Tuesday, March 17, 2020

As Buhari turns on his charm offensive on Igbo

As Buhari turns on his charm offensive on Igbo
November 08
18:03 2017

After the infamous Python Dance lI that led to the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB movement, which put the Igbos on edge, you may be thinking that President Muhamadu Buhari would leave the lgbos in the cold, right?

Well, you may be wrong because  govt under the watch of president  Buhari has tapped ex-Biafran soldiers in south eastern Nigeria for compensation benefits in excess of  of 50 billion Naira.

That the good gesture is being extended after over fifty years of the civil war that lasted for 30 months and killed estimated 2 million people, (mostly the lgbos) is quite remarkable and therefore raising eyebrows.

But govt watchers were curious only to the extent that a retired army officer, Bala Yakubu, whose firm, Deminers Concept Nig Ltd , sued the federal govt to the ECOWAS court on behalf of victims of the war, and will be benefiting from the largesse through the award of N38b worth of contract to clear the war zone of unexploded ordinances.

But what might have escaped the radar of politicians and Nigerians in general, is that govt might have seized the opportunity created by the case in ECOWAS court to embark on peace building with the easterners that have been dancing to the drum beat of secession being played by the now defunct Independent People Of Biafra , lPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu.

Perhaps the current unusual magnanimity towards the Igbos who have been crying out loudly about marginalization since the end of the civil war 47 years ago, is part of the strategy of defrosting the icy relationship between president Buhari and easterners who gave him only 5 (or is it 3%) votes in 2015 presidential election and are assumed (wrongly or wrongly) to be bearing the brunt of casting most of their votes for the candidate that lost the election.

Whatever the case may be, it is safe to conclude that with election 2019 in the horizon, CHANGE is beginning to take hold in terms of politics of inclusiveness as opposed to exclusiveness which was fueling secessionist tendencies which govt seem to have swept under the carpet through the action of the inglorious Operation Python Dance II and the instrumentality of a controversial court ruling.

APC party chairman, David Oyegun had put it crudely when a couple of months ago, he reportedly advised Igbo people to join the APC if they wanted to enjoy government patronage that would translate into prosperity.

But President Buhari is actualizing the proposition of bringing back the Igbos into the main stream (After mischievous Arewa youths served them quit notice) by turning on his charm in a bid to convert the Igbos into his burgeoning political family  via good deeds.

The different approaches or strategies adopted in trying to get the Igbos to say YES to APC by the chairman of the ruling party and mr president suggests a sort of bad cop, good cop scenario playing out.

Whatever the case may be, it is worth recalling that it was Rochas Okorocha’s lmo state where governorship election was inconclusive in 2015, so a re-run was called and APC literarily pulled the rabbit out of the hat to give then presidential candidate Buhari the infamous ‘5%’ votes of the lgbos, which helped him clinch the presidency.

Going by Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, without the Igbo’s ‘ 5%’ votes , which enabled then candidate Buhari to fulfill the requirement that compels a presidential candidate to secure  2/3rd majority of votes of all Nigerians across the national spectrum before being declared the winner of a presidential contest , candidate Buhari could have remained unelected as he had been even after winning estimated 12 million votes mainly from the core north in three previous elections.

By and large, the critical contribution that the paltry Igbo votes made to candidate Buhari’s electoral fortune, compared to the estimated 24% that Kano voters brought to the table, is a typical case of when the less becomes the more.

But as it would appear, president Buhari might have considered only the face value of the 5% votes, hence he reportedly felt not indebted to the lgbos but only beholden to the northern and to some extent the south west voters who cast the majority of votes for him.

That mindset probably informed the vile comment credited to president Buhari with respect to his plan to give unto the Igbos little govt patronage that is proportional to the votes that he garnered from their zone.

Sadly, that’s a narrative that has been giving fillip to the notion that the Igbos are being deliberately excluded from govt and a circumstance which gave fervor to the quest for referendum or separatism as propounded by Nnandi Kanu, whose whereabouts is now unknown.

It boggles the mind that in a society where perception can easily become reality, two and half years after the faux pax or Freudian slip by mr president in far away USA found its way into public lexicon and  discuss, nothing seem to have been done to debunk or confirm the gaffe until a couple of days ago.

As a result, the whispers in the dark advanced from being mere conspiracy theory spurn by president Buhari’s  competitors, to something like a statement of fact, which has been hanging over Aso Rock villa and APC like an albatross.

Arising from the above, the charm offensive to deodorize the odious 5% versus 97 commentary is not only timely, but overdue.

Fortuitously, the recent correction of the seemingly erroneous impression that appointments into pubic office is skewed against the Igbos and tilted in favor of Hausa/Fulani, has been a positive turning point.

However , the correction of the widely held impression that the Hausa/ Fulani are being favored by president Buhari over other ethnic stock in Nigeria, rather than being a deliberately planned strategy to give clarity to misconceptions, happened accidentally.

This is because the presidency was only reacting to a factually incorrect and hollow BusinessDay newspaper report, as opposed to addressing a public concern that has become a major blithe on the image of govt.

In previous articles, I had wondered what made the presidency so complacent, insensitive or arrogant not to apprise Nigerians of its thinking on the vexed issue of appointment into public offices which had become a hot button matter that was irritating most Nigerians. In fact, I have even heard some northerners complain that president Buhari is favoring only Daura people. Ridiculous as such mind set may be, it deserves clarification with facts and figures to disabuse the minds of the unwary complainants and stop the author of the disinformation on the track.

Given the foregoing, what stopped Aso Rock from clearing up the mess generated by mr president’s unsavory remark in over two and half years, you may wonder?

Thankfully, although extraneous circumstances have compelled presidential spokesman Femi Adesina to come up with some argument to debunk the notion, when put in the crucible of truth,the justification  would not pass the test of equity. This is because the presidential spokesman failed to put the whole scenarios in context and perspective,  as such he was only being clever by half.

For instance it is commonsensical  that all public offices are not equally strategic, prestigious or lucrative.

With the people occupying the office of the president, senate president, speaker of the House of representatives, Secretary to the federal Govt, SFG and all the military service chiefs-Army, Navy, Airforce as well as the police force not being from the Igbo stock in a country comprising of three major ethnic groups and of which the Igbos are a strategic part and parcel of the tripod, it can be disconcerting that no Igbo was deemed fit enough to occupy any of those offices.

So now that president Buhari is dangling the carrot ostensibly to harness or harvest the votes from the east to facilitate a win again for him or the party in 2019: would the rabbit passion for carrots; monkey love for Banana or chicken craving for corn and cats greed for fish and even bears liking for honey make the Igbos take the bait?

It may be too early to tell, but suffice it to say that in a country where ‘stomach infrastructure’ (apologies to Fashola Former Gov of Lagos state and now minster of works, power and housing) occupies prominent position in the electioneering process, anything can happen.

Already, president Buhari’s cabinet ministers from the east such as Chris Ngige, in charge of Labour and productivity, Ogbonanya Onu responsible for Science and Technology, who are else Governors and as such had grass root following are getting their campaign machines into overdrive in their bid to convince their people that the grass is greener on the APC side.

Similarly, Rochas Okorocha of lmo state which is the only Igbo state controlled by APC in the east and Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia state governor who is a latter day APC convert and Buhari devotee, are also strutting the vast land of the lgbos stirring up positive emotions in the desperate bid to court ndi Igbo for president Buhari assuming he decides to seek re-election or for the APC candidate as the case may be.

None typical politicians like Foreign affairs minister, Geofrey Onyeama and trade, commerce and industries minister Okechukwu Enelemah, who are originally from the private sector are also expected to weigh in with any clouts that they can muster to get their boss or party re-elected as the ruling party.

Unfortunately, there are no lgbos heading influential or cash cow parastatals or agencies like NNPC, NPA, NCC, NCAA, NLNG, NIMASA, NDDC, amongst many other geese that lay the golden eggs to lend helping hands to the cabinet members from the east in the mission to capture the eastern votes.

But if president Buhari in pursuit of his proposed expansion of federal cabinet and appointments into vacant board positions offers lucrative  political appointments to more sons and daughters of Igbo, and promise to construct the second Niger bridge, and rehabilitate the badly dilapidated roads in the east, APC and president Buhari may make more inroads into the east.

Such is the power of give and take which is referred to in politics as horse trading.

Ultimately, whether president Buhari or APC likes it or not, beginning with the forth coming gubernatorial election in Anambra state, they will be facing a referendum of some sort.

A path which lPOB wanted to tow but not recognized by Nigerian constitution.

The Anambra state gubernatorial election is a referendum of sorts because on that occasion the Igbos would be taking steps towards choosing whether to remain outsiders which they seem to be now with the hope that one day a knight in shining armor would rescue and take them to another island where they will presumably be free or allow themselves to be properly wooed like a bride and get integrated into the scheme of governance in Nigeria.

Trust me, what happens in Anambra on November 18, 2017 may be a window into the pattern of the general election in 2019.

The outcome of the recent local govt election in Anambra state which was swept by the PDP candidates should be a pointer to the way the pendulum may swing in 2019 and therefore a wake up call.

A similar situation is evolving in the USA where the democrats are crushing Republican Party candidates in the mid term election one year after the ascendancy of Donald Trump as the most controversial and polarizing president America has ever had.

As a franchise holder of American presidential system of governance, would a similar scenario play out in Nigeria? Time will tell.

Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in delta state govt, sent this piece from Lagos


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