Widely Read Magazine in Nigeria

Igbos shot themselves on the foot by demarketing Okoricha


Igbos shot themselves on the foot by demarketing Okoricha

By Collins Mbakwe

There have been popular views by many Nigerians that the Igbos are not good at the game of politics.

Notwithstanding the caliber, or number of people holding such views, it is still debatable, and I wouldn’t want to digress from my subject of discourse

One of the distinctive characteristics needed by a candidate to win the presidential election in Nigeria is wide acceptability. A person needs to be widely accepted by Nigerians across the 36 states of the country.

Of all political leaders of Igbo extraction still active in Nigerian politics, arguably, the former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha remains the only one who has penetrated all the geo-political zones. The north, southwest, southeast, and south South have all benefited and are still benefiting from his Rochas Foundation College, a school he built and made free in several states of the country even long before he got into politics.

My heart bleeds knowing that the current Igbo leaders are peopled by self-centered individuals whose stock-in-trade is to sell out the Igbo race to massage their ego or for porridge of yam.

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In a political scenario, as we have now, where the rulling party APC zoned its presidential ticket to the south, Okorocha could have easily sailed through if not that he has been de-marketed by his people and coupled with some of his mistakes. No doubt, Okorocha has the pedigree, vision, charisma, and political clout to be widely accepted by most Nigerians.

There is no gainsaying the fact that he is the only Igbo man the northern Muslims would happily give their vote for, keeping in mind that he has never been a religious bigot, instead he has on several occasions shown no discrimination against Muslims. He has over the years proven to be a detribalized Nigerian who strongly believes in the unity of Nigeria.

It was as a result of his reasonability to treat all Nigerians equally respective of the tribe that makes most of his political foes dub him ‘Okoroawusa.’.

Earlier this month, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, on a Saturday, described the Igbo nation as politically immature to win the presidency.

Kwankwaso, the former governor of Kano State, calculated the ongoing political permutations in the country and declared that the highest Igbo can hope for is vice president.

Kwankwaso was in Gombe to inaugurate the NNPP state Secretariat on Bauchi road.

Fielding questions from newsmen, the former senator, and the minister rated Igbo as politically naive, struggling at the nation’s political ladder.

Responding to progress on the reported likely merger of his NNPP and the Labour Party (LP) fielding former governor of Anambra State as its candidate, Kwankwaso advised Igbo to learn the rope from Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani.

He said: “I like the Igbo people, they are good and enterprising, but in the game of politics, they’re at the bottom of the ladder and uncertain of their calculations.

“Look at it carefully, they had lost out with the PDP and APC completely. The only choice they have now is a merger with NNPP, which I took to them.

“Believe me, this is an opportunity they have; it is going to be a disaster if they bungle it. Once that happens, they will, again, start to cry of marginalization and shift blames to the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani.

“South East must learn how to play politics. Look at South West; it is very strategic. Imagine Bola Tinubu at over 80 years. He is strategic to have agreed to wait for Buhari to go first.

“We had talks with the LP for a possible merger, but problems started with who is to be the flag bearer.

“The Igbos has not realized that their problem is politics that must be tackled politically.”

While many may align with Kwankwaso and others who hold this view, many others have also noted that Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state, has become a metaphor for a pan-Nigerian movement that is seeking to upturn the political status quo, prominent Igbo political elites are hardly part of it. Following this, some have raised questions about whether the above instances reek of the absence of self-love among the Igbo or their inability to walk the talk in the whole cries about marginalization.

There are several levels for explaining this apparent ‘anomaly’:

One, at the national level, there are structural factors that predispose the behavior of the Igbo political class. For instance, the southeast is the only geopolitical zone with five states – compared to six by the other four and seven by the northwest. Also, it has the least number of the 774 local government areas in the country, with only 95, compared with the north-west (186), the north-east (112), the north-central (121), the south-west (137), and the south-south (123). Since the number of states and local governments has implications for both revenues received from the federation account, representation at the national assembly and the number of delegates a geopolitical zone has, this structure disadvantages the south-east and is at the heart of the zone’s ‘marginalization’ agitations.

The southern sub-region is also disadvantaged by the national structure, and just as the south-east uses ‘marginalization’ to engage the nation, the entire south, in particular the south-west, uses ‘restructuring’ as its mantra when it competes with its northern counterparts.

Two, at the southern sub-regional level, the south-east faces the same disadvantage it and the entire south face at the national level. This structure means that just as the north must agree to any power shift to the south, the southwest holds the ace when it comes to micro zoning within the south. Given this dual disadvantage, some Igbo political elite seems to believe that since the structure places a glass ceiling on how far any Igbo can go politically unless the North and the south-west ‘magnanimously’ concede the presidency to the south-east, it will be every man unto himself – with most adopting the philosophy of “the goat follows the man with the palm fronds”.

Three, another factor that explains the political behavior of the Igbo elite, is the memory of the civil war – on both sides. This has led to subliminal but lingering suspicion between the southeast and the rest of the country. Those who were part of the federal alliance during the war get advantaged in any political competition with the south-east which requires alliances with other parts of the country. For instance, it would have been difficult for a south-east politician to build the sort of structures in the north that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed built and which helped him to win the APC’s presidential primary – not because they are not capable of doing so but because they would have been inhibited by the subliminal memory of the civil war and the narratives around it. Many Igbo believe that their structural disadvantages at both the national and the southern sub-regional levels are related to memories from the civil war.

From the foregoing, several factors could be traced to the political failures of the Igbos after Civil War. While I may subscribe to those views, I still believe that the de-marketing of Sen. Okorocha does not bode well for the political permutations of the Igbos.

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