By Ike Abonyi
“Those who lie to Mr. President that he is doing well in building a nation are unfair to him. Since he became our President in 2015, we have not seen much of that leverage of the personality of the President to mobilise and unite” –Oby Ezekwesili
That is the red hot question in the country now. Everyone in and out of government, are asking the question and many are struggling to provide the answer. What has become very clear however is that there is no unanimity to the answer even among the Igbo themselves. But what really do the Igbo want in Nigeria? Is it possible pigeon holing their desires into one straight answer? Why is Igbo always the issue among all ethnic groups in the country?
Why are they the issue now after they were the issue 50 years ago? Why is everyone now talking about the Igbo and the Nigeria question? Why has the Igbo question dominated the nation’s political space to the extent that the President had to make two national broadcasts under two months on it. To effectively provide appreciable response to these whys, I intent to use a story illustration to further give insight into the problem and possibly reinforce and bolster the historical journey of this crisis.
Once upon a time, in one notable Kingdom, a strong King had emerged bearing in his bag grudges against a particular family in his Kingdom for causing the Kingdom to go to war against itself for which the King was an active player as a youth in the Kingdom’s army. The new leader’s relationship with this family in question has not been the best politically as the family did not support his emergence.
Because of his record as a no gobbledygook leader there was great fear and apprehension when he emerged as the King but he allayed the fear in his installation speech assuring the people that his past was already a prologue as they were seeing a brand new convert from what they use to know.
Considering his age and the fact that he was being given a second chance to lead the Kingdom, a rare privilege and opportunity that can only come from God, the people believed him. But unknown to them, the speech was just a fake one for the ceremony to satisfy the visitors and the international community as inside his mind something else was sweltering, the stubbornness and the apparent audacity of the particular family to persistently oppose him being the King for 12 years.
He refused to buy into the preaching of religious leaders to let bygone be bygone. Instead he said he was going to introduce a sharing formula that would ensure better appreciation for his supporters to the disadvantage of the family in question. He did not pretend about this as he made sure this was enforced in all he was doing.
This particular family watched at the conspicuous circumventing of their people including those in the same political group with the King on appointments and distribution of other largesse. As they complained it was apparent that they were pouring water on a rock as the snub continued. Not even the bemoaning from the family elders could mitigate the situation; instead they were further denied also their basic needs.
As this continued firmly to no avail, a young boy rose from within the family evidently angry and began the mobilization of the youth of the family in search of a homelands for his people. These young ones started hauling abuses on the entire Kingdom and the King.
The words and language they used were so uncouth and foul mouthed that even their own people were uncomfortable and complained but the youth would not tone down. At this time, the King who had pretended he never heard the cries of this family now got attracted and used his power to descend on the youth of this family incarcerating their leaders. Rather than the crackdowns bring down the agitation of the youth it got aggravated instead and gained international prominence.
The impasse between the youth of this family and the King then dominated all activities in the Kingdom with the rest of the family asking that the entire Kingdom’s political framework be reviewed for better harmonious living and to nip in the bud these unending cries of unjust and inequitable handling of issues by successive Kings.
Even as the Kingdom’s army were sent to crush the restive youths of this family, their activities had gone viral and the show of might by the Kingdom security only succeeded in hyping the tempo for the review of the entire Kingdom’s governing style and winning for them some sympathy especially from human rights activists at home and abroad. So this is where we are now and the people are asking what really do this family want?
What can be done to appease them and bring peace and concord to the Kingdom? The answers are as varied as the number of the people proffering it. Some say they want the country to break up so that they enjoy their republic and freedom, some say they should be made the King since they are the only one among major families to yet politically lead the Kingdom so that there can be peace.
Others say that the existing unfair ruling structure of the Kingdom should be overhauled to reduce the imbalance and the inequitable distribution of resources. While all these are on the card, inside the mind of this family is the continued existence of the Kingdom as one because of the inherent potentials.
The family is the only one among all that make up the Kingdom that has investments all over the Kingdom. They are scattered everywhere and are indisputably the next in number to every indigenous population and about the first in every place in terms of investments. Even as they do this they are the only family that has no single investment from other families in their area.
So to them therefore scattergun would not be in their collective and personal interests. Against this backdrop therefore they are correctly seeing their family as having more stake than any other family in the Kingdom project hence the zeroing out of the break up or scattershot options unless it becomes certain to happen, unavoidable.
But the concern now is how to erase the negative perception on this family in the Kingdom. Very simple, change the phobic attitude of the rest of the Kingdom on this family, appreciate their invaluable contributions to the growth and development of the entire Kingdom, create enabling environment for all and deliberately engineer a sense of belonging to the family in question through reasonable appointments. Just society for all is enough for this family so long as it’s defined by international best practice of what justice is in the eyes of reasonable minds.
An obvious absence of these variables in the Kingdom is indeed the provocateur that made the family youths go berserk in anger especially the haughty attitude of the King and his henchmen to their visible cries and lamentations. Possibly, if the cries of these family elders had gotten a deserved attention may be there would not have been the apparent eruption of the youth.
If therefore we are to rightly liken this Kingdom to Nigeria and President Buhari as the King and he says in his 57th Independent broadcast that the elders of the youth did not do enough in guiding them properly, is he not also guilty of ignoring the cries and advice of some leaders counselling on how to tackle the agitators.
Couldn’t a sublime attention from him as the father of the nation to these youths been able to douse tension greatly? But instead he bluntly disregarded the people to the extent that their children felt their parents were being humiliated. Therefore, the correct picture is that even if Nnamdi Kanu was an overreaction to an issue, can Nigeria leadership swear that they did not provoke it? In politics, inaction sometimes speaks louder than action.
What Nigeria appear to be doing to Ndigbo inadvertently amounts to throwing stones to a glass house and saying they did not expect the glass to shatter or beating a child and expressing shock that the child is crying. Prolonged absence of justice in our environment is the obvious underbelly of the country’s challenges and to achieve justice, the current structure should be seen as aiding not abating it.
Nigerian leaders should walk their talk of the indivisibility of the country by embracing all that would ensure justice and equity in the land. This perhaps is the apt response to the trending question of what Ndigbo want from Nigeria, not the current hypocritical attitude of a stone thrower blaming the stone instead of himself the thrower. God help us.