By Ikenna Onyekereibe
Watching the latest developments in the Nigerian political space since after the 2015 presidential elections, it will be an understatement at this point to say that the governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, has finally emerged the political leader of South Eastern Nigerian as the APC government takes over the reins of power at the center come May 29, 2015. In the same vein, his deputy and longtime ally, Eze Madumere, has automatically risen from a humble political career to become the number two political leader of the Igbo nation. How transient power can be in the hands of ?Man, proud man dressed in a little brief authority?, wrote Shakespeare. In the words of the famous poet Dryden, power is as fleeting as the streams. What a great lesson.
The 2015 political season has come and gone with its often interesting campaign narratives, with eachpolitical party or interest group licking the wounds of its loss or savouring the juice of its victory. But what is bound to shape and keep reshaping the polity and the entire Nigerian system are the metaphors that the elections threw up. One of those metaphors is the radical shift in leadership paradigms of the different sections and geopolitical regions of the country. Among the six geopolitical regions of the country, the South Eastern zone, home of the Igbo tribe, is the hardest hit after it failed to give APC, the party that will form the next central government, a chance at the 2015 national assembly polls. When the different tribes of the nation gather to share the new Nigeria under Buhari and the APC after May 29, the Igbo nation will be looking for those influential voices that led the political force of the tribe since the last dispensations. All of them, save for a few, followed Jonathan to his political grave. That?s the harsh price of shortsightedness and inept political calculation. It?s now clear to my kinsmen that while they busied their bellies with the crumbs from Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, the rest of the tribes gathered to share the real deal.
A few clique of politicians considered rebels and renegades before the 2015 elections for being in the opposition, especially the APC, are now at the center of power and are expected to determine the events in the polity in the next coming years. But they are too few and too new to the system compared to what it used to be. Prominent among these few figures is the governor of Imo state, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha, and the deputy governor of the state, Prince Eze Madumere. Many political chieftains who went to the elections in support of the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan are now eulogizing Okorocha and his deputy as the Nostradamus of the Igbo political leadership- the only two leaders in the executive corridors of powers in the entire South East who saw Nigeria?s political tomorrow even at a time when there was no genuine reason to believe in the euphoria that the opposition had a chance to victory at the presidential polls. Just for the sake of modesty, I would say it?s a prize of foolishness and idiocy. Now the Igbo nation looks to Okorocha and his few rebel allies to save the tribe from politicalextinction, or bring home their own share of the national cake.
It hurts to realize how much our leaders failed us, but their failure also helps us to appreciate the sheer courage of the few men like Okorocha and his few allies who saved the Igbo nation such a catastrophe. Despite overwhelming evidences and warnings that President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP were heading into the poll for an inevitable defeat, all the influential political leaders of the Igbo race failed woefully to stake themselves out as politically visionary and smart leaders. One of such warnings was the editorial of The Economist, the influential London weekly magazine which noted in unmistakable termsthat the Nigerian electorates had made up their mind to choose a former dictator Buhari over a failed president Jonathan. The only act of smartness exhibited by these leaders, in the words of columnist Steve, Osuji, was to engage in endorsement circuit while the nation tottered. It is quite regrettable that the Igbo political leaders stepped into the political season with no defined goal, no defined ideologies that would guarantee the collective interest of the Igbos.
To drive my point home, the Igbo nation is facing a debilitating crisis whether anyone accepts it or not. Theodore J. Lewis, in his attempt to capture the American political crisis of the 1960s said that crisis is a time when leadership and ideologies begin to falter. It is a time when established standards fall and customary procedures yield unexpected results. It is a time when all alternatives, including no choice at all, become calculated risks. The Igbo nation is stepping into a decade of crisis. And that crisis is so serious that it poses a graver danger to the collective socio-political prosperity and existence of the people of South East and the entire Igbo nation than the crisis of the 1960s Nigerian-Biafra civil war. In fact, this crisis has singularly eroded whatever gains Igbos have made since after the catastrophe of the civil war. This crisis is at the bottom a political leadership crisis.
When President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP lost their bid to retain control of the Aso Rock Villa the Igbo nation nearly followed him sheepishly to his political grave save for the foresight, wisdom and bold courage exhibited by the governor of Imo state and his deputy amidst discouraging odds. After the re-election of the governor and his deputy in an election that spilled over to a highly contested supplementary election, a columnist wrote that the South East narrowly escaped being completely cut off from the rest components of the nation. Now, the Nigerian state is calling us to come and take our position as the principals offices are shared among the component regions of the country, but we have no one to stand in for us. When the new national assembly gathers to decide the fate of this country and its citizens, Igbos will not be found among the key figures of the ruling party under the watch of Buhari and his APC party. What a blunder!
At the formation of the All Progressives Congress Party, APC, the party was barely allowed a foothold in the South East except in Imo state where the governor and his deputy took the APC project as a project of life or death. Of course, the governor was part of a clique of dissident governors and politicians who formed the G-81 that metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress party by merging three main opposition parties including Gen. Muhammadu Buhari?s CPC in the North, Senator Bola Tinubu?s ACN in the South West, and Gov. Okorocha?s faction of APGA in the South East. Initially, the governor made an ambitious attempt to bring the entire APGA party to the table of the merger but his attempts were stiffly frustrated by the dark forces using former Gov. Peter Obi and Hon. Uche Ekwunife, both from Anambra state, the heartbeat of the APGA party. Both were of the PDP blood in APGA garb working for the presidency, and both were to decamp later to PDP. Prominent stakeholders who were part of the old ACN and APGA deserted the APC party and tied themselves to President Jonathan including Chief Mike Ahamba, Gen. Buhari?s longstanding ally, lawyer and one time running mate.
Okorocha and Madumere with a few foot soldiers did all they could to remove the veil of blindness covering the eyes of the political leaders of the Igbo nation. But in a region where his compatriots were unflinchingly wallowing in the narrow world of selfish personal interests while masquerading as national leaders and informed statesmen, Okorocha?s warning to his kinsmen that the ark of the new Nigeria was about to close fell on deaf ears. All his cautionary tales to South Eastern leaders to divide their eggs in two baskets and lean towards APC and its presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, earned him mockery rather than support. Unfortunately, irrespective of the fact that Jonathan never put up himself as a Southern president seen as a close kinsman among the Igbos, yet all notable and influential voices among political leaders of the Igbo extraction followed him on sentimental terms that he is our brother.
On another page of the presidential election ironies, millions of electorates in the South East, in all fairness, actually saw Buhari as the most credible alternative to Jonathan. Of course, in sharp contrast toBuhari?s track record as a no-nonsense enforcer of propriety and austere acetic figure of uncompromising discipline, Goodluck Jonathan never put out himself as that strongman-president who has the requisite political will to tackle endemic corruption, fix a crumbling economy and confront a devastating insurgency. But these electorates in the East, largely confused by the spree of propaganda making the rounds and the storm of blackmail against Buhari and the APC, needed their more politically informed leaders to re-assure them. At the actual elections, millions of electorates in the South East also voted for Buhari and his APC party but these same leaders ensured that the votes of their kinsmen for Buhari and the APC never counted. On that day of the elections, Gov. Okorocha, his deputy, Madumere and all committed key foot soldiers of the party were treated like common criminals in the utter delusion that Jonathan Goodluck had all the war chess to win the elections by hook or by crook.
Now same crop of leaders are moving in droves to the APC, the party they so much spurned. The two men they tagged lunatic rebels for following Buhari and APC are now worshiped as messiahs by same leaders just for their selfish ends after sending the entire Igbo nation to political darkness. What manner of leaders are these? Where were the Alex Ekwuemes, the Iwuanyawu?s, the Nwobodos and all those voiceswho paraded themselves as the Solomons of Nigerian politics? Where were these men when the other tribes gathered to reconfigure the political landscape of this country? They were busy scrambling for positions and lots around Jonathan, trying to impress a president they couldn?t decipher was destined to fail. Little did they know that they were, in the words of Canada?s Alvin Tofler, squabbling over a proverbial deckchair on a sinking titanic. As the titanic finally sank, they too sank with it. Thanks to grace that Okorocha found reasons to accept to be a rebel with a cause. Thank God also that he had a supportivedeputy who was there to whether the storm with him against all odds.
What happened to the South Eastern people in this political season should serve as a very hard lesson to our political leaders and those whom providence has given the influential voices to determine the fate of the Igbo nation in the comity of other tribes in Nigeria. It serves as a cautionary tale to our Igbo leaders, statesmen, technocrats and ordinary electorates that there is always the need to look before we leap in any election season. But more importantly, it is true that the unexpected defeat of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan by former military head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, of the newly formed opposition party, the All Progressives Congress Party, APC, at the general election altered all known traditional political equations and changed the baton of leadership. Yes, it is also true that PDP?s shocking loss of the presidency left the fate of the South East hanging in the balance because all known political leaders of the South East region stuck to Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP except Gov. Okorocha and his deputy who toed the path of opposition with the APC. Yet there is no need to stand at a spot and cry over spilt milk.
The best option on the table for the Igbo nation is to cue behind Okorocha and Madumere, including other notable members of the APC party in the South East in their attempts to get the best for our people. Among these other notable leaders of the Igbo nation in the new Nigeria is Chief Ogbennaya Onu,Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Osita Izunaso, Chief George Moghalu and others. These are men who will work with Okorocha and his deputy to provide a lifeline to the South East and the entire Igbo nations as the new central government is formed come May 29. Okorocha and his deputy have made a wild gamble in the face of oddities and succeeded. That has earned them the respect of the South Eastern people. However, no matter any respect accorded these men, they can never deliver if Igbos and their leaders fail to give them the needed support.