There is an Igbo problem, let’s face it
One of the best pieces written about Nigeria’s Igbo problem by a non-Igbo person was recently republished by David Hundeyin in his BusinessDay NG column. There are two parts to it, here and here. I highly recommend that you read it.
Reading the article, no one should be surprised about the almost visceral reaction to my tweet from a few days ago in which I quoted something that Chinua Achebe wrote in 1983. The interesting thing is that if all the people making noises about “victim mentality” and “bigotry” and “disunity” had bothered to look at the tweet just before that, they’d have realised that my tweet was actually addressed to my own people, but that would be expecting snow in the Sahara. Such people are caught up in their own bigotry, and what they simply do is project their own mindset on others.
You see, Nigeria has an “Igbo problem”, and no matter how many times people try to deny it, it is there. It manifests in so many ways. Think about Danladi Umar, Abubakar Malami, Remi Tinubu, and Muhammadu Buhari, just as examples. Nothing has happened to any one of them.
But increasingly, I’m of the opinion that even we, ndi Igbo have some work to do on ourselves. I made a thread about that a year ago. This need for us to change our ways and adapt to our environment is even more urgent as Nigeria is headed for an enforced renegotiation. We would be making a strategic error if we enter that renegotiation as the group that everyone loves to hate.
Let me repeat what I said on Igbo History Facts some days ago, something I’ve been consistent with: I’d rather not have an Igbo man replace Buhari next year, for the simple fact that the disaster the man has wrought on Nigeria is so great, and it’s his successor that will be blamed. Nigerians tend to do collective guilt. It’s the way we’ve been trained since colonial times. Yes, all those “punitive expeditions” conducted by people like Hugh Trenchard trained us to hold a village responsible for the actions of an individual, and you can’t undo that sharply.
There are two counter-arguments to mine about not wanting an Igbo man to succeed Buhari, and it would be good to address at least one: that we should not be afraid of pushing our best forward to change things in the challenging environment that will be post-2023 Nigeria…
This argument has merit, and our culture encourages people to take on challenges. After all, our ancestors said, “Mberede nyiri dike, mana mberede ka eji ama dike.”
True, but our ancestors also said, “Ikpe aghahi ima ọchịcha ebe ọkụkọ nụọ.”
Sadly, despite all the apparent suffering in the country, Nigerians are not quite ready to have that conversation about the hard decisions necessary to change the fundamentals of the country, so there is no point in putting one of ours in the bull’s eye to make those decisions. I’m of the opinion that the whole thing has to run completely aground first, and stay aground for a while before people’s eyes will begin to clear. Nigeria is not there yet, and wouldn’t be for another five to 10 years.
Having said all that, if the rest of the country decides that they want an Igbo person to succeed Buhari, then I’ll go with the maxim that “vox populi vox Dei”, even though I don’t believe that God speaks through anyone in Nigeria any longer. But my point is buttressed by the attention, scorn, and near disdain that is greeting the opposition to Peter Obi’s attempts by various quarters, so let’s remind ourselves of a bit of fairly recent history. In 1999, a majority of the country accepted that the Yoruba people had been cheated of the Presidency six years earlier, and as a result, for the first time in our history, every other group stepped back and only one group, the Yoruba, produced the candidates for the election. I was just a young man of 19 at the time preparing to vote for the first time ever, but I don’t recall anyone telling the Yoruba that “you are not united”, “give us just one person to vote for”, “but you have threatened to leave Nigeria”, and other such crap we’ve recently heard.
This is the kind of language that we have been hearing from a lot of quarters in this day, when many Igbo people and even non-Igbos such as Phoenix Agenda and Gege feel, rightly or wrongly, that it is time to “give” the Presidency to the South-East.
Is that fair?
It is patently unfair that at various times, Nigeria has been able to agree that “it’s the turn of a group” Yoruba in ’99, Niger Delta in ’07, North in ’15, then suddenly when the Igbo use the same argument the rules appear to change. But as I’ve pointed out, I don’t want an Igbo person to take this poisoned chalice because, for us, the rules change, and that is a reality we have to live with and plan according to.
For those who like to pretend that #Nigeria has no “Igbo problem”, udo diri unu.