Ineffective political leadership in Igboland is a concomitant of the weakness and inefficacy of Igbo political society.
THE TIME IS NOW! The fight is for all Igbos, not for the leaders alone.
Let me complicate this a bit. All we hear is the tiresome refrain: Igbo leaders have done this; Igbo leaders have not done that. But what about Oha Ndi Igbo, we the Igbo mass citizenry? What have we done to deserve good leadership and effective representation?
Let me get a little personal, if I may. Do you attend the meetings of your town union? Do you pay dues and levies to your town union? Do you in fact have an organized town union? If you do, does it have a political committee? Does your town have a political action fund by which you could raise money to support a candidate of its choosing? How many times have you volunteered hours to organize on Igbo issues? How effective is your organizing? Do you make out time, at least once every month, to host a small dinner in your house aimed at galvanizing an Igbo issue? Will you come out to protest in Owerri or Enugu or Umuahia or Abakiliki if either Nnia Nwodo or Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe is shot by “unknown gun men”?
We expect much from Igbo leadership, but we have no hand in the choice of who makes that leadership. Now take this example: when the Supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State, you would have expected that a mass protest would erupt in the state, with support action in all of Igbo land and the Igbo diaspora. But what did the Igbo people do? They talked the moon to sleep. Unfortunately, critics arose in support of a 419, certificate-forging, cream-bleaching governor to rule Imo State.
If it were the Irish, say, they would send a quiet and effective message in the night to the judges ‘encouraging’ them to do the right thing. But the Igbo? They pray and wait for God, and act surprised at the very obvious political turn.
When, in 1983, then head of state, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, hauled Imo State governor Chief Sam Mbakwe and his wife into jail, did the masses of Imo and Igbo people get out of their homes in great numbers with their own guns slung across their shoulders to say to those who took Mbakwe: “you dare not!” Hell no!
How about when former head f state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, tested water with his sacking of Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of General Staff, did Igbo people rise in protest? Heck no!
It was after the Ukiwe summary dismissal, without very strong response from the Igbo, that the power wielders in Nigeria began the strategic marginalization of the Igbo. They concluded that the Igbo were no longer politically relevant or effective. The current Igbo sons and daughters have not shown the kind of fidelity the older Igbo showed to each other. If it were in 1965 that Mr. Emeka Ofor donated a whopping ₦460 million to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for research, while leading institutions in Igboland – the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Federal University of Technology, Owerri and others – lacked funds for their researches, the Igbo would have sent a quiet emissary to Mr. Ofor to say: “Don’t you ever return to Igbo land until you have given some money to Nsukka and others, too”. In fact, Emeka Ofor would not have even dared.
Leadership draws strength from the community. If a people are without consequence, their leadership will be without consequence. In fact, how can you send men and women on an errand without making certain that they will return in one piece?
All the people guarding your so-called Igbo leaders are sent to them from Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria. They are surrounded by military barracks whose provenances they cannot determine. So, you’re an Igbo leader, and you are stubborn like Mbakwe, and one day they take you out and say you had an accident. Guess what the current Igbo would do because they have not organized for effect? They will write letters to the United Nations and call all the forces in the world to bear witness to how we suffer in Nigeria. The world, if they pay attention at all, will nod their head in sympathy and say, “indeed, you suffer” and continue on their merry way.
But if the Igbo provide very sophisticated protection for their leaders irrespective of what the federal government says, you’d have effective leadership because the Igbo too could bury you if you let them down. Think about the Irish or the Palestinians. They don’t accept rubbish. And if any one who leads them messes up, they have people to answer to. But not Igbo leaders. You know why? Because just as Igbo leadership is absent, Igbo people themselves are half awake since they can’t seem to organize themselves.
A people are always greater than their leaders. But today, the Igbo want leaders who are bigger than they from whom their destiny must be shaped. No! We must make the leaders we want. Recruit them. Train them. Support them and protect them. If they depend on us for their survival, they will give us sterling service. But if they depend on forces outside Igbo land for their political and economic survival, as well indeed as for their lives, you cannot expect their loyalty to be with the Igbo. So, let’s take some responsibility. The leaders we get reflect us too. To paraphrase Joseph de Maistre, in a democracy, people get the leadership they deserve.
We the Igbos must somehow find the means to rebuild fidelity between us and those that we select to lead the way.
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