By Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal
It really boggles one’s mind the degree to which Ndigbo appear to be excessively reveling in complacency over President Goodluck Jonathan’s so-called favourable disposition to Igbo interest as relates to his 2015 Presidential ambition. As it were, it is though understandable that this
Igbo complacency about President Jonathan’s administration is drawn from some empirical facts. For one, analysts believe that until the ascendancy of President Jonathan, no one of the past administrations in Nigeria – be it the military or its civilian counterpart – ever made conscious efforts towards genuinely initiating the process of the de-marginalization of Ndigbo – a people erroneously and hitherto perceived to be the “real enemies” of the corporate entity called Nigeria by a section of fellow compatriots who are wont to think that they are more Nigerian than others. And the reason for this line of thought is not unconnected with the fact that the Igbo were the first to rise up to say no in practical and clear terms to the mindless, senseless and idiotic killings of their kiths and kin in the old Northern region, in the 1960s. As painful as the thought of this orgy remains, it is clearly a bygone however. And so that Dr Goodluck Jonathan appears to be the first and the only Nigerian President to genuinely show more than a passing interest in the question of Igbo de-marginalization in the scheme of things in Nigeria, apparently leaves no one in doubt about the rationale behind the enormous goodwill and rapport he is enjoying among the Igbo.
No doubt, a cursory look at the level of improvement which the Igbo seem to experience – as opposed to the status quo ante – in terms of their involvement in the running of the affairs of the Federal government is not unlikely to make some gullible minds to fall to the illusion that this seemingly remarkable trend as it were, has ultimately ushered in the full de-marginalization and reintegration of the Igbo into the mainstream of governance and government at the centre. But this is not certainly the true picture of the Igbo situation in Nigeria today. Truth be told, the Igbo are yet to be fully involved, absorbed or re-absorbed into the diverse network of Federal government business. To be precise, it is axiomatic that up till today compatriots from certain sections of Nigeria still maintain hegemonic control of government business in almost all facets of our national life. But then, let us leave this issue here for now.
Meanwhile, one wonders if it will be a misplaced assertion to submit that the same government of President Jonathan (irrespective of the thinking of the South-East elite club) has no known place or visible space for the Igbo youths in his national agenda for Nigerian youths. Lest we mix everything up, this piece is not concerned with the much talked about but less felt SURE-P youth empowerment programme of this government or its politically motivated new found love affairs with Nollywood and/or Hollywood where of course we have no illusions about the commendable survival efforts of the preponderance of Igbo youths in the industry. By the same token, the focus is not on the few individual Igbo youths Mr. President has appointed in few positions of influence in order to use them or their appointments in due course to advance the cause of his 2015 Presidential project. Rather, the main focus here borders on the fate of that section of Igbo youths/wards who do not receive any form of government support in their daily struggle to survive and who are hardly allowed to come close their elite class by the angry looking security details of the latter. Of specific concern here is the question of the real Igbo side of a related national space such as the President has created for the youths and/or wards of the Niger-Delta region via the amnesty programme. However, while of course the attempt here is not to de-emphasize or down play the peculiar exigencies that interacted to give birth to the amnesty programme for the Niger-Delta wards, but talking about the kind of special national space the President has created for the North or, better still, the Hausa-Fulani folks through the Almajiri education programme reinforces the bone of contention here. Understandably, it is commendable that the Northern wards are immensely benefiting from the Almajiri education programme. Ditto to the Yoruba who equally derive a good deal of benefits from this same programme. Yet the big question remains: whither the Igbo share of this mileage?
But lest err, let no one be deceived that the so-called Girl-child education programme purportedly put in place in the South-East as Almajiri education equivalent is anything to write home about. The fact of the matter is that, this so-called Girl-child education thing purportedly existing in the South-East is not only ill-conceived but also it appears to negate the real needs of the people of South-East, which accounts for its total failure so far. Little wonder the programme is perceived in certain quarters as solely designed to be used to show President Jonathan’s stage-managed/feigned appreciation of the imperative of ensuring national spread and balancing in the pursuit of the entire exercise. Somehow, this might not be unconnected with the truth. Otherwise, it baffles why the federal government always takes great delight in enthusing about the achievements of the Almajiri education system in the North and elsewhere while it says little or, more often, nothing about its Girl-child education counterpart in the South-East. Incidentally, apart from Ebonyi state where the FG might be inclined to point at the possible presence of Girl-child education infrastructure, one is totally at lost at the knowledge of the presence of same anywhere else in the South-East geo-political zone. Again, this explains why some persons have argued that the Girl-child education project is a white elephant project meant to placate potential critics – especially those of South-East origin – who might be impelled to raise issues concerning the discriminatory or lopsided nature of the Almajiri education programme as tilted solely in favour of the Muslim faithful. As seemingly untenable as this argument may appear, it is curious that no Igbo leader or group has thus far deemed it necessary to question the level of implementation of this Girl-child education programme in the South-East states. Worst still, not even the Governors of these states under whose watch the programme is meant to be smoothly implemented are least interested in telling us how they have failed in this regard. For some of them though, it appears there is no need for this Girl-child education project in the very first place. The reason being that the handing over of schools to churches and the unrelenting efforts of the state governments concerned in providing these schools with financial and moral support fundamentally obviates the need for such a separate scheme like the Girl-child education. In the circumstance therefore,one still wonders if it cannot be safely submitted that the Girl-child education in the South-East only serves as a conduit pipe through which the Federal government enriches Igbo politicians and their ilk.
As farcical as this whole Girl-child education thing looks, there is no gainsaying that this is perhaps one of the reasons some Nigerians are wont to think that President Jonathan’s government is running out of track. But this in itself is their thinking and they are well entitled to hold it. However, this brings us to yet another serious issue as it adversely affects the Igbo. To say the least, it is appalling that of all other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria today, only the Igbo nation has no one of her sons/daughters heading any of the country’s strategic security agencies – military and para-military entities alike. At the moment, therefore, while some folks riles that no Igbo is among the country’s service Chiefs, other believe that the issue is not such a serious one to “make fuss about it”. Unfortunately, this same situation is no less the case in the para-military categories such the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Prison Service, Nigeria Fire Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defencde Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, just name them, where so far no Igbo man or woman is heading any of these organizations. And to even add insult to injury, the Federal Road Safety Commission which hiterto was ably headed by Mr. Osita Chidoka has long been handed over to somebody from one of ethnic nationalities Mr. President appears to be desperately striving to please at all cost.
What is more, in what seems to be a swift show of astuteness, the same Mr. President has(without being reminded) readily re-appointed Mr. Ita Epkeyong as the Director General of State Security Service, who incidentally hails from his Niger-Delta region. Besides, whatever are his reasons, the same President Jonathan has gone ahead for the second time in close sucession to appoint a new (Acting) Inspector General of Police – in the person of Mr. Suleiman Abba who took over from Mr. Muhammed Abubakar – from the same North-West geo-political zone like his immediate predecessor (pretending in each of the foregoing cases to be completely unaware of the fact that the South-East geo-political zone is not represented in the present team of the country’s Service Chiefs). Yet, with all due respect, all these Igbo politicians and business men dancing around naked for President Jonathan’s undisclosed 2015 Presidential ambition seem not to recognise this undeserving, disgusting and deplorable ill-treatment of Ndigbo in the sharing of the headship of the country’s command structures and its attendant far- reaching pernicious implications for the Igbo nation.
As we know it well, one the reasons why the desert and arid people of Northern Nigeria are deemed today to have more top military and para-military brass (whether in service or out of service) is not because of their false claim of being more populated than the savannah people of Southern Nigeria, or their ostensible penchant for opting for Armed Forces jobs either. Rather, it is basically because of their long stay in positions of power secured through a series of successive and successful coups that invariably gave them outright privileged dominance in the areas of recruitment, promotion as well as appointment of key officers of military and para-military bodies in Nigeria – an advantage they still subtly and, in some cases, brazenly employ to shortchange others (especially as still obtainable in the Nigeria Customs Service at present). Yet somebody, somewhere will continue to argue that this glaring aspect of continued marginalization of Ndigbo is not such a serious matter for the Igbo to begin to register their displeasure in an ungentlemanly manner deviod of voilence.
But be that as it may, while it is perhaps expedient for Ndigbo to continue supporting President Jonathan by their unrelenting efforts to drum up his 2015 Presidential ambition and/or even joining the supposedly growing queue of other Nigerians ostensibly “begging” him to run for the second term, it is imperative for the Igbo foot soldiers in this lucrative business of drafting Mr. President to equally strive to remind him to attend to Igbo interest in much the same way he is seen so far to be attending to other nationalities’ interest. And there is no gainsaying that one of the ways of doing this is for Mr. President to appoint qualified senior security personnel of Igbo origin into the top security echalons in Nigeria, bearing in mind that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Agreed, President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is one of “us” and our “brother” and so we must never abandon him; but he must be seen to be treating us not only as such, so to speak, but also as one of the equal members of this federal entity called Nigeria. Otherwise, a situation whereby no qualified senior Igbo security personnel are at present principal Heads of military and para-military bodies in Nigeria does not in any way speak volumes about our professed “affinity” with President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan and/or his professed recognition of the need to carry Ndigbo and Igbo youths in particular along, especially as relates to the security aspect of his national transformation agenda. This in fact accounts for why it is apparently outrageous that Igbo youths are actively participating in the ongoing naked dance for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s undisclosed 2015 Presidential ambition/project.
Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal writes from Abuja