DEMOCRACY has come to stay in Nigeria, yet, many elements that lure its preference over other forms of government cannot be said to have firmly berthed with the system in the country.
It’s 21 years of democracy practice in this dispensation and nobody can unequivocally say it is too nascent to make any meaningful impact in national development and citizens’ welfare.
When the country broke off from the hold of long military rule in May 1999, the prospect democracy offered was too huge to elicit any concerns of any flaws that may stagnate national development.
However, the concerns then were the trust that the military had genuinely left the political space and returned to the barracks. Their dominant shadows kept lurking within the consciousness of the people; stirring the suspicion of possible usurpation of the system at their slightest behest.
Beyond that uneasy disposition, citizens were content with the threshold of a new beginning and anything other than the already protracted military government was a preferred alternative. Fortuitously, democracy began to gain strong ground in a short time, giving people feeling of being a part in the making of their government.
Interestingly, the advanced development enjoyed in climes where this democracy has taken great roots offered irresponsible lucre, compelling many to expect spontaneous political growth and socio-economic change in Nigeria as the system progressed.
Sequel to the new order and seeming fulfillment of the high expectations, elections have continued to be held in the country from 1999 to date without recourse to unmanageable violence, while the military had kept restraints from their characteristic interventions in the system.
Surprisingly, the practice of democracy in Nigeria has so far fallen short of fulfilling earlier held belief in the concept and stealthily utilised elements that trigger subjugation concerns than assurance of liberty and justice.
Critical in this realm is the politics that schemes out one of the major tribes from getting to the highest office in the land, which is the presidency. As a country, Nigeria is multi ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual in composition but with predominantly three ethnic delineations amongst other smaller groups.
All the divergent components find common classification in their ethnic affiliations, hence, in matters of representation and governance, ethnic and regional divides have constituted primary consideration in the federal character model.
In this dispensation spanning from 1999 to date, Nigeria has held six successive presidential elections. The successes recorded in the electoral exercises are attributable to popularity and wide acceptance of democracy with its lucre of liberty, justice and equity. The system seems to come with design that gives both the majority and minority voice in their governance.
Most importantly, it offered the people window for inclusiveness in their own affairs. Despite these flowery promises, voices of marginalisation and dissent have continued to reverberate in many quarters across minority climes in the country and even majority at some points.
In the development, how agitations from South-east (core Igbo ethnic group) could not be viewed with serious concerns after three decades of democracy accompanied with six successive elections that had continued to sideline them from taking a shot at the highest office in the land remains injurious to the psyche of the people and ridiculous to the character of Nigerian democracy and federalism.
The questions are: Does Igbo have reason to push for the office of the president on ethnic basis? Does Nigeria require leadership from ethnic consideration than competence and merit?
Perhaps, these underlying questions may have inspired President Muhammadu Buhari’s cousin, Mamman Daura’s assertion that the north may not support the South-east in their bid to produce the next president comes 2023.
This notion stems from his thinking that merit should be the criterion and not the part of the country the person to occupy the office should come from. Good as that argument may sound, the issue of rotational arrangement of the presidency by some political parties in line with the ethnic and regional divides of the country hangs in the sky with his region having already benefited from the system.
To further bare Daura’s sinister motive, the question whether South-east lacks competent hands and men of proven characters capable of entrusting leadership of the country, calls for answer. In matter of competency, If this is the best point north, Southwest and South-south can leave the country after taking their turns in its leadership, what could be more compelling than seeking an Igbo president to turn things around for a better Nigeria?
The ingenuity of Igbo people has never been in doubt and even those whose fear of the Igbo stems largely on distrust know that the region is replete with mavericks and genius.
The assertion of an Igbo leader, Chairman, Ohaneze Ndigbo Diaspora Committee and Chieftain of Igbo World Assembly, Nwachukwu Anakwenze, affirms the need to have the Igbo in the office of the president for Nigeria to move forward again.
According to Nwachukwu, “All the regions of Nigeria have produced presidents, and it is now the turn of the South-east zone to produce good leadership for the good of all Nigerians to move Nigeria in a positive direction.”
Nwachukwu is not alone in this postulation. The leader of a Pan Igbo group, Global Movement for Igbo President 2023 (GLOMIP 2023), Kennedy Iyere, minced no words in calling for Igbo to take the mantle of rulership and return the country to path of greatness. “We have seen the best that the north can offer, we have seen the best the West can offer and we have seen the best South-south can offer. This is the time to try the South-east.”
Unarguably, the clamour for Igbo president has not gathered steam in the past as it does now. Whether other geopolitical zones accept it or not, the seeming aloofness of government to the marginalisation cry of the South-east can only widen mistrust of the people in the political system.
The lopsided appointment of persons in key positions of government with deliberate exclusion of people from the zone continues to cast slur on sincerity of the system in making equity, justice and fairness in driving force of Nigeria’s unity.
With 2023 presidential election gradually creeping close, it can only be fair if the zone is supported by other geopolitical zones to make their own mark in leadership of the country in the capacity of president.
It is not a matter of Igbo being able to scale through the complexities of politics that pitches them against two major ethnic forces; the north and Southwest, but a matter of the opposing political ethnic forces realising the need for a change in ideology and practice that had long frozen-out Igbo from any chances of getting to the post of president.
Even in America where White Supremacy has been an order, it came to a point in their history when they could not deny the Black right to rule the country, hence, the emergence of Barrack Obama as president of America. Trump’s current disastrous outing easily attests to Obama’s two -terms leadership as rewarding to America as a country and her citizens.
Back home in Nigeria, the lessons from America should not be swept under the carpet. In fact, the component zones should realise the essence of equity and justice to back down on their ambition and allow the disadvantaged group get their fair share in the union or risk threat to peace and progress.
Those blinded by deceptive assumptions of holding the exclusive rights of ruling Nigeria should be reminded that what the colonial masters brought was amalgamation and not subjugation. Therefore, no matter the lopsidedness of the construction in terms of equity and balance, there is a need for all components to be partakers for peace and stability to prevail in the system.
If some geographical zones, especially the north, are not misguided to believe that power belongs exclusively to them in the union, the concern should be the quality of candidate South-east could give Nigeria now, given the degeneration the country is undergoing in many fronts.
Arguably, Igbo had been highly mistrusted and mistreated by other geopolitical zones. Some amongst them argue that they are dorminant; others believe Igbo have separatist tendency. Contrary to these insinuations, Igbo have proven to be the most liberal minded in the tripod.
They are open to all and accommodate strangers well. The Igbo have the unity of Nigeria at heart like a religion; blending well with different cultures and people across races and societies and as well developing places away from their area as they integrate with others.
How much more sacrifices could the Igbo make in Nigeria to appease their contemporary ethnic groups and win their goodwill? That they have been grossly misjudged and unfairly treated attest to the growing agitations from the zone.
With 2023 election coming, it is opportunity for the component zones to close ranks and let the Igbo have what rightly belongs to them. Igbo leaders of thought should also dispense with personal interest and pursue the agenda with collective force.
The defection of South-east Governor’s Forum Chairman, Dave Umahi, to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party should not derail the standpoint of the Igbo but should spur the zone into spreading their options for maximum impact.