By Hyginus Azubike
When the presidential flag-bearer of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku nominated Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, joy was universal. In the political history of Nigeria, no such nomination was greeted with the type of elation with which Nigerians received it. From North to South and East to West, the citizenry proclaimed Atiku’s choice as the best Nigeria has witnessed preparatory to general elections.
Most Nigerians were excited by Obi’s nomination due to his performance as Governor of Anambra State. They believe, rightly, that teaming up with Atiku, they will replicate the Anambra wonder.
As Nigeria’s Vice-President when Obi was Governor of Anambra State, Atiku must have closely observed the younger man; and was satisfied with Obi’s several positive contributions at meetings and saw in him what the rest of Nigerians did. Atiku himself said of Obi: “In 2016, my running mate, former Governor Peter Obi, gave an Independence Day speech at ‘The Platform’ event organised by Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos.
It was an unforgettable Independence Day event which, according to Google analytics, was the most searched item in Nigeria on that day. Why was that speech so attractive to Nigerians? It is because Mr. Obi gave a detailed breakdown of the reality of governance in Nigeria today, which is one of a wasteful squandering of the riches that should have gone into the development of our youth”.
However, it was both shocking and perplexing that the opposition Obi got was from the South East, the very people who are supposed to be at home with the wonders that he did in Anambra State. In what looked like diplomacy’s way of saying ‘No’ to a person, a group of persons said that they were against the process by which Atiku nominated Obi. They went as far as issuing statements and initiating moves intent on truncating the choice. What was instructive was that while they were on this, the Westerners appealed and even send a delegation to Atiku that they were fully ready for the post should the Easterners lose it due to their folly. This singular act should stick as food-for-thought for the people of the East.
What is inspiring in this man-made controversy was that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar remained steadfast, only explaining the reasons for Obi’s choice, which was precisely the same reasons Nigerians welcome it. As far as Nigerians are concerned, Atiku’s stand was the first credit he recorded – display of a leader’s ability to stand by his decision. Strength of character remains a missing quality among our political elite; and clearly Atiku has it in full supply.
When the real reason that informed the protest began to crystallise, it left all Igbos interested in the progress of Nigeria and that of the South-East scratching their heads in perplexity. It may sound incredible, but the truth is that the protest was informed by the belief of our brothers from Ebonyi and Enugu States that Anambra State is getting the better of good things that come to the East. This assertion is highly debatable, because political positions, including leadership of the Senate and Ministerial appointments have always been evenly distributed.
It is a great disservice to the Igbos for people to seek to segregate themselves by reference to the distribution of political offices at this time. Have they forgotten that the man in question – Mr. Peter Obi – has been tested and people know that he is not one to exhibit parochialism if elected? Obi’s fairness and sense of justice was the reason he was allowed to head the South-East Governors Forum for eight years. Igbos must know that internal cooperation is the first law of external competition. You cannot tear at one another like puppies and hope to successfully face external threat in that state of confusion.
Are you interested in the distribution of political posts among other regions in Nigeria? Curiously, I searched for what distribution of political positions has been in the West. We know names like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan, Abraham Adesanya, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Gen. Oladipo Diya, among others. Incidentally, they all hail from Ogun State. Have you heard the West raise it as an issue? Most major appointments that came to the West went to Ogun State. Some past Governors of Lagos State were also from Ogun State. Those who served in the Cabinet of Alhaji Bola Tinubu in Lagos State became governors in many other States in the West, example being Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola, the immediate past Governor of Osun State.
In 2014, when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari nominated Prof. Yemi Osibanjo as his running mate, we did not hear any protest of imposition or side-talks of non-consultation. Rather, the people of the West collaborated in selling Osibanjo as one of the best things that has happened to them since Awolowo. Nobody chose to recall that his only political experience was as a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General under the then Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The people of the West took the project as theirs and got other regions to key in. This is what it should be; one’s own people must first of all accept him, associate with him and be instrumental in telling others that “this our son is trusted and should be accepted by all”.
Compare the fore-going to the reactions of some Igbo people and one will note what short-sightedness can do to a people. In Igbo parlance, even a mad man has parentage; when anything untoward happens to him, his people will show up. Igbos have sayings to depict all situations, but some of them conduct themselves as if totally bereft of wisdom. The current political permutations in the land offer Igbos the opportunity of a re-think. Indeed, this is a time to ask themselves salient questions, define their destination and map out survival strategy as other regions are doing. They should do this in the interest of their people and for the overall progress of the country, and not for some petty, pecuniary benefits.
- Mr. Azubike, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Enugu, Enugu State.