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2023 Presidency: Nigeria and the Southeast Imperative

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HOWEVER it turns out, the 2023 general elections will be a watershed in the annals of Nigeria’s Rirutanian history.

  If for nothing else, it will mark the end of President Buhari’s tormentous two-term watch over the affairs of the country. A tenure that has seen the fiercest tugs at the strings that bind us as a nation from all the cardinal points.

  Yet another landmark – more emblematic, if I’m to say – concerns the position of the indigenes of the Southeast of the country in the union. The truth, however coloured, is that they don’t find themselves in the rosiest of places therein. A ready pointer remains their inability to achieve a president of their extraction since independence.

  Having posited this, I must quickly add, for the avoidance of doubt, that it is no original idea of mine. Many more prominent compatriots have said this before me. Most remarkable is the one by an elder statesman from the Southwest. He even went to the extent of berating the favourite candidate from his region for nursing the ambition at all.

  By him, the visibly ailing juggernaut should have perished the thought as it came to him. Notwithstanding the supposed role(s) he played in the incumbent president’s election. After all, like many have also pointed out, IBB laid the same claim(s) to the OBJ presidency and did not raise hell.

  And by all standards, the man of the moment should do better. At least, he can borrow a leaf from that Caucasian American presidential candidate who withdrew from running against Obama. Asked why, the thoroughbred gentleman had replied that it was because he did not want to stand in the way of history.

  It’s noteworthy that our nation has achieved the ripe age of 61. Give and take, we have not survived all these divisive manifestations in the past and present for nothing. It’s unarguable that something has helped glue these more than 250 ethnic nationalities together. So that it has survived to this century against all these odds is a thing to be thankful for.

  Studied critically, more than anything else, credit for this has to go to the mutual respect subsisting between these ethnicities over the years. In spite of odds, these peoples have cohabited with one another in countless composils and villages scattered across the country. In the process, they have intermarried and often joined hands to overcome the most daunting of situations.

  Most interestingly, over these years, a particular group has been found to be the most adventurous in the pack. It’s on record that wherever you venture in the union, they easily account for the most numerous in demographic mass after the original sons and daughters of the soil. Composils apart, this has also been replicated even in the remotest of backwoods.

  Also, wherever they do find themselves, they are visibly the only others manifesting their investment potential. As though they never crossed the proverbial seven seas to the destination, they’d build palatial homes, offices and even markets in these otherwise strange lands. And this, sometimes, to the chagrin of their hosts.

  Yes, rather than get due commendations for their chivalry, they are easily the most maligned in the union. A situation that has often led to them being wrongfully stigmatised and singled out for victimisation. A situation that has seen them pushed to the wall of self defense which, in turn, has made them appear to be persona non grata in a cake they are joint bakers of.

  These momentous happenings date back to pre-independence days. But the most virulent came about post independence. Specifically, when some self-styled revolutionaries in the then nascent nation’s army truncated the coeval First Republic. Like Emperor Nero and the early Christians, culprits were easy to find after the abortive coup.

  Meanwhile, not unlike what would have transpired in Anthony Hope’s novels, the politics of the time had put a group from a different quarter in charge of the nation’s affairs. Like transpired, efforts to unravel the Gordian Knot they had tied the nation into spiralled into the declaration of a state of emergency in the western region.

  Coincidentally, the political leader of that beleaguered region, rotting in jail for treason, featured prominently in the botched coup d’etat. Leader of the opposition then, the putschists had allegedly conjured the grand design to sprite him from prison to form a new government; a plan that was pronounced dead on arrival with the fond dream that birthed it.

  One cannot but point out that the greatest undoing of the takeover was the outlandish killings that they masterminded. But in belated defence, it has to be pointed out that it mostly turned out one-sided on account of who and who were at the helm. An argument cogent enough to take care of the tinkering about who was spared and why.

  Anyway be that as it may, because most of the military buccaneers hailed from the itinerants’ region, the misadventure ended up labelled theirs. In consequence, what amounted to an organised pogrom was unleashed on their readily available indigenes in the ruler region. Either which way, a butchering only commensurate with what was to transpire in Rwanda decades later followed.

  Like turned out, repercussions from the above was to snowball into a conflagration. Torn apart, the nation’s army briefly became regionalised. Peace meetings were arranged within and without the country to no avail. In the end, nothing stopped the nation from waging a 30-month civil war to make it one again.

  Nothing explains what came to pass then like what transpired between the late Cols Njoku and  Ojukwu. Stuck in the east before the full outbreak of hostilities, both held a very remarkable tete a tete. Of course, the latter had become the military governor of the region following the coup. The former, by then-recent events, ended up the commander of its army.

  It was vividly recounted in Njoku’s account of the war – A Tragedy Without Heroes. Ojukwu, apprehensively, saw his sappers as never ever having anything to do with their former colleagues-in-the-trench from the north. Njoku, on the other hand, thought otherwise. Citing the American experience, he maintained that all would be gladly defending the nation 50 years from then.

  Sadly, this was to lead to Njoku’s incarceration for 29 of the 30-month duration of the war. The concluding part in the Biafran Central Prison stationed at St Peter’s Secondary School, Achina, in the present Aguata LGA of Anambra State.

  Anyway, again, suffice this by noting that history, by the Greeks, repeats in concentric circles. Yes, the same scenario, give and take a few differentials, is playing out once more. Somehow, the old West and North are ganging up against the East again. No thanks to the effective gerrymandering of the region over the years.

  Somehow, this has seen the effective isolation of the leading tribe in the region to a dot in a massive circle of foes – to the effect that the so-called minorities ‘they had been oppressing’ have produced a president of the nation before them.

  If anything, it has succeeded in turning the people of the region against themselves. Nowhere else is this more evident than in the struggle for them to produce the nation’s president come 2023.

  But the onus is for them to come together more than at any other time else to achieve this much desired diadem. And I have hindsight enough to predict that rather than to their dot alone, it’ll be even most beneficial to the circle encapsulating them.

*Uzoatu, the author of the novel Vision Impossible wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State.

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