Ndigbo a puzzle of numbers

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

The years pile up to the decades in which Nigeria has had no president of Igbo extraction just as the calculations are cranked up about what it will take for the country to break the much despised jinxed.

As 2021 entered its twilight, many predicted that 2022 would be dominated by the momentous politics of 2023.The predictions are proving true as wherever one turns, 2023, the contenders, the pretenders and the brickbats that will go into the buildup and battle hang in the air.

Nigerians can save themselves some disappointment if they accept even now that their elected leaders will do painfully little to service the machinery of governance \before 2023 given that many of them are in their last days in office and expect seismic shifts in the political landscape of the country when the elections dice finally rolls around next year.

For the Igbos, the line is an especially thin one.  Mr. Nnamdi Kanu may not be the favourite Igbo man of every other Igbo man but his words which steadily rapped the knuckles of the federal government from the UK before that ill-fated trip to Kenya where he was arrested and bundled back to Nigeria certainly resonated with a lot of Igbos.

After humiliating defeats in the Southeast first in 2015 and again in 2019, President Buhari and the Igbo have done very little to suggest that an ancient animosity will ever be set aside.

The Northeast and the Northwest may have taken turns to threaten disintegration at the hands of terrorists under the watch of Mr. Buhari, but there is no doubt that the greatest headaches have come from the Southeast where a secessionist group matches its words with actions. The pressure on the presidency from the region has been relentless and if a solution was an easy feat, it would have long been considered. But as with many things Nigerian, it is much more complicated than it seems.

The 2023 elections give Nigeria another opportunity to consider the Igbo conundrum that plagues the country. To properly consider it, a rather uncomfortable journey would have to be made into history.

The cataclysmic Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70 which pitched the predominantly Southeast region against the rest of Nigeria was fought alongside ethnic lines. Having felt out of  place in Nigeria, Mr. Odumegwu Ojukwu was able to tap into age-long anxieties and animosity,  milk his antipathy for the leadership of the country then to whip the Igbos into battle. The attempt which was immediate in its failure left behind a trail of incalculable human suffering. But perhaps, more than the tale of death and devastation was what it did to the fragile unity of the country. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Civil War fractured Nigeria`s ethnic fault lines perhaps forever.

At the end of the civil war, Mr. Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria`s then military president preached reconstruction and reconciliation. If any effort was made to encourage those, it was to paper over the cracks. The relationship between the Southeast and the rest of Nigeria ever since has been one of mutual distrust and suspicion.

Perhaps, it is why the country has been ever reluctant to hand over the leadership of the country to an Igbo man. The numbers for Ndigbo do not add up for if it did, it would simply bring home the presidency of the country. But it does not add up for any other region either and in Nigeria`s extremely treacherous game of numbers, it is Ndigbo that have always proven the sacrificial lamb, the ones burdened with the can.

In a country burdened by its diversity, equity is supposed to be an invaluable elixir.  Thus, while the leadership of the country has been held by members of each of Nigeria`s major ethnic group including the minority Ijaw group. Thus, if the Igbos are clamoring for a president of Igbo extraction, it is not ethnicism, it is equity.

Having supported other regions when it was their turn, it is time for other regions to support them. The argument that it does not matter where a president comes from as long as he is working is long expired especially as Nigerian politicians have shown themselves to be cut from the same cloth.

The numbers do not add up for Ndigbo but neither do they add up for Nigeria at the moment. It is a puzzle of numbers and how Nigeria solves the puzzle will go a long way in dictating the direction the country must travel in the near future.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

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