The Igbo and the 2019 dilemma

THE dignity of Igbo race was a key issue in the statement made public on Thursday by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu. Ibegbu, who spoke to newsmen alongside the Special Adviser on Media to the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emeka Attamah, made that reference while telling the nation that the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation was yet to adopt Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), for the February 16, presidential election.

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The statement might have run contrary to the generally-held belief, even in the media, since the November 15, 2018 meeting in Enugu, where elder statesman and renowned legal luminary, Professor Ben Nwabueze declared at the gathering involving Igbo leaders, traditional rulers, businessmen and politicians that the Atiku project was the last wish “before I join my ancestors.”

The general impression after the November 15, 2018 meeting was that the Igbo have spoken as far as Atiku’s ambition to rule Nigeria was concerned. But the spokesmen of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Thursday, came through with technicalities and declared that the window for endorsement of candidates as regards the election is still open.

According to the spokespersons, though the leaders of Ohanaeze were at the Enugu meeting which earlier endorsed Atiku, the event was put together by the elders and not strictly by Ohanaeze.  So, the nation was put on notice to watch out for the all-important Ohanaeze endorsement.

Hear Ibegbu: “We did not endorse Atiku Abubakar, neither have we adopted any presidential candidate. We made it clear that we are committed to ensuring the restructuring of Nigeria for the benefit of the people. We have said that we would identify with candidates whose restructuring agenda tallies with our views. We also made it clear that Ohanaeze would meet sometime this month to ventilate the issue and be able to arrive at a conclusion.

“The president-general, who was away to the United States of America, flew in that same day of the meeting in Enugu and was able to go for the meeting based on the invitation extended to him. When he got in there, resolutions arrived at were foisted on him, but it does not mean that Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsed Atiku and he made it clear that day that Ohanaeze was going to meet at a later date on the restructuring issue and the party that answers to the call of not only Ohanaeze Ndigbo, but also the Southern leaders forum which Ohanaeze is a part of. So, it is erroneous to say that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has endorsed Atiku.”

The group also said at the briefing that in the last two years, it has, “restored the dignity of Igbo race in Nigeria as well as handled explosive issues like quit notice issued to Igbo in the north, pro-Biafra agitations, Fulani herdsmen/farmers crisis in Igboland and Operation Python Dance.”

It needs to be said, however, that one issue that is key to the determination of height the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has placed the “dignity of Igbo race” in this clime would remain its handling of the Atiku endorsement saga.

I am sure that the Igbo language is rich in proverbs that justify steps taken towards the right or the left, just like their Yoruba brothers. I know that there are proverbs that warn you not to put all eggs in one basket or that warn about sleeping and putting heads in the same direction. There are also proverbs that indicate that your daughter cannot be blessed with good backside and you place beads in the backside of another person’s daughter.

I also recall that the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fewehinmi, stated severally that you should stand for something, even if you are standing alone.

Now, the Igbo are faced with the dilemma of taking a decision. Should they go for Abubakar who has promised restructuring and has chosen a prominent Igbo son of great accomplishments, Peter Obi, as his running mate or follow the train of thoughts of loyalists of the ruling APC who have said that the travails of the South-East since 2015 were because the Igbo put all their eggs in single PDP basket in 2015?

Should the Igbo appease President Muhammadu Buhari with votes in 2019 so that he could look their way with favour if he happens to retain his office in May or stick with Atiku of the PDP, whatever happens? Perhaps, the Igbo need to take some examples from their Yoruba brothers. In 2003, the North, which massively voted for Olusegun Obasanjo as president in 1999 had grown tired of him and would want him either impeached before the end of his tenure or voted out at the polls. The Yoruba utilised that proverb; ‘your daughter cannot be blessed with good backside and you place beads round the buttocks of another person’s daughter’ (Omo eni koni se idi bebere, ki afi ileke si idi omo elomiran). They, therefore, stood by Obasanjo, foiled the impeachment bids and adopted Obasanjo. It cost the Afenifere the political leadership of the South-West as its political vehicle, the AD, lost five of the six states. But the statement had been made that the Yoruba can speak with one voice when necessary.

If the Igbo fail Obi (one of the best materials from the South-East) by failing to back Atiku, it would say a lot about the readiness of the region to lead subsequently. It would have written volumes about the desire to speak with one voice at critical times.

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