Ndigbo and the Politics of Identity
By Hassan Gimba
Even though Anambra has been in the kitty of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) for a long time, the recently concluded gubernatorial election in which Professor Charles Soludo bested other candidates to emerge, winner, is a straightforward case of identity politics.
Identity politics is a political approach in which people of a particular gender, religion, tribe, ethnicity, race, social background, class, etc., develop political agendas based upon these identities. The term can apply to multiculturalism, women’s movements, civil rights, lesbian and gay movements, and regional separatist movements.
While a majority of the Igbo may not be comfortable with a separate country called Biafra, the impact and hovering influence of the separatist movement, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), cannot be discountenanced. And with the authorities unable to save the average person, the menacing threat of its militant arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), is a constant reminder for the average Igbo living at home to play ball or else…
However, because of the strident call for a sovereign Biafra by a totalitarian IPOB using the ESN as a whip to keep naysayers in check, the entire South-East will adopt a political identity that will set it apart from the rest of the country.
In the First and Second Republic, the South East aligned with the North. That rapport is now lost, for now, even if not forever.
Perhaps because of the civil war, coming out of it with a loser mentality, the average Igbo man respected – perhaps with a tinge of fear – the average Northerner. Not anymore.
The problem with giving too much respect to a person is that in more cases than one, revolt against the subject of respect, or fear, sets in overtime. So, almost all history of slavery has a time when there was a revolt by the slaves.
While the average Northerner had a certain swagger around him because of the mentality of the victor in the civil war, yet he could have managed his political ally better. Now that respect has given way to derision, and the fear to agitation.
They achieved this through a deliberate demonization of the northerner, specifically Muslim northerner, stereotyped as Fulani and knowingly but falsely attributing to him the agenda of Islamising the country, or “confiscating” Igbo lands.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), hitherto seen by the South East Igbo as their party, first ruled Anambra State from 1999 for about seven years before APGA, founded by the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 2003, took over the state in March 2006 with Peter Obi as governor.
With the din of secession, which is a cry for more control of their affairs, growing ever louder, the Igbo will identify more with the party that they see as really theirs, and that’s APGA.
However, as the saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it, or more appropriately, as you make your bed, so you shall lie on it: the South-East elite should know what they are going into and be truthful to their followers. I will come back to this after a little digression.
There is a false narrative in the South East that they would have been greater if not for the North, but that is not true. For one, no one stops anybody from excelling in Nigeria. The Coscharis and the Innosons are thriving. Ditto for the Elumelus and the Jim Ovias.
All the states of the federation get their allocations from the centre based on a certain formula and the people of each state govern their states. You will not see an Olawale or Usman running the affairs of Ebonyi State, for instance.
Every one of our states elects its leaders from among their people. This goes without saying that any state that lags behind lags behind because of the failure of its elected and appointed representatives to do what’s right.
Anambra State has been a lucky state concerning electing sound minds to govern its affairs. Peter Obi is a great material anywhere, any day. And so is Soludo. Hopefully, Soludo will let the people know that no one from somewhere has “tied down their destinies” but their rulers.
The way the South East is going is towards regional politics, the politics of identity. Because of their agitation, they will gravitate towards APGA and that party may take over political control of the zone. The people know that even the IPOB will prefer the party to any other Soludo was smart enough to foresee this, and he cashed in on it. They have given up on the PDP and, to them, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a Northern and South Western party.
But the leaders who are going to reap from this turn of events, and even those who will lose political mileage by it, must let their people know they should not cry of marginalisation when they get into their cocoon and metamorphose into regional players.
Rochas Okorocha in 2015 lamented that the Igbo would have produced the Senate president had they voted for one of their ranking senators on the platform of the APC. But so shall it be in the future for such positions and even that of the president. It will be difficult for any party knowing it has zero electoral chances in a zone to take its presidential candidate from there.
If they know this and accept it, fine and good, but they should not assume a victim mentality and accuse the nation of marginalising them regarding the presidency. You cannot have your cake and eat it.
It is not a bad idea at all if they can secure their zone, politically, turn their economic fortunes into the envy of others, transform their area into an Eldorado and all that. Maybe the rest of us will troop over there to learn how they did it. Or perhaps ask one of them to come and do it for the whole.
Therefore, if, after securing their home, they will now move up to play at the national turf, like the Action Congress and All Nigeria Peoples Party, then they are on course.
Apologise When Wrong
If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought and action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which harmed no one: the harm is to persist in one’s self-deception and ignorance. – Marcus Aurelius.
A former naval officer, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (retd.) who claimed to have served the Nigerian military intelligence for the past 35 years, in the aftermath of the attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy on August 24 this year, in which two officers lost their lives and one Major was abducted, accused Muslims of the attack. He said in a Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, that the NDA, like other military environments in the country, carelessly opens its doors to everyone on Fridays for Juma’at prayer, adding that terrorists and criminals profile military environments during Muslim prayers on Fridays.
However, after painstaking investigations, Nigeria Airforce Sergeant Torsobo Solomon was arrested concerning the attack. Olawunmi, the “super spy” is yet to come out and reveal to the nation whether the name of the Sergeant is Tanimu Sulaiman, spelt wrongly.
Solomon may have Muslim co-conspirators, but that does not mean the attack was by Muslims in the name of Islam or by Christians in the name of Christianity. We must avoid stereotyping and speaking flippantly on what we know not but what our hearts want us to believe. Why Nigeria is in a social crisis is because her elites speak what their gullible followers, made idiotic by them, want to hear as the truth. Or the elite are themselves uninformed attention seekers who think they know it all.
Lest I forget
Kudos to the Nigeria Police for unravelling the hit-and-run killer of Tordue Salem. An amiable gentleman, we worked together at Leadership newspaper. The police can solve crimes. They just need more hands, funds and equipment.
Ndigbo and the Politics of Identity