To become the president of Nigeria, a presidential candidate must battle for power and be bruised, battered and bloodied in the political trenches for power. The global advance of democracy and its peaceful transfer of power, through the ballot box, made obsolete Mao Tse Tung’s maxim that “power flows from the barrel of the gun”, but still, the struggle for power is no mean feat; it remains incredibly excruciating. Power is elusive; it eludes many that desire it because, “it takes a unique kind of man to win the struggle for power”. It is only the gritty, resilient and tough-minded with enormous capacity for expediency and intrigues that can win the struggle for presidential power in Nigeria.
Nobody can ever dash you power. So, for the 2023 presidential election, the Igbo must field “unique kind of men” that can win the struggle for power or there will not be an Igbo president. To expect the emergence of an Igbo president because it is the turn of the Igbo (for the sake of justice and equity) to produce the next president is starry-eyed nonsense.
But then, why are the Igbo, a proud, enterprising and innovative people going cap in hand begging for an Igbo president because it is our turn to produce the next president? Why do we desire power but want to evade the rigors and demands of fighting for power and winning the fight for power? Why do we feel like political destitute, public wards and victims that have to be dashed power or helped to power? It is because we are haunted by the ghost of Biafra: the fear and paranoia instilled in us by the Biafran propaganda. For us to have the guts and self-confidence to lay claim to, and take, all that is legitimately ours in Nigeria, including the presidency, we must exorcise from ourselves the ghost of Biafra.
Before the civil war, the Igbo held sway over Nigeria, and the other peoples of Nigeria lamented “Igbo domination”. This was not because anyone rolled out a red carpet for us to walk through, and establish ourselves across the entire range of the Nigeria social life. It was a feat achieved against a gamut of obstinate impediments: tribalism, Hausa/Fulani hegemony, Yoruba irredentism, etc. And in the years following the civil war, from the nadir of powerlessness and helplessness of unconditional surrender, we, again, successfully dealt with the daunting obstacles of tribalism, Hausa/Fulani hegemony, Yoruba irredentism, etc.
By 1979, we had made an impressive comeback in Nigerian politics. This was because the immediate post-war Igbo leaders’ concept of Nigeria was shaped before Biafra; they were not persuaded by the misinformation of Biafranism. Therefore, they remained unambiguously committed to one Nigeria. They understood that by Third World standards and within the limits of human weakness and the Nigerian Factor, the Nigerian system works for all Nigerians. Consequently, not feeling marginalized and victimized, not wallowing in self-pity and feeling of victimhood and not thinking and behaving like second-class citizens, they laid claim to all that was legitimately theirs in their country.
Presently, most Igbo’s concept of Nigeria and the place of the Igbo in Nigeria were informed and shaped by the falsehood of the Biafran propaganda. The lingering grip of this propaganda on Igbo minds – the ghost of Biafra – makes us fearful and paranoid: we see ulterior motives in every act, no matter how well-intended and benign, by other Nigerians because we feel surrounded by enemies committed, and united in a common plot, to our destruction. It makes us believe that despite our resourcefulness and hard work, we still cannot make much progress because there is a grand conspiracy by other Nigerians to subvert our every attempt at success. It is this persecution complex, not tribalism, Hausa/Fulani hegemony, Yoruba irredentism, etc, that is holding us down in Nigerian politics.
So, unlike the earlier Igbo power elite that believed that they can win the struggle for power, and be elected president/prime minister, the present power elite, in their diffidence, expect presidential power because it is their turn. Unlike in the past when the Igbo saw tribalism, Hausa/Fulani hegemony, Yoruba irredentism, etc as surmountable challenges to success, we now see them as complete barrier to success. Thus, we blame them for all our problems and failures. Despite the litany of determined obstacles in our path, with the right mindset, we can replicate our earlier successes in all facet of Nigerian public life, especially politics. The ghost of Biafra entraps us in a political limbo, where we refuse to enthusiastically embrace a real country, Nigeria, and, instead, pine for an imaginary country, Biafra: a preposterous, indeterminate state that rejects reality and clings to fantasy.
Like Biafranism, neo-Biafranism thrives on lies and propagandistic exaggerations. Neo-Biafranism is reinforcing the Igbo persecution complex. Despite the danger and disruption of neo-Biafranism, the Ohaneze and the Igbo political class continue to equivocate on neo-Biafranism. It distracts, enervates, and confuses the Igbo. If we are Biafrans or committed to the realization of Biafra, why do we desire the presidency of Nigeria (a foreign country). And if we are Nigerians and want to produce the next president of Nigeria, why do we pander to the forces of neo-Biafranism? Can you, at the same time, be an unyielding outsider and a consummate insider? The answer is no.
The Igbo must therefore reject the misinformation of Biafranism and its excrescence, neo-Biafranism, and embrace some incontrovertible historical facts. Some Igbo, especially, amongst Igbo intellectuals and surviving First Republic Igbo elite know that Biafraism was reckless and senseless extremism. It was a foolhardy, suicidal venture that was not in the interest of Ndi Igbo and the other peoples of Eastern Region of Nigeria. It was driven by hot enthusiasm of youth and impatient hunger of selfish ambition. However, most of them lack the courage to state the facts about Chukwuemeka Ojukwu and his Biafranism because they are afraid of making enemies among the Igbo and being castigated as saboteurs and paid agents of the Hausa/Fulani. However, for the good of the Igbo, they must take the risk of making enemies and being discredited, and educate the Igbo masses on the realities of Biafra.
The truth about Biafra will rebut the lies of the Biafran propaganda, lay bare the myth-encrusted image of Ojukwu and expose the deception of Biafranism. Invariably, it will help immensely in freeing the Igbo mind from the psychological fetters of Biafranism. It will allow the Igbo mind to imbibe a new attitude towards Nigeria, an attitude premised on confidence in Nigeria and the appreciation of the good in the other peoples of Nigeria, and a resolve to build a peaceful and common future with them in a united Nigeria. And consequently, Ndi Igbo will feel and live as bonafide citizens of Nigeria, with the courage and aplomb to lay claim to presidential power, and not beg for it like political destitute.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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