Is South-East still part of Nigeria?

By Casmir Igbokwe

The All Progressives Congress (APC) went on an ego trip last Tuesday. In its triumphant statement on the emergence of its candidates as the presiding officers of the National Assembly, the ruling party boasted that “the landslide victory by APC candidates was a triumph of democracy and party politics over the brazen lawlessness of anti-democratic forces that are nestled in the opposition party.” But on a closer look, it is actually the APC and its government that deserve pity for nourishing the seed of discord, autocracy and exclusion in Nigeria.

The ruling party’s discriminatory handshake against the South-East in the current political dispensation, for instance, has gone beyond the elbow. Currently, we have a situation where the heads of the three arms of government are from one region – the North.

President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North-West. Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, is from the North-East. Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, is also from the North-East.

At the election that produced the National Assembly leaders last week, the South-West and South-South managed to get some positions. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, is from the South-West. Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, is from the South-South. Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, is from the North-Central. The APC which zoned these positions did not think the South-East deserved any position.

The emerging trend in the Judiciary is disturbing. Like the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mrs Zainab Bulkachuwa, is also from the North-East. Of the 12 new Appeal Court justices appointed last year by Buhari, only Hon. Justice G.O. Kolawole from Osun and Hon. Justice Ebiowei Tobi from Delta State are from the South. The rest are Northerners. The South-East is completely left out. 

In the security agencies, the exclusion is complete. With the exception of Chief of Defence Staff who is from the South-West and Chief of Naval Staff who is from the South-South, the rest are from the North. They are Minister of Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of State Security Service, Controller-General of Customs, Comptroller-General of Immigration, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Commandant-General of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

If not for the vigilance of Victor Umeh who represented Anambra Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, Buhari would have succeeded in foisting three Northerners and one South-Westerner as board members of the EFCC. The Senate suspended the confirmation of the four nominees late last year after a rowdy session. It was Umeh who pointed out that among the nominees, there was nobody from the South-East and South-South. 

Perhaps, the people of the South-East are not educated. Or they are not qualified. Or they don’t belong to Nigeria.

As they say, injustice to one is injustice to all. In 1999, Nigerian people recognised the injustice done to Moshood Abiola who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Thus, they made way for the South-West to produce the president of Nigeria in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.  

Obasanjo served his two terms with an eye on merit and federal character. After him came ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner. Yar’Adua acquainted himself well as far as balancing appointment is concerned. Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded Yar’Adua, also made attempts to have a good mix of the various zones in the federal hierarchy. This was when the PDP was in power.  

But since 2015 when power changed hands, the APC chose to run a government of exclusion. The usual refrain is that the South-East did not vote for the party. And so what!   Are there no Igbo people in the APC? Is there no senator or member of the House of Representatives from the South-East in the ruling party? Did the APC not gain more votes in the South-East in the 2019 elections than it did in 2015? And is politics of exclusion the best way to woo the zone to its fold?

Surely, some people somewhere will be saying, it serves them right. Some will lampoon Ndigbo for not being politically correct or sagacious.  

But, is it not better to believe in something and stand by it than being fickle because of ephemeral political positions? Igbo people are republicans. The majority of them don’t kowtow to any godfather. And many of them refused to jump onto the APC wagon in 2019 because they could not see the perfidy going on as governance in Nigeria and reward it with their votes.

The hypocritical aspect of governance in Nigeria is that there are different standards for different regions. The North is seen as an educationally disadvantaged zone. Candidates from the zone are given preferential treatment in admission into unity colleges. If you are from the South, you must score very high to gain admission. That is federal character principle at work.

But when it comes to political appointment, the zone that is educationally disadvantaged becomes the bride. The federal character principle changes to unitary character principle.

Since the APC-led government has deliberately schemed out the South-East zone from holding any major political position, it should not bother coming to campaign in the zone in 2023. It may as well pick its presidential candidate from anywhere. It has declared itself an enemy of the South-East and should not complain when the time for reckoning comes.

My main worry now is the survival of Nigeria as an entity. When you continue to push people to the wall, one day they will resist. One day, they will say enough is enough. One day, they will cover their faces and tell truth to power.

This is the time Igbo intelligentsia should put on their thinking caps. It is a time for serious brainstorming on how to rescue this abused zone. It is a time to re-enact the strategy that made the region survive 30-month civil war and economic strangulation by the Yakubu Gowon government. It is a time to tell the powers that be that even without them, the zone will survive.

Re: Dictatorship moves to next level

Thanks Casmir nwannem’oma. On “Dictatorship moves to next level,” you made my day. Having followed your column for over a year, you have remained resolutely constant on your Nigerians’ interest representation. This is what the late communication guru, Prof Frank Ugboaja, would call journalistic excellence. Write the facts as they are – “The Truth”. Please keep it up.

Elder Michael Ofuluchi, Lagos, +2348036081559

I concur with you that dictatorship which is peculiar to Muhammadu Buhari moves to next level. Not up to one month into his 2nd tenure, we observe with dismay the muzzling of the press as if he is still a khaki boy who dealt with the press via obnoxious Decree 4. He even dealt with a veteran journalist called Vera Ifudu. Left for Buhari alone, you can see the evils associated with his government but you should not talk. Who are you to say that his war against corruption is selective? Who are you to raise a voice against the terrorist activities of Fulani herdsmen? Who are you to say that his appointment is lopsided and that he has contravened S.14 (3) of the Constitution? Let him know that a King who said nobody should tell him his faults has some faeces on his cloth after defecating. Of course, nobody will tell him that he is carrying some shit around.  

Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, +2348063730644

Thank you for lampooning the next level dictators! I am quick to add that since 2016, more than 3,641 people died in the states of Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara. The killings are product of farmers/herders clashes, banditry and ethno-religious clashes, which are pointers to the status of Nigeria as a failed nation. Thank you once more.  

Anonymous, +2348033078724

Comrade Igbokwe, I fear lest you may be the next on target for this hard piece. I call it hard because the president will not believe that what he has been saying to the ruling party since he started POLITRICS can be replayed for the world to hear, even his party. I salute your courage; people like you in the media world can make the world a better place to live.

Anonymous, +2348067805400

I believe APC will not take their next level too far with what they are intending to do to silence the opposition and the media. The beauty of democracy is opposition and media. APC should carry everybody along.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Full blown dictatorship is being consolidated. Every opposition must be silenced. Indeed, we are in a democracy without democratizing. All the principles of democracy like Rule of Law, respect for opposition and freedom of the Press have been abused using State Institutions! Nigeria may not survive this era! As succinctly opined by eminent Achebe, there was once a country!

Okwudili Abasili, 08033073871

Oh yes, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power”. Well delivered. I think the man talked about 7% and 95%. Or was it 97% and 5%? Google it. What he said didn’t add up. That is our “president” for you.

Kanayo Esinulo, 08033009112

Please my brother, always do quote the lord of Manor correctly. He didn’t say “95percent and 5percent” but “97percent and 5percent”

Anonymous, +2348168997097

God bless your efforts. Keep it up. One day, Nigeria will celebrate you.

Anonymous, +2348101050819

First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 17, 2019.

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