By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It is 52 long years since the much-ballyhooed end of the Nigeria-Biafra war, yet nobody from the losing end of the war has served as the president of the country.
The matter gets even more ridiculous when it is remembered that the war ended on a note of “No victor, no vanquished” as announced by Nigeria’s then leader, General Yakubu Gowon.
All right-thinking people all over the world who are interested in justice and equity are deeply embarrassed by this Nigerian reality.
It is as though Nigeria is fighting an endless Biafra war which equity ought to have ended many moons ago.
Some shameless characters tell lies children would laugh at to whitewash this fetid national wound.
The respected Nigerian journalist, Chuks Iloegbunam, in 2007 published the book The Case for an Igbo President of Nigeria which he “dedicated to the cause of justice.”
The book is made up of 16 chapters originally published in his Vanguard newspaper weekly column, “Perspectives”, from Tuesday, June 29, 2004 to Tuesday, November 9, 2004.
Iloegbunam does not beat about the bush as he directly writes: “And I ask this question: If Ndigbo are found worthy to lead as soccer captains, as commanders of presidential air fleets, as university vice chancellors, as consummate bankers, as federal ministers, etc, why might they not have a crack at the Nigerian presidency?”
Iloegbunam has undertaken to update this important book to make it relevant for the upcoming presidential elections in 2023.
Iloegbunam puts upfront an address by then Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, at the Igbo Summit in Enugu on January 19, 2001entitled “A Wake Up Call For The Igbo” in which he stresses: “Perhaps Nigeria, our great and beautiful country, may not have existed at all, but for the heroic efforts, self-sacrifice and vision of that great Igbo son, The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was Zik, a worthy son of a worthy race, who led the battle for the independence of the giant of Africa. Yet, when independence was won, this pathfinder subordinated his personal ambition to the general good of the country.”
Hard-hitting questions come from the smithy of Iloegbunam thusly: “Imo State outstrips all northern states put together in what it generates to Federal coffers. Imo state is oil producing. Yet, it receives less in Federal allocations than virtually every northern state. Why is this so? Why is this so when Imo State has the second densest population in the whole of Africa? The north posts more senators and more parliamentarians in the National Assembly than the south. Yet, there is no credible and scientific census to demonstrate that northern Nigeria is more populous than southern Nigeria. So why do they have more National Assembly members and more federally allocated revenue?”
In the scheme of injustices meted out on the Igbo, Iloegbunam cites the instance of the ex-Biafra leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu thus: “In 1985, fifteen years after the Nigerian civil war, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was chased from Villaska Lodge, his residence in Ikoyi, Lagos. The Lagos State government justified Ojukwu’s eviction by claiming that Villaska Lodge was an abandoned property. The Nigerian government seized Nnewi Building opposite the Apapa Wharf and converted it into Army Pay and Records office. Nnewi Building belonged to Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu. The government seized Sir Louis’s family home on Hawksworth Road, Ikoyi and converted it into the headquarters of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB). Then, fifteen whole years after the Nigeria-Biafra war of which General Yakubu Gowon, the leader of the conquering army, claimed there was no victor and no vanquished Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was chased from Villaska Lodge which his late father, Sir Louis had also built.”
Other woes visited upon Igbo businesses by Nigerian powers-that-be as listed by Iloegbunam include: Slok Air, floated by Chief Uzor Kalu was axed and ordered out of the skies; Sosoliso Airlines, the airline owned by Sir Victor Ikwuemesi was axed and ordered out of the skies; Chief Jim Nwobodo’s Savannah Bank was shut down on a morning it was still doing business nationwide; Ibeto Cement, owned by Mr. C.M. Ibeto, was axed etc.
According to Iloegbunam in The Case for an Igbo President of Nigeria, “A good Igbo presidential material, chosen dispassionately, will lead Nigeria to peace, prosperity and progress. It must bear repetition. A good Igbo presidential material, not one endorsed by infant godfathers or manufactured through the offices of armed soldiers and mobile policemen, will lead Nigeria to glory.”
He further posits: “The Igbo president of Nigeria project is not the property of any one political party. It isn’t only for partisan politicians.”
Nigeria needs to heal, for the wounds of the so-called civil war has been allowed to fester for far too long.
It used to be the mantra that Nigeria stood on a tripod from the beginning – but now that one of the legs is no longer allowed to function, doom supervenes.
Making a president from the other side of the civil war in 2023 will definitely spell the end of the apparently endless Biafra war.
- Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is a renowned poet, journalist and author