With just days to the kick off of the 2023 presidential and national assembly elections, the horizon and permutations are getting clearer on who will get what , where and how. Political parties and the gladiators within are digging in to their strongholds, while exploiting the opportunities of burrowing into their opponents enclaves to scratch out something to their advantage.
The international community and most election observers within the Nigerian space are of the opinion that the forthcoming elections will be one of most keenly contested elections in the history of Nigeria, owing mostly to the demystification of hitherto held primordial bonds, disentanglement of colonially forced fusions, and discontinuation ofslavish followership. Not forgetting the recent socio-political and economic events that recalibrated the psyche of the electorate and the Nigerian state. Most memorable of all being the bloody ENDSARS riots that that nearly capitulated the ship of government and placed Nigeria on the wrong side of the global human rights index.
Prior to the 2023 elections, precisely in the days leading to the primaries of the political parties. Two political parties dominated the Nigerian political firmament, and were seen as the only possible platforms for access to national prominence in the Nigerian political space. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were without doubt the colossal pedestals on which candidates sought for offices; while the PDP held sway for 16years, the APC has been on the saddle for 8 years with a persistent and ever-growing hardship on the populace. In both parties, the Igbo have paid monumental prices in both human and material resources towards their building.
The noble roles of former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme in the formation of the PDP and the ignominious treatment he got from the party after formation. In the APC the pioneering roles of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who was the national chairman of the largest legacy party that fused to form the APC, and his now famous cry of “ WHERE IS THE JUSTICE “ at the APC national convention are sad tales on a people who have paid so big a price for the sustenance and growth of our democracy, but got disdain in reward. Bring it down to the FCT, the inputs of Comrade Emma Ezeazu, of Blessed memories in giving the party a footing in the FCT cannot be overemphasized. In all, where are the Igbo placed. Especially in the FCT.
Despite all efforts put in conceiving, grooming and bringing the parties to limelight, and contributing the highest quota in the socio-economic development of the FCT, not forgetting the building of political bridges with both indigenes and other elements alike, we have always being treated with disdain, scorn and near hatred by those who have manipulated the political process to the disadvantage of Ndigbo.
It went so low that a former Executive Chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council ( AMAC), who later became a national parliamentarian taunted the Igbo as “BEING AS BIG AS KOBO; WHICH IS WORTH A LITTLE, DESPITE ITS SIZE”. This was simply because the duo of the PDP & APC has shut the doors of opportunities for the Igbo, as we didn’t get the chance of having our people ( or preferred candidates) flying the flag of any of these dominant parties.
But as a people groomed in long-suffering, Ndigbo in the FCT who has always been relegated to the political trash bin especially by these political opportunists, held on to our believe in the Nigerian project, knowing that a day will come when their votes will count and democracy will take its full course of sprouting from the right end of the electoral cotyledon.
This opportunity threw up itself with the emergence of the Peter Obi phenomenon riding on the crest of the Labour Party. With the coming on board of the Labour party to the gladiators’ table of Nigerian polity, a lot of permutations changed and hitherto disadvantaged but popular persons got the opportunity to challenge the established sit-tights who have arrogantly cornered the political offices of the FCT to themselves. In the Labour Party and its flag bearer Peter Obi, the Nigerian youth found a platform though which they can now vent their democratic vapour against the establishment.
Today the electoral strength of both the PDP and the APC has seriously been eroded, with most exit polls conducted by reputable organizations projecting Labour Party’s Peter Obi to win the 2023 presidential elections.
As the Obi/Datti wildfire ravages the Nigerian space, the FCT is not left out, and like their counterparts in other electoral offices, its quickly dawning on the clipped colossus of the FCT political turf that their days are numbered; thanks to the Buhari electoral act which has brought fairness and transparency to the process. Realizing that the Igbo strength in the FCT electoral register is commanding, coupled with the massive followership the Labour Party is enjoying amongst the youth, the candidates of the major parties are drawing up strategies of snatching victories from the Labour Party candidates.
One of such strategy is whipping sentiments of Igbo dominance of the indigenous people of the FCT. A cheap blackmail style aimed at cajoling the electorate to allow the Indigenes produce the senatorial position while they in-turn will support the Labour Party in the presidential election. Sadly this narrative is been expounded by some Igbo persons hiding under the guise of strategic negotiations, but in actual sense are shortchanging the electorate and whittling the gains of the Obi/Datti Movement.
For the FCT senatorial seat, the Labour Party has Hajia Ireti Heeba Kingigbe flying its flag. A woman, who has cut her teeth in the political terrain of the area, paid her dues in touching lives across the various localities and interests in the nation’s capital. For Hajia Ireti, who is fast emerging as the candidate to beat in the race, her ancestry which bestrides the ethnic divisions in Nigeria is been used to hound her. With an Igbo mother from Asaba, a Yoruba father and a Kanuri spouse, Ireti is a true Nigerian and best represents the true spirit of the FCT. Hence the question of Igbo dominance is one cheap and unfounded escape valve concocted from the pit of hell by politicians who have over the years arrogantly arrogated to themselves the monopoly of electoral victories and are refusing to come to terms with the dawning realities of a process where power has truly come to the hands of the electorate.
We shouldn’t be or pretend to be unaware of the bandwagon effect in the electoral pattern of our illiterate or semi-illiterate voters, hence allow them to continue with already established LP logo, rather than asking them to tilt towards any paymaster in the simultaneously run election. This will be politically damaging
Those “Igbo leaders” who are bandying “the fallacy of Igbo dominance”, should not forget the near past when the Igbo were not even allowed to produce a ward councilor, simply because our votes were not counting. A time when charlatans and opportunists looked us straight into the eye ball to compare us with the worthless kobo.
Today, the Kobo has realized that it is made of Copper and has stood to take its rightful place in the electoral process, no blackmail can stop us.
A word is enough for the wise.
Ododzi Nwodozi is the publisher of uda Ikoro and Immediate past President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo FCT Chapter , an investigative journalist and a social critic