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“What Ndigbo Want” – By Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji

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On 30th December, 2015 during his first media chat, President
Muhammadu Buhari asked the golden question, “What do Ndigbo want?” in
a bid to respond to the obviously vexatious question of perceived Igbo
marginalization raised by one of the journalists. Indeed, that
question is golden. It gives Ndigbo a rare opportunity of telling Mr.
President and the whole world what they want and more importantly,
what they need.

If the question is, “What do Ndigbo want?” the answer will vary
depending on who is giving the answer. To some, the answer will be
Igbo Presidency; to others, a restructured Nigeria and to some others;
the answer will even be Biafra. In fact, some will simply want to be
allowed to live and do their business in any part of the country that
they wish without molestation from their fellow countrymen.

However, if the question becomes, “What do Ndigbo need?” the answer is
singular and straight forward. Ndigbo need a country where no ceiling
will be placed on their genuine rights and aspirations as bona fide
citizens. Ndigbo need a country where every citizen, whether from the
biggest or the smallest tribe will enjoy a level playing field in all
ramifications. Ndigbo are not comfortable in a country where they have
become so marginalized that the President, from his assertions during
his media chat no longer sees any reason why they should complain of
marginalization. The Igbo position at all national conferences, from
1995 to 2004 and that of 2014 has always been that of equity for all
Nigerians, not usurpation of others rights by Ndigbo. That is why
Ndigbo support Zonalization i.e. devolution of power to the zones as
federating units.

Today, Nigeria as presently structured is an aberration. The present
structure is  not just working. The president himself confirmed this
during his media chat when he stated that 24 out of the 36 states in
Nigeria could not pay salaries when he came in as president. This
justifies the assertion that most of the present 36 states in the
country are not economically viable. They only depend on the monthly
revenue allocation ritual at Abuja for their existence. With ever
dwindling oil revenue, it is imperative that this feeding bottle
structure is discarded in favour of a more functional and effective
structure. The present structure encourages indolence and
unproductivity. Today, with vanishing oil revenue, Nigeria has to
diversify her economy through agriculture and industrialization. For
this to be achieved, her economy must become private sector driven and
no private sector enterprise can survive without merit. Dangote, an
Hausa Fulani became the richest African by merit, not by quota. He was
once asked why he had many Igbos as employees. He replied that he was
not aware of that, that he merely employed the best hands for any job.

As enterprising people, Ndigbo are totally in support of the
Government’s Anti Corruption Crusade as corruption and Quotacracy go
hand in hand. They both deny Ndigbo and all other well meaning
Nigerians a level playing field.  A country that has Quotacracy
instead of meritocracy as its guiding principle can never be
productive, talk less of becoming one of the first twenty economies in
the world by 2020 or even 2099. Quotacracy is a form of intellectual
corruption. Therefore, President Buhari in line with his Anti
Corruption policy should abrogate Quotacracy. A situation where Amobi
from Anambra scores 137 and his brother, Amadu from Yobe scores 2 to
pass the same exam (National Unity Colleges Entrance exam) is
apartheid! Besides, it has glaring adverse effects. Amobi will grow up
feeling marginalized and Amadu will grow up feeling inferior.
Marginalization and inferiority are the root causes of ethnic strife
and genocide globally.

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Actually, Buhari did not cause Nigeria’s problems. However, it would
be unpatriotic of him not to support having the country re-structured
because he is now at the helm of affairs. After all, his party –the
APC has always advocated for re-structuring and true federalism.
Nigeria’s dilemma is like a beautiful woman diagnosed with breast
cancer. She either keeps her breasts and dies prematurely in her
beauty or she loses her breasts and keeps her life. Presently, over
concentration of power at the centre as a result of decades of
military rule has made the Nigerian President the most powerful head
of state in the world! As such, the urge to use such powers to the
advantage of one’s ethno-religious grouping has proven to be
irresistible to Nigerian presidents, so far. This is genuinely
interpreted by other ethno-religious groupings as marginalization.
Whether the Nigerian president is Yoruba, Fulani, Ijaw or even Igbo,
Nigeria cannot move forward unless it is re- structured.

Indeed, Nigeria needs to be unbundled. Nigeria needs to be expediently
re-structured so that power will devolve from the Federal Government
to the federating units. For economic viability and economy of scales,
geo-political zones, not states should be federating units. If Nigeria
is not unbundled into more effective and productive units (federating
units), the cries of marginalization and ethnic agitations will keep
magnifying with serious consequences for the corporate existence of
the Nigerian state.

Sympathy for the Biafran agitation has swollen geometrically since
President Buhari’s assumption of office for an obvious reason. Ndigbo
are by nature truculent people, their resilience and ingenuity is
enhanced when they are pushed to the wall. The present Government’s
deliberate policy of Igbo marginalization as a punishment for their
being Jonathan’s most ardent supporters is backfiring. From Slavery
era America to the Haitian War of Independence and down to the Biafran
war it is the same story. Ndigbo are at their best when they are
forced by circumstances to unite against a perceived foe. Today, the
Biafran agitators are latching unto the theory that the security of
Ndigbo is not guaranteed in Nigeria. How can President Buhari prove
that the security of Ndigbo is guaranteed under his Government when
not a single Igbo is part of his national security council? Out of 11
service chiefs and heads of paramilitary agencies, not one is Igbo.
President Obasanjo started a tradition in 1999 which successive
Governments upheld, of having the 6 geopolitical zones represented in
the national security council.  Therefore, this is the 1st time since
1999 that a geopolitical zone and a major ethnic group is totally shut
out of the national security council. A glaring case is that of Civil
Defence where an Igbo was appointed by President Jonathan at the tail
end of his tenure and the permanent secretary in the Ministry of
Internal Affairs declined from decorating him only for President
Buhari on assumption of office to revert to the 2nd placed person who
is now the Commandant General.

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Therefore, it is early enough in the day for President Muhammadu
Buhari to change his tactics. Showing love to Ndigbo despite their
seeming mistrust of him would have won them over, making them his
greatest supporters. If he still does so, he will be overwhelmed by
the reciprocity Ndigbo will show him.

In as much as no tribe or group should be marginalized, it is indeed
politically unwise for anyone to attempt to sideline Ndigbo owing to
their numerical strength and exalted place in world history. From
Olaudah Equiano – the first African author/publisher and leader of the
Abolition Movement in Britain to General Toussaint L’Ouverture – the
founding father of Haiti, from Aime Cesar of Martinique to Marcus
Garvey of the World Negro Movement, from Jaja of Opobo to Nwanyiriuwa-
the heroine of the Aba Women’s Riot; Ndigbo have always been audacious
trailblazers.  Nearer home, Patrice Mba- the first Prime Minister of
Gabon was from Okposi, Ebonyi State and till date, many “Biafran
Babies” are part of the Gabonese ruling class! Also, several of the
early presidents of Sierra Leone such as Dr Siaka Stevens were of Igbo
ancestry. In 2009, the American Government established the Igbo Farm
Village Museum in Staunton, Virginia in recognition of the fact that
the Igbos were the African tribe to contribute most to the making of
America. Years ago, Igbos who wished to join the US Marines were
giving automatic opportunities to do so. No other African tribe had
such a privilege. Finally, Ndigbo are referred to as the Jews of
Africa owing to their shared uncommon mercantile prowess and
archaeological evidence from Aguleri – the ancestral home of Ndigbo.
Certainly, it pays to woo such a tribe than to boo them.

Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji (B.Eng.)

Poet, Political Activist & Engineer

Executive Director, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy & Leadership (CALL)

Former National Chairman, Ohaneze Youth Wing

07039620129. Email:call6thmay@gmail.com

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