By Imo Jonathan
I will like to start by appreciating all Igbo leaders of conscience; political and none political alike, for the role they have played in advancing the Igbo nation. Notwithstanding that some charlatans are masquerading as leaders of Igbo nation and the failure of the Igbo political class to truly rise to the demands of leadership amidst great expectations from our people and the generality of Nigerians, one can still say there are outstanding Igbo leaders who have distinguished themselves in various sectors of the Nigerian economy. I acknowledge the impact of the outcome of the civil war which is still weighing heavily against the Igbo elite. To this extent, the leadership as presently constituted is on the basis of self appointment. We have a situation where anyone can attempt to offer leadership whether solicited or not. As at this moment, there is hardly any strategic agenda or roadmap for discovering, nurturing and deploying advancing leaders in Igbo land. And that is unfortunate.
But that notwithstanding, the effort of those leading various entities representing the Igbo nation and those who in their personal capacity have affected the cause of an average Igbo man positively must be appreciated.
But going forward, I want to address those who see themselves as Igbo leaders or if I may say Igbo elite. Since after the 2015 general elections, I have noted with great dismay an increasing display of apathy and resentments by some Igbo folks who are actually disgruntled with the Nigerian state following the shame of the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan at the polls. This defeat hurts their stupid ego, and that ego is motivated by incendiary elements amongst Ndi Igbo. My dismay is that those who lay claim to Igbo leadership are too quiet for the occasion of the moment. With the likes of Nnamdi Kalu beating the drums of war and raising the Biafria mantra, one expected the true Igbo leaders to come out and show leadership. Not to just speak out against the little fire being stoked by the Biafran charlatans but to constructively demobilize these jobless characters whose activities are bound to affect hard working, educated Igbo persons and may even consume the entire Igbo elite if not checked.
It is the Igbo elite who have invested across Nigeria and will be the greatest losers in the event that the fraud star who is using Biafra mantra to swindle the poor Igbo masses loses control and the Igbo race is pushed into another civil war. It is the Igbo elite who will not have a place in a Biafra that will be led by fraud stars like Nnamdi Kalu and his co charlatans if it materialises in their hands. It is the Igbo elite like Emeke Anyaoku, Ebutu Ukaiwe, Ike Nwachukwu, Alex Ekwueme, Ogbonnaya Onu, Leo Stan Eke, Ndubuisi Kanu, Mazi Ohuabunwa, Chris Ngige, Monday Onyekachi Ubani, Bishop Mike Okonkwo and their likes who will lose their voices and identity in a Biafria that these incendiary characters are trying to create.
This why those have a responsibility towards the Igbo nation must rise up and lead the charge against these charlatans. Igbo elites must make effort to stop these fraud stars from further diminishing the Igbo race and presenting us as weaklings in the Nigerian project.
According to most of these agitators, the latest Biafran agitation is predicate on the Jonathan’s lost in the last election and fight against marginalisation by the Hausa Fulani. But unfortunately, even their South South brothers who shared these feelings with them have moved on after the election and are positioning themselves in the CHANGE government to play greater role and to derive maximum benefits, while some of these Igbo folks are still bemoaning Jonathan’s defeat and presenting Igbos as the weeping baby of Nigeria.
But that is not true of the Igbo race. The important role of Igbos in moving Nigeria forward cannot be over emphasised and should not even be toyed with. Despite what some of these agitating Igbo folks have described as ‘’Northern Agenda’’, I will want to argue that no such thing can succeed in Nigeria. The North knows better not to alienate any sub entity or to attempt any stupid control in whatever guise. They know better to know that the only agenda that will farvour the North and every subset of Nigeria is the agenda of ‘’One Nigeria” built on the principles of rule of law, equality, fairness and justice. Because any attempt to try to emasculate any sub entity in Nigeria will not be unfavourable, it will definitely be disastrous and the North knows that.
With this confidence, I want the Igbo elite to rise up to their responsibility and to go beyond the federal government’s measure of arresting and prosecuting those charlatans to stamping their opposition to such ridiculous and fraudulent agitation. the Igbo elite should champion the role of Igbos in the emerging political dispensation and not give room for charlatans to determine our narrative.
The role of Igbos in the emerging political dispensation may not be as distinct from those of other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Defining our role if not in proper perspective could create the impression of an attempt to engage in sinister ethnic agenda as the North is also being accused by these agitating Igbo folks. I am sincerely concerned that this discuss is derived from the election perspective. But all the same, from which we can define our Expected Role Performance (ERP) going forward. Election has come and gone and it has been won and lost. Now is the time to look and walk boldly into the future.
The ultimate purpose of an election is to move the nation forward; it is about how to find solution to our common challenges. This is not the time to bear grudges and to play blame game. We have all expressed ourselves through the best ways we could during the election, irrespective of which side of the divide we stood.
Ordinarily, the constitution guarantees citizens the right to free speech, the right to assembly and the right to associate freely and worship according to the dictates of their conscience. These rights did enjoy full expression in our nation through the full participation of citizens in the election. And now that we have had the opportunity to express those rights, we need to join hands with the new government to move the nation forward. We need to have the understanding that the election was not about Mr. A or Mr. B, it was about Nigeria and Nigerians having the opportunity to decide their own affairs. It was about understanding that peace and political stability are preconditions for social economic development of our nation.
Therefore, the Igbo elite must rise up now to retool the minds of an average Igbo man and show them what mix of thought pattern that will lead to a dynamic future and the Expected Role Performance (ERP).
Ndi Igbo have a rich history and for which they must be proud. There is no threat from any Conner that can diminish that. The innate abilities of Igbo people to make difference irrespective circumstance is not in doubt. Igbos are most desired, they should not allow some irredentist make other Nigerians see them as being tolerated.
During the First Republic, the Igbo nation made an enviable progress in Nigeria through qualitative and coherent leadership, organizational cohesion, fiscal and industrial development, superb educational system, good governance, integrity in political office, and so forth. This solid foundation was laid before the inception of the First Republic, courtesy of the Ibo State Union and leaders of thought. Notably, government initiatives adequately encouraged farming and other allied produce for food and export. Thus, items such as rice, yam, cassava, cocoyam, vegetables, palm produce and cashew nuts were readily and ordinarily the mainstay of the economy. It was essentially on these that Eastern Nigerian economy thrived and expanded to become the largest growing economy in Africa then.
The Eastern Nigerian government had a clear vision which was progressive. As a result, the Eastern Nigerian Development Corporation (ENDC) was established, which became a tool through which series of development projects emerged , including: University of Nigeria Nsukka, Aba Textile Mills, Shoe Industry Owerri, Nigercem Nkalagu, Enamel Plate Industry Umuahia, golden Guinea Brewery Umuahia, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Glass Company Port Harcourt, Ulonna Farm Settlement, Niger Steel Company Emene, African Continental Bank (ACB), Hotel Presidential Enugu and Port Harcourt, Co-operative Bank of Eastern Nigeria Ltd (Co-operative and Commerce Bank). These and many other developmental strides were achieved within a ten year period 1957-1967.
It is noteworthy that all these were achieved due to the assemblage of qualified people who rose up to the challenge of the time. We had Igbo leaders with vision, they loved our people and they worked patiently as a team and made a visible difference.
Coming from that history, my honest perception is that the role of Ndi Igbo in the emerging political dispensation should be determined and driven by true Igbo leaders who reflect a blend of realists and idealists; because Nigeria is now in the era of power of dependence and the expected role has to be defined in the light of what is expected of every Nigerian.
Igbo sons and daughters must remain loyal to Nigeria and to each other in order to move the nation forward. As a people, we must begin to have positive expectation of Nigeria and the new administration. We need to avoid being perceived as being antagonistic of the new administration. Moreover, we need to lend a helping hand to those in authority towards building the Nigeria of our dream, notwithstanding how we think we are being perceived. Especially, as a subset made up of Christians, there is a higher expectation of us to do what is right for this nation. Because, our level of godliness will be determined to the extent by which our action impacts positively on the lives of our compatriots.
Ndi Igbo must realize that the war was over 48 years ago. This generation of Igbos must show that they are free from the psychology of war defeat. Igbos wanted to be independent from Nigeria because of the challenges they were faced with at that time in the Nigerian project, but their brothers and sisters on the other side said no; that they want us to remain one. Yes, Igbos lost a lot in that war, but they have the opportunity today to regain their ground by joining the rest of Nigeria to redefine its future. Igbos must not make the mistake of isolating themselves or perceiving others as enemies; as much as some charlatans on the other side may want to perceive Igbos as enemies. We must push forward in this dispensation to gain our rightful place and play the role expected of us by our brothers and sisters. We must understand that Nigeria stands on a tripod, and Igbo happens to be one of them. We must not play ourselves into irrelevance by becoming antagonistic and withdrawn. It is time for Igbos to rise up and show Nigeria that they have what it takes to make a difference by embracing the new realities and extending their hand of fellowship to our brothers and sisters. We have nothing to benefit from remaining in bitterness and bearing grudges. And as those that believe in divinity, we should forgive our brothers and sisters even when it is difficult to forget.
Ndi Igbo should not play the Ostrich. Problems will not go away except they are solved. We must learn to tackle problems with a solution based approach rather than an avoidance approach. Ndi Igbo should view the current socioeconomic challenges in Nigeria as an opportunity to prove their creative ingenuity. If Nigeria need more power; if they want public buildings and facilities to be well maintained; if schools require more trained teachers or more furniture; if public transportation is deserving of more infrastructure, equipment and personnel; whatever inadequacy you can think of, it can only mean that we are in dire need of creative Igbo minds and industrious hands who can take on these troubles. Indeed, the more these gaps that remain in Nigeria’s development efforts, the more relevant Igbos are as solution providers.
Igbos must embrace reality and move on. As a people, we don’t have time on our side. And as a wise man once said, time is the most critical resource necessary for the development of any individual, group or country. The use of time more often than not makes the difference between success and failure, between realized achievements and unfulfilled potentials. Because, as we all know, time has been identified as the defining essence of life. And Ndi Igbo does not have time on their side.
Ndi Igbo should remain positively determined to achieve their individual dreams and corporate aspiration for the nation because it is possible. When we pause to think how many times we have got up when we stumbled, how many times we have confounded those who wrote us off, we will see something in it – an ability that lies in us to make things work if we decide to do so. We must realize that what we require now is that attitude that we are originally known for. An attitude that does not consider failure as a choice, an attitude that resolves to create everything even when there is nothing; that is the attitude that made Ogbinaigwe possible, that made the economic achievement of eastern Nigeria between 1957 to 1967 a reality and so many of innovations that now defines the quality for which Igbos are known.
That generation of Igbos that made that history possible refused to accept defeat. And this goes to shows that there is no challenge for which Igbo man cannot find a solution if he puts his mind to it. In this circumstance, our boundaries of achievement will largely depend on our personal industry and leadership outlook. We can only have one rival, that is our own potentials, and we can only have one failure, that is failing to live up to our own possibilities.
The Igbo leadership therefore should purge itself of greed and primitive acquisition, they should alleviate themselves and stand up to those charlatans that are threatening to take the Igbo nation backward. This is time to set our minds on probity, accountability and honesty and above all thorough and efficient management of public funds.
Igbo leaders whether religious, political or traditional must be aware that Nigerians are suspicious of their deafening silence over the noise by Biafrain agitators, they see their silence as mischievous. True Igbo leaders must rise now to stop the incendiary characters who are threatening the peace of Igbo nation with their fraudulent orchestration of agitation for Biafra. They must stem their overly ambitious and self seeking disposition and become transparently honest in their personal and official dealings, so that the ordinary Igbo man can accept their leadership and disassociate themselves from the Biafrian mongers. Without this confidence measure, even the rest of Nigeria cannot take Igbo leaders seriously.
Truth be told, average Igbo leader as of today is perceived as too materialistic and indeed some of those who consider themselves Igbo leaders are just not leading in the interest of the people but for their pockets. As much as it is not wrong for one to strive to acquire material things, it should not be at the expense of the corporate interest of the people you claim to lead. This perception that Igbo leaders love money more than they love their people is not because their efforts to meet personal needs, but because of the way many who say they are Igbo leaders go after material things at the expense of developmental interest of Ndi Igbo.
Indeed Ndi Igbo needs wise men and women from the East to rise up to the leadership challenge of the moment. Igbos need selfless and visionary leaders who can also nurture future forbearers and present a clear roadmap that will ensure that characters like Nnamdi Kalu the Biafrian radio charlatan does not arise on the scene of Igbo plain again. Igbo needs reform-minded, educated men and women with scant respect for easy money. And there is urgent need for a South-East Recovery & Development Plan and an agency like South Eastern Nigeria Development Agency (SENDA). President Muhammadu Buhari himself must take that seriously or risk more Biafrian agitations and the rise of more Nnamdi Kalus and something worst than Biafran Radio.
That should be the role of Igbo leaders in the emerging political dispensation; self re-evaluation and focus on providing the needed leadership and maximizing what is available to Ndi Igbo.
Great Imo Jonathan is a PR, business and Personal Development Consultant, President Nigeria Future Leaders Forum and Project Manger of Corruption Kills Make the Connection under Buharian Culture Organisation (BCO). —
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