Buhari’s bold statement on Ndigbo
Mohammadu Buhari is somebody I admire so much. My high regard for him dates back to when he was a military Head of state. I was among the crowd that lined the streets of Onitsha in 1984 to see him during his visit to Anambra State, few months after he took over.
It was a glance that I got of his perspective as he perched daintily inside his limousine that sped by, the Awka Road axis of the commercial town, where I had gone on a visit from Lagos, just after my secondary school. But that picture has remained in my mind till date. It was an awe-inspiring experience that I find quite difficult to explain, even as an adult.
Even as an adult, I still revere the General, despite my misgivings, just like many other Nigerians, over his human rights records, while in office.
Part of my reasons for my admiration is my belief that he is a rare specie. To me, he is one of the few Nigerians you can predict. You could easily, give or take, tell what Buhari will or will not do. Of course, because he is also human, you may not be 100 per cent sure in such predictions, but you are sure not to be off the mark completely, as you would other Nigerians of his stature.
I also admire the General for his simplicity. I got a first hand experience few years ago, when I went to Kaduna to interview him. Even though I had heard of his simplicity, I never prepared for what I experienced. I had steeled myself for the usual fuss you see at the gates of Nigeria’s Very Important Persons (VIPs), which some of us are forced to experience now and again, because of our peculiar job.
Surely, this was a former Head of State, the number one citizen of the country. I had expected to see a colony of stern-looking military men, with all the paraphernalia of terror, which are never in short supply at the gate of people of Buhari’s standing. I had expected the usual high walls and the huge gates that would warn you of the environment where you are.
Surprisingly, it was a totally different ballgame altogether. Yes, there were security operatives. But immediately I identified myself and stated my mission, there was no further attempt to remind me that I was in a big man’s house.
I had also expected to be kept waiting, as the usual Nigerian big man would do, just to emphasise his importance. Of course, in such missions, I’m always prepared to endure that type of indignity and even more, because it is my job to do so. Yet, in the house of Buhari, you needn’t worry. Not only was the ambience quite welcoming, but the owner, would not allow you suffer it.
To cut a long story short, I came out of Buhari’s house, not only with increased respect for his personality, but his taste, which reflected everywhere. In fact, you needed not be convinced that his passion and interests are poles apart from those of millions of Nigerians, particularly the high and mighty.
So, when I hear many of his admirers saying that his passion to rule Nigeria is not to use our commonwealth as his pillow and that he would give nothing but service, I was not in the least surprised why they are so convinced.
However, I have been wondering how Buhari would ever become the President of Nigeria. Why? I believe that apart from the fact that the hawks at the corridors of power, those who have taken it upon themselves to make such a project possible, at a prize and for a prize, will never let him, he knows very little of how to get to that office.
Whatever doubts I have about this was dispelled substantially, since the General announced his running mate, Monday, last week. Though the name of his choice, Tunde Bakare, the Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, had been hovering in the winds for sometime now, many political watchers had dismissed it as quite impossible. I was one of those.
Don’t get me wrong. It has nothing to do with Bakare’s competence for the job. I have no quarrel with that. Rather, I have every quarrel with his choice because of his outing in the Nigerian polity in the last few months. I join many Nigerians who find it difficult not to link the pastor’s recent posturing with what has eventually come out of it.
Since then, I have listened to many voices coalesce into one view; that the respected cleric was out to deceive the people that he was fighting their cause, while all he wanted was to use them as a ladder to achieve his selfish political ambition. “So, all these noise about his rejecting “transport money” given to him by the Presidency is really to gain political mileage?” That is the question in most lips since then and I’m sure would linger in many more for a long time to come, even if the pastor swears with everything at his disposal that the contrary is the case.
Beyond the issue of the question mark on the Bakare’s altruism, I’m yet to come to grasp with why Buhari would bypass the South East for a Yoruba man at this point in our political development, when all expectations are that the next President after this dispensation should be an Igbo man, whichever criteria are used.
I actually raised this question with the spokesman of the former Head of State, Yinka Odumakin. This is what he told me: “The choice of Bakare was to get on board a recognisable name, whose ideals are well known. You know the focus of Buhari’s presidency is the fight against corruption and you know in this, he has an ally in Bakare.
“Besides, Nigeria is moving away from the method of zonal considerations to a much more enduring way of choosing leaders. It is also moving a way from balance of hate to balance of faith. The current process is going to bring down the tension in the country and engender better leadership and development.”
Besides, he explained that Buhari had picked Igbo men in his two previous attempts and decided to take a look elsewhere now. Now, could this be ample explanation to assuage the feeling of the Igbo people. I ask this question because, it is assumed in most quarters that the General is the only person capable of giving President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a fight in the presidential election, scheduled for April.
For whatever it is worth, virtually all the frontline aspirants for the presidency had one way or the other tried to put the Igbo question in perspective in their campaigns, before now. It is not a secret that Buhari’s successor, Ibrahim Babangida, vowed to hand over to an Igbo man at the end of his tenure. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who eventually emerged the Northern consensus candidate in the PDP, had not only made a similar commitment, but went ahead to make the Igbo the arrowhead of his campaign, before he lost the ticket to Jonathan, last month.
Even Nuhu Ribadu, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential candidate, seemed not to have lost sight of this, in picking an Igbo man. Not even the choice of Governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekerau, could be said to be totally bad. Shekerau picked former Edo State Governor, John Odigie Oyegun, as his running mate.
To observers, what this means is that if he eventually wins the presidency, he is likely to hand over to a South South person, which is not a bad idea, given the current argument in the polity.
But for Buhari to totally go out of sync with this prevailing and pervading argument, seems to me, a deliberate attempt to undermine himself, since the natural reading is that a deputy is supposed to take over from his principal at the end of a full tenure. Now, what would the General be telling Ndigbo if he goes to campaign? Would he be telling them that there is nobody amongst them that qualifies for the job, whether the agenda is to fight corruption or run a credible government? Would he be telling them that because his previous picks were from the area, they’ve had their chance and no more?
Till date, there are many Igbo, who still hold the former Head of State in bad light, as an Igbo hater, simply because they believe that during his period as the Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), the South East got the least representation in terms of projects and other considerations. For such people, this is just a confirmation.
Re-Buhari’s bold statement on Ndigbo
By Ogbonnaya UwadiegwuAlthough the headline, Buhari’s bold statement on Ndigbo, gave out the intension of the writer too early, Sunny Igboanugo’s piece published in his Political Whirlwind column in the Daily Independentof February 8, 2011 was, nonetheless, worth reading.Igboanugo writes like a good story teller and that is why the level of anger that would have followed his submissions and conclusion would be mitigated. Seriously, it is high time Ndigbo calls itself to order and stop blaming its political misfortunes on others. Being Igbo, at times it is sickening, other times it is quite embarrassing, watching our people point accusing fingers at others when we are indeed the architects of our misfortune. Often time Ndigbo assumes righteousness even in the face of evident tomfoolery.I did a piece when the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Ralph Uwechue, took spaces in newspapers to advertise the support of Ndigbo for President Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately that piece was not published. I warned then that that the open declaration by Ohanaeze, the subservience of our governors, including Peter Obi of APGA, the naked dance of our elders in the court of Jonathan and the double speak of our youths will cause Ndigbo its birthright.Then, our people castigated Atiku Abubakar and others for mentioning zoning in the nation’s power calculus; they called them names, they said zoning was archaic, it is moribund, something of the past, it is sectional, a product of ethnic jingoist, and all sorts! Just about that same period, the same choristers were singing ‘Ndigbo for 2015’. The question that boggled the mind was: ‘On what basis is Ndigbo warming up for the presidency in 2015 or preparing to succeed any of the current presidential candidates if zoning is archiac or had long died?’It is quite baffling the way some otherwise enlightened and exposed Ndigbo think and talk. Can any sane and reasonable person, who has lived in this country in the last decade believe, assuming he were told by an imbecile, that after the South South, the South East would pick the presidency in quick succession? Would it not be daydreaming which, unfortunately, has become the pastime of our elders and leaders? Is it not pathetic that people like Igboanugo who should know better, as a political columnist, is now joining them!It should be clear to Ndigbo that by sheer connivance with others to denounce zoning of the presidency, it unwittingly declared the race to that office a survival of the fittest. So why should Igboanugo blame Buhari for picking his running mate from anywhere that pleases his political fancy.He asked if there was no qualified Ndigbo to be picked as Buhari’s running mate; but a more potent question which perhaps he failed to ask is: What did Ndigbo do with its own political parties? Ndigbo could rightly lay claims to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Peoples Progressive Party (PPA), what happened to them? Couldn’t these parties have produced Igbo sons/daughters as presidential candidates and then shop for running-mates elsewhere? Or are they no qualified Igbo people to occupy the office, especially now that zoning has been killed with the connivance of Ndigbo?Chief Orji Uzor Kalu who floated PPA started junketing between PPA and Peoples democratic Party (PDP) and at a point got confused. Theodore Orji (Abia) and Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) who won their governorship tickets on that platform left for the PDP. Mr Peter Obi, the only APGA governor, is now the spokesman of the South East PDP Governor’s Forum. He is now the South East “coordinator” of the Jonathan/Sambo campaign, an outsider who is wailing louder than the bereaved. For goodness sake, why is Igboanugo raising issues with Buhari’s pick of a Yoruba as running mate. Is Igbonaugo not aware of the saying of the elders that if the lizard of the homestead behaves like the lizard of the farmland, it would be mistaken as such!Ndigbo had the chairmanship of the ruling party, a position that gave the people a sense of belonging, and a bargaining chip which could have, if skillfully employed, been the weapon to fight the presidency war in future; but in-fighting among Ndigbo created an opening which others used as justification to slam Ndigbo. Now Ndigbo is neither in government nor in power (party). But didn’t our elders say that when two brothers fight, the stranger reaps the harvest.Let no Igboanugo or any other Ndigbo sing the dirge near my compound. Let them not think that the Igbos are a herd of cattle that would head in the direction intended by a wailing shepherd boy, mbanu! People like me will never align with the thinking that Ndigbo will not vote for Buhari because he did not pick an Igboman as his runningmate. Ndigbo for too long has been playing the second fiddle; unfortunately it is now playing no fiddle at all - not because there is no fiddle, but because they prefer others to play while they dance to the tune, even if the lyrics are abusive and derogatory.Igboanugo mentioned Atiku as having used the Igbo as the arrowhead of his campaign, what did Igbo delegates do to him at the PDP convention? Did they vote for Atiku? Didn’t they vote for Jonathan with a northern running mate? Will Namadi Sambo give way to an Igboman after Jonathan must have served his term? Why should Buhari trust the Igboman when he saw what they did to Atiku who was hobnobbing with them? Igboanugo, did our wise elders of old not warn that he who brings home ant infested faggots should not complain when lizards pay him a visit?It is high time Ndigbo come together to really brainstorm on our destiny as a people instead of creating distrust among themselves and turning around to blame others for not coming to their rescue. Since we have joined hands to kill zoning, it is now to thy tent oh Israel!
•Ogbonnaya Uwadiegwu, Julius Berger, Lagos.
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