A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be –Rosalynn Carter
Never in the history of Nigeria since the civil war has Ndigbo been so conspicuously snubbed in national affairs as it is today.
Even though the word marginalization has become concomitant with Ndigbo than any other ethnic group in the country, the relegating has never really been this so evident.
The palpable political bias against Ndigbo in the current dispensation is however not unconnected with the emerging political indices in the land that saw the All Progressives Congress (APC) overthrow the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) where majority of Ndigbo had domiciled.
The political dynamics also saw the emergence of a new sheriff in the person of President Muhammedu Buhari whose political relationship with Ndigbo has been everything but affable.
Ndigbo clearly belonged to the 5% of the 95/5 per cent electoral vote compensatory theory brought forth by the President himself soon after the election.
A position that lucidly contradicted his statesmanly most quoted remarks as contained in his Presidential inaugural speech “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.
I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody. A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless.
There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue” The first indication to Ndigbo in the emergence of Buhari that a Pharaoh that know no Joseph has arrived was in his refusal to appoint an Igbo as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF even after his party zoned it to the region and in his usual bluntness in defending his position when confronted by the media on the lopsided appointments, said he needed to have those he knows too well whom he can trust, an indication that he cannot find such trusted hand in the region peopled by Ndigbo.
As the government progressed amidst shouts of discrimination and inequity from the region nothing changed forcing one of the credible Igbo leaders, former Governor of Anambra state Dr. Okwadike Chukwuemeka Ezeife to cry out recently accusing the President of trying hard to push Ndigbo out of Nigeria while turning round to talk of Nigeria unity not being negotiable.
This is however not the first time Ndigbo took a different electoral position from the party at the centre.
Soon after the civil war, during the second republic the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) picked an Igbo Dr. Alex Ekwueme as the Vice President but still the people voted for the then opposition defunct Nigeria People’s Party NPP led by one of their greats Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe but rather than turn their back on Ndigbo, the NPN federal government then entered into an accord aimed at luring them resulting in the emergence of an Igbo Hon. Edwin Umezuoke as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
But the party in power today appears not having such liberal disposition to doing any political business with Ndigbo.
As a result, no South Easterner is found at the head of any of the over a dozen military and Para military bodies and agencies, Army, Airforce, Navy, Police, DSS, NIA, DIA, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs, Prison, FRSC and Fire Service, including the Ministers of Interior, Defence, NSA and Chief of Defence staff.
So one of the three largest ethnic groups in this country would not be represented when security issues are being discussed at national level yet our leaders claim to be fair and just in their handling of affairs.
Also in all the three arms of Government there is nobody from the South East, President, Vice President, (Executive) Senate President and Speaker (Legislature), Chief Justice of the federation, President Court of Appeal and President Federal High Court (Judiciary).
Even though it could be argued that the Judiciary is based on seniority, the lopsided seniority is also not unconnected with who controls the polity because the dominance of the north in the Judiciary over the last three decades is not unrelated to their control of the polity especially during the undemocratic era.
Glaringly, the imbalance in the polity tilts obviously against the South East peopled by Ndigbo. The region has the least state and local Government areas among all the regions.
For instance, members of House of Representatives from old Kano state now Kano and Jigawa states out number all the Representatives from the South East put together.
Because it’s an incontrovertible fact to all that Ndigbo are scattered all over the land, political leaders during the national census refused to accommodate ethnicity as one of the sub heads, a unit that would have correctly shown the size and number of Ndigbo.
Several attempts to correct this imbalance continue to get stiff resistance from political leaders. Not to talk of the continued inappreciativeness of their developmental impact as being exhibited in the senseless killings and destruction of their assets across the country especially in the north at the slightest provocation.
All these have helped to aggravate the agitation of the youths in the region. These are the burden before Nwodo and his team as they pilot the affairs of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the next few years. Against these backdrop therefore, leading Ndigbo at this time cannot be an enviable job for anybody.
Nwodo is therefore taking up prodigious task but one is comforted by the fact that he possess all that the challenge will be demanding having been part of the nation’s polity since the 70s when he was elected President of the University of Ibadan students Union and went further since then to become a Minister at a youthful age, a position he was called up again during General Abdulsalami Abubakar transition regime from military to democratic era.
Nwodo has the sound upbringing coming from the revered Nwodo political dynasty; he has an enviable academic record from Ibadan to London School of Economics.
As an Economist, lawyer and politician, Ohanaeze Ndigbo couldn’t have made a better choice at this time.
But for Nwodo to make the desired impact, he must look inwards with a view to creating in Ohanaeze, an institution that would stand the test of protecting their people in a plural society where the common cake is not always shared equitably.
Perhaps of all the challenges before Nwodo and his team, two stand out and very urgent, they are, how to make the rest of Nigerians understand and appreciate Ndigbo for what they really are, catalyst for development and the second and which is key, is to make Ndigbo bring to fruition the “ aku rue uno” spirit by being more patriotic in investing more at home.
To achieve this would entail all hands being on deck, political leaders at home particularly state Governors must ensure the existence of the enabling environment and this must be midwifed by Ohanaeze leadership.
Former US President Ronald Reagan sure was right in saying that “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.
He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” It’s unfortunate that when Ohanaeze Ndigbo was formed in 1976 it was planned as a socio-cultural group to serve as a clearing house in matters affecting the interest and general welfare of Ndigbo in Nigeria and the rest of the world.
But rather than make progress, the body has been bedeviled with crisis all not unconnected with the selfish interest of some Igbo leaders and the divide and rule method deployed by successive Nigeria leaders who never desired a united front for Ndigbo.
Note that I deliberately omitted the issue of Biafra in this discourse because it’s given that the new Ohanaeze leadership should see Biafra struggle as a product of injustice against Ndigbo and work towards nipping the prejudice in the bud.
You can’t quench a blazing fire unless from the source. The main cause of Biafra struggle that brought forth both MASSOB and IPOB is the glaring wrong against the people.
Such injuries perhaps made Thomas Jefferson warn that “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty” God bless Ohanaeze.