By Comfort Obi
I, ordinarily, don’t dabble into the shenanigans of politicians. But three things – two recent, the other, not so recent – pushed me to this write-up.
The not-so recent one
which, however, has been making the rounds, again, in the past couple of days, is the famous interview granted to celebrity Journalist and Peoples Democratic Party’s Presidential aspirant, Dele Momodu, by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. The Governor, as you know, like Momodu, is also a Presidential aspirant.
The second is a statement by an, officially, unrecognized faction of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo which, this other day, sought to appropriate another region’s son to the Igbo, and claim him as an Igbo son.
The third is a jab Wike threw at Peter Obi, another Presidential aspirant under the PDP, in Obi’s own backyard, Anambra.
Wike is at the centre of the three reasons for this write-up.
Almost every Nigerian knows how much the Igbo wants Nigeria’s President, in 2023, to come from their zone. They want an Igbo to have a taste of the office. This, they rightly say, will give the Igbo a sense of belonging. They want justice, fairness and equity to be upheld in the country. They say the Igbo are treated as second class citizens; as if they are not a part of Nigeria.
Every other region, every other ethnic group, has produced a President, or Vice President, or both, since 1999 when democratic rule berthed in Nigeria again. The South-west, for example has produced both, and are, come 2023, strongly fighting for, and looking forward to producing the President.
So, the South-east feels deprived. Its people feel abandoned. They say they are orphans in a country where their parents are still alive. I guess it is this sense of abandonment, this sense of deprivation, that has reduced some people from the Zone to either say, or do ridiculous things just to belong. They want, and are prepared, to take any nonsense, any humiliation just to belong, just to be accepted, just to be given the chance to eat from the same plate, the food prepared for every Zone in the country which rightly belongs to them as much as it belongs to the other groups. For that, some of them have descend from the Olympian height to the gutter in the name of speaking for the Igbo.
That, dear readers, is why, a couple of months ago, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, let it be known that the Igbo were prepared to go on their knees to beg the North just so one of them would be allowed to become Nigeria’s President in 2023.
What the grand old man means is that the Igbo should go cap in hand, like beggars, like slaves, and grovel before their masters, their Imperial Majesties, in order to be given an opportunity which was freely given to others, an opportunity they are entitled to.
My reaction then, which remains same today: “No Sir. It is not worth it. The Igbo are a proud race, which people have a huge self-esteem and self-pride, forget that some cursed people are committing all kinds of sacrilegious acts, and bringing shame to an otherwise self-contented people. But Dr Ezeife is not alone in his submission. Some people think worse, and say worse.
In this wise, none has been more embarrassing than what an, officially, unrecognized faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the other day.
In the desperation to have an Igbo, no matter how remotely Igbo, on the Presidential seat in 2023, this group is, with two hands, claiming a son that is not theirs. It is brazenly appropriating a man who publicly denied being one of them, denied being an Igbo son, as theirs.
That “son” which this faction of Ohanaeze is claiming with both hands and both legs, but who has publicly and, vehemently, denied being an Igbo son, denied being one of them, denied any connection to/ with the Igbo, is the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, a Lawyer.
Wike is from the South-south Zone of Nigeria. But he is from the Ikwerre area – Obio Akpor. This area of Rivers State is Igbo speaking. The people are generally regarded as Igbo of the South-south.
But in a viral, celebrated, interview Wike granted Momodu, he made very strenuous efforts to deny, and prove he is not Igbo. He said he had no connection, whatsoever, with the Igbo. He gave an example with Dele Momodu who some people think is Yoruba, but who actually is Edo. Momodu, a fantastic interviewer, tried to twist the question round and round. But Wike was resolute. He knows his ancestors are not Igbo he said in a coarse, forceful voice that is exclusive to the Governor.
I don’t blame Wike. It can be irritating, even embarrassing, identifying one with a tribe which one is not of. You cannot force one on another ethnic group which one does not belong to. So, Wike was right to clarify his ancestory. He was right to correct the wrong impression. It is important that one is identified by one’s true identity.
For the records, Wike does not hate the Igbo. I had argued a couple of times that the fact that Wike said: “don’t bring violence to my State. Don’t order that Security people deployed to my State be attacked,” does not make him anti-Igbo.
The priority of every State Governor is to protect the lives and properties of your subjects. If your State is reduced to a war zone, if Security personnel deployed to your State can no longer work, are afraid to go to work, then you have lost it.
And, I give Wike that. He is alive to that duty.
I admired him no end when he left the comfort of Government House and rushed to the rescue of a Federal High Court Judge, Port Hacourt Division, during the ill-advised raid, at uncivilised hours, of the homes of some Judges by Security personnel. Wike, literally, physically fought them off and saved the Judge from that humiliation. The Honourable Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ngwuta, an Igbo from Ebonyi State, had no such luck. That raid contributed to his untimely death. If Ngwuta had a Wike, perhaps, he would still be alive today. He never recovered from the trauma and humiliation of the raid. His people, the Igbo, including his State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, never, publicly,said pim. in his defence.
For Wike, such protection is taken for granted. He did the same thing when Policemen, in their dozens, went to the Porthacourt home of a former Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the middle of the night to arrest her over her “squabble” with her supervising Minister, Godswill Akpabio. Not only did Wike rush to her aid, he put her in his car, and drove her to Government House. His grouse: “Why go to arrest her at an uncivilised hour? Why not wait till day break?”
Recently, Wike was on duty again during the aborted, scandalous, raid on the Maitama, Abuja home of the Honourable Supreme Court Justice, Mary Peter-Odili. Wike took charge, visited her home same day, went back to Porthacourt, invited and addressed Rivers State stakeholders, and alleged the aborted raid was a mission to murder the Odilis. He then gave the Federal Government an ultimatum to get those involved, and said Rivers will hold the FG responsible if anything happens to any of the Odilis. That not only shook the authorities, it got everybody cracking.
You may not like Wike’s method, but he is very protective of his subjects, it doesn’t matter where they live, or where they are from, as in the case of the Federal High Court Judge.
The problem with his clarification of not being Igbo was the force, the vehemence with which
he denied it. He was boiling over, almost. You would think it has become a taboo to be Igbo. You would think it has become a cardinal sin to be Igbo, or be identified as Igbo. You would think it’s a crime. Asked about the three names he bears, which many think are Igbo names, he called them a coincidence. The pronunciations are not even the same, he said.
Now, it is the same person that this, officially, unrecognized faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is, shamelessly, with two hands, appropriating as an Igbo son. And all because Wike is running for the office of the President, and these guys are desperate to have a President of Igbo extraction.
To accommodate Wike, they said they have “broadened the search to our own in the South-south.” They said they have jettisoned what they described as “artificial separation through boundary adjustment by the military”, in order to unite with the “kit and kin in the Niger Delta Region.”
So, good. But for who? And because of who? And for what?
The group was specific on Wike and Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is also a Presidential aspirant, and does not deny his Igbo ancestry, even though he is not from the South-east.
Hear the Secretary-General of the Group, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro:
“It became necessary for the Igbo to jettison artificial separation through boundary adjustment by the military and then reunite with kith and kin in the Niger-Delta Region.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo constitution written by our founding fathers in their wisdom, enshrined that Amioma in Delta State and Ikwerre in Rivers State are part of Igbo speaking States, as we have seen in late Ambassador Raph Uwechue and late Col. Joe Achuzia as President-General and Secretary-General respectively, likewise Dim Uche Okwukwu from Ikwerre in Rivers State who is the immediate past Secretary-General Ndigbo.
“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi have not abandoned the quest for the Igbo to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 through their perceived support for the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, rather both South-east Governors are reading the handwriting on the wall that the 2023 Presidential election might be APC Ikwerre versus PDP Ikwerre.
“Moreover, Obio Akpor and Mbiama are part of Ikwerre Igbo speaking part of Rivers State, and we are very committed to Igbo aspirations for the Presidency.
“You, also, know that the next leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo will come from Rivers State in 2025.”
So, let me agree with the above argument. True, Ikwerre is Igbo-speaking. True, not a few people regard them as Igbo. But no, that is no reason to impose a man who has made it clear that he is not Igbo on the Igbo just because you think he could be a Presidential candidate.
Nobody is quarreling with Ugwuanyi or Ikpeazu for supporting Wike’s Presidential aspiration. It is their right. Nobody begrudges them that. Afterall they are of the same political party. And if they think their party will be better off with Wike, why not? You put your best candidate forward. But it shouldn’t be in the name of the Igbo. Why impose Wike on the Igbo as their son when he confirms he is not. If he didn’t feel strongly about that, if he didn’t have his own facts, he wouldn’t have said that. He is a blunt and strong character. You cannot force him to accept he is who he is not.
That’s desperation. That’s cheap. That cheapens the Igbo. It is such cheapening of the Igbo race that has made the Igbo a joke before some people. It is why those who, ordinarily, could not have had the guts to talk about the Igbo now think they have the license to talk nonsense.
It is why the power-hungry and annoyingly ambitious Pastor Tunde Bakare, who flaunts the name of God, each time he sees his false vision of becoming Nigeria’s President would, out of the blues, descend on the Igbo and say they are a cursed tribe. It is why the Oluwo of Iwo whose weird lifestyle his estranged Canadian wife made public, would have the courage to discuss the Igbo in a very condescending manner. It is why Pastor David Ibiyomi, the businessman, would talk down on the Igbo in the name of a Homily.
It is why Wike would go to Anambra in search of delegates, and before some cheering Anambrarians, talk down on Peter Obi, in his own backyard. He accused Obi of talking from both sides of the mouth over the Presidential aspiration of Atiku Abubakar. But which politician, including Wike, is not guilty of same offence?
Here’s an example.
While campaigning for Governor Godwin Obaseki in Benin as the Head of Obaseki’s Governorship Campaign, Wike had called Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje all kinds of derogatory names, including corrupt. But in Kano, a few days ago, in search of delegates, he paid glowing tributes to Ganduje, and noted that if Ganduje had come out to contest for Presidency, he, Wike, would not have contested, in reverence to Ganduje’s sterling qualities. Sterling qualities? The same corrupt man? If this is not speaking from both sides of the mouth, I don’t know what is.
These are the insults the Igbo bring upon themselves when they, brazenly, claim who is not their own. It is the insults they bring upon themselves when they are disorganized, when they have nobody to say: Don’t cross the line.
Nobody says don’t campaign for your preferred candidate, but don’t do it in the name of the Igbo. Ralph Uwazurike prefers Governor Yahaya Bello to every other person, even though he screams marginalization of the Igbo. Good for him. At least, unlike Isiguzoro’s Ohanaeze, he is not telling the Igbo: “Bello is our son”, and he is not doing it in the name of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.
Back to Ohanaeze.
It is time to put your house in order. Not a few people are tired of the shame the different factions- including the Youths which endorsed Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the name of Ohanaeze Igbo Youth Wing – are bringing to the Igbo in the name of speaking for the Igbo. They should speak for themselves, not the Igbo.
The nonsense is getting out of hand! It is very embarrassing!! I tell you.