Buhari Bridge Or Niger Bridge•••And Igbo Anger: Can An Igbo Become Nigeria's President In 2023? (3) - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Sunday, April 17, 2022

Buhari Bridge Or Niger Bridge•••And Igbo Anger: Can An Igbo Become Nigeria's President In 2023? (3)

The Daily Crucible | Sunday, April 17, 2022

By Femi Kusa

For the Igbo, a litmus proof that ibos are Nigerians and are not marginalised is for the rest of Nigerians to make one of them president of Nigeria in 2023. They have a point in a country where the nationalities have a crack at the presidency by rotation. Unfortunately, Nigeria's politics is not so designed. The South Western region(the yorubas) proposed something close to that which Dr Alex Ekwueme , a former vice president , shot down to successfully push the present six region polity. In the South-Western proposal, there was an eight member presidential council , one member representing each of the proposed eight regions. The council would harmonise independent agenda of the eight regions and implement them under a president from the council who would hold office for one year. In other words, the presidency would be rotational for a period of one year among the presidential council members, who, in unison, would be responsible for governing the country. This would insulate every nationality against exclusion and marginalisation. Dr Ekwueme instead pushed for the present six regions and rotation among not the six but between the three northern zones and the three southern zones. He had hoped to become president through this structure. He belonged to the PDP (people's democratic party) , the biggest party and was sure to get the party's ticket to run for president. Unfortunately, northern leaders of the PDP at that time felt so rotten inside them about the annulment of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola's (MKO) presidential election by military strong man Ibrahim Gbadamashi Babangida (IBB) which seriously alienated yorubas from Nigeria, especially after Abiola's death in gen Abacha's detention. So, they choose to find a Yoruba agreeable to their terms be made president to pacify the south west. Thus, Obasanjo, roundly defeated of the polls in yorubaland in favour of kinsman Olu Falae, would score in some parts of the country votes much bigger than the number of registered voters. To be president, Obasanjo dumped his personal wish for Abubakar Rimi, the former governor of Kano State, to be vice president under him, in favour of Atiku Abubakar, a former customs chief and a Fulani, who would fall out with Obasanjo.It took a visit to Nigeria by president Nelson Mandela of South Africa, to help them mend the broken fences ahead of the PDP primaries for the 2003 presidential election which gave Obasanjo the second tenure.
     The Igbos disagreed that the presidential ticket was zoned to the yorubas of the South Western Region. They saw it more as a zoning to the 3 southern regions, each of which could compete for the ticket. Even in the north, there was agitation in the PDP for abolition of zoning to accommodate northern candidates. Ekuweme must have thought he could get that second ticket. It was possible, that, if he did, Rimi would have run with him. Rimi did not hide his hatred for Obasanjo. He and Ekwueme sat close to each other at the eagles square ceremony where Obasanjo won the ticket for his second term . The atmosphere was tense. Ekwueme behaved like a man when Obasanjo won the ticket. On television, he was shown sprightly rising from his seat, walking towards Obasanjo to congratulate him and literally dragging along a stunned Rimi.
      I was in Abuja that day to see former president Shehu Shagari in the company of a gentleman whose name I do not remember now. I only remember him as a farmer's son who ran against either Chris Okolie or Nduka Obaigbena in a Delta or Edo election and lost. After his defeat, he set up an NGO to popularise rabbit farming throughout Nigeria for home consumption and for export. I was director of publications /editor in chief at The Guardian newspaper which I was grooming for Agriculture business reporting. From only four pigs when Gen Abacha shut the Guardian till he reopened it one year after, I reared about 300 pigs and piglets. So I believed in this man's ideas that the plan could raise more than five billion rabbits in one year Nationwide from 774 pilot pens. Former BENDEL governor Samuel Ogbemudia was our chairman. He and I were to tack former president Shehu Shagari to be our life patron. The former president had been away from Nigeria for some time, recuperating from amnesia, a brain condition which made him for some time to forget even his own name. Happily, he was back home, Hale and hearty. We met him at the NICON HILTON. It was my first time of meeting him. He was such a simple man with no airs about him that I regretted all the assumptions of him I held over the years. His critics always said he read no books and that he was a chained smoker. I did not look out for books in his hotel room, but I did not see him smoke either. He did not mind personally serving us whenever the waiters brought in anything for our entertainment. Obasanjo, too, was a man like that. In public, he could eat with his fingers. I was with him at Ota one day. Bank people came to show him the books of his business. He was arguing with them like a rascal. Thereafter, he ordered lunch. While we waited for cutlery, he was halfway through with his meal which he ate with his fingers, one of the women who always hung around him sitting on his lap and eating from his plate. 
Former president Shagari was alone in his hotel room when we were ushered in. After receiving us, He sat on the floor, ignoring the furniture. We, too , sat on the floor. He ordered our choice dinner. Midway through dinner and our conversations, Dr Ekwueme came in after his presence in the ante room was announced. Remember Dr Ekwueme was Shagari's vice president between October 1979 and January 1983 under the National Party of Nigeria(NPN) before coupists threw them out and brought in Gen Mohammadu Buhari as head of state. It was a case of the military arm of the Hausa Fulani coming to the rescue of a tottering fulani led federal government. The same scenario appears to be playing out now with Arewa youths and Arewa consultative forum (ACF), an assembly of influential northern elders, calling for the resignation of president Mohammadu Buhari. If he goes now, who but vice president Yemi Osibajo will become president under one year from  the 2023 presidential election? How will this impact vice-president Osibajo's fortunes in that election, especially if he has to run against a fulani from the PDP. Would it not be a case of a sacrificial lamb to carry the can of the mess the Fulani oligarchy has plunged the country into? Right now, vice president Osibajo can claim that, as vice president, his boss alone takes all the major decisions, that the Constitution does not empower him to challenge the president or to contest space with him, that he can only show his mettle when he becomes a free man. 
Ekwueme told Shagari what happened at the primaries. Until the night before, he had been sure he would dislodge Obasanjo. Then, according to speculations in the polity, some money bags the government always loaded with money for a day such as these brought "down the rain", and Obasanjo triumphed again. Former president Shagari did not bar us from his conversations with Dr Ekwueme.
     Maybe such images like this were what were before the gaze of pastor Tunde Bakare when, recently, he made an uncharitable remark that the igbos were "cursed" to not be president in Nigeria. Senator Rochas Okorocha has roundly taken pastor apart. Senator Okorocha need not lose sleep over pastor Bakare. The pastor once said president Obasanjo would not complete his tenure as president. But he  did. He did not spear president Buhari when he lost out to prof.  Yemi Osinbajo as vice presidential candidate of the APC in 2015. Pastor Bakare had run with Buhari in the CPC which failed to win any election and had probably expected to be on Buhari's ticket in the APC. Now, pastor Bakare is said to run for APC ticket for 2023 presidency, claiming divine revelation of his victory. 
    The Dr Ekwueme case apart,  Pastor Bakare may also have taken his bearing of the fate of the igbos in Nigeria's political power battle ground from an encounter between Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and chief Obafemi Awolowo. Dr Nnamdi Azikwe rejected an offer by chief Obafemi Awolowo to be prime minister at independence while Awolowo would be his finance Minister and Tafawa Balewa would be opposition leader. Rather, Dr Azikwe gave the prime ministership to Balewa in exchange  for the powerless office of the ceremonial president. The trend of Igbo political powerlessness at the center would tend to continue. In 1966, General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi who took over power from the military coup makers  abolished true regional federalism. This was a major step backwards for Nigeria and a harbinger of the political powerlessness of Southern Nigeria in future. Chief Awolowo and others had streanously extracted from the British, lovers of Northern Nigeria, a regional federal system which did not make one region a Lord of another or a slave under another. Thus, the igbos and the yorubas were well protected against a possible domination by the Hausa Fulani. General Aguyi-Ironsi may have genuinely collapsed true federalism in military innocence. The Western Region was in Opposition at the federal level. Yet it was the fastest growing and leader region. Both the northern region and the Eastern region which were coalition members in the federal government lagged far behind the Western Region. Perhaps out of envy, both regions distabilised the Western Region and jailed some of its leaders. A federal election which was widely expected to restore the balance was widely rigged in favour of the northern region which, meanwhile, had lost its eastern coalition members to the prostrate Western Region. If the West and the East successfully joined forces against the north at that time, NIGERIA':s political history may have altered one way or another. Violence trailed the elections. General Aguyi-Ironsi may have thought competition among the regions for supremacy under a weak federal government caused the problems. So, his military federal government collapsed the regions and turned Nigeria into a unitary system of government after the fashion of a military high command where the bottom does not question the top.
 In place of regionalism which gave every nationality control over the "backyard", Aguyi Ironsi imposed a unification federalism over the country. It favoured the igbos. But this was not the original intention. The military were a unitary institution and thought that a unitary constitution for Nigeria would extinguish exclusions, such as the marginalisation of Western Nigeria by the coalition government of Northern and Eastern Nigeria. But this was just what the North needed to cower the south into submission. Thus, general Aguyi Ironsi was soon dislodged by northern officers who till this day left constitution makers the blue print for a unitary federal constitution. Exasperated, the Great ZIK of Africa would even toy with the idea of diarcy, a government of soldiers and civilians!
      In the present quest for Igbo presidency, it would appear again that the igbos are not treading softly and carefully, with the wisdom of the serpent. Confrontation with president Buhari, however justifiable, may be wrong posturing. He is Fulani. The perception or the misperception of the Fulani today will, naturally, make the Fulani worry about a 2023 president who is not Fulani or who is not overly well disposed to the fulani. The APC has no choice but to avert a "Fulani go, Fulani come "situation. And Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of he leading contenders for the 2023 presidency from the South West, has declared in the north, president Buhari's constituency, that he was coming in not to step on  "Buhari's toes", but to "wear" his shoes.  He has also gone to sympathise with victims of banditry in Kaduna and given them N50 million . President Buhari may not care if the APC loses. Remember that, once he had secured his own ticket from the APC in 2015, he told party campaigns that voters could vote according to their conscience. His party may foreclose a fulani candidature for 2023 presidential polls. He is human. What if the PDP brings up a fulani? The yorubas say omo eni ko le se idi bebere ki a fi ileke si idi omoelomiran. (We cannot decorate another person's daughter with beads when ours has more buxom buttocks.)  

What this implies is that even northern APC members may vote a northern PDP as president. The long and short of it all is that the igbos should inadvertently not make the north and the South West feel unsafe with the South East brandishing presidential power. President Ebele Jonathan lost a second term election in the South West because he marginalised the region . Infact, he opened his first term election campaign at Mapo Hall in Ibadan, with the shocking statement that he had come to cage or teach "the rascals " a lesson. Who were the rascals, everyone kept asking everyone. The yorubas? Broken fences were mended for him to win that election. But not the second, however hard he tried with money and inducements for the odua people's Congress (OPC), for example. So, What has an Igbo 2023  president in store for the South West?


Turn or twist as we may, president Buhari will have a sizeable say in the president who would come after him. Human nature will decree that this man be a friend, not a foe. When the tables turned over in the Western Region of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo choose Alhaji Dauda soroye Adegbenro over incumbent successor chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola. Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Northern Nigeria leader, sent one of his men, Alhaji Tafewa Balewa, to Lagos to be prime minister on his behalf. Dr Nnamdi Azikwe trusted Dr Micheal Okpara to be premier (today's Governor) in the Eastern region when he moved on to become ceremonial president of Nigeria in Lagos. The counter military coup officers who killed Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi on 29 July 1966, terminating his six month Government under a unification decree, preferred Lt.Col Yakubu Gowon to brigader Babafemi Ogundipe, the most senior Nigerian Army officer after Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi. Northern troops who surrounded Lagos after Igbo officers had been killed and Igbo gunners had fled homeward to Igbo land for safety refused to take orders from brigadier Ogundipe who was like fish out of water because Yoruba officers and gunners had been massively excused from the army when the yoruba's went into Opposition. Even Colonel Adeyinka  Adebayo had no choice but to pledge loyalty to Lt.Col Gowon and become military Governor of Western Region, in compensation and as replacement for Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi who offered himself to be killed along with Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi, to show that he did not betray his Commander in Chief.
For about four days, Nigeria was without a leader after Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi murder. Alhaji Ibrahim Kashim, a former governor of Northern Nigeria, told Chief Justice Adetokunbo Ademola he did not favour brigadier Ogundipe to succeed Gen.Aguiyi-Ironsi. Lt.Col Yakubu Gowon was the Northern favourite to take over. But Lt.Col Gowon could not take over without Brigadier Ogundipe either surrendering authority to him one way or another or being eliminated to keep him out of the way. Brigadier Ogundipe for four days hid himself in surulere, Lagos, for those days during which he was expected to attend a meeting with the Coup leaders at Lion Building in Lagos island. By the fourth day, a federal director of communications, Mr Akindele, in whose house brigadier Ogundipe had been hiding, drove him to some where on Lagos island where he boarded a boat, M.V.Eureol, for a two-week holiday in Las-Pamas. With brigadier Ogundipe out of the country, Lt.Col Yakubu Gowon, the new Head of State, made his first national broadcast. Thereafter, brigadier Ogundipe moved from Las Pamas to London to assume duties as Nigeria's High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.
     Gen Obasanjo preferred Alhaji  shehu shagari to chief Obafemi Awolowo. Even before their 1979 presidential election, which chief Awolowo was expected to win, Gen Obasanjo had said the best candidate sometimes never won elections, and allusion to how his mind was working. Even when that election appeared inconclusive, warranting a recourse to the electoral college where Chief Awolowo may have won, the Supreme Court aborted that recourse with a mathematical declaration of victory for Alhaji Shagari. Intriguing till this day  as been the after math statement of the court that the judgement was not meant for sighting as authority in Nigeria's judicial process. Major-general Muhammadu Buhari, as he then was, toppled president Shagari on allegations of ineptitude. Major-Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babanjida (IBB)toppled Gen-Buhari. Gen Babangida step aside, legally caught in the web of his own transition program. Gen Aliu Gusau, as he then was, arranged for Chief Ernest Shonekan to fill the vacuum of Gen Babangida's unexpected exit as chairman of an Interim national Government (ING) which general Sanni Abacha would soon sweep aside to become head of State.
 Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen.sanni Abacha and Alhaji Gen.Aliyu  Gusau, as he then was, had a gentleman's agreement to succeed one another in that order. Gen.Gusau was one of Nigeria's finest military intelligence officers. I had the privilege, through him of some of the finest inner working of Government in my days as Editor and, later, Editor in-chief of The Guardian newspaper and of the Comet newspaper. He spilled the beans on their gentleman's agreement, when, after Gen. Abacha's sudden death, he was not favoured by the military "king makers"to become Head of state. It is no secret that Gen Abdusallami who succeeded Gen. Abacha brought Gen.Obasanjo out of Gen. Abacha's prison cage to become president and that president Obasanjo favoured Alhaji Musa Yar'Adua to become president and Dr Ebele Jonathan to be Vice president under him. Remember that Gen Ibrahim Babangida attempted to run against the politically diminutive Yar'Adua and they the former military president withdrew from the race when the Obasanjo Administration raised certain questions in public over who owns what shares in a well known company and how a young man who had barely been discharged from national service was even a substantial shareholder. President Ebele Jonathan not only successfully completed Yar'Adua's remaining two years in office, he defied Northern warnings that he avoid running for a full first term of his own. But he was  encouraged by ibos and yorubas and, to not serve her food ration short, by his indomitable and street wise wife. It was possible President Jonathan would have legally contested his defeat by Major-Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Popular opinion suggested that he saw a variant of the movement of trees in Macbeth's dunsinane forest. In the forest of northern Nigeria, the movement was not a metaphorical or allegorical prediction of the Three Weird Sisters, the three witches in William Shake Spears macbeth.  They were the men and boys who would have made the country ungovernable for him. President Jonathan later capitulated before apparitions in the northern forest, saying he wanted no blood shed simply because he wished to carry on as president. And in military-style magnanimity, Mohammadu Buhari, who had escaped assasination attempts by these fellows in an attack on his convoy of vehicles during the presidential campaigns, promised that "the former president will be treated with understanding."bThat gentleman officers promise has been kept till this day! 
     So, who will president Buhari favour for 2023 Presidency? I am not a crystaball gazer. At this point, I know no more than the average Nigerian is beholden to know. Will he back professor Yemi Osinbajo, the able and loyal vice president? Will the thorns in the thicket of men who surround the president let him trust Osinbajo for the president? Osinbajo has silently weathered many humiliating storms such as the legal assult on supreme Court chief Justice Walter Ononoghen, reposting of DSS key operative, approval of modular refineries, reversed and only recently re-approved, furore over transport minister Rotimi Amechi's 3 billion naira plus budget to secure the Abuja Kaduna rail line. The budget was thrown out by the federal executive council meeting over which vice president Osibajo presided. As the council noted, the company Amaechi proposed to do the job was grossly undercapitalised for that size of work and had no experience in it. But Amaechi has the ears of the president, perhaps because he has helped him to link Nigeria with Niger Republic by rail. Will the president favour Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who turned his back on President Jonathan to deliver the south west to him? Will the President favour his political God son Rotimi Amechi, the transport minister? Although Amaechi was crowded out of his Rivers home state by Nyesom Wike and the PDP, the president has a soft spot for him who has helped him to fulfil the dream of linking Nigeria and Niger republic by rail. Amaechi is still in the president's Good books. But for how long he would remain there, only time can tell. His presidential election campaigns, inadvertently are posturing the president as having failed and demarketing him accordingly. When he says security is down and he will fix it as president, isn't that what he is saying? Will that gladden the president? I wonder what Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the central bank, will say he will do as president to revamp the economy and if, by saying so, he would not be demarketing the president. Thus, an Igbo in APC may not get the president's nod.
 From the south East, who cometh forth? Political enemies or friends of the president? Even if they are his political friends, what about the people who would send them forth? In that case, would the president rather not wish to coast along with the Angels he knows? What if the PDP pendulum swings North  and the ibos, protesting, swing westwards, would this not cause a Northern Unification ? In any case, what about swinging or no swinging in the south if the forest men and boys come to town in the North and in the South not with grenades or AK47s but voter cards? It would be a game of numbers. So, head or tail, I do not as yet know where the pendulum is swinging.


If the pendulum swings to iboland, the flag bearer will need all the prayers and support he can get. Of what his task would be like, the yoruba's have a word for him: ATARI-AJANAKU-KI-I SE ERU OMODE. Ajanaku is another name for EeRIN, the elephant. What they are saying here is that the elephants head is a load too heavy for a child to carry. That means that candidate must be a man among men, mighty and fearless, yet calm and introspective, well connected to reason and wisdom, a man who LIVES IN THE PRESENT, not IN THE PAST or in IN THE FUTURE, not a day dreamer who would expect from THE PRESENT only what THE FUTURE can yield. Let us begin from THE PAST. Many wrongs have been done the  ibo's. But is there ever a smoke without a fire? But the wise ibo will not go about righting those wrongs, such as the ibo massacre in the North without asking how the Igbo contributed to it. Even when there is a need for restitution, can he safely ignore the counsel of the wise elders that...TI OWO MODE KO BA I TIBA EKU IDA, KI I BERE IRU IKU TO PA BABA RE. (Until a child has firmly gripped the handle of the sword, he does not seek to know which type of death killed his father,or, better still, in which circumstances his father was slain). That is suggesting that this ibo presidential candidate must securely rein in his hurt, and cage it within him; and not look backwards but always figure out what THE PRESENT alone is demanding of him. I have fears for an ibo presidential candidate in this regard on at least two grounds. The ibo man over flows with energy. He can hardly bottle hurt within. He is easily reactive, boisterous, may not be diplomatic. Yet we are in a special season of human encounters and experience, unknown to many humans. A gigantic cycle of the universe is closing. In the portion of the earth, we are too concerned with daily existential questions to notice all the eruptions that closing cycle is causing all around us. We may notice weather and climate changes. But what about changes in the soul of men? Mankind is under such increasing pressure from the universe that, unless his thoughts, words and deeds are natural, the works  of his hands will be falsehoods, placed side to side with NATURALNESS and INEVITABLY COLLAPSE. This should lead us to the question of WHAT IS NATURALNESS. This should be a subject for another day.  I mentioned this in passing because all the talk about an ibo presidency is not elevating beyond the province of "our turn"or "turn by turn" what is "our turn"or "turn by turn"when all that the universe is asking of humanity is conformity of their ways and means with naturalness or lawful order in the great household of the creator in which we all are priviledged to exist, in order to find peace and happiness and make the earth a semblance of our eternal home, PARADISE.
"Turn by turn "or "our turn" is not uplifting in this regard.  It portends a possible use of power for domestic ends which must  frighten upward looking persons dreaming of larger pictures.

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