By Cham Faliya Sharon
“You can try to dirty my name, but I will wear your hate like war paint.”
~ Madalyn Beck
At a time when they ought to widen their arms in an open intent to embrace other parts of the country, especially northern Nigeria, and then fix back the bridges their hatemongering IPOB sons and daughters have burnt in their unwholesome worship of the totally irresponsible and irascible Nnamdi Kanu, but the unfortunate press conference by Ohanaeze N’digbo on Sunday, September 25, 2022 appears to have dashed any hope of such possibility, at least for now.
The press conference was laced with all manner of hateful innuendos, outright falsehoods and blatant efforts to denigrate the North, with the whole intent of blaming the region for the calamities plaguing the Southeast. In short, a rational reading of the press release will make no distinction between Ohanaeze N’digbo, as the apex socio-cultural organization of the Igbo, and IPOB as a hatemongering terrorist organisation that always wants to project the Igbo as victims of any calamity, even if the calamity was Major Kaduna Nzeogu.
Known for their strong admiration, fidelity and loyalty to the PDP since 1999 till, perhaps, June 2022 when former Governor Peter Obi made a quick (probably temporary) dash from the party to the Labour Party where he grabbed its presidential ticket after Igbo delegates in the PDP made rubbish of the persistent campaigns by Ohanaeze for Igbo Presidency in 2023, Ohanaeze chose to run rings round their self-inflicted wounds by categorically blaming the North for their socio-political predicaments during the press conference. Instead of frontally limiting or restricting their blames on the PDP and then accuse the party for its shameless contempt and disloyalty to the Igbo in denying them the absolute privilege of producing the party’s presidential standard bearer for 2023, the group’s Secretary – General, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro told the world that “the North should free itself from the illusion of ethnicity and break the spells of deceit which the PDP and Atiku are using ahead of the 2023 election.”
By that statement, Ohanaeze N’digbo aims to misinform the world that the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar in the PDP is a northern Nigerian project, and by inference, it is the North that has ganged up to violate the party’s zoning arrangement, to which it further said “Anyone who breaches the gentleman arrangement by our patriots for a rotational presidency between the North and the South as enshrined in our consciousness to balance equity, inclusiveness, national peace, and stability of the country does not mean well for Nigeria.” And this is completely false. There is no place, date or time that the North, by whatever form, met and adopted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as their choice for the 2023 presidential election.
If anything, what can be closely described as a political consensus in the North is the way all the APC state governors in the region, including all the party’s major stakeholders in the region, unanimously agreed for power to shift to Southern Nigeria, which eventually led to the emergence of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the standard bearer. So, with this regional consensus, which clearly demonstrates the willingness of the North to cultivate and nurture inclusiveness, why should Ohanaeze N’digbo choose to lump the North in its blackmail and blame-game when definitive records show that the power sharing breaches in the PDP that they are complaining about have the fingerprints of Ohanaeze elements all over it?
Ohanaeze wants power shift to the Southeast. That’s cool, and it is within their rights to demand it. But it is very significant that they cultivate the values of pragmatism and idealism in their politics instead of engaging in hostile antics and boisterous press conferences that can only further widen any mistrusts and reservations other geopolitical zones may be nursing against them. For example, in that very same press conference, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro said, “Atiku Abubakar’s desperation is not healthy for the Northern region as the North has seen total neglect, poverty and insecurity.” If this statement is not an insult on the entire North by Ohanaeze N’digbo, then nothing else is!
By implication, and that is after a large number of their influential sons and daughters in the PDP actively worked for the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as their party’s standard bearer, Ohanaeze N’digbo chose to posit that only the North is in neglect, poverty and insecurity, and it cannot be salvaged by a northerner but by a southerner from their own part of the South. If that’s not how to read that insult, then how else should it be read? And, sadly, this is the kind of mischievous and hateful noises being peddled everyday on social media by IPOB devotees, and when you see such falsehoods, then you wonder whether it was under a northerner that bombs literally tore the North to shreds between 2010 to 2014, so much that President Muhammadu Buhari inherited over 2 million Nigerian refugees taking shelter in Niger Republic and Cameroon!
And, again, when Ohanaeze N’digbo talks about the North being in neglect, then your curiosity about what they actually mean with neglect becomes more confusing. What neglect are they talking about, and what was the condition of the Southeast, nay the whole country, when President Muhammadu Buhari took over power in May 2015? In spite of their being the most loyal bloc to the PDP, and in spite of also enjoying dominance in the government of President Goodluck Ebele Nnamdi Azikiwe Jonathan, not a single road nor bridge was built in the Southeast. Like other parts of the country, their entire road networks were deep craters, and totally unmotorable. But now, due to the nobility and patriotismof President Muhammadu Buhari – a northerner – they have the Second Niger Bridge built, several roads constructed and many other infrastructure. Under him, no part of Nigeria has been neglected in his infrastructural revolution as well as in his social investment programmes. So, what’s their definition of neglect here?
But due to this seemingly unrepentant attitude of ingratitude and the penchant for mischief, whenever you read or hear in the news that the leadership of Ohanaeze N’digbo are visiting President Buhari, it is always not for gratitude for the roads, bridges and countless other projects he has done for them but to pester him to unlawfully release a terrorist called Nnamdi Kanu from detention. And besides that, they always love to defame him that he is pampering bandits and insurgents in the North while detaining their beloved Kanu, whereas even in the newspapers published in their region(s), you can always see how that the main theatre of military operations against such violent criminal groups is in the North. If any terrorist or criminal is being pampered, there is no doubt that it is Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow IPOB terrorists, or have we ever seen our Air Force jets raining missiles on them like is being done to their ilk in the North?
If the US is busy hunting and liquidating hatemongering terrorists across the world, then isn’t it pampering when hatemongering terrorists like Nnamdi Kanu are merely being locked up, and brought before judges while wearing designer clothes with a full compliment of lawyers and Ohanaeze leaders always showing up to egg him on in his journey of hate peddling and lunacy? Have Ohanaeze N’digbo ever seen such tomfoolery in the North, whereby traditional rulers or religious leaders will be lining up in court in solidarity with terrorists or criminals, or even sending delegations to the government to request for their unlawful release from detention?
I wouldn’t end this essay without rebutting the issue of poverty, which Ohanaeze N’digbo and many other pseudo-intellectuals, mostly outside the North, always love attributing to the North. Whenever they talk about or “analyse” issues of poverty in the North, they always discuss it in such self-aggrandizing manner that you could be tempted to think that they live in eldorados in their regions while northerners live in absolute penury in the North. This line of thought, which often results in illogical verbal expressions like those of Ohanaeze N’digbo presupposes that a region’s poverty index can be measured by the almajiri kids begging on the streets while another region’s wealth status can also be ascertained by the number of drug traffickers, sex traffickers, internet fraudsters and cult boys prowling the streets, right?
Well, whatever anyone’s opinion may be, it is noble to reply Ohanaeze N’digbo and those who share in their warped reasoning that the North is not as poor to the point that its people could steal beans and onions at gunpoint to cook and eat. In case they have not had the privilege or opportunity to travel wide to see what other places look like and what their folks are doing, all that Ohanaeze and their partners in prejudices ought to do to ascertain the true poverty or wealth index of the North is for them to mount sentry at Lokoja to count the number of trailers bringing sheep, goats, cattle, beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, pepper, and many other food items down South, and to also see what those same trailers are bringing back to the North. It is always self-defeatist when you blindly or arrogantly arrogate to yourselves a false sense of grandeur by painting a very productive people as poor when, in actual fact, you probably need to just glance at your mirror to see how the poverty of thought have turned you into the cistern of confusion, so much that you can’t even see yourselves surrounded every inch by abundant evidences of the falsehood of your sense of grandeur.
For a press conference intended to market the so called quest for Igbo Presidency in 2023, it is without question that Ohanaeze N’digbo ended up throwing more grenades into the project by their not so subtle ethnicization of their campaign, and by remorselessly trying to pin the blames for this country’s problems on others without showing Nigerians any spectacular evidence of good governance in their region that has not been surpassed multiple times by political leaders in other regions. While trying to northernize the emergence of Atiku Abubakar, whom they have always been supporting as their favourite party’s standard bearer, they then dived into a puerile and childish marketing of their ethnic candidate by saying that they seek to “dethrone incompetence in governance with a strong, competent, and healthy President in 2023”, and that “the nightmarish episode of a sitting President always on medical tourism in Europe, and Asia must end with President Buhari in 2023.” And with a note of finality, they said “only Igbo Presidency will unite Nigeria and end insecurity.”
What does that statement tell you about their line of thought? The same attitude of self-righteous arrogance that is built on the morass of confusion, pure falsehoods and absolute bunkum. Of course, after their delegates helped to install Atiku Abubakar – one of their all time favourite politicians – as the standard bearer of their favourite political party, Ohanaeze N’digbo now desperately want to market Peter Obi as their pathway to the Igbo Presidency which they have been fantasizing about. But the sound qualities they are trying to ascribe to him are false. In fact, they are VERIFIABLY false. Not in his eight years as Governor of Anambra State did he ever exhibit any ability in effective governance or even the ability to be a unifier. And you can even add his stint as an appointee of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and still not find anything remarkable about him that could define him as a character capable of fixing anything in Nigeria or uniting the country.
Etched deeply in our memories is the fact that, throughout his eights years as Governor, Anambra State remained the headquarters of kidnapping and other violent crimes, so much that the first thing his successor, Willie Obiano, promised to tackle was kidnapping and violent crimes upon assumption of office. And we shouldn’t even bother venturing into infrastructural development, because Peter Obi hates infrastructure, at least not in the countries he loves to visit for business and leisure but in Nigeria. When faced with the reality of the practical ways the Buhari administration is executing infrastructural projects everywhere in the country, Obi quickly put on his PDP cap of mischief and folly and shamelessly blurted that “infrastructure cannot develop the economy”, which plainly betrays his abysmal understanding of governance and economic development.
It also reveals why the State he governed for 8 years has remained one of the backwater states that cannot boast of much structures or systems that can make it either a place of attraction for tourism or a choice place for investments for Nigerians outside of the area. And if you factor in the fact that he holds the ignoble record of being the State Governor under whom medical doctors went on a 13-month long strike – from January 2011 to February 2012 – then you get to know that when Ohanaeze N’digbo pronounce the word ‘competent’ for Peter Obi or for any politician they root for, you can bet that
they certainly see hyenas as camels.
With such zero achievement in economic management, social welfare administration and infrastructural development under his belt, little wonder whenever Peter Obi is asked about his plans for Nigeria, he switches on to his regular trademark speeches of reeling out the GDP data of China multiplied by the population of Egypt to give you the infrastructural masterpieces of Singapore! All pun intended, please! Therefore, flowing from that, it becomes pretty obvious that we would have been conned beyond measure with the Peter Obi internet propaganda if he has not been Governor for eight years and if we have not known that he was in the top echelon of the PDP until June this year, which are notorious facts that we can use to assess him.
But then, just like his boss Atiku Abubakar to whom he was running mate in the 2019 presidential election, there are no landmark achievements that can be attributed to them so much as to even warrant any electoral reward for them into any public office. And when I talk about landmark achievements, I don’t talk in terms of building expensive private universities or luxury supermarkets or owning banks or breweries and other blue chip companies that were acquired or built in Nigeria and overseas with suspiciously acquired funds while in public service; rather, I talk in terms of landmark achievements like roads, bridges, railways, dams, etc that were done with public funds for the short and long-term benefits of the general public since both of them held public office – Atiku as Vice President for eight years and Obi as State Governor also for eight years.
In the North, it is very easy for many other elected officials to show you the project(s) they attracted or initiated, and then got relevant government institutions to execute while in office, but not so with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. There is nothing he can show – not even a culvert – as infrastructural project that he caused to be done in the North while he was Vice President. As a matter of fact, if Buhari and the APC did not come to power in 2015, Atiku’s hometown of Jada would have still been without a motorable road. This is why it is an insult to the North for Ohanaeze N’digbo to label Atiku Abubakar’s current political jamboree as a northern agenda. The North always plays progressive and developmental politics, and Atiku Abubakar does not share in those ideals. At best, it is Ohanaeze that needs to look inwards and explore why characters like Atiku Abubakar are usually more popular in the Southeast than in the North and elsewhere.
And to the issue of national unity, which Ohanaeze kids itself that Obi will promote as President, it is significant to remember that as Governor of an Igbo (mono-ethnic) State, which ordinarily shouldn’t have any problem with unity, reports have it that Peter Obi injected religious divisions in his style of politics in the State by pitching Catholics against Anglicans. It is said that he made Catholicism a requirement for winning elections. Besides that, there are still these lingering stories of how his administration was very hostile to non-indigenes of his state. So, how could such a character that actively promoted divisiveness in a small State like Anambra be projected as a model of unity, when, in actual fact, certain persons and groups with very notorious reputations for championing hate and bigotry in Nigeria have already endorsed his presidential ambition? Isn’t it because they see their own reflection on him, and that he is capable of implementing their fantasies of rabid bigotry in governance?
For example, Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s faction of the Afenifere that spent the last seven years insulting and demonizing the Fulani, nay the North, has loudly endorsed him. And IPOB terrorists, whom Ohanaeze N’digbo as a group has been cuddling and nursing, and which Peter Obi has never ever condemned as a terrorist organization, in spite of their atrocities against the Nigerian State, and whom also spent the last seven years demonizing the Fulani, to the point of engaging in false flag attacks wearing Fulani attire in the Southeast until they got tired and began using the identity of Unknown Gunmen, and which belatedly, a section of the media that was hitherto also cuddling them switched to calling them IPOB instead of Unknown Gunmen, are now actively campaigning for him.
So, how could any rational Nigerian – and I really mean rational Nigerian – and the other major ethnic groups that they have been insulting, attacking and demonizing feel comfortable with such a divisive character as President in Aso Rock? It is completely deceptive and mischievous to label such a character as a unifier, unless if they actually mean he is the unifier of all hate groups and bigots! By the way, a lot of Nigerians are already alarmed that all the social media pages of IPOB are now campaigning for Peter Obi to be the President of this country that they hate with passion – the country they curse daily and even call a zoo!
Finally, Ohanaeze N’digbo think they can play the health card to market their “strong, competent, and healthy President in 2023”, which is a clear dig at Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential standard bearer of the APC, against whom all manner of fictitious stories are being peddled by merchants of fake news everyday about his purported ill health. Of course, rational Nigerians have noted that groups like Ohanaeze N’digbo will rather we don’t concentrate on the proven capabilities of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to deliver on infrastructure and socioeconomic developments but on their whimsical wishes for his health to be the issue. But even if we pretend for a moment and believe that political campaigns should all be about the medical conditions of candidates but not about their capabilities and track records, then will we not be injuring ourselves if we turn our eyes away from the fact that this country has been serially abused, raped and plundered by the kind of “strong, competent and healthy presidents” that Ohanaeze N’digbo is marketing?
We have already established that a “strong, competent and healthy” Peter Obi was a gargantuan failure as Governor of Anambra State for eight years. So, what will Nigeria do with these kinds of “strong, competent and healthy” politicians whose mark of failure is longer than the Second Niger Bridge, wider than Rivers Niger and Benue combined, and taller than the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai? Published reports say this country earned over $500bn in oil revenues between 1999 and 2015, and that about 90% of it were stolen with most of it stashed in overseas vaults and shell companies, and evidence of the fact that such proportion of our earnings were looted lies in the way Nigeria was turned into a rural area during the exact period. So, therefore, was it sick and unhealthy presidents and officials that ran this robbery racket against the Nigerian State or the “healthy and competent” ones that Ohanaeze N’digbo have been consistently backing?
And by asserting that “The nightmarish episode of a sitting President always on medical tourism in Europe, and Asia must end with President Buhari in 2023″, I (and all reasonable Nigerians) must remind Ohanaeze N’digbo that President Muhammadu Buhari came into office on May 29, 2015 hale and hearty, and shortly after it became clear that his projects and social investment schemes were a clear proof that the PDP truly wasted Nigeria’s opportunity to be great in 16 years, he began having bouts of illnesses, which necessitated references to overseas specialists by his indigenous doctors. And while the source(s) of his illness may remain classified, at least for now, but it is important to remind Ohanaeze that Nigerians were horrified when the loudest death wishes against the President was coming from a particular region, so much that Nnamdi Kanu, who could win any hatemongering contest, declared him dead and then told his impish, hatemongering battalions that it’s a clone from Sudan ruling the country in Aso Rock!
But then, like I alluded to earlier, even while he was battling ill-health, President Muhammadu Buhari continued to execute his projects and programmes all across the country, so much that his track record in infrastructural projects, defence procurements and the growth of the economy through various CBN intervention schemes remains the best in this country’s history, or can Ohanaeze N’digbo deny that it is a “sick” Buhari that patriotically built several roads and other projects, including the Second Niger Bridge in the Southeast, and many more others, including railways, deep seaports, etc across the country? If “healthy and competent” leaders failed to deliver the goods, then shouldn’t we applaud the “sick” and “incompetent” ones for delivering them?
At this juncture, no one should care about the kind of adjectives groups like Ohanaeze N’digbo ascribe to politicians with great track records of achievements. The track records of those who aspire to lead us is of paramount importance, and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu already has a towering record of achievements, especially in the way he has used brilliant ideas and skills to begin the development of the modern Lagos we are seeing today. It is this track record we should be discussing and not distractions about health, which is just a decoy to lure us into handing back the country to her rapists.
You can follow the writer on Twitter @ChamSharon