E O EkeMonday, September 9, 2013
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wonder what has happened to the C21, a political organisation formed by Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Annie Okonkwo when Okorocha realised that he has no strong hold on APGA. At that time, I did say that it was a wrong political move, much like storing petrol in one's house, while saying that one does not want his house to catch fire. The result has been loss of trust between Okorocha and APGA leadership which has resulted in APGA obtaining a decree nisi, pending the final dissolution of the marriage when Okorocha declares for APC. I hope, APGA will wait for the decree absolute before moving on against Okorocha. It is very clear that the political situation in Igbo land is very precarious with the leaders fighting for their own selfish interests at the expense of the interest of the people. If the pronouncements coming from the political leaders and what they have been able to achieve with the resources at their disposal are anything to by, there is need to get the leadership right before embarking on any political adventure. A look at the way and manner Igbos has been conducting their politics shows complete lack of strategic thinking and unashamed pursuit of selfish interests. there is no evidence that the leaders are pursuing a common dream. Like most other politicians in Nigeria, they are in politics for what they can get for their family and friends. This is evidenced by their moves which have been either reactive or impulsive, without prior deep thought or analysis as would have been the case, if they are acting for the interest of the people. This state of affairs may suggest that the worst of Igbos are in power. I cannot imagine men of the caliber of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam behaving like TA Orji; who prefers to misinform and deceive the people, instead of actually using the money to do for the people what the money is meant for. He employs people who write about the wonderful things he has done, only for people to visit the state and report that it is a derelict state. Why would any leader think that he can build a legacy on deception?

I suppose, it is important to tell ourselves the bitter truth, if we will succeed, especially if what is at stake is the future and welfare of the people. We cannot continue to make decision shaped by the political ambitions of few individuals which put the long term interest of the people at risk and expect to develop or end the epidemic of kidnapping and armed robbery ravaging Igbo land. Politics should be about doing what is in the best interest of the people and not bending everything to enable a few achieve their lifelong ambition at the expense of what is in the best interest of all. For once, Igbos should be making decisions on the basis of evidence and what is in the best for the people. We need to see leaders who are prepared to sacrifice their own interest for the long term good of all.

A look at the political equation and permutation in Nigeria would clearly show that Igbo leaders are already making the wrong moves before the next election. They seem to have already cast their vote before the election, which is a very naive thing to do in a multi-ethnic politics. Wise people wait until the election to cast their votes, but not Igbo leaders. They do not seem to believe in playing hard ball and extracting as much concession as possible form those who need their support. They are happy to be in the bag while the suitor slugs it out with those who understand what politics is all about. It does not seen to me that Igbo leaders realise that even though Nigeria claims to be a multi-party democracy, that what actually takes place during presidential elections is ethnic struggle for power. Under such a system, consensus building, forming alliances and ability to negotiate without antagonising are imperative. This is why I am surprised at the utterances and political development in Igbo land.

It would therefore seem to me that the attempt by Igbos to produce the next president does not seem feasible in view of the present political calculus. It is very unlikely to succeed. The variables already on the ground would make it impossible. In my opinion, Igbos should forget about 2015 and concentrate in 2019 and use the time to plan and strategise. This is because the north and Jonathan would be locked in a dare devil struggle for power as demonstrated in the recent PDP convention which saw five northern governors breaking out with Atiku to form a new group within PDP. This is high octane politics. They want to blackmail the president into ceding to their demands. In the end Jonathan as an incumbent will probably secure a second term and may be forced to promise the north his support in 2019. Igbo leaders in PDP should watch this development closely with the view to restrategise for 2019.

President Jonathan is very likely to make good concessions to the north to entice them to support him and promising to support their bid after his second time would not be farfetched. This is where Igbo leaders would lose the 2019 election before it starts by giving Jonathan the leverage to promise the north his support in 2019. Igbo leaders should not take it for granted that Jonathan will support their candidature in 2019 even though he may love to, they must extract a binding agreement or promise which they can refer to in the future. With the likes of Atiku and Buhari waiting to take back presidential power to the north, Igbo leaders must be more strategic and get their best brain involved. Nigeria will not break down. What will evolve is hard ball politics and only those who are strategic in their thinking will win.

A strategic political thinker will notice that the activities of Boko Haram has isolated the north in Nigeria and weakened their claim that they are fighting for Nigerian unity. Moreover, their declaration of Islamic state is evidence that they have a different agenda from the rest of Nigeria. Igbos and other ethnic groups need to figure out how to benefit from this politically. Joining the race for 2015 and antagonising Jonathan is not one of the ways.

Igbos in PDP should reposition themselves in a way to support Jonathan and contend with those who want to take his place. If Jonathan secures his partyís nomination for a second term, Igbos in PDP should support him and then seek the support of the other parties in the East to enable them negotiate with Jonathan on what he would do for Igbo land. Igbo leaders should be considering how to exploit this most probable outcome and not engaging on a wild goose chase. It would offer them an opportunity to secure the support of Jonathan and south south for Igbo presidency in 2019. This will be strategic politics at its best. If Igbos in PDP joins the race for presidency in 2015, they would be will be losing friends and antagonising Jonathanís ethnic constituency whose support an Igbo candidate would need whenever he or she emerges as the partyís presidential candidate. At the same time, they should be careful not to antagonise the Yorubas in PDP so that they would not find the excuse to sabotage their plan for 2019. Multi-ethnic politics is a balancing act, something some northerners in PDP seem to be forgetting.

This does not stop any other party in the country from selecting an Igbo or any other person from any ethnic group as its presidential candidate. In fact, it would be a very smart strategic politics for APC to select an Igbo Presidential candidate, which would split the Igbo votes and give them a real chance of winning the election as PDP would split the northern votes. An Igbo can still emerge the president in 2015, if the politicians play their cards well. Unfortunately, The Igbos in APC are yet to position the party well in the east and the show in APC is between the Yorubas and Hausa-Flulanis at the moment and it is very improbable that they would not understand the strategic move for an Igbo president under the current political dispensation. This is how multi-ethnic politics can be played and, it is simply naÔve to speak and act as if all Igbos belong to one political party or share the same political philosophy.

Therefore, instead of wasting resources in a group that wants to produces an imaginary Nigerian president who is Igbo in 2015, Igbo leaders should concentrate in making their parties the dominant political party in the country and forming alliances with other ethnic and political groups so that they can have the political capital to negotiate with, in the years ahead. Parties are not built by issuing press realises and praising leaders, even though this is important. It becomes sycophancy when it is the only thing. If Igbo leaders are serious and honest, and not just part of the contraption to gain power for personal gain, they should demonstrate that they believe in politics of ideology, polices and values. At the moment, there is very little to show that the hope of producing an Igbo president is anything, but wishful thinking. The political parties are very thin on policies and ideologies and what goes on is the usual struggle to control the national resources and retain the power of patronage. Therefore, whoever becomes the next president of Nigeria from either PDP or APC, Nigeria will change very little and they would likely continue to deliver more of the same (MOS). I hope that Igbos would be humble enough to use what they have to get what they want. We can choose to listen and rethink our strategy or mistake bravado for courage and go ahead loose, and become even more irrelevant because other ethnic group know that we cannot do anything without their support.

I suppose it is time for intelligent politics. By the way, I thank President Jonathan for opening up Enugu Airport for international flights. I hope it is not an election gimmick which is intended to secure the support of Igbos for 2015. Igbo leaders should scrutinise carefully the tiny prints of this action to ensure that the next president would not reverse it. The next move would be to demand for the necessary investments to upgrade the Airport facilities to truly international standard and open it up to other airlines. We do not want to hear tomorrow, that the radar has broken down and that all flights have been diverted to Lagos or Port Harcourt. There is no reason why the British Airways should not be mandated to direct one international flight every week to Enugu to encourage the development of the airport. Already, France Airline lands in Port Harcourt. A country needs to be even handed in its development and, I hope, this will draw a line on the systematic marginalisation, underdevelopment and concerted attempt to retard the development of Igbo land by successive Nigerian governments, since the end of the civil war.

Making Enugu airport an international Airport is not a favour. It is a small step in the righting of the wrongs which Igbos have endured since the end of the civil war. I am glad and relieved by the development. No one is grateful when another who is withholding his rightful entitlement finally gets tired of doing what is wrong. Denying Igbo land an international Airport, when Igbos make up a substantial percentage of international travellers in Nigeria has been one of the most obvious evidence of the marginalisation and humiliation of Igbos in Nigeria. Allowing Ethiopian airline to land in Enugu should be the beginning. What follows, would show the true intention of those who are righting this wrong. Enugu airport must be free to compete with other Airports so that the forces of demand and supply can determine which Airports are viable and which ones, are not. The government should do what other governments do when there is an international Airport, which is the improvement of the other transport infrastructures around the Airport. There is now need to rehabilitate the Enugu Port- Harcourt express way and other roads that lead to the towns around Enugu where the passengers that would use Enugu Airport live. Without this, the opening of Enugu Airport to international flight will be nothing but another political ploy to deceive and exploit for selfish political gain. I hope by cynicism would be proved wrong.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.