Igbo Disunity Is False, Let’s Stop The Lie
Since the second republic, there has been consistent projection of the Igbos as disunited group of people. This false narrative which has been peddled over the years has now gained so much currency that many Nigerians and political commentators easily mouth off such inane stereotype about the Igbos without facts to back it up.
Historically, no ethnic group or zone in Nigeria is known for holding homogeneous political thoughts or voting behavior. Specifically, there has never been any time any part of Nigeria has ever decided that only one person from their zone will be supported by everyone to run for any political office. Our history is replete with intra-ethnic crises and even killings in the process of choosing candidates since the first republic.
For instance, in 1983, the presidential election was contested by six politicians. Three of whom were from the north – (Aminu Kano of PRP, Waziri Ibrahim of GNPP, and Shehu Shagari of the NPN). Two were from the Southwest (Obafemi Awolowo of UPN and Tunji Braithwaite of NAP), while the Southeast had only Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of NPP. It should be pointed out that in the north, while Aminu Kano controlled Kano state, Waziri Ibrahim controlled Borno state. Still they went ahead and contested against Shehu Shagari their fellow northerner both in 1979 and 1983 not minding the risk of splitting the northern votes thereby making it likely for Shagari to lose the election. Imagine if that was done by three Igbo politicians.
In 1999, Bola Ige and Olu Falae contested the AD ticket from the Southwest. None of them stepped down for each other. When Falae won, it saddened uncle Ige so much that it led to a major division in both the AD and Afenifere. Meanwhile, Ogbonnaya Onu of the APP (ANPP) stepped down for Falae, but neither Falae nor Obasanjo (both from the Southwest stepped down for each other in the presidential election.) Obasanjo was declared the winner of the election.
Falae did not accept the result and went to court. Yet nobody used this against the Southwest or the Yorubas as lacking in unity. Imagine if Ige, Falae and Obasanjo were Igbos.
But in the PDP primaries, Obasanjo defeated Ekwueme. But because Jim Nwobodo contested in the primaries alongside Ekwueme from the Southeast and got a few votes that could not have made any difference if added to Ekwueme’s, it has been used as a story since then to vilify the Igbos as lacking in unity. Nobody talks about the devastating division that Uncle Bola Ige caused to happen in AD over the emergence of Olu Falae as AD candidate, or that Falae was so bitter at the loss to Obasanjo at the polls that he went to court to challenge it.
Meanwhile, Ekwueme who was not Obasanjo’s kinsman congratulated Obasanjo right after the PDP primaries and went with him to campaign in the Southeast, raising Obasanjo’s hand in different campaign grounds in the Southeast.
In 2007, Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua all contested the presidential election. None of these three Northerners stepped down for the other. When Yar’Adua was declared the winner, the others went to court. Their ethnicity/region was not vilified for disunity.
In 2011, Nuhu Ribadu, Ibrahim Shekarau, and Muhammadu Buhari contested against Goodluck Jonathan in spite of the risk that their votes might be split and give Jonathan an advantage. Three of them lost to Jonathan. Maybe the result would have been different if they had joined forces. Imagine if these three were Igbo politicians.
In 2014/2015, some of the fiercest opponents of Jonathan were from the Southsouth led by Rotimi Amaechi. Today the strongest opposition of Buhari are from the North: Buba Galadima, Junaid Mohammed, Atiku Abubakar, Tambuwal, Dr. Baba Ahmed. Imagine if these were Igbos opposing the presidency of their kinsman: some people would have used it to wax an award-winning song. All comedians would have used it on every show. Every post on Facebook or Twitter and article in the newspapers would have referred to “Igbos being their worst enemies.”
Some gubernatorial elections had been held in recent times. In Bayelsa State, about 20 people were killed because of a contest between kinsmen. In Edo, the opposition went to court after the result was announced. In Ekiti, the opposition went to court too.
But in Anambra, not only was the election peaceful, almost all the top contestants congratulated Soludo and vowed not to contest the result in court despite their misgivings about the conduct of the election. Yet, the narrative is that “Igbos don’t speak with one voice”, “Igbos hate themselves”.
But interestingly when the Igbos speak with the so-called one voice by voting for one candidate, the narrative changes to: “Igbos put all their eggs in one basket;” “Igbos are clannish.” The same way Major Kaduna Nzeogwu is referred to as Igbo when it is convenient, and Niger Deltan when it isn’t. Laughable.
The point to note here is that something must always be said to maintain the narrative that there is something wrong with the Igbos. If it is not that the Igbos are disunited, it is that they are politically unwise, don’t go to school, can’t survive in Igboland, or love money, etc.
Some Igbos have even ignorantly bought into this narrative and shamelessly joined in pushing it. But, it is mostly only Igbos who don’t understand the reason behind this narrative that believe it or join in spreading it. Let me be clear, based on the facts available, no ethnic group or zone speaks with the so-called one voice in Nigeria.
In every democratic society like ours, there will always be disagreements and differences in opinions, beliefs, politics, religion and culture. There will never be a time everybody will agree on the same thing. That’s how democracy works. Let people stop this singling out of the Igbos for all these false narratives that are not backed by any statistics.
Let’s get 2023 right.
– Mr Mmaduegbunem writes from Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.