By Jude Ndukwe
Igbo leaders from all walks of life gathered at the region’s ancient city of Enugu on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, “to consider Ndigbo’s place in the polity especially in the light of the forthcoming 2019 elections”.
Since that meeting and the endorsement of Atiku – by prominent Igbo leaders whose ability to sway the vote of the region one way or the other cannot be doubted – the ruling party, APC, and the Presidency, have, as expected, reacted in a manner that is contrary to the low esteem in which they evidently hold the Igbo people.
While the party has said that Igbos were victims of PDP’s 16 years of misrule, Buhari on his part claimed that he received calls, as soon as the endorsement was announced, from “well-meaning leaders from the region asking him to disregard it as it was without any substance”.
While such reactions are expected from someone seeking reelection, it is, indeed, surprising that Buhari and the APC would worry about votes from the Igbo people considering how he had spoken of and treated the people in the recent past.
It would amount to political immaturity and insincerity on the part of Buhari and APC to actually believe the Igbo politicians he claimed called and advised him to ignore the Enugu endorsement of Atiku.
The fact is that an overwhelming majority of Ndigbo, with or without the leading of their elders, would rather not vote if Buhari is the only candidate on the ballot papers; the reasons are not farfetched.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC have shown enormous disdain for Ndigbo, treating the people and region like mere appendages and not an integral part of the federation, especially one in need of mutual trust for one another following Buhari initiated policies which have alienated not only the southeast but also some other regions.
In the early stages of his administration, President Buhari set the record straight in an unequivocal manner about how he intended to run his government, particularly, to the complete exclusion of those, who in his own estimation, gave him only 5% of the votes as against those who gave him 97%.
Speaking at the US Institute for Peace, USIP, on July 22, 2015, and in response to a question on running an all-inclusive government, Buhari stunned the world when he declared thus with so much gusto: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% (of the votes) cannot, in all honesty, be treated on some issues with constituents that gave me 5%. I think these are political reality”.
This has been the order of the day under Buhari.
For example, there is no single person from the southeast the President found worthy enough to head any of our numerous security and paramilitary organizations. Buhari’s appointments were so lopsided and in favor of people from his region and religion that it left every right-thinking Nigerian worried.
The political reality is that if Buhari does not trust the Igbos enough as to appoint them in positions of power and responsibility, then he should not expect the Igbo to change their opinion of him.
The responsibility to prove that Buhari does not hold the Igbos in disdain lies upon Buhari alone. Unfortunately, he has fluffed that opportunity and has rather reinforced the belief that he, in fact, holds the Igbo people in disdain.
A good number of leading Igbo politicians and entrepreneurs have suffered undue persecution under Buhari’s administration. They have been harassed and subjected to official oppression while their businesses have come under immense attacks by agents of the government.
As at today, the southeast cannot point to any infrastructural project completed by the Buhari administration after over three years in power. The gory tales continue unabated.
Those who think Igbo leaders made a mistake and thereby committed political harakiri by openly endorsing the Atiku/Obi ticket do not probably know the Igbo and how they play their politics.
The Igbo man does not necessarily need the presidency as long as the president, whether from Katsina or Sokoto, whether a Christian or a Muslim etc. provides a level playing field and an enabling environment for him to thrive in his endeavors be it business, academics, or entrepreneurship etc.
The Igbo easily connects with Atiku who, like people of the southeast, is not only a job creator but also a creator of wealth. His choice as an alternative to Buhari easily excites the southeast because they see in him a man who has managed businesses and co-managed the country at a time of one of the nation’s greatest periods of prosperity.
It is Buhari and not Ndigbo who should be asked why people of the southeast supported the Obasanjo/Atiku ticket, the Yaradua/Jonathan ticket and the Jonathan/Sambo ticket, all of whom were non-Igbos and included Hausa/Fulani, but have bluntly refused to support him.
Finally, Nigerians of goodwill cannot continue to endure the flawed structure of the country which has formed a major reason the country is in shambles, hence, the choice to support the pro-restructuring ticket of Atiku/Obi.
Apart from the aforementioned, the millions of job losses, skyrocketing food prices, flagrant disobedience of court orders, one-sided fight against corruption, official tyranny, financial scandals of monumental proportions rocking key elements of the presidency, etc. are some of those factors that make Igbo leaders settle for the Atiku/Obi ticket.
It will also be wrong to ascribe Igbo support for Atiku to his choice of Peter Obi as his running mate. As earlier said, the Igbo have always supported tickets they think will be of benefit not only to them but also to the entire country even when these tickets had non-Igbos on them.
The plethora of socio-economic and political crises bedeviling the nation under Buhari are too numerous for him or any other person or group to think that Ndigbo would just pass him off as good enough to go for the presidency a second time simply because he is Buhari.
As some of the most critical analysts in the country who have shown indisputable commitment to the country by living, settling down and investing enormously throughout the country, no one or region can claim to love the country more than the Igbos.
When they refused to vote for Buhari at the 2015 elections, it was because they already envisaged he would throw the nation into the kind of situation it is in today, and not because of his tribe or religion. Today, even those who vilified the Igbo as usual for “putting all their eggs in one basket” are even the worst hit by the shambolic economic policies of the current administration.
The endorsement of the Atiku/Obi ticket is an endorsement for freedom, peace, prosperity and justice without which no nation can make progress.
Ndigbo will rather support a ticket that will promote the interest of Nigerians than the one that has led us to become the poverty capital of the world so that even if Buhari wins Ndigbo have not lost a thing!