Igboland, Where The Barnyards have No Gatekeepers - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Igboland, Where The Barnyards have No Gatekeepers

              •Southeast governors



By Vitus Ozoke

It was Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, who rightly observed that "You can't get rich in politics unless you are a crook". Igbo states have had more than their fair share of bad and horrible governors. And by bad and horrible governors I mean crooks who snaked their ways into government houses and into public funds. I guess you can argue that it is not a unique Igbo experience. But there are two factors that make the Igbo experience with governorship and governance in today's Nigeria a very unique one. One, it is not just that we have bad and horrible governors, we have stupid governors to boot. Two, we have had stupid governors, but we have never had an entire cohort of Igbo governors competing for stupidity as a coveted prize. Today, we have five men who would, and should, have been sold to slave merchants had they been born in that era.

From Agụ Awka to Enugu to Ụmụahịa to Owerri through Abakiliki, it is one synchronized symphony of servile sycophancy. Every day is an open improv. It is like they take turns to perform for each day of the week. Monday: Willie Obiano is dressed like a vengeful man who hates all his neighbors in Agụ Awka. Tuesday: Ifeanyị Ugwuanyi is geared up in Fulani agbada and headed for a crying visit with Buhari in Abuja. Wednesday: Okezie Ikpeazụ is dancing like a clown and touting KFC in Aba as a major accomplishment of his government. Thursday: Dave Ụmahi is shamelessly and harlotously jumping parties begging to be picked as a vice presidential candidate by any man or woman. And, Friday: Hope Ụzọdịmma is concluding secret plans for a federal assault on his own Imo people and communities. It is freestyling Comedy Central. 

That is the sad and sorry state of Igbo land. There is a complete absence of leadership, which has real consequences. Enugu has lost all the gains it had made under former Gov. Sullivan Chime. A once beautiful city has fallen back into dirt, debris, disuse, and disrepair. Peter Obi's remarkable infrastructural accomplishments in Anambra have been systematically eroded and reversed by a drunk Houstonian who briefly sobered and bottled up his inebriation as he beguiled his way into Agụ Awka. Aba is not just a slum, it is a public health worst nightmare. Imo has caught no break from the eight-year long Okorocha heist, as Hope Ụzọdịmma appears determined to outdo him as Fulani's favorite stooge. Dave Ụmahi is busy building lights but not lives in Ebonyi. He is building highways but not high wages. Civil servants in Ebonyi earn nonliving wages. That is the state of Igbo land today. There is no responsible adult at home. The barnyard has no gatekeeper. Instead, in their desperate bid to become vice presidents, all five gatekeepers have effectively abandoned posts and become water carriers for Buhari and chaperones and tour guides for Fulani herdsmen.

I single out the governors because they have the most constituency base of any Igbo politician in government. But there are other classes of Igbo politicians whose records of knavery easily stack up against those of the governors. Our senatorial delegation to Abuja is a weird mix of oddballs that ranges from unapologetic clowns to pretentious wonks. There are two groups of Igbo senators in Abuja. The first group comprises ex governors. For them, Senate has become a halfway house, because they cannot happily go home to enjoy their gubernatorial loot for fear of mob justice and criminal prosecution. So, they have fought their ways into the Senate, after eight years of governorship, just to gain deferred action through extended deferential immunity. They are not in the Senate to pass laws to advance any Igbo interest. They are in the Senate to take daily siestas and collect bonuses and allowances for doing that. The other class of Igbo senators view themselves as career lawmakers, but I view tham as Abuja permanentes. Some of them have been in Abuja forever but cannot point to a single consequential Bill they have authored.

Two senators deserve specific mention. Ike Ekweremadụ and Enyinnaya Abaribe are in a special league of their own for different reasons. Ike Ekweremadụ has been in the Senate since 2003, and had served as Deputy Senate President for three consecutive Senate classes between 2007 and 2019. In all the years he has been in the Senate, Ekweremadu has been doing one thing and one thing only: running for vice president of Nigeria and the governor of Enugu state. Ike Ekweremadụ is not in the Senate for the people. Ike Ekweremadụ is in the Senate for Ike Ekweremadụ. It is all about self advancement at the expense of the people who sent him to Abuja. He sees and uses the Senate as a lever for personal positioning. And he has done a damn good job of it. Today, Ekweremadụ is one of the wealthiest politicians in Enugu state.

Enyi Abaribe is a populist grandstander. He is a talker. People love Abaribe, not because of what he does, but because of what he says. He says what people want to hear. He is an emotion master. Enyi is a smart politician who has discovered his constituents' emotional sore spots and has tapped into them. He talks IPoBish, but Abaribe does not do IPoB. Abaribe is not a problem solver. He stokes and hypes up issues but does not roll up his sleeves to solve them. Abaribe hides in the comfort and safety of the Senate chambers in Abuja to rhetorically stir the pot, but he does not get out in the field to organize action. I am not aware of any meaningful initiative in Igbo land that has Enyi Abaribe in the forefront. Enyi talks the talk but does not walk the walk. If Enyi Abaribe matched his Senate floor rhetoric with field action, he would be the most effective Igbo senator. Abaribe should learn to get in what Late John Lewis called "good trouble". Don't just stand on Senate floor to stir up the streets, stand on the front lines, lead street protest, and let the world watch the Nigerian government arrest a serving senator. Congressman John Lewis did it. It is called good trouble. 

The sad and hard truth is that neither the Igbo governors nor the Igbo senators are in government to solve Igbo problems. They are all in government to meet their personal needs. It is all about the millions in monthly security votes and bonuses and allowances. They don't care for ndị Igbo. As a matter of fact, they care more for the Fulanis than they care for the Igbo. They have made the calculation that being president is out of the card for them. So that even with all their relatively high educational credentials, they kiss and lick up illiterate Fulani asses for vice presidential crumbs. What could be more shameful than the fact that of the 15 Igbo senators, 7 were absent and 2 voted against an electoral reform bill that sought to make electronic transmission of votes a part of Nigeria's electoral process? How in the world does any senator who fears God, respects themselves, and honors the people they are meant to serve, choose to be absent or vote against a bill that seeks to make voting process more open, credible, and transparent? You have to be an avowed enemy of the people to do that.

So, if governors are people who govern; and governing means conducting the policy, actions, and affairs of a state on behalf of the people of that state; then, we have no governors in Igbo land. Rather than Igbo state governors, we have Abuja grovelers. Yet, ndị Igbo needed governors. We needed, not just governors, but warrior governors of the Nyesom Wike breed at a time we felt under siege by a trojan of state-licensed and free roaming and rampaging Fulani expeditionary herdsmen. But we got timorous conniving lambs for lions. That was the existing and enabling environment for Nnamdi Kanu's emergence. Kanu saw an opportunity in the vacuum of gubernatorial leadership across Igbo land, and he took it. Nnamdi Kanu was just an opportunist. He saw an opportunity and took it. Kanu likes the perks of power, but he has no clue how to manage power within the intricate and complex dynamics of a political system.

But I don't blame him, Kanu is not a politician. I blame our governors who ceded the political space to an unstrategic, impetuous, and cantankerous hothead knowing that he was bound to bungle it. And bungle it he did. They ceded that space when they sat and watched Kanu bark orders and directives to populations under their constitutional and constituency command. They did not have to cede that political space. It was theirs to hold. They were elected primarily to do that. What was needed in that Igbo justice campaign was a strategic synergy between the political and the revolutionary. Nnamdi Kanu needed people to work with, but he found none in the five government houses, because the governors were out auditioning for vice president. He needed adults to tamp down his youthful intemperance. He needed adults with credibility, sagacity, and courage to lovingly smack him over the head and keep him from self-destructing even as a tenable and sustainable game plan was mapped and pursued. Sam Mbakwe would have done that. Michael Ọkpara would have done that. K.O Mbadiwe would have done that. Mbọnụ Ojike would have done that. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu would have done that. Sadly, they all belong in eras past. Today, we have clowns and crooks for governors who would not do that. Instead, behind the scene, they sabotaged him, sold him out, and left him to hang and dry. May Igbo land never again have five stooges for governors - serving at the same time.



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