Ohaneze and Ekweremadu should rise to the Igbo leadership challenge.
“The Igbo historical past is very important and at certain times it has been quite tragic. But we cannot remain trapped in our past and as someone once said, we cannot wish away the war that took place but we cannot continue to move forward with our heads slightly inclined backward. You will either trip or not move fast enough. Don’t forget that you are in a race with other groups. Nigeria of the sixties is markedly different from Nigeria of today and the Igbo nation would have to adjust to that reality and strategize accordingly” ~ Rotimi Amaechi
Just yesterday a friend had asked, “who do you think can make the candidates’ list for Igbo presidency?” I was lost for a few minutes before replying Rochas Okorocha. When he asked why I told him that realistically he is the only one that has the chance of getting the necessary northern votes and that despite the perception out there I will personally pick Rochas over Jonathan and Yar’Adua for any top-level job. I won’t bother you with the rest of our repartee but you can be sure my choice of Owelle was not derided as most Igbos would have done.
This is a question that regularly pops up in our discourse. Some say that Igbos don’t need the presidency to progress. That what we need is a restructured and equitable nation for the Igbos to excel. I agree. But I equally agree with the reasoning that it will be equitable for Igbos to produce a Nigerian president after all these years.In any case that is just by the way to present some of the discourse that informed this write up.
Lately, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu has been in the news for the wrong reasons. Before the recent legal challenge he had been controversially mired in what many news outlets sensationally interpreted as a ‘call for coup’.
In a ‘sermon’ that saw him mention God over 15 times while commenting on the recent violence in Kogi state, the Senator had asked “Who says that the army cannot takeover in Nigeria? It is possible. Yes it is possible”. Surely James Humes didn’t have Nigerian lawmakers in mind when he stated that “every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership”
A lesson or two may be needed from his principal who was dragged around the Code of Conduct Tribunal for several months but never descended to such depths of impolitic flippancy. Being a smart lawyer and an experienced politician one would expect that Ike’s speech will be dotted with properly chosen words, but let us just agree that every now and then we lose it.
I had stated then that Ekweremadu’s outburst typified the emotional politics that is, unfortunately, the ubiquitous mindset of many Igbos since the 2015 general elections.
Now accused of illicitly acquiring several properties which were allegedly not declared, the suave lawmaker from Aninri is facing an ex parte application filed by the Federal Government seeking the forfeiture of 22 “undeclared” houses in Nigeria and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo is having none of that. Chief Nnia Nwodo, leader of the Pan Igbo Group issued a robust statement in defence of “a revered Igbo son” and accused the federal government of persecuting him alongside others just because they are Igbos.
Paradoxically Nwodo is saying this just a couple of weeks after Ekweremadu had dismissed the allegations as “part of the politics of 2019” while stating that the case has further exposed “those who colluded with the dismissed former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike and his cronies to steal and doctor his will.”
Moreover, this is not the first time Ekweremadu has been accused of amassing properties illegally. During the last administration, a certain Mr. Steve Igweze of a certain Enugu Salvation Group had among other things alleged that the Senator acquired the Modotel Hotels, Enugu and 1000 plots of land in Enugu for a private university.
So what in the world does Nwodo intend to achieve with his impetuous claims?
I am trying to imagine the spectacle we would have been treated to if the ACF had stoutly defended the former SGF Babachir Lawal during his grass cutting days. I bet you are too.
Have I in any way suggested that we should throw Ike under the bus? Not at all. He is a fine gentleman who humbly sits in the back row with regular guys like me in church. As a matter of fact, I believe he deserves all the political support he can get from Igbos.
For one, he has the experience and connections. Secondly, he is still young and will be around long after Buhari has retired. He perhaps offered the best but unheeded advice during the heydays of IPOB. Those who criticised him then for being a major beneficiary of the political establishment that wouldn’t want his table shaken were simply ignorant of the facts of law raised therein. If Igbos stoutly defended Kanu why not Ike? I would rather have him on a table where political strategies and projections are being discussed and developed.
However, the current allegations against him bother on illegal acquisition of wealth and have little to do with my struggles as an Igbo man in Nigeria. They are mere allegations anyway, and until proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law Ekweremadu will continue to discharge his duties as the Deputy Senate President. I cannot trust any other politician of South East extraction to wriggle out of such legal issues more than I can trust him. So playing the ethnic card in his defence is not only needless but also an inimical portrayal of Igbos as defenders of corruption whereas I know we are not.
Of course, Igbos have been in the front line of Nigerian politics since former President Jonathan providentially assumed power and his defeat in 2015 conceivably pitted us against the victors. Have we handled it well? Opinions are divided but Nwodo’s claim that politicians are being accused of corruption because they are Igbos is totally ludicrous and reinforces my belief that we could have played better politics.
Indeed, if Ekweremadu is being traduced by his Enugu brethren as claimed then it bolsters the long-held position by many that our political troubles are more within than without.
Take for instance the protracted tussle between Victor Umeh and Peter Obi which left my Anambra Central Senatorial District without representation for almost 3 years. Can you imagine that happening in any other geopolitical zone without the successful intervention of elders? Nwodo needs to be reminded that the core objective of creating Ohaneze Ndi Igbo is to foster unity among Igbos and not the ethnic defence of politicians accused of corruption.
Has he followed up his last visit to Aso Rock with status updates on the promised infrastructural projects? What is the progress report on the proposed regional economic integration by the South East Governors Forum? How many of the planned 430 km of road construction has been done?These and many more are instances where Ohaneze should prioritize its intervention, but it appears that Chief Nwodo has joined the bandwagon of victim mentality malady and ethnic choristers that will only exacerbate our political isolation.
The two leaders must rise to the challenge of providing Igbos with strategic and purposeful leadership. They are both experienced politicians. Last week I read somewhere that less than ten party stalwarts attended a meeting summoned by Ekweremadu in his Enugu Home. Igbos have equally lost out in the PDP where we have him as the highest-ranking member.
What a shame.
It was the legendary Mahatma Gandhi’s who said that; “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people”. If the South East region didn’t benefit infrastructurally when we had access to power via a ‘surrogate’ son shouldn’t Gandhi’s postulation above suffice now we are supposedly in opposition? It is in this context of redefined contemporary leadership that I assess Nwodo and Ekweremadu’s performance. I dare say that they have offered little if at all they can be said to have offered any leadership.
But no time is late like they say. I want to see more meetings involving responsible Igbo leaders like Peter Obi, Soludo, Muoghalu and the rest. We need to have more consultations not just across the Niger but across the Benue too. It is time to sit up, even if we have conceded the 2019 elections the next election begins immediately after the last one. The re-integration into national politics must commence through astute and conciliatory politics.