The problem of those who wear the garb of elder statesmen in Nigeria is their tendency to always play the role of Tin-gods in every facet of Nigerian politics, even regrettably among the people that owe no modicum of allegiance to them. Chief Edwin Clark no doubt is from Delta State, an Ijaw leader par excellence no doubt, but that does not grant him the powers to determine the political aspirations of other component ethnic groups of Delta State. Delta State is a multi-ethnic entity comprising the Igbo, Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, and Ijaw, and each ethnic group is responsible for its respective political aspirations in both the State and the wider Nigerian polity. Chief Edwin Clark cannot therefore sit in the comfort of his Ijaw town of Kiagbado and dictate to the Igbo of Delta State what should be and should not be their political aspirations.
In the first instance, each of the five ethnic groups in Delta State has its respective ethno-linguistic links outside the State. The Igbo have the Igbo of the Southeast, the Isoko and Urhobo have the Edo of Edo State, the Ijaw of which Chief Edwin Clark belongs are allied to the Ijaw of Bayelsa State and, the Itsekiri have the Yoruba of the Southwest. So it will amount to ethno-political supremacism and over-blown political carriage for Chief Edwin Clark to assume the decider of the political aspirations of the Itsekiri vis-a-avis their Yoruba kinsmen of the Southwest or those of the Isoko and Urhobo in relation to their Edo kinsmen. He can as well play such role with respect to his Western Ijaw against his Ijaw kinsmen of the defunct Eastern Region, and not among the Igbo of Delta State.
It is clear to Chief Edwin Clark that he will not tolerate any West Niger Igbo leader, not even the present Executive Governor of Delta State Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, coming up with such a statement of vile intra-ethnic alienation against his Western Ijaw people in respect of their Eastern Ijaw kinsmen. It is important to state here and right away that the Igbo of Delta State do no owe any allegiance to either Chief Edwin Clark or his Western Ijaw kinsmen. Perhaps Chief Edwin Clark understands that such utterance shouldn’t have emanated from him were the like of Obi (Senator) Nosike Ikpo to be alive.
It is instructive to let Chief Edwin Clark know that even though the Igbo of Delta State regard their Western Ijaw kinsmen as brothers and have lived together with mutual respect and common political aspirations, they are still regarded as Igbo pure and simple, just as the Igbo of Delta State have always regarded the Western Ijaw as Ijaw no more no less without distinction. So Chief Edwin Clark will be doing a great disservice to the collective aspirations and unity of the Igbo ethnic nation if he assumes the role of an instrument of division among the Igbo, and indeed this is the role he has just played by assuming that the Igbo of Delta State have no right to contest Nigerian Presidency as full-blooded members of Igbo ethnic group.
It is indeed surprising that a man of Chief Edwin Clark’s political carriage and national respectability will be sowing the seed of discord among the Igbo ethnic group by attempting to alienate one section from the right of contesting for a political office that is arguably open to not only the Igbo and the entire citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is ironical that in future the same Chief Edwin Clark will be the first person to exclude the Igbo of Delta State from contesting the Presidency after the Southeast Igbo with the excuse that the Igbo of the Southeast have taken the Igbo slot.
There is gainsaying the fact that the case of Chief Edwin Clark is a perfect example of how bare-faced hypocritical and unprincipled some of the Nigerian political leaders we regard as next to God could be in the judgment of equity and fairness. This indeed could further explain why a minority Fulani is currently taking the whole Nigerian nation to ransom with impunity and reckless arrogance.
Everyone believes that if a man of Chief Edwin Clark’s stature with his near double golden-age and political carriage comes out and tells the whole Ijaw nation to troop out against the present rampaging Federal Government-sponsored Murderous Fulani herdsmen and unknown bandits, the Ijaw nation will listen to him and the precarious state of this nation will change for better. But he will not do so; but will instead be satisfied being worshipped by the same oppressors of his people for being the agent of disunity among the same oppressed.
One is no doubt in awe to see a man who is known for unequivocal unity of his Ijaw ethnic nation coming out to state that the Igbo of Delta State are not Igbo enough to seek political office under the banner of Igbo ethnic group simply because some disused and disgruntled political elements masquerading as Igbo leaders visited him to solicit for his support for Igbo Presidency. Chief Edwin Clark should tell Nigerians if during his service and role as the war-time Federal Minister of Education under General Yakubu Gowon he ever alienated the Igbo of West Niger from the general massacre and sufferings allotted to the entire Igbo ethnic nation? Did Chief Edwin Clark come out to separate the Igbo of Midwestern Region from the Igbo of Eastern Region during the heinous massacre that followed the Biafran retreat from Midwestern Region and subsequent entry into Benin City by Col. Murtala Mohammed on September 20, 1967?
It is a record of Nigerian history that the West Niger Igbo had the highest number of senior commissioned army officers of Nigerian Army who were ignominiously sacked after the Nigerian Civil war for the only sin of being Igbo. The question is did Chief Edwin Clark stand out against such collective punitive policy against the Midwestern Igbo as an ethnic group by advising Col. Murtala Mohammed to separate the Igbo of Midwestern Region from their Eastern Region kinsmen as a separate entity? Did Edwin Clark at any point of his life speak out in condemnation of the gruesome carnage perpetrated by Murtala Mohammed during the Nigerian civil war beginning from Agbor and culminating to the theater-style Asaba massacre?
One believes that Chief Edwin Clark should be made to understand that the Igbo of defunct Midwestern Region are not only conscious of their special identity as Igbo, but are not unaware of their history both recent and remote and their various interconnecting relationship with their ethnic neighbors. One is not unaware of the fact that safe for the dangers imposed by the supremacist political tendencies of the Urhobo ethnic nation, Chief Edwin Clark should have been the last person to support an Igbo Governor of Delta State. Unlike the Igbo of Southeast, the Igbo of defunct Midwestern Region know at what points the rain began and ended beating them. So Chief Edwin Clark cannot stand out to dictate to the Igbo of Delta State their right to any political aspiration in both in Delta State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is therefore imperative for a man of Chief Edwin Clark’s age, respectability and political carriage to know where his political and ethnic influence begins and ends, especially under the current circumstances of a failing Nigerian State through obvious Fulani jihad imperialism. He is better and honorably advised to limit his celebrated statesmanship, audacious political supremacy and ethnic cacophony to his Western Ijaw kinsmen.
If he wishes to alienate his Western Ijaw kinsmen from the collective political aspirations of the entire Ijaw nation, well and good for him; but he is advised to steer clear from the murky waters of dirty and rudderless Igbo ethnic politics, before he gets smeared with the murky water of political indignity which has become a common identity of Igbo political leadership. The Igbo of West Niger which includes those of the present Edo and Delta States have the capacity to determine their political aspirations in synergy with any group that affords them mutual respect and equal opportunity and not as an appendage only useful for use and dump strategy.
Is it not surprising to the like of Chief Edwin Clark that while he has succeeded in uniting the Ijaw ethnic nation as one entity without geographical boundaries for common political aspirations, with the Yoruba busy reaching out to their Itsekiri kinsmen in Delta State and their Okun brothers of Kogi State, the so-called clay-footed Southeast Igbo leaders who are no more no less Fulani lackeys masquerading as Ohaneze Ndigbo led by one intellectual nincompoop called Professor George Obiozor, are busy engaging in a fortuitous campaign of alienation against one part of their Igbo ethnic nation?
Yet this was the same West Niger Igbo that bore the greatest brunt of the Nigerian civil war with yet be equaled Igbo patriotic spirit, while the notables of the Igbo of the present Southeast were busy sabotaging the war. When some people say that the Igbo of Southeast cannot be fully trusted as committed kinsmen, some of them will always come out in vocal condemnation of such stigmatization. Yet it remains a truism of Igbo relationship with their non-Southeast kinsmen, because idiomatically, somebody whose father is insane and fails to realize that his father is actually insane is himself insane.
One indeed wonders why Chief Edwin Clark failed to ask this band of branded Igbo political Almajiri what they are currently doing about the rising uncontrollable insecurity situation in their Southeast homeland orchestrated by Fulani herdsmen. If half of the defenseless citizens of the Southeast are eventually eliminated under the current surging trend by the same Fulani they are looking up to for political gratuity before 2023, who then will vote for the Igbo Presidential candidate? Does it not sound disgraceful and ridiculous that Ohaneze Ndigbo will be chasing rat in the bush while their house is burning? Under what Nigerian nation will a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction be elected in 2023, if the present insecurity situation continues to spiral without responsible Igbo leadership and Government efforts to bring it under control?
The other question Chief Edwin Clark failed to ask this band of disgruntled Igbo quislings in his right moral sense before making his sweeping statement of intra-ethnic alienation is why are these people particularly concerned about alienating the West Niger Igbo from contesting the Nigerian Presidency? What is special about the Igbo of the West Niger that makes these people think that their vile nepotism will better serve their aspiration for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of Southeast Igbo extraction?
Indeed this is the most important reason why the Igbo of Southeast are not yet qualified to produce the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, because as the common saying goes, charity begins at home. The Igbo of the Southeast have shown by their overt act of attempting to alienate their kinsmen from Delta State from the right of contesting the Nigerian Presidency as bona fide members of Igbo group that they lack the capacity to rule a country as multi-ethnic and multi-religious as Nigeria. The balance of value judgment in this regard is clear: if you lack the capacity to unite your ethnic family, you cannot claim to have the capacity to unite a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Nigeria.
There is no doubt that this is a clear signal that the Igbo of West Niger have no share in any Igbo political kingdom under the superintendence of Southeast Igbo. And this is the further reason why the West Niger Igbo are clear about their separate political aspiration and identity apart from the Igbo of Southeast. This again further-further explains why both the Igbo of the Southeast and Chief Edwin Clark or whosoever believes to be in agreement with them lack the moral and political capacity to exclude the Igbo of West Niger Igbo from contesting the Nigerian Presidency. To assume such a position is to be in consonant with the current objectionable Fulani self-imposed mentality of political supremacy.
Indeed when placed side by side on the same scale of political exigency and selfless sacrifice to common Igbo ethnic aspirations, the Igbo of West Niger far out-weigh their Southeast Igbo kinsmen. In the first place the Igbo of West Niger fought selflessly in the Nigerian Civil War on the side of defunct Biafra without any single account of saboteur syndrome, which was common among their Southeast kinsmen. It is an undeniable fact that the Igbo of the West Niger produced the best known field commanders and fighters on the Biafran armed forces with greater patriotic spirit and zeal than those whose homeland they were defending. One needs not belabor himself to name such commanders, but it remains a truism which nobody among the Southeast Igbo would deny.
Interesting also is that fact that the Head of Biafran Intelligence was Mr. Bernard Odogwu and he served the Biafran State without any dirty spot. Chief Raph Uwechue not only served the Biafran nation as Ambassador to France but died serving the Igbo ethnic nation as President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo without a single Southeast Governor at his burial ceremony. Suffice it to further state that the current structural face-lift enjoyed by University of Nigeria Nsukka was zealously initiated by Professor Frank Ndili as Vice Chancellor after successive Vice Chancellors of Southeast extraction had failed to lift the University out of its civil war structural scare, yet the same Professor Ndili was thrown out the University with ignominy.
The experience of the present writer is legion with Southeast deceit, thankless mentality and cultured carriage of untrustworthiness and stands out perfectly as another example of uncelebrated West Niger Igbo selfless sacrifice to the collective cause of the Igbo ethnic nation. Yet to the Igbo of Southeast these people are not Igbo enough to contest the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under one Igbo ethnic identity.
The point should be made clear here and now that both Chief Edwin Clark and the Igbo of Southeast lack the moral capacity to either determine the political aspirations of the Igbo of Delta and Edo States or their right to contest the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; just in the same way the Igbo of Delta and Edo States cannot question the right of the Western Ijaw to their aspirations.
The Igbo West of the Niger it must be re-emphasized are not an ethnic appendage to either the Igbo of Southeast or the Western Ijaw of Chief Edwin Clark. The responsibility of defining the political aspirations and future of the Igbo West of Niger lay with them and not with any external group or personality, no matter how highly placed and assumed importance such group or personality think themselves to be. While the Igbo of West Niger are unarguably Igbo in ethnic extraction, they are however not unmindful of their characteristic identity as an ethnic melting-pot of Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Isoko, Urhobo, Igala, and Ijaw ethnic groups and for that reason cannot be used as a willing political tool by the Igbo of Southeast for the selfish realization of their political end.
The West Niger Igbo is open to political association, cooperation and alliance with any of the above ethnic groups historically associated with them based on mutual respect, equity, fair play, and justice. They cannot therefore allow themselves to be cajoled by the likes of Chief Edwin Clark into believing that they are second-class Igbo ethnic group whose political aspirations can only be determined by outsiders.
It is important for Chief Edwin Clark who has laboriously worked to include the Okrika, Kalabari, Opobo and Bonny of the present Rivers State, as well as the Ijaw of Edo, Ondo, Lagos, and Akwa Ibom States in the wider Ijaw ethnic nation to know that by unilaterally assuming the capacity to exclude part of the Igbo ethnic nation from contesting the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is overtly sowing the seed of discord among the Igbo as one ethnic nation, as action he will be the last person to tolerate in his Ijaw ethnic nation .
It is however important to point out that the only group among the Igbo ethnic nation that best qualifies to contest the Nigerian Presidency under the present political circumstances is the Igbo of West Niger. The reasons are manifest:
First, of the four original constitutional Regions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria namely, Eastern, Midwestern, Northern, and Western Regions, only the Midwestern Region of which the West Niger Igbo belong is the only Region that has not produced the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria both in civilian and military uniforms.
Second, compared to their Southeast kinsmen who have produced Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi as Head of the Military Government of Nigeria, the Igbo of West Niger have not had such opportunity.
Thirdly, again the Igbo of Southeast have produced a Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of General Staff and second-in-command to Military President Ibrahim Babangida, and Dr Alex Ekwueme as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but the Igbo West of the Niger have not had such opportunity.
Fourth and finally, the Igbo of West Niger have the most acceptable cross-cutting inter-ethnic reach than their Southeast Igbo kinsmen. In other words most Nigerians trust the West Niger Igbo to be more principled in political objectives, more selflessly committed, more dexterous in political carriage, and more trustworthy in general personality character than their Southeast Igbo kinsmen.
For these reasons there is no doubt that the average Nigerian including the Igbo of the Southeast will prefer the Igbo of West Niger to be the President of Nigeria to their Southeast kinsmen. The likes of Professor George Obiozor and their co-Igbo Fulani political serfs are fully aware of this obvious advantage of the Igbo of West Niger hence their clumsy, shameless campaign of calumny against a group they claim belongs to the same Igbo ethnic group.
The point however is that progressive Nigerians are wiser presently and cannot be swayed by such groundless campaign of self-political destruction. No right thinking Nigerian will take heed to the wailings of a self-centered band of Igbo leaders who do not care if their entire population is wiped out by rampaging Fulani herdsmen and solicited heartless soldiers of occupation. What Nigeria and Nigerians mostly need at this inauspicious trying moment of their existence is unqualified security of lives and property before anything else and the best section of the Igbo ethnic nation that can unequivocally provide the right leadership that will bring the present precarious situation in Nigeria is the West Niger Igbo. Historical antecedents are laid bare to support this assertion.
The present class of Igbo leadership across board—political, religious, traditional, and corporate business has not proved its capacity in both moral and political terms to bring the present state of political precipice in Nigeria into acceptable order. Perhaps one can compare the approach of the rival Yoruba ethnic nation to the shameful, decrepit and indolent political showmanship of the Southeast State Governors, their Senators and other pronounced political leaders.
Indeed one is yet to understand why the Almighty God so hates the Igbo of the Southeast that in spite of their theatrical religiosity and narcissistic enterprising spirit clothed in puffy ethnic consciousness, he has consistently failed to bless them with a crop of leadership in similar style. In other words, a nation of drunkards is better led by a leadership of drunkards, not leaders who are afraid to test ordinary coca-cola mineral water. This is the precarious predicament the Igbo of Southeast found themselves today, and which the likes of Chief Edwin Clark failed to underscore in his misjudgment of ethnic balance and equity.
Nwankwo Tony Nwazeigwe, PhD
Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Director, Nigerian Civil War and Genocide Research Network
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Delta State