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#OtvOPINIONS: Peter Obi’s defection and issues for the Igbo political survival by Henry Onyema

by

Anambra State, indeed the entire Eastern
Nigeria and certainly the entire country, was
fortunate to have a governor of Peter Gregory
Obi’s calibre.
I lived in Anambra State from 2001 to 2006 and
witnessed firsthand the state’s political,
economic and social stagnation under Governor
Chinwoke Mbadinuju; the massive support for
Obi and the All Progressives Grand Alliance
(APGA) in the 2003 elections; the subsequent
tragicomedy which threw up Dr. Chris Ngige;
Ngige’s adventures in power and the first
‘return’ of Obi through the instrumentality of the
courts.
When Obi stepped down earlier this year at the
completion of his tenure, a recurring decimal in
the global accolades he received was emphasis
on his integrity.
That integrity is now being questioned by some
commentators and political adversaries because
he left APGA for the ruling PDP to supposedly
protect Igbo interests by working for President
Jonathan’s second term bid.
The comments of Mrs. Bianca Odumegwu-
Ojukwu, wife of APGA’s founding icon, Emeka
Odumegwu-Ojukwu, on the defection need not
be repeated here.
Obi’s response is also well known. My concern
here goes beyond these worthy children of
Igboland. It is the Igbo people’s fate in the
forthcoming dispensation heralded by 2015 that
is paramount.
At the risk of being tagged an ethnic jingoist, I
have always advocated a political platform that
will promote and protect the interests of the
Igbo and South-South minorities.
Nobody has convinced me that the APC is not
inherently built on ethnic and religious interests
which now seek to extend their tentacles to
other components of Nigeria because of 2015
that is of paramount importance.
The ruling PDP’s umbrella is seemingly national
in spread but the drama occasioned by
Jonathan’s presidency indicates that the
umbrella is badly torn.
I had hoped APGA would achieve the above
objective. Perhaps I assumed too much by
thinking that a party built around Ojukwu’s
mythical personality in an intensely republican
environment like the Igbo’s would speak with
one voice. I failed to learn from history. After
all, the defunct Action Group, built around
Obafemi Awolowo’s formidable personality,
cracked in its home Yoruba Western region in
1962.
What is it about the Igbo political elite who do
not recognise their people’s overwhelming
interest, and by implication, their (elite) own
aspirations which lie in championing the good
of Igboland within the context of a just Nigeria?
If Obi, who was allegedly schemed out of a
ministerial post by fellow Igbo because of their
jealousy and party affiliation despite his
acclaimed administrative competence, succeeds
in the pro-Jonathan presidency project, will it
translate into a better life for the Igbo within
Nigeria?
On the other hand, how will the rest of the
country’s political elite with whom the Igbo must
work, perceive our political class? Agreed,
political defections are not unusual.
As 2015 approaches faster than an express
train, political personalities and parties are
collapsing into the APC and PDP.
The Igbo should not follow this bandwagon
mindlessly because we need our structure, our
base, from which to engage the fiery furnace of
Nigerian politics.
We need a rallying-point. This does not mean
Igbo sons and daughters outside APGA cannot
pursue their legitimate aspirations but with one
caveat: how will it benefit the Igbo? Maybe I am
being idealistic because I cannot count on my
ten fingers members of the contemporary Igbo
political elite who truly identify with their
people. Most of them are so ‘Nigerian’ to the
detriment of the Igbo.
The way forward: perhaps the likes of Bianca
Ojukwu and Peter Obi, with their tried and
tested political and intellectual pedigree and
uncensored association with the Ikemba’s ideals
can help, but first, they should avoid a media
war and reconcile. Mrs. Ojukwu, in her late
forties, and Obi, in his early fifties, can be the
arrowhead of the new and principled Igbo
political elite. Igbo patriots who are not
necessarily politicians can be reached out to for
a sincere ‘ime obi’ conference.
The pan Igbo group, Ohanaeze, should ideally
set the modalities for such a conference but
their political neutrality is doubtful. Igboland
needs her own political structure developed
from, if you like, a sovereign South-East/South-
South Conference. Aspects of the Igbo condition
must be urgently addressed. Tried and trusted
Igbo elders like Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Ralph
Egbu, just to mention a few, can work with
these young arrowheads, which is not excluded
to the ex-governor and the comely Nigerian
Ambassador to Spain. This goes beyond backing
or not backing a second tenure for Jonathan. It
is the necessity of Igbo political survival in the
Nigerian jungle.

Written by Henry Onyema.

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