The ”wait for Jonathan” mantra is the new battle cry tearing through the Igbo landscape. It is a new ideology waiting for a regional emblem. The ideology teaches that the Igbo should not declare interest in the presidency in 2015 if President Goodluck Jonathan is interested in the race. Those who say this do so for two clear reasons.
One is that the Jonathan incumbency would make the Igbo quest a Herculean task. The other is that they see Jonathan as one of their own. As an “Ebele”, the Igbo should not be seen to be posing an obstacle to someone who is, more or less, regarded as one of them. The hint was first dropped by Senator Ben Obi a few months ago. Senator Obi, by the way, is the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Inter Party Relations.
Obi had told his Igbo brethren that they should wait for Jonathan to decide on 2015 presidency before they take their own decision on the same subject matter. He had reasoned that it would not make any political sense for the Igbo to throw their hat in the ring if Jonathan is interested in reelection. The tendency represented by Obi has since been amplified by some of his Igbo kinsmen. Greg Mbadiwe, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Congo, has expressed similar opinion on the matter.
He wants those clamouring for president of Igbo extradition to read the political barometer aright before joining the fray. The gist of his thesis is that the Igbo must take into consideration the Jonathan incumbency in whatever decision they want to take. Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State has equally spoken in like manner. He sees Igbo quest for the presidency in 2015 as a nullity if Jonathan would run for the same office.
He wants his people to wait for Jonathan to decide before they know the way to go. That is one end of the stick. The other end is held by those who feel that the Igbo deserve the presidency in 2015 and should therefore articulate their position in order to know how to go about the quest. The arrowhead of this tendency is Orji Uzor Kalu, the former Governor of Abia State. Whereas the Ben Obi tendency is dependent on the mood of the president, the Kalu side of the divide wants the Igbo to take their destiny in their own hands.
Their decision to go for the office of the president should not depend on one man’s idiosyncrasy or body language or brain wave. Kalu buttresses his point with the overriding need to give the Igbo a sense of belonging by conceding the presidency to them. As things stand now, the Igbo nation remains the only recognizable group that has been shut out of the Nigerian presidency. Based on this and related arguments, Igbos feel that they will not be asking for too much if they tell other Nigerians to make that concession to them.
Both tendencies have their points. But my point of departure with those who want the Igbo to wait for Jonathan lies in the fact that the Igbo have passed through that road before. Our recent political experience can bear this assertion out. In 2005, the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, held the country by the jugular through his life presidency project. Since Igbo presidency has become more of a formula than an actual quest, my people were, before then howling over the 2007 presidential slot.
The North and the South East were pitted against each other. Each laid claim to the presidency in 2007. However, no sooner did it become clear to Nigerians that Obasanjo was interested in remaining in power beyond 2007 than the Igbo retreated into their shell. All the hue and cry over Igbo presidency petered out. I recall that Kalu was about the only Igbo then that held on to his guns. And for daring to be his own man, Obasanjo stigmatized him in a number of ways.
It was not until Obasanjo’s self –perpetuation agenda collapsed that the Igbo regrouped for the 2007 presidential race. By then, the north which remained resolute in the quest had gained grounds. All they needed do was to consolidate their position that the presidency was theirs in 2007. And so, the north carried the day. For the Igbo who were waiting for Obasanjo to decide, it was too late to do anything by the time the Obasanjo agenda failed.
Thus, the Igbo quest also died in the same manner as Obasanjo’s life presidency plan. Some six to seven years down the line, history is set to repeat itself. The Igbo are at it again. The same mantra of waiting for the president has rent the air. The Igbo are working at cross purposes. There are even those who are deriding Kalu for rejecting the option of waiting for Jonathan. This state of affairs is unfortunate.
It goes to show how discordant Igbo views can be when issues crucial to their well being are being discussed. As a confirmation of the fact that history is set to repeat itself over Igbo presidency, President Jonathan, this Sunday, told Nigerians that he would make his stand on 2015 presidency known in 2014. That is one year to the election. In other words, for those Igbos who want their people to wait for Jonathan, 2014 is the year to take a decision on the Igbo presidency project. But we know that the struggle for power is not a tea party. It is not something a people or group should rush into. It requires ground work.
It requires strategy. It requires articulation. And it requires an arrowhead. These variables cannot be put together in a hurry. Should the Igbo wake up in 2014 and begin to talk about the 2015 presidency, it will certainly be too late in the day. The time left will be too short to go into the race. The result will be that the Igbo will be onlookers in the entire drama as they were in 2007.
From the way Jonathan has spoken, it is evident that he has his eyes on 2015. He said what he was supposed to say. It would have been impolitic for him to tell Nigerians now that he would still contest the presidential election in 2015. If he did that, a critical section of Nigerians would have gone to war with him. They would have berated him to no end.
Such a scenario would certainly have distracted the president and the people of Nigeria. So, the President chose the path of decorum. Yet, the message was clear without being disagreeable. Given this scenario, the Igbo should not be seen to have a single formula. Those who want to wait for the president to decide can go to sleep. They can remain Jonathan-drunk for as long as they wish. Bu they should make allowance for a differing tendency.
They should let those who have a different formula to try their hands on what they believe in. In any case, I do not see anything harmful about the Igbo preparing themselves for the presidency in 2015 even if they decide to drop the idea later if there is a compelling reason for them to do so. It does not make sense for an entire nation to fold its arms and wait for one man. Such a people should rather draw a plan of action. If this clashes with the ambition of the president who they see as one of their own, then the way forward can be negotiated.
It is better to achieve results through negotiation than to relapse into inactivity and expect miracles to come your way. The problem again now as it was then is that a good number of Igbo political elite want to be seen to be nice fellows in the eyes of the president. They do not want to be seen as agitators. They believe that such labels do not win favours or contracts or any form of goodwill. But we are talking about group, not individual interests.
Those who are truly interested in advancing the Igbo cause in this quest must put the people first. If they do that, they will appreciate the senselessness in going to sleep over an issue that is dear to them. The quest for Igbo presidency must move from the realm of convenience to that of a struggle. Those engaged in any form of struggle do not go to sleep until victory is achieved. The Igbo need to imbibe this attitude in their quest for better placement in Nigeria.