There are few issues in the country today that gathers more consensus that the issue of Igbo leadership. The Igbos are seen as a people whose direction is as diverse as the number of people that constitute that group; Igbo. And at no time than now do the Igbos need even if not a single individual, whom they can look up to for political, then a group of few people whose integrity, courage and strength of character are not in doubt.
Before the Nigerian independence of 1960, the Igbos had strong individuals like Chief Nnamdi Azikwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Greg Mbadiwe and many others whose voices carry weight, not just among the Igbos but in the entire country. These were people who would raise the alarm about any ill-treatment being meted out on their people and Nigeria would sit up. These men were of untainted integrity. They could not have been bought over with any amount of money in this world or political appointments or promises of such.
Few years after independence and at the time when this first generation of Igbo leaders were almost losing steam, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu was thrown up by circumstances and he took up the task of leading the Igbos at a most difficult time in the history of these long-suffering people. With him were individuals like; Philip Effiong, and many others who did not need to be cajoled into joining the struggle nor was any of them ready to struggle for the prime leadership position, as Ojukwu showed every sense of integrity, passion and dedication to the job. A good leader does not command the people to follow him, the people simply flow with him, without looking back.
General Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led the Igbos under the umbrella of the Peoples Republic of Biafra remains a model in whom a leader should be. His successes and popularity among the people also shows that the Igbo people are easy to lead, but one of the most difficult people on earth to rule. The only thing the average Igbo needs to follow your lead is to convince him or her that you are sincere and selfless. Even while contending with unbearable malnutrition, unprovoked and barbaric killing of their siblings and relatives, and other realities that made their future so uncertain, the Igbos, young, old, male and female never deserted their leader, Ojukwu. There were always people ready to volunteer to go to war, even when there were no guns or even bows or arrows, able bodied Igbo men left their families and offered to go to war against the heavily armed Nigerian military with ordinary clubs, sticks and even bare-hands. Now, that is what leadership means.
Odumegwu Ojukwu’s personal sacrifices in trying to defend the Igbo nation was not in doubt. He liquidated his family’s personal wealth in prosecuting the war against the murderous Nigerian Army under General Yakubu Gowon. The people of Biafra knew that Ojukwu had many options available to him, but he chose the hard option; fighting for his people. Ojukwu could have chosen to keep quiet over the unprovoked massacres of his people by the Hausa in the North, after all, he was already a military Governor of the entire Eastern region, comprising of about ten States of the Federation. Colonel Ojukwu could have simply taken a flight to Lagos, Dodan Barracks then and bowed before General Yakubu Gowon and possibly got promoted to a higher positon in the Armed Forces Ruling Council, but he chose instead to stick out his neck for another Igbo officer whose whereabout was unknown. Had Ojukwu decided to pursue his personal goals, he might have ruled Nigeria as either a Military Head of State or a civilian President. His insistence on justice for his people on one hand and fairness for his fellow Southern Comrades in the Army, is the only reason why the Nigerian government declared war on him and his people. he did not run away. With less than 10,000 ragtag soldiers with little ammunition available, General Ojukwu held his own against more than 120,000 strong Nigerian Army who got their arms supplies from across Europe and Americas for thirty solid months, and I daresay, it was a success for the Igbo nation.
Fast forward to 2016, and some Fulani herdsmen invade a community in Enugu State, killing, raping and maiming innocent and vulnerable civilians, leaving in their trail more than 200 corpses and hundreds of injured Igbos, razed down houses and looted properties of Igbo men and women in their own homes. The Governor of that State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi after shedding tears like a weak woman, jumps into a private jet, taking time to dress himself in a good Hausa-Fulani attire and the next thing he is in Aso Rock, genuflecting and smiling like a Christmas goat before the same Commander-in-Chief who has behaved like his cows in Daura are worth far more than the lives of Ndi Igbo anywhere. There is unconfirmed information that while these children of Futa-Jalon wreaked havoc in Uzo-Uwani, this same Governor made efforts to call the President but was perpetually put on hold till these men had concluded their mission of nearly wiping out an entire community.
Nobody in his right senses will advocate for a retaliation against the Fulani or their herdsmen, but it was important for this Governor to have made the President understand that the lives that were lost were those of human beings, not of animals. The Governor could have simply stayed back in Enugu and prevailed on the President to visit that community, not because such will bring these dead siblings of ours back to life, but, at least to make their pained spirits see that someone really put up a fight for them. In Igbo tradition, it is the bereaved that is visited, not the other way round. Why Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who should be mourning his people chose to fly to Abuja less than thirty hours after the massacre of his people is disappointing.
At a time, many of us thought that Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State was fit enough to succeed Ikemba Ojukwu as the paramount leader of the Igbo nation, but lately, the Igbere Billionaire is becoming too politically correct to take up such position. The task of leading the Igbo does not fit anyone who will consider political correctness before taking actions or giving speeches in defense of his people. This responsibility is for men and women of character who understand the importance of standing up for the people, those who understand that the dire situation which the Igbos presently find themselves in does not require weakness of nay nature to correct. Those who will lead Igbo at this time, must be strong-willed, daring and politically incorrect, when the need arises.
Such men are not completely lacking in Igboland at present. What needs to be done, is for these men and women to shelve their individual differences and forget about who is likely to benefit or not benefit from the struggle they may wage. They should think Igbo first, and their own personal gains should be secondary. Individuals like former Governor Peter Obi, Ikedi Ohakim, Chukwuemeka Ikedife, Orji Uzor Kalu and other Igbo political leaders and intellectuals are mentally fit enough to drive this movement, and they must wake up to this responsibility, before the Igbos are wipe off the surface of this earth. Those upon whom Nature has entrusted the responsibility of catering for and protecting a people must not slumber while the same people are being maltreated by external forces.