CHIBUIKE AMAECHI PRESIDENCY BEST FOR NIGERIA, IGBO INCLUSIVE
Professor Obasi Igwe
Guest Speaker, BRIDGE BUILDING INITIATIVE FOR GREEN NIGERIA (BBIGN), Under the Theme: “The Roles and Achievements of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi as a Leader and Politician”, delivered at the Ikenegbu Girls Secondary School, Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri. Saturday, December 11, 2021.
1.PROTOCOLS. Mr. Chairman . . . distinguished members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen. We thank the Bridge Builders for this initiative, and encourage them to be relentless in the good work. For progress to occur people need to build bridges to one another across racial, ethnic and geographic lines and political persuasions. Within Nigeria in particular, in the transition from a neocolonial state “united” by force to a sovereign nation-state voluntarily united by enlightened shared interests, nationalities, regions and peoples need to welcome each other into their bosoms so as to develop the trust and mutuality essential for the common pursuit of civilization and humanism as expressed in the modern democratic secular state. Nigerians have no choice; colour made us slaves before, and now the coronavirus has become the added pretext to reject us everywhere and, being so surrounded by multiple jeopardies, many of them self- inflicted, we cannot afford to also reject ourselves.
2. WHY H. E. CHIBUIKE AMAECHI SHOULD SUCCEED BUHARI AS PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA.
What Nigeria needs after Buhari’s reign is a man of peace, reconciliation and even development. A man that could reverse the tide of divisionism and take the entirety of the country as his constituency. Preferably a man that should convert his experience of working with Buhari into an advantage to build upon whatever positive sides of the administration while righting the multiple divisive wrongs widely associated with it. A man or woman with the qualifications, know-how and sophistication to spark an industrial revolution in Nigeria, including the creation of another pole of development in the East to complement the ongoing one in the West. While the Western pole uses mainly the Lagos ports to drive development between Lagos through the old Western Region to the Northwest, the Eastern pole would combine the maritime potentials of the AkwaCross, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers States to equally drive development through the old Eastern Region to the Middle Belt up to the Northeast. Hence, encouraging other poles of development other than the West to Northwest and part-central is good for Nigeria’s peace, balance development, stability and security.
By such division of labour evident in the multiple poles of development, the demographic, real estate and ethnic pressures on Lagos and thereabouts would considerably abate, inter-ethnic tensions would significantly be minimized, Lagos over-saturated population overhead, real estate and other costs appreciably moderated to benefit the poorer sections, and a quantum leap in the pace of development assured in the West up to the Northwest and part-Northcentral. It would be a win-win outcome for all parts of Nigeria, the youths would be fully occupied in a mutually beneficial competitive emulation to develop their country, and with added statesmanship, terrorism and other crimes in all their dimensions would find few if any further recruits. With the enlightened and broadminded Presidency that Chibuike Amaechi could bring, Nigeria would be significantly less cumbersome to unite and develop, and before the end of eight years the signs of an emerging nation-state would be clearly visible.
As Speaker in the Rivers State and later Governor, Chibuike Amaechi acquired invaluable experience in the management of complex inter-ethnic relationships. As Governor, even without anticipating the possibility of a higher call to national service, he opened the doors of opportunity to all Nigerians, employing thousands of qualified Westerners, Easterners, Northerners and Middle Belters, who applied into the State’s teaching and other critical services. He laid solid foundations for the continuing positive development of the State and chose a successor that should continue along the tracks he had substantially envisioned. Through Odili to Omehia to Amaechi to Wike was somehow a non-partisan linkage that despite understandable political differences, which would one day be reconciled between great brothers and friends, the basic foundations were laid, which might transform the oil-rich State into the biggest economy in Africa, ceteris paribus.
Chibuike Amaechi above all, further registered himself as the most qualified to succeed Buhari by his well-known love and loyalty to his boss, and the enormous contributions he made and risks he took in ensuring his election as President of the Federal Republic both in 2015 and 2019. Can a person be rewarded for service and loyalty? Chibuike Amaechi’s contributions in the emergence of a President Buhari, especially in the environment of clear hostility towards the ethnoreligious bigotries alleged against the candidate, as well as Amaechi’s complete abidance with the discretions of his boss on railways and other aspects of the transport ministry, completes his curriculum vitae as the most qualified Nigerian and Igbo to assume the Presidency in 2023. Whereas several other prospective candidates seem to be sponsored by narrow-minded godfathers or interest groups, Amaechi’s main sponsor is his work and service as Speaker, Rivers House of Assembly; Chairman, Conference of Speakers; Governor, Rivers State; Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum; Director-General of the Buhari election campaign; and now, Federal Minister of Transportation. In these capacities, Chibuike Amaechi drew no distinctions between tribe, tongue, region or faith. Hence, to kickstart the actual process of healing, national reconciliation and development, Nigeria needs such a man as Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as President. Rotimi Amaechi is one Igbo man that is both qualified, capable and trusted by almost everyone for the job of restoring the unity and confidence of Nigerians in themselves.
3. SOLEMN APPEAL FOR IGBO PRESIDENCY TO THE FEW, ALBEIT HIGHLY RESPECTABLE IKWERRE AND OTHER MBAMMIRI (Rivers Igbo) ELITES FALSIFYING IGBO HISTORY.
War is a very dangerous, stupid and messy situation, and under enormous pressures, some Igbo and other Easterners assumed all manner of real or imagined offences and grievances against each other, which an Igbo Presidency, continuing from where Jonathan stopped, would completely heal. 54 years are enough time for division and mutual acrimony, and a united action for an Igbo President from the Rivers State, be he/she from Ahoada, Etche, Ikwerre, Ndoki, Ndoni, etc., but above all H. E. Rotimi Amaechi, would provide the needed balm both among Nigerians, the East and Igbo themselves.
Many hinterland Igbo were almost entirely wrong and unfair to have originally blamed the Ikwerre for responsibility in Abandoned Property ethnic-cleansing. The truth is that all the Igbo, often also including many non-Igbo in the Rivers State were being killed and humiliated. Neither the Ikwerre nor other Rivers Igbo ever initiated, decreed or participated (until much later and only insignificantly) in that evil exercise. And even actors from the other two major Rivers ethnic groups that appeared to have led in it were actually acting mostly under malign external pressures. So, it would be wrong for Igbo kith and kin in particular, and Eastern brothers and sisters in general to continue running away from each other in these days of supposedly greater wisdom on the wrong assumption of a vengeance that is not waiting anywhere or grievance long traveling into oblivion.
While the Igbo have considerably overcome the divide-and-rule daggers inserted into them, hinterland Igbo elites in particular must nevertheless not dismiss some Ikwerre, other Mbammiri and even non-Igbo Eastern claims of victimization by the Biafran Army. The only sensible answer to this is a genuine regret, followed by an honest explanation that the victimizations under suspicions of “saboteur” was everywhere inside Biafra, but without this being a justification for evil, yet still very far below what the opposing army did to the Ikwerre and other Rivers Igbo and other suspected pro-Biafra non-Igbo Easterners, the same way they were dealing with the Igbo in the hinterland. It was a general suffering not restricted to anyone and no Igbo group had any control over two desperate generals and their ill-trained soldiers. It’s all gone, and today is a new era of brotherly reconciliations, Eastern-wide and hopefully also nationwide.
Now, all the evils of the past are gone with the evil minds that masterminded them. The entire Igbo nation today and most fair-minded Nigerians do not only want but actually need an Igbo as President of Nigeria, at least for the sake of national healing, equity, justice and all-round development. For the Igbo to get that prize they must be united not disunited, all-inclusive not exclusionary, ideologically clear not confusing, speak with one voice not a cacophony of selfish voices, and for once since 1994/95 at least appear as strategic and sensible as other Nigerians do.This is therefore no more a time for anyone to claim Igbo specialness based on exclusive marginalized rights on the one hand, and on the other hand, for anyone to seemingly retort that since you blame us, we therefore “migrated from Benin and therefore not Igbo.” No side is ever right in a wrong argument or in choosing between two alternatives to a suicide.
There was not a single Ikwerre ancestor including “Akalaka” that ever knew about a “Benin”, how much more migrating from it. The Etche, Ikwerre, Ndoki, like other Igbo answer Umueme (if you like, Rumueme – the Igbo speak in dialects the way others do), Rumueprikom, Rumuibekwe, Rumuigbo, Rumuji, Rumukrushi, , Rumuola, Rumuolumeni, Rumuomasi and so on. The great and illustrious Ikwerre ancestors were no fools; if they came from Benin or Bini, there could at least have been one Rumubenin or Rumubini among the Ikwerre, Etche, Ndoki-originated and other Igbo groups in the Rivers State. There could also have been at least a single Rumuakalaka or Rmuochichi in honour of the “Ikwerre ancestors.” that came from “Benin”. The Rivers Igbo also answer Nwachukwu (Wachukwu/ku if you like), Nwafor, Nwankwo, Nwanodi, Nweke, Nwoke, Nworka, Nworlu, etc, and other names special to villages as equally applicable to all other groups. There is not a single Nwabenin or Nwabini throughout Ikwerre villages. The personal and place names of the Mbammiri were given by their ancestors and parents, not by the Igbo State Union of the 1940s or 50s to victimize the Ikwerre, and there was no Ikwerre or other Mbammiri ancestor that knew the meaning of “Esama”, bore the strange word as a title or wore an awkwardly imitated and amusing Benin regalia as their own.
The Ikwerre or Iruoha (Iwhuruowhna for the Obior-Akpor mainly) could not have started a secret journey in the 16th century only to arrive or reveal themselves from concealment in the 20th , when the bitter competitions for railway jobs started and Amaury Talbot published his researches; no non-Igbo could have been there without a single mention of their name/s, including Ikwerre/Iwhuruowhna in the lexicon of the zone over the almost 500 years of Igbo-European relationships.
Contrary to the general falsehood waxed to deceive the young and manufacture an “identity crisis”, the Union Igbo Bible Nso was not imposed on the Ikwerre by the “Isoma” or hinterland Igbo; it was substantially through the Bonny/Ubani, Ikwerre, Kalabari, Opobo and other Mbammiri that the grammar was evolved and imposed on the hinterland that almost automatically embraced it. Every grammar is relatively “difficult” to learn and this is why people acquire degrees, professorships, etc and win prizes on them. The average Oxfordian would not even understand his London counterpart until both use the English Grammar (Their Union Igbo). If each English, French, Hausa, Yoruba, etc village/section elevates their dialect into a “language” there shall be thousands of “languages” in each of them, and hardly might anyone talk to the other. So also the Igbo. There could also be at least 20 Ikwerre communities, with the possibility of 20 new “languages” if others refuse to adopt the restricted Obio-Akpor complex Iwhuruowhna instead of the simpler and more general Iruoha. Imagine that such complex designs were organized by a non-Ikwerre woman and her allies who mistakenly imagined that the indigenous Igbo in the Rivers State retaining their Igbo identity was a threat to her adopted ethnic group. Did she and her allies have any honest intentions for anybody?
Illustrious Mbammiri leaders, whether from Ali-Ogba, Etche, Ikwerre, Ndoki-originated groups, Ndoni, etc., including Amabibi Nsirim, young Dimm Uche Okwukwu, Emmanuel Aguma, Francis Ellah, Jaja, Obi Wali, and several others were too self-confident, wise and proud to deny their Igboness despite all the civil war and other pressures, and even Elechi Amadi and Otonti Nduka who initially seemed to be willing to dance to the tune of Igbo distancing had a clear rethink in their later lives, and certainly could not associate themselves with a “1965 Rumueme Declaration” of Ikwerre non-Igboness that never happened. Read “Sunset in Biafra”, there was no definite denial of the Igbo by the author, even as he condemned the atrocities of both Nigerian and Biafran soldiers against the Ikwerre but not surprisingly, more of the former. There was none of those great Igbo leaders that imagined or propagated that disunity or ethnic reductionism could bring strength to anybody anywhere, including in Nigerian politics. And there was none of them that manufactured a “Benin” ancestry to impose upon their honest ancestors.
All this background is a build-up to a humble appeal to the post-war new Ikwerre elites appearing to be somehow disrespectful of their forebears and promoting the lie industry of Ikwerre being Bini or migrating from Benin to end the delibrately mendacious enterprise for it makes both their purveyors and the entire Igbo a laughing stock in Nigeria and possibly elsewhere at the very least, and distorts such laudable goals as an Igbo Presidency.
Selfishness or singing different tunes have been causing the Igbo so much. An Example: H. E. Peter Odili. Regrettably, Peter Odili was allegedly denied the Presidency because he was Igbo and must not take a share from Southsouth. Peter denying Christ or an English man denying England will never make him Chinese or deceive the Chinese into accepting him as one of theirs. In fact, if a person can practically insult or curse his ancestors by denying his personality, others might not trust that he would not equally deny them if a temptation knocks. Therefore, to the “strategists” that denied Odili the coveted seat, the Rivers Igbo are only good as pawns to be separated from or used against their kith and kin to weaken the Igbo nation, but must accept a subordinate non-position to the “true owners of the Southsouth,” supposedly the Andoni, Anang-Efik-Efut-Ibibio-Oro, Ijaw, Ishan, Isoko, Itsekiri, the Ogojas, Ogoni, Urhobo, etc when it comes to matters of greatest importance such as Nigerian Presidency. All the Southsouth peoples are one with the Igbo as beloved brothers and sisters, but unfortunately in the hard matters of politics, the Peter Odili case signifies the general attitude of many of their elites to the Igbo, a situation that ought to change for the better with time.
Still, using the Odili analogy, it suggests that if the Ikwerre or any other Southsouth Igbo is denied a share in the Southsouth, he should not complain because he put himself into the false pretence of being where he does not belong. There are more than 20 non-Igbo ethnic groups in the Southsouth. If they have to mercifully consider a Southsouth Igbo as President that would be after the office had rotated to each of them (at least 8 x 20 years), plus 8 x 5 x 20 years (or 800 years) for the other 5 regions in Nigeria that it would also rotate to in alternate turns – according to one calculation – before an Ikwerre or any other Rivers Igbo can be President. But with their Igbo kith and kin the Mbammiri can take the Presidency as number three in alphabetical order of Igbo dialect groups (Anioma/Ika, Ijekebee, Mbammiri, Ogboo, Owerre/Isuama, Ukwa la Ngwa, Waawa), and may even take a number one in either an open competition, a lot, negotiation or ballot. Therefore, while appreciating the righteous cause of justice for the Niger Delta peoples, all factors considered, the Igbo among them, even as Southsouth are far much safer with their kith and kin than otherwise, and the other nationalities far much better without complicating their issues with some chunks of the Igbo. It will be a win-win for all and promotes harmony. But this requires mutual understanding and forgiveness on all sides. Southsouth is a geography and environment, and it would be suspect to use it as a political weapon against anyone within or outside the same Southsouth..
The Igbo everywhere as well as conscientious Easterners have considerably come to terms with their God-designed common destiny and overcame much of the negative contradictions of colonialism and civil war, and an Igbo President from the Rivers State fully supported by the non-Igbo in the East and elsewhere, same way the Igbo fully supported Jonathan and Obasanjo, could bring this healing process unto complete fruition.
4. APPEAL TO SELF-CENTERED HINTERLAND IGBO ELITES.
They are talking “Southeast”, we are talking Igbo; we don’t belong to the same planet. Let no one equivocate; old and young answer your father’s name and state categorically where you belong.
Shifting from Igbo Presidency to Southeast Presidency or not knowing what exactly you want or need, and mindless of the implications of your selfish or ignorant choice on the people is one of the causes of the youth restiveness in central Igboland, culminating into the IPOB, MASSOB secessionist movements. The corrupt political elites just pick or are bribed into picking any concept and recklessly pursue it such as the so-called “Southeast” just to meet their personal political and economic objectives with no regard to the long or even short-term interests of business men, industrialists and the youths, let alone the general Igbo or Nigerian population. While the Yoruba are bringing all of their peoples together (some wouldn’t even know that many Lagos politicians are not native to the place!), the Fulani make no distinctions between States (or even countries as we are told), the Tiv care about their own in Taraba and elsewhere, same with Ijaw, Gbagyi and others; some Igbo leaders on the other hand consorted in 1994/95 and excluded the Anioma, Mbammiri, and several other Igbo communities in the adjoining States, and arrived at “a small dot in a circle” they named “Southeast”- presumably in search of a more compact and manageable area as power base for their easier political control, victimization, exploitation and impoverishment.
They abandoned the Mbammiri/Rivers Igbo to the elements, stole all they could under Obasanjo and Jonathan, were unable to persuade them to dredge and modernize the Bonny-Port Harcourt and Opobo-Azumimi sea-lanes for resumed Igbo use to re-trigger the industrialization of the East, long started with Igbo metal technology even before colonialism, but will today have enormous spillover effects in the Middle Belt and Northeast, create jobs and prosperity in the zone, preempt brain drain and labour out-migration, and divert everyone away from crime and violence. These corrupt “Southeast” elites from 1995 to 2021, whether at the State or federal levels, being only after what concerned them personally, the frustrated youths, confined, suffocated, unemployed, marrying very late, poor and suffering, of course aided and abetted by lack of federal interest in the region, had to put up a struggle for self-determination. This peaceful struggle is legitimate both in international and domestic laws and within the consciences of civilized men – but, some of us believe that none of these problems of poverty and agitations can be solved either by violent means or by the very corrupt political elites that created the problems in the first place, people seeking to permanently destroy the Igbo dream that has been in continuous progressive evolution since thousands of years. Hypothetically, an Igbo from the Rivers, Anioma or other communities outside the five East central States, an Igbo who had no hand in the corrupt enrichments and treacheries that created the agitations and consequent bloodlettings, is more likely to beam an appreciable new light on Nigeria, effectively reintegrate the Igbo and East into the national economic and political mainstream, and considerably achieve long-lasting peace nationwide. Within our All Progressives Congress (APC), no one is better qualified than Rotimi Chibuike Amechi to do this.
For this reason, while some elites are tenaciously narrowing themselves to what they call Southeast Presidency, most conscious Igbo youths and considerable intelligentsia are on this matter behaving like other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria: to prove honesty and be meaningful to everyone, an Igbo President must be chosen from within the entire Igbo nation, not restricted to an enclave called Southeast. A wider pool creates a higher competitive opportunity for a more perfect selection. It is clear then that those propagating Southeast instead of Igbo Presidency are as usual about their narrow selfish ends, and not about the Igbo who need the affirmative action, and ultimately not even about a stable and peaceful Nigeria. Therefore, if Nigeria wants the best, which she direly needs, only the original, Igbo Presidency, will hold, so as to enable us persuade leaders like Chibuike Amaechi to contest on their personal merits and hopefully win. If the competition is open to all Igbo and someone from the hinterland wins, it would at least be clear that democratic meritocracy and fair-play were duly respected. On the other hand, even if for any reason Nigerian political parties refuse to zone their candidates to the Igbo, a post-election united Igbo approach can attract a more favourable consideration for the East by any new government at Abuja. Nigerian elites that despise or fear Igbo unity while encouraging theirs, and federal policies that tirelessly work to prevent it should realize that a united Igbo will reduce tension and disharmony, was an instrument for achieving Nigerian political independence, and will equally help achieve her economic prosperity in future.
Igbo elites must emulate other nationalities and their youth and stop suffocating their people inside a primitive enclavism that selfishly narrows the definition of Igbo into Southeast and ignoring the overwhelming sufferings of those Igbo that are indigenous to other States and their contributions to Igbo and Nigerian progress. This long-term ideological emptiness and consequent ad hocism in an environment when others are plotting the graphs for their peoples up to a 1000 and more years must come to an immediate end starting with a reversal from a “Southeast” to the original Igbo Presidency, with the tactic changed into persuading the various political parties to zone their Presidential candidates to the Igbo. Igbo in other states outside the “Southeast” deserve respect; they cannot be denied in one part and ostracized in another, and we still expect them to wholeheartedly vote or work for an Igbo President when they were precluded from competing for same on baseless grounds. The advantages of ideological clarity and unity or all-inclusive Igbo approach for Nigeria and the Igbo are taught in elementary schools and known to illiterate traders, and cannot be measured, and Igbo will certainly win the Presidency with united effort, for the benefit of a dynamic renaissance for Nigeria from 2023 onwards. A Yoruba President would not be an affirmative concession, but a deja vu, so also a Fulani to Fulani transition. Other leaders having substantially failed, it now appears that only an Igbo Executive Presidency can make a positively creative difference, excite the country’s populace, and trigger their latent energies in a rapid development and modernization process.
5. APPEAL TO ALL NIGERIAN LEADERS.
That the Igbo can “kneel down” to pursue their case for one of them to be President is only metaphorical, to show Nigerians how serious we are with the quest as one means to convince our agitating youths that they can have an equal place in the country. The quest also helps to legitimize the membership of the APC for some of us seen by friends as belonging to an ethno-religious party committed to the destruction of progress. Our quest is also a clear evidence of the Igbo earnest desire for general peace, justice and stability, and commitment to fast-forward the pace and breadth of development and modernization of the country.
The Igbo are neither less nor more qualified than others to lead the country, but in line with the series of affirmative actions extended to various Nigerian nationalities and regions as directly and indirectly enshrined in the Constitution as part of the inclusive fundamental objectives of state policy and federal character, they are the most deserving. Listen to the Igbo and you are listening to peace, balanced development, reconciliation and justice. An Igbo should have been the all-powerful Prime Minister of Nigeria at Independence but had to concede it to a quite lesser figure for the sake of national unity and peace. Like during the fight for Independence, it was again an Igbo that led the struggle that returned the country to this civil democratic rule, that others are enjoying, but was denied the Executive Presidency to placate our good Yoruba compatriots.
Since the Amalgamation, Igbo blood have been ceaselessly sacrificed for the sake of Nigeria. The Igbo are everywhere bringing the light of love, marriage and development to all parts of the country. Let Nigerians be united in persuading parties to zone their Presidential candidates to the Igbo, to enable those of quality, not corrupt and empty characters to present themselves to fellow Nigerians to choose from. Statesmanship more than politics is required now so that there would be no temptation to change the goal post of peace-building concessions which have been the order of the day since 1999.
Make no mistake; there are various degrees of agitation for secession in Nigeria, and there are already tentative self-styled sovereign caliphates destroying Nigeria and levying and collecting taxes. But there’s a more considerate wing in all regions and among all ethnic nationalities that believe that with proper restructuring and good governance, Nigeria ought to still survive. Like most of the Igbo, that optimistic wing is where the BBIGN belongs. Consequently, with the hope that a modern democratic secular state is the proper ideological basis that can equitably provide for all Nigerians without ethnic, gender, religious, class or other distinctions, H. E. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, given his credible antecedents, is most capable of providing the needed leadership for the attainment of the laudable objectives.