indicating that he had been trailing Abubakar and the former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Gusau, in the rating of the consensus committee.”

In the VOA Hausa Service opinion poll for possible Northern candidates, IBB was again trounced, this time by Buhari, with Buhari garnering a whopping 65% to IBB’s miserable, indeed scandalous 5%. (allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Buhari Tops in VOA ).

If this is so in the north imagine what it is like in the south? A recent national poll has his name as mere footnote with Jonathan clearly in the lead followed by Ribadu and Saraki in a distant third position. Is that an aspirant that the business savvy Ndigbo was being wooed by IBB’s hirelings to invest its hard earned political capital in? It’s unthinkable!

IBB is the least qualified for the job he’s applying for in a democracy. If the job was for the headship of a military regime, he would, of course, be the most qualified of the entire bunch of presidential aspirants in all the parties. But if the job is for the headship of civilian administration in a democracy, he’s the least qualified of all; in fact, he need not apply at all, because he’s way off the mark.  Unfortunately for him, the available position in the presidency requires no military background whatsoever, which is, in fact, considered a minus for a candidate. But that’s all he has in his resume—an out and out military resume with nothing else associated with it even after his retirement in17years! With no visible means of livelihood he might have been quietly living off our $2.4billion Gulf war oil windfall that he’s failed to account for despite repeated demands. The only position open for him to contest is the Kirikiri State House to join Bode George with lesser offense, not the Abuja State House.

 

IBB has no experience or exposure whatsoever in democracy not even by default or association. His weird experiment in democratic transition ended in a self contrived national tragedy by choice which didn’t have to be. He has held no position even at a local government level in a democracy and he’s not even an active party member who is associated with the workings of the party institutions in particular and democratic institutions in general. He just cannot be expected to democratically relate to others and institutions and that’s revealing itself even in his crude campaigns as was demonstrated during the Abuja bombing incidents. He’s the greenest of the greenhorns when it comes to democracy. Heck, he’s not even a politician and he’s by no stretch of the imagination a democrat for that matter.

Therefore, his purported application for the job is a sick joke that should call all democrats to arm more so in a nation where democracy is having a hard time taking roots, because his aspiration alone even without more constitutes a serious threat to democracy.

IBB is not associated with any movement or democratic project and has not taken a position one way or another during the numerous crises that have assailed the nation since this dispensation began in 1999 including even the most recent Yar’Adua saga that nearly tore the nation apart. He’s aloof, unconcerned, and criminally indifferent to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. Unlike Buhari, a former military dictator who has been exposed to the workings, ethos and rigors of democracy, IBB is still his crude and dictatorial military self and a complete misfit for any democratic leadership.

And this is quite apart from his heavy baggage of misdeeds which alone are sinking his presidential ambition even without consideration of his lack of democratic credentials. That he has forced himself out in this race shows poor judgment on his part and reason enough to toss his candidacy in the trash can where it right belongs. It’s a national distraction and a source of instability in the polity that the nation cannot afford at this time.

To attempt, therefore, to sell the candidacy of such an atrocious, notorious and unqualified individual to a democratic, respected, and knowledgeable people like Ndigbo for selfish reasons is, indeed, an insult on the part of those in the doomed IBB project. If he’s facing rejection in his home north for obvious reasons; if he’s equally facing rejection by northern youths, and he’s facing rejection too by the so-called former “IBB Boys,” why would anybody in his right sense want to sell his candidacy to Ndigbo at all of all people? Is somebody out there suffering from amnesia and forgot to take his medication? The Ndigbo I know might have been used and dumped in the past to prosecute self-succession plots by evil minded military regimes, including one headed by IBB. But this is one plot that will not fly with them.

Political strategists must be smart enough to read and understand the trends in generational shift in leadership all over the world. They must come to the understanding that in a multi-media environment such as we have today, Nigerians are not looking up to some grizzled, grey haired African leaders as role models, but to foreign leaders abroad, particularly those in the west for the simple fact they dominate the global news coverage via the web, BBC, CNN and the other global news outlets, and they exemplify the kind of purposeful and accountable leadership that Nigerians have been yearning for, not unrepentant dictators staging comeback bids to strut their demented, megalomaniac stuff on the public stage again.

Therefore, in the age of United States’ Obama, France’s Sarkozy, Britain’s Cameron, Russia’s Medvedev and Canada’s Harper; all youthful, vigorous and energetic leaders that are not only in tune with, but the very purveyors of modernity, the dumbest thing any political party or ethnic group would do is to sponsor or present a dinosaurian military throwback as its presidential candidate and ask Nigerians to vote for him, or for that matter, for a serious ethnic group desirous of attaining the presidency to line up behind such a geriatric anachronism.

It’s like asking a young lady to go marry a decrepit old man who is nearer to the grave than to the altar. It’s the biggest joke of the year. IBB will be over 70 years old at the time of the next election. And you’ve got to ask the question, what happened to all the youths in the nation that old, discredited men are taking to the stage again in this day and age? Have they been put to sleep in such a vibrant political environment filled with youthful brains?

It is clear that Nigerians are ready to turn the page. Therefore, anyone who casts his lot with any of these geriatric candidates must count on the high prospects of losing his investments because it is almost certain that there will be no returns on such investments except total loses. Like all investment risks, political risks must be coldly calculated by any serious investor who desires good returns on his investment (ROI). This has nothing to do with disrespect for age but with the technological imperatives and dynamics of the modern era. And that’s why the field should be cleared for Jonathan, Ribadu, and Saraki in a three-way presidential slugfest come April, 2011.

I’m comfortable with any one of the threesome emerging president in 2011, not an ex-coup plotter and killer of democracy, particularly IBB who has sinned against humanity on all fronts. The man who decreed out old politicians in 1993 obviously to clear the way for his self-succession plot has no business showing up at age 70 to contest the nation’s presidency. It’s nothing short of sheer hypocrisy and unprincipled gambit that should not and must not be rewarded by any political party fielding him for the next elections.

Only in a country like Nigeria where anything goes would a man like IBB dare to show his face again in public. In more decent and accountable environments, he would forever live in infamy and die unsung should he manage to escape the gulag.

It’s unfortunate that some people simply refused to come to terms with the reality that their time is past and have been left behind. They still insist that they’re relevant when they have clearly become anachronisms of history. And it’s even more tragic that there could be democrats like Ken Nnamani who would associate themselves with the presidential ambition of such an individual for purely selfish reasons when principled individuals like Wole Soyinka and all progressive elements in Nigeria have declared him a persona non grata and therefore totally unworthy of political leadership. 

In Nigeria today, there is no presidential aspirant that is as despised and as hated across the board and across all demographic groups as IBB and for obvious reasons too. He is persona-non- grata (PNG) in the entire south/west, south/south and north/central, his own geo-political region. He doesn’t stand a chance either with Buhari in the north/east and north/west. Northern youths have demanded insistently that IBB and Buhari should quit the stage for younger generation of leaders to emerge in the north. Both of them are holding the north to ransom by preventing the emergence of young leaders from the region. Everywhere IBB turns, he’s met with extreme hostility and disapproval from virtually all demographic, ethnic and professional groups, including his very own erstwhile military constituency.

The man is a totally damaged product that belongs to that category of political merchandize and has simply become unmarketable in any part of the country. Why then would Ndigbo be lured with a poisoned bait to cast its lot with a damaged good and a man who personifies all that is wrong with Nigeria in the past; whether it is about corruption, coup plotting, military rule and the murder of our democracy? Is that the kind of character that Ndigbo should be asked to do business with? I don’t think so and Ndigbo knows better too. Ndigbo sure knows enough about the man’s past to know better.

But does that prevent any selfish Ndigbo son or daughter to do business with him in his/her private capacity? Not all and this writer is not advocating that either! This is a democracy with guaranteed freedom of association for all and even the Devil himself is entitled to a vote or put himself forward to be voted for in an election. It is the duty of the electorate to take him out of the field unless he succeeds in passing himself off as the Angel Gabriel.

Therefore, Senator Ken Nnamani is entitled to his political association with IBB to promote his political ambition, whether anybody likes it or no. But Nnamani is on his own and that much is pretty clear to this writer, because the Ndigbo I know is a whole lot smarter than to be made the fall guy for anybody’s political ambition. Sure Ndigbo desires the presidency, but not at the cost of going to bed with the Devil himself, whose past is determined to abort his future.

Now, Senator Nnamani is an honorable man and a distinguished Igbo son at that, who acquitted himself creditably in the eyes of many as Senate president. And I do not for a moment seek to impugn his character or to question his motivations for offering himself as the arrowhead of the IBB project in Ibo-land, nor am I suggesting that he loves Ndigbo less than he loves himself. Yet he must grapple with this simple question: if every geo-ethnic group in the nation considers IBB not good enough for endorsement, what in the world makes him think that IBB would be good enough for Ndigbo to endorse? Is Ndigbo now a dumping ground for presidential materials rejected by other geo-ethnic groups in the nation? And when he’s done answering that poser, he should please tell his people how IBB helped the cause of his people when he was in a position to do so as the nation’s maximum ruler for nine years. And by the time he’s done telling us, who knows, he just might be able to get Franklin Otorofani, Esq. to his side.

Secondly, the IBB promise also presupposes that he has the power as he apparently had during his inglorious nine-year military dictatorship to single-handedly offer the presidency to the south/east without recourse to anybody in the nation including the south/south, south/west and even the north as a whole including the Middle-Belt. It is not exactly clear to me that IBB has the power and authority to do that even if he wants to and it is entirely clear to this writer that he will never ever want to it in the first place.

How do I know that? Precedents! We judge people by their past deeds not by empty promises made to secure votes during elections. History should be our guide in matters like this and history and precedents have been pretty consistent in its verdict on IBB. History tells us loudly that IBB is never a character to be trusted by anybody because he does not even trust himself and a reason he earned the unflattering nickname “Maradona”.

When OBJ and Murtala promised to handover power in1979 and Murtala suddenly died in a military coup, OBJ could be trusted to hand over power to civilians as promised earlier at the beginning of the regime. They said they would do that in just four years and at the end of it, power was promptly handed over as promised to Alhaji Shehu Shagari of then NPN. Right from the beginning of the Murtala/OBJ administration it left no one in doubt as to the sincerity of its promise to hand over in 1979 by constituting a Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) headed by the late legal luminary, Chief Rotimi Williams otherwise known as “Timi, the Law” that produced the famous 1979 constitutional which formed the template for the present 1999 constitution; no contrived excuses or crisis, no postponement of handover dates---and get this—no annulment of election results! That was a legacy worthy of emulation that placed Nigeria at the forefront of democratic transitions in Africa as a whole only for IBB to come later with his voodoo transition to rubbish the nation’s stellar records in democratic transition.

Now, contrast the Murtala/OBJ record with the promise of IBB in 1985 to hand over power in 1990, then in 1992, and later in 1993. Thrice he shifted his handover dates while he was busy digging in to succeed himself and was eventually forced out by pro-democracy forces in 1993. And even so he schemed to break his third promise the third time by contriving to annul the universally acknowledged freest and fairest election Nigeria ever had in her history through ABN led by Chief Arthur Nzeribe.

In the dead of night ABN obtained an order from an Abuja High Court preventing the Professor Nwosu-led NEC from announcing the results of the concluded elections. This was quickly followed by an announcement of the total annulment of the election by IBB even when nobody complained about or questioned the results, including the loser, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of then NRC, who was, in fact, reported to have prepared his concession speech to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner—a rare feat that’s unknown even today in Nigerian election outcomes. IBB moved in to scuttle Tofa’s announcement and thus set the stage for yet another roller coaster of military dictatorships. He’s the number one enemy of democracy. It’s quite ironical that IBB is now scheming to reap where he did not sow.

However, history is not known to reward such opportunists. He should not count on OBJ’s fortunes for a repeat of history. OBJ was rewarded because he sowed the seeds of democracy in his first outing as military ruler and continued to fight for democracy through his Association for Good Governance (AGG) and suffered incarceration for his democratic advocacy in the hands of IBB man, Gen. Sani Abacha, while IBB was missing in action all the while. There are different strokes for different folks and people are rewarded or punished by their past deeds. IBB did quite the opposite of what OBJ did and will likewise reap quite the opposite of what OBJ got in return.   

IBB never handed over but was chased out of power with his tail tucked behind his back liked a runaway dog. If a man of this pedigree is making you a promise of handing over power to you, at very least, prudence and commonsense should dictate that it should be taken with a “modu” of salt.

Does Ndigbo need to be told that MKO Abiola was promised the same exact thing that IBB is offering Ndigbo to hand over power at the end of a term certain only to set him up for incarceration and eventual death? Does Ndigbo need to be reminded that Abiola suffered incarceration and death after he accepted the Trojan horse that was offered to him by the military then headed by this same IBB, who’s obviously hunting for another prey in Ndigbo? Who amongst the civilians was closest to IBB than MKO Abiola? And who paid the ultimate price for that closeness to the evil genius? Abiola, of course! Here is the bottom line: Any proposed power relationship with IBB should, ab-initio, raise a red flag because the end is always a tragedy for the victims. The poet Gen. Vasta paid the supreme price for his power relationship with IBB and so too was Abiola, just to name but a few.

Thirdly, IBB’s north has never considered yielding power to the south/east in its wildest imaginations and has done everything to drive this message home to Ndigbo in the past. Even Ndigbo sons in the military had a glass ceiling in their promotions, well, until recently when OBJ and Jonathan came in to break the glass ceiling. Somebody has to ask, why has it taken the nation so long to break this glass ceiling when northern leaders were in power all along, including IBB? I would respectfully leave the answer to Ndigbo because it knows why far better than I do.

Like Nigeria, the US north fought a brutal civil war with the US south which claimed millions of lives in which the north was victorious. But the US south has produced more presidents since then than the US north or at least as many as the US north. The US south suffers no residual effects of discrimination in appointments to political and military positions in the nation. That was the purpose of General Gowon’s famous three Rs, which his military successors, including IBB, jettisoned and replaced same with further attacks on Ndigbo in the north in the name of religious fanaticism. Those who aided and abetted those atrocities against Ndigbo can only present a horse to Ndigbo that is decidedly Trojan. There is no mistaking it.

Now, witness IBB’s treatment of Vice Admiral Ukiwe who was his second-in-command and how he was unceremoniously replaced by Admiral Augustus Aikhomu from the south/south. Witness how the then VP to President Shehu Shagari, Dr. Alex Ekueme, was reduced to a robot or at best an errand boy even though Shagari was not even qualified to be his student to begin with.

Contrast that with how VP Abubakar Atiku was so empowered by OBJ that he secured the loyalties of almost all the PDP governors at OBJ’s expense and almost upstaged the man in 2003 PDP presidential primaries. The contrast with VP Ekueme’s stature in the Shagari administration couldn’t be clearer.

Witness also how Ndigbo sons and daughters are slaughtered like cows whenever and wherever there were sponsored religious riots in the North while IBB and his likes looked the other way in the North. Witness how General Agui Ironsi was slaughtered and the pogrom that followed in the north-inspired civil war.

Witness how Alex Ekweme was used to destabilize the south/east during the NPN days when the besieged late Governor Sam Mbakwe called on the British to come and re-colonize Nigeria due to the machinations of the NPN in his state.

I have not brought out these historical antecedents to drive a wedge between the south/east and the north but to point out that when an opponent or enemy that has done so much evil suddenly turns around smiling at you with promises, such smiles and promises should be taken or accepted with extreme caution, in fact, rejected out of hand, if possible, because they’re nothing but poisoned baits.

If the north truly believes in Ndigbo presidency why not demonstrate it by letting Ndigbo take a shot at the presidency in 2015, at least for a four-year term before it passes on again the north in 2019? Is that too long a wait for a region that has been holding the presidency for 38 out the 50 years of the nation’s existence and has just relinquished it by providence only in May, this year?

Is that too long a wait, I ask again? If Ndigbo has been waiting to occupy the presidency since 1966 when General Agui Ironsi was murdered by northern military officers in a revenge coup against the Major Nzegu led putsch that put Ironsi in power, why can’t the north wait for a mere 8 years to let Ndigbo rule for four years starting 2019? And if the south/south could wait for eternity until providence came to her aid through Jonathan, why can’t the north wait? Or is the Nigerian presidency a national or northern patrimony? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not promises. Let Ndigbo propose that to the North and watch the reactions of the Ciromas, Atikus and IBBs. That is the litmus test not promises of pie in the sky. 

Let me say this point blank: the north will only go so far as to give the south/east a vice presidential slot and no more. And that’s precisely what IBB has offered and no more can be expected from the north to Ndigbo when it comes to the presidency. It will be utterly foolish to count on IBB’s promise to give what he does not have and will not have.

If an Ndigbo son were to be Yar’Adua’s deputy when he died in May, this year, there could have been an automatic military coup to prevent Ndigbo son from becoming the president. It would have put paid to our nascent democracy. All that security breaches in Abuja when Yar’Adua was surreptitiously flown in, in the dark of night could have dovetailed into a full blown military coup sponsored by the north with northern generals in charge to take over the reins of government under the pretext of the political class not getting its act together and the nation becoming rudderless.

That was how Shehu Shagari was removed in what was regarded as a pre-emptive, palace coup with no bloodshed apart from his ADC, Col. Bello who lost his life in unclear circumstances. Allowing President Shagari to complete his second term would have brought a southerner, possibly Dr. Alex Ekueme, his deputy, to succeed him and that was anathema to the north. It was the un-spoken reason for the Buhari coup. 

That Jonathan was allowed to stay was due to his geographical background of south/south, which the north is more comfortable with just as it is with the south/west. The south/south had been a trusted political ally of the north, well, until now that the Ciromas in the north are busy throwing spanners in the wheel of that political relationship.

Besides, the PDP had made it known through it chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, that Jonathan was only a bird of passage and power would return to the north in 2011 through its so-called zoning arrangement. Taken together, this saved our democracy and helped to stay the hands of mischief makers. What Ciroma is doing today in calling for President Jonathan’s impeachment to pave the way for a northern president would, in all probability have been carried out back in May by instigating the military to strike and get it over with had it got the slightest inkling that Jonathan would contest the 2011 election. And it would have been a completely different story if Jonathan was from the south/east. The north would not have taken such chances as it did with Jonathan Ogbulafor’s assurance notwithstanding.

With these historical facts, it should be clear even to the most politically naïve that Ndigbo’s path to the nation’s presidency passes not through the core north, but first and foremost, through the minority ethnic groups both in the north and in the south, then followed by the south/west. In other words, Ndigbo must seek and strike deals with its immediate neighbors in the south/south, south/west and north/central first before even attempting the core north in the north/east and north/west. And this should not be done on the pages of newspapers or by making a fetish of calling for Igbo presidency all the time, but discreetly and diligently carried out with a sense of mission behind the scene from the prying eyes of newshounds in the media.

It would be foolish therefore to accept and ride on IBB’s Trojan horse to the presidency because it is not headed in that direction but in the opposite direction. 

And lastly, the IBB promise presupposes that the PDP will be there and continues to win elections in the future with its zoning arrangement preserved. For all practical purposes zoning is dead at the presidential level. President Goodluck said that much in his explanation of the zoning arrangement. The Nigerian presidency is open to all comers and it’s after the presidential slot has been filled that the rest of the posts are zoned accordingly to balance the federal character. It is after the president has emerged that senate president, speaker of the house of reps and their deputies as well as secretary to the federal government and party chairman and secretary will emerge.

This has been the tradition in the PDP and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. The Presidency is never formally zoned to any region, because that would be illegal and unconstitutional, but open to all parts of the country, and all other positions follow after that position has been filled with the party’s victory at the polls. There is, therefore, no guarantee that the PDP will formally “zone” the presidency to south/east in 2015, God forbid, with or without IBB in power. It’s therefore tantamount to building castles in the air for a whole region to be asked to put its hope on PDP zoning formula, that neither here nor there and so fluid to be trusted to deliver for Ndigbo in future.

If northern presidential aspirants could offer or attempt to offer themselves for the party’s presidential primaries against a sitting president from the south like OBJ in 2003 as did Barnabas Gemade, Abubakar Rimi, and even former VP, Abubakar Atiku, now hypocritically championing zoning when it suits him, what makes Nnamani think it will be offered to Ndigbo on a platter in 2015 by the north without challenge from the same north?

IBB could afford to offer his Trojan horse to the south/east now just to enable him secure the PDP nomination, but what leverage Ndigbo has on him to keep his promise in the future? Is it a written agreement behind closed doors or a blood covenant between IBB and Nnamani and co-travelers in the IBB project? Is such an agreement or covenant, if any, enforceable and binding on the nation at all or even on the north for that matter? Is the north privy to it in the first place? I don’t think so. Denying or outright repudiating such undertaking in the future is as easy as ABC in our political environment. And the same Ciroma who is now hypocritically talking about honor of keeping so-called zoning agreement will be the very first to disavow any such agreement with Ndigbo and wash the hands of the north totally free from it. The things that have been revealed about the character of Ciroma by folks like Uba Ahmed as an unprincipled man who fought consensus arrangement in the past with everything at his disposal but now championing the same thing should serve as red flag for Ndigbo.  

The entire Nnamani IBB project is hinged on a basket of presuppositions as to render it an unattainable proposition and something of a hallucinatory, delusional affliction. The attention of Ndigbo need not be drawn to such individual maladies so long as there is no indication that it has become an epidemic in its domain.

Options for Ndigbo

This reality dictates a pragmatic rather than a dogmatic approach to the emerging scenarios in the nation’s political arena. The reality on the ground is that there is a president who is actually in power and who can get things done for Ndigbo now in real time, not promises. If anyone wants to cut deals shouldn’t commonsense dictate that he should cut deals with one who is actually in a position to deliver rather than one who is merely hoping to be in power someday with no guarantees whatsoever of getting to power let alone delivering? That would appear to be the question that was asked and answered by the Umeobi of Ohaneze Ndigbo and the governors and legislative bodies of the region before coming out in support of the Jonathan candidacy as against any other out there in the crowded field. And it’s a position that’s totally in accord with commonsense and pragmatism. It’s a position that emphasizes the utility of the proverbial adage that a bird in hand is worth more than a thousand in the bush.

Analyzing the stark realties on the ground, Ohaneze wisely came to the inescapable conclusion that it would be unwise to gamble with its future and the future of generations unborn by looking up to a pie in the sky but seizing with both hands the opportunities presented by the Jonathan presidency to right historical wrongs and move the region forward now, without waiting for the future, for, no one knows what the future holds.

In the light of this reality, the immediate preoccupations of Ndigbo should not be about having an Igbo face in the presidency but working to secure strategic deals with whoever is currently in power to secure maximum economic and social benefits possible for Ndigbo through the fulfillment of all past promises to upgrade infrastructural facilities in the region. After all the purpose of having Ndigbo face in the presidency is not for photo ops, but to help secure such benefits for the region that have all too often been denied the region by past leaders including notably IBB who is now offering it a Trojan horse.

By pitching its tent with Jonathan, Ndigbo is killing two birds with one stone. (1) It is securing the support of the south/south toward a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction down the road in the near future and; (2) securing in the now great socio-economic benefits for the region under the present Jonathan presidency, including full rehabilitation of Ndigbo in the national scheme of things by removing any semblance of second-class citizenship from her sons and daughters just as it is for the south/south. In this sense Jonathan could be seen at the very least a partial fulfillment of the quest of the region for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Jonathan was not named “Azikiwe” for nothing. That name has Igbo roots and I stand to be corrected. 

It is in this connection, therefore, that the upgrading of the Enugu Airport to international status, the construction of the much delayed second Niger Bridge, addressing of the ecological disasters and the dire security situation in the region, as well as general upgrade of infrastructural facilities in the region should become a fait accompli under the Jonathan presidency.

Ndigbo must put the president’s nose to the grind with regard to these critical areas of demand. But I must not fail to mention the appointments of highly qualified Ndigbo sons and daughters in prominent positions at the center as it was done under former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. The star-studded administration of the former president was composed mainly of Ndigbo sons and daughters in the persons of Charles Solubo, Oby Ezekwesili, Ngozi Nweala, Dora Akinyuli, Joe Madueke and others, who constituted the face of the administration and made Nigeria proud in their respective porfolios. And that trend has continued under President Jonathan.

I’m referring to the likes of the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke (first of its kind), US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Joy U. Ogwu (probably first of its kind too), Information and Communications Minister, the adorable Prof. Dora Akunyuli of NAFDAC fame, (again the first for both portfolios), Adviser on Power sector reforms, Prof. Barth Nnaji, and of course, the newly appointed Army Chief of Staff, (first in over 40years), ex-cetera, ex-cetera.

And this should only be the beginning of the rehabilitation of Ndigbo into the mainstream of national leadership in all strata, not just PDP chairman or chairmanship of INEC or as someone put it, as “town criers” to both military and civilian regimes as was the case with the propagandist, Chukwumerije, for instance. It is needless to add that many of these positions were no-go areas for Ndigbo sons and daughters heretofore since the end of the civil war. The marginalization of Ndigbo is being redressed one step at a time, not under northern leaderships but under southern leaderships. This is a critical component that must not be overlooked.

In fact the benefits and possibilities are endless and I don’t see Ohaneze and the governors in the region letting this opportunity slip through their fingers by allowing themselves to be distracted with IBB’s barely disguised Trojan horse tethered at the bank of the Niger. It should be drowned in the River Niger! Some might hold that Ndigbo is entitled to all these and more without being used as bargaining chips. Fine. But there is a world of difference between being entitled to something and actually receiving the entitlement. The question is, did the Ndigbo get its entitlements in the past? That is the question and if the answer is no, then it is all the better that it is getting them now even if it is in exchange for support for the president. And I’m not for a moment suggesting they are. I don’t know that. But that is neither here nor there as the motivations for the project are not inscribed on the projects when they’re completed and put to use. It is enough that they’re completed and put to use to help redress the infrastructural atrophy in the region.

Like the severally abused and despoiled Niger Delta, the rehabilitation of Ndigbo by making whole its war ravaged, gullied territories, is indeed the beginning of the healing process as promised by Gen. Gowon’s famous “No Victor, No Vanquished” declaration at the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970. That should be the starting point for President Jonathan and must form the plank for his engagement with the region as a historical imperative and a national debt that should and must be perfected for the perfection of the union as a whole. I have long placed the rehabilitation of the south/east at par with the rehabilitation of the south/south. These are the forgotten twins who have suffered similar fate in the Nigerian union and both deserve similar response from the government of Jonathan. I can’t count on others. 

Jonathan appears to be on the right track in this endeavor. The Nigerian union is being perfected one patch at a time. And Ndigbo should be at the forefront of the process more than any other region in the federation that has been denied political power at the center because it has borne the brunt of Nigerian unity together with Niger Delta, and both regions should share in the spoils of office, so to speak. And why not, I should ask? The pendulum of power necessary to right historical wrongs has swung back through providential happenstance and it should be put to maximum use while it lasts to remake Nigeria in the image of all its component units and not in the image of one of its parts.  

God forbid, should the ethnic bigots in the north succeed in preventing Jonathan from running or winning the 2011 presidential election and the north succeeds in installing one of its own in power, Ndigbo can kiss the nation’s presidency goodbye for another 50 years. By making it possible for a man from a minority group to occupy that position, Ndigbo makes it that much more possible for her son or daughter to occupy that position in the near future, and that’s’ the whole logic of this piece.

Viewed from this standpoint, therefore, it can be seen that Ndigbo’s political  investment in the Jonathan presidency is actually an investment in Ndigbo’s future presidential project by carrying the south/south and all the minorities along without whom any majority ethnic group would be hard put to win any election in Nigeria, if not entirely impossible. History has demonstrated that truism time and time again. The minority ethnic groups hold the balance of power in Nigeria without any shred of doubt.

Without the support of the south/south the north would never have smelt power at the federal level. Now that same support is there for the asking in the future if Ndigbo plays its card well and sticks with them as Ohaneze has obviously done by rejecting IBB’s Trojan horse and sending it back to its sender.

Ndigbo would not cut its nose to spite its face. It pays to form a strategic relationship and partnership with the south/south in a mutually beneficial manner in order to present a strong and formidable platform at the national arena. After all, they are friendly neighbors sharing common destiny; both have been politically marginalized and have suffered similar fate in the union heretofore.

Therefore, the fulsome decision to go with Jonathan is a no brainer. It’s a smart move from a smart people! And Senator Ken Nnamani should be man enough to take that message back to IBB and return his Trojan horse. 

 

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. is a lawyer and public affairs’ analyst and can be reached at mudiagaone@yahoo.com



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