Democracy is undoubtedly the government of the people. We originally imported our parliamentary democratic system of government from Britain at independence. In this period, the colonial masters recognised that there are three major tribes in Nigeria: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The power dynamics necessitates that whenever two out of these three tribes agree on a candidate, the candidate wins. The first government in Nigeria was formed by the Igbo and Hausa that produced Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as President and Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister.

The coup of 1966 changed every democratic political equation in Nigeria. The 1966 military coup was erroneously termed Igbo coup which led to the counter coup of 1966 and the Nigeria civil war of 1967-1970 in which millions of Ndigbo were unjustly killed. Ndigbo did not succeed in their attempt to have an independent country, but the resultant loss in men and materials set Nigeria light years back. Before the war, they represented some of the best of Nigerians in engineering, law, medicine, sports, entertainment, military, politics and so on. Having purged them out of the system, Nigeria started grappling with shortage of experts in every department of governance and ended up having the worst governed country on earth. It will not be ideal to exonerate any section of Nigeria from the malaise that has befallen Nigeria today, but truth be told, since 1970, nobody from the South-East has ever been the executive head of the Nigerian Federation, whether military or civilian. It is safe to conclude that among the three majority tribes at independence, the Yoruba, from 1970, has had the power of the executive head of Nigeria three times, while the Hausa/Fulani has tested power at the centre six times and the Nigerian minority tribes from the North have tested power three times, while the minority tribes from the South has tested power of the Chief Executive of Nigeria once.

This was the lopsided statistics against the majority tribe of Ndigbo since the end of the war. After the cancellation of June 12 presidential election won by MKO Abiola, a Yoruba man, it was obvious that the unity of Nigeria would have been compromised if the cancellation was not redressed because that would have meant that the entire South would have been united against the political marginalization of the entire southern region against the Northern region. It was clever of the people of South-West not to adopt violent approach against the Federation in its quest for redress against the annulment of the presidential election. By 1998, when Abacha suddenly and mysteriously died, there emerged a national consensus that power must shift to the South and particularly to the South-West to compensate for the annulment of June 12 presidential election and ensure peace and stability in the country. Unfortunately, Abiola, the winner of June 12 died, and the only way to compensate for his death was to crown another South-West son to become the President of Nigeria. It was quite revealing that the eventual President that emerged from that decision was made possible by the collaboration of the Igbo, Hausa and the minorities.

Ndigbo continued on the trajectory of being nationalistic and patriotic by supporting the South-West in 1999 and 2003 in the person of President Olusegun Obasanjo. They supported the aspiration of the Fulani Northern Muslim in 2007 to become President in the person of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who, unfortunately, died in office due to ill-health. Ndigbo proceeded to support a Southern minority citizen of Bayelsa State in the South-South to become President in 2011 and 2015. They supported the aspiration of a Fulani Northern Muslim again in 2019 to become President. In 2023, having supported both North and South, East and West, Christian and Muslim in the production of the number one citizen across the country, and by the concept of power shift and rotation of the post of the President, Ndigbo rightly opined that it will be in the interest of equity, fairness and justice that they should be allowed to produce the next President of Nigeria.

This position was supported by a wide spectrum of the society and elder statesmen. From Pa Ayo Adebanjo of the Afenifere of Yoruba land to Chief Edwin Clark of the South-South PANDEF to the leadership of the Middle Belt Forum to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to some Islamic clerics in the North, they were unanimous that the South-East should produce the next President in the interest of equity, fairness and justice. Another set of the demography, particularly the youths, were not even moved by the zoning arrangement of political parties, they were interested in a youthful leader they can relate with who has distinguished himself in character, capacity and competence. The two major political parties ignored both the yearnings of the wide spectrum of the society and the quest of the youths. PDP even went further to reject power shift and rotation and selfishly decided to retain power in the North, after eight years of an incumbent Northern Muslim. The APC was also insensitive by deliberately choosing a Muslim-Muslim ticket and zoning the post of the President to the South-West. None of the choice satisfied the yearnings of the people especially as both candidates were old.

An astute politician, Peter Obi, having the qualifications, satisfactory to both the wide spectrum and the youths, threw his hat in the ring and became an instant hit. He was accepted nationwide which concomitantly induced the acceptance of his political party, the Labour Party. He has a reputation for being a man of character, capacity and competence. The hopeful youths filed behind him and the momentum led him to outperform every expectation of the opponents. It is therefore very erroneous to attribute the political success of Obi to the people of the South-East only. It was a national mandate.

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However, the results also rewrote the political history and destiny of the people of the South-East dominated by Ndigbo. The first lesson is that the people of the South-East can achieve whatever they set out to achieve in a democracy, without the application of violence. Being a majority tribe in Nigeria, with the largest spread around the country more than any other tribe, it does appear that the constitutional requirement of achieving 25 per cent of votes in 2/3 of states in the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before any candidate will be declared President, will be easier for any candidate they are backing to achieve than any other candidate. It is often said that any town in Nigeria that does not have the presence of Ndigbo is not habitable. Because they are predominantly traders and travellers, they are found in every nook and cranny of Nigeria thereby aiding and abetting their democratic achievement in spread.

The erroneous impression that the Igbo are money mongers and can sell their birthright for money seems to have evaporated with the election of 2023 because this is one election in Nigeria that people from the South-East voted without monetary inducement. The accusation that they voted based on ethnicity and religion seem to also be ill-informed because they have voted for other tribes and religion since 1999 than any other tribe had voted for them. The allegation that they are not united is also bogus. Nothing unites Ndigbo more than a war of justice. Their republican nature makes them irritated to be dictated to, but when they are convinced in the justice of a case, their unity becomes organic and their determination to fight to an end becomes unquenchable.

The greatest lesson Ndigbo should learn from the election of 2023 is that nobody hates them. They must realise that the spirit of excellence destroys every primordial sentiment. They put out their best for the President in 2023 and the whole country supported their own not because of where he is from but because of his incomparable qualifications. Going forward, let this be the standard the South-East must set for itself. They must support only the best for any competitive position in the country and reap the goodwill of other ethnic and religious groups.

There’s no doubt that there’s general consensus that INEC rigged the presidential election of 2023 against Peter Obi who believes that he won the election and has sufficient proof to that effect. He has also described the election of 2023 as the worst in the history of Nigeria. Considering the amount of money invested in the election and the promises made by INEC on the use of BVAS and electronic transmission of results from the polling unit same day and the eventual circumvention of those processes as stated by the law by INEC which collated and announced results that they were not able to prove their source more than 14 days after the election, one has no option than to believe that Peter Obi has tangible reasons to his belief.

However, in the fight towards the actualization of the mandate, the people of South-East must avoid ethnicizing the struggle. They must avoid thinking that Obi was rigged out because he is Igbo or that other parts of the country do not want an Igboman to be President. If other parts of the country did not vote for Obi, he will not have any mandate to fight for. Moreover when June 12 was cancelled, it wasn’t an Igboman that won the election. Nigeria is held hostage by a group of wicked and evil leaders who believe in state capture and are merciless in their quest for power and money while the majority of the citizens wallow in abject poverty and misery. Nigerians voted their choice for President on February 25 and Nigerians will unanimously fight for the recovery of the presidential mandate they freely gave to Peter Obi irrespective of their ethnicity and religion.

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