Prof. Pita Agbese writes how Soludo’s victory complicates the quest for an Igbo presidency
Last Saturday, the people of Anambra went to the polls and spoke loud and clear. They voted to elect Prof. Charles Soludo, the flagbearer of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), as the state governor. It was a clear victory for Soludo as a person, but his victory further beclouds the Igbo quest for the presidency of Nigeria. The quest for an Igbo presidency was on shaky grounds to begin with, but Soludo’s victory via the instrumentality of APGA, makes those grounds even more wobbly. In other words, Soludo’s personal victory may translate to an Igbo loss.
APGA is at best an instrument for Igbo ethno-nationalism. No more. No less. It does not pretend to be a national party, Even in Igboland, it is a marginal party controlling just one of the five Igbo states. If it is visible anywhere beyond Anambra State, it expresses itself primarily as a vehicle for a spate of anger against either the APC or the PDP. For example, former minister of Information, Labaran Maku, used APGA as a platform for his gubernatorial bid in Nasarawa State after he failed to clinch the PDP nomination. He and APGA went nowhere in Nasarawa’s gubernatorial contest. APGA does not have a pan-Nigerian vision and can count only a handful of non-Igbo people as its membership roster. Even in Anambra, most of the legislators elected under the APGA platform defected from the party on the eve of the Anambra gubernatorial contest. Soludo will be governing Anambra without his party having a firm grip on the House of Assembly. SOL Udo is urbane, smart and articulate, but he has nothing to sell in APGA beyond Anambra State.
With his victory, Soludo has been catapulted to the status of the face of the Igbo in national politics, but with APGA so enfeebled, Soludo’s Igbo face is a defaced and deformed one. He eclipses other Igbo leaders, but he cannot rally the Igbo people around APGA as an instrumentality for seeking the Igbo presidency. He cannot use APGA as a bargaining chip in national politics, either. APGA does not have anything to give in return for the presidency. In fact, the perception that APGA is the party most sympathetic to Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB, a separatist movement, makes the lugubrious weight of APGA as an agitational platform for the Igbo presidency that much heavier and more complicated.
The quest for the Igbo presidency suffers from many problems each of which is capable of derailing it. First, to call it an Igbo presidency invokes negative connotations for the quest. When the Yoruba people demand the presidency, they do so in the name of the Southwest even though the Yoruba are the Southwest and the Southwest is the Yoruba. Calling it a Southwest presidency rather than a Yoruba presidency, softens the ethnic exclusivity of the agitation. Similarly, the Hausa and the Fulani do not couch their ambition for the presidency in ethnic terms. They make their demand for the office in regional terms. Not so, the Igbo. The Igbo presidency is not a Southeast presidency. It is an Igbo presidency. It seems unnecessarily exclusively Igbo in contemplation. It scares other Nigerians to put it in such stark terms.
Second, the quest for the Igbo presidency is often anchored on the claim that the Igbo people deserve the presidency on ethnic basis. The main argument is that other ethnic groups have held the presidency, excluding the Igbo people. To further elaborate, it is often asserted that main ethnic rivals to the Igbo, the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba have held the office, so, why not the Igbo? The plank on which this argument rests is both the strongest and the most fatal element of the quest. Its strength comes from a sense of ethnic equity. If people from other ethnic groups have had a shot at the presidency, why not the Igbo people? It is patently unfair, it would seem, to exclude the Igbo from the presidency or to refuse to give them the opportunity to vie for it. Why this argument deals a fatal blow to the Igbo presidency is simple. Nigeria has 400 ethnic groups. If the Igbo people deserve to rule the country, why don’t the remaining 397 ethnic groups of the Nigerian presidency, deserve it, too? If the presidency is apportioned on purely ethnic grounds, the Igbo will be major losers. If each ethnic group has a right to the presidency and each ethnic group serves two terms of four years, an Igbo person would be entitled to the Nigerian presidency only once every 32,000 years!!! So, casting the agitation for the presidency on purely ethnic terms does not do the Igbo any good. It actually weakens their case since every ethnic group can make the same claim with the same credibility.
It is also not credible, as the agitators for the Igbo presidency often argue, that the Igbo people are marginalized in Nigerian politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Igbo people have been senate president several times. Two Igbo people, Alex Ekwueme and Ebitu Ukiwe, have served as vice-president. Six Igbo men are state governors. Several Igbo men have served as governor of the Central Bank. There have been several Igbo prominent ministers, heading “lucrative ministries,” including the Ministry of Finance. In the post Civil-War era, we have had Igbo men heading the army and the police. There are at least fifteen Igbo senators and a large number of members of the House of Representatives. Of the thirty-six states of the federation, the Igbo have five. Marginalization should have a different face from the picture painted here.
Even the most uncharitable person would not say that the Igbo people are economically marginalized in Nigeria. They control vital segments of the Nigerian economy, including retail, building materials, transportation, vehicle spare parts, real estate, etc. In fact, one Igbo man boasted that the Igbo people own 80 percent of the FCT real estate.
What the Igbo people, like their counterparts from other parts of Nigeria, need, is good governance. One that provides for the basic necessities of life for everyone. A system that ensures equitable distribution of national resources and a government committed to infrastructural development of the entire country. With their hardwork, creative talents, and enterprising spirit, a Nigeria that is governed well will be the greatest gift for the Igbo people. A dysfunctional Nigeria, even with an Igbo man/woman as its president, is detrimental to the health and the well-being of Igbo people. The Igbo people need to be fully integrated to the rest of the Nigerian political mainstream. Relying on an ethnically exclusive party, APGA, does not advance the course of the Igbo presidency. It weakens the agitation. The best that can be said about last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Anambra is that the Anambraians voted for a person and not necessarily his political party. Congratulations, Prof. Soludo.
I appreciate the analysis. Though I have reservations about some of Soludo’s policies at the CBN and about APGA willing the poll like you, I wanted Soludo to win. I am happy he did. I am hoping that across the country people will start looking for higher quality than the garbage imposed by godfathers.
Categories: James Ibechi