Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State chapter, Joe Igbokwe, has described himself as a Nigerian and not belonging to any ethnic group.
Igbokwe, who stated this yesterday at the House of Assembly during the screening of the last batch of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s cabinet-nominees, lampooned those he described as ethnic bigots.
He hinted that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, was the reason for the attitude of easterners in the state during the last general election.
Lagos should take the lead and be more open to other ethnic groups by giving them political appointments, he asserted.
He said, “I’m proudly Nigerian; I don’t know about east, west, north or south. I have been in Lagos since 1985. My children were born here. It’s high time we started building this country.
“I get angry when people mention ethnicity. A young Nigerian lady was just made a minister in Britain. If I become the president of this country, nobody is going to fill form and put his state of origin. That’s the first thing I will do. It is when you take people for who they are that is when they will release their energy for the good of the country. One day, Nigerians will say, we are all Nigerians.
“The reason for the attitude of easterners in Lagos at the last election was because Peter Obi was on the ballot. If Atiku had won, he would be the vice president.
“If 70 to 75 per cent of a particular people dominate a region, they should be encouraged. If they don’t get council chairman, at least make them deputy. What Igbo people have in Lagos, they don’t have a quarter of it in their land. If you see anybody that is doing well in the South East, he must have a thriving business in Lagos.
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By Joe Igbokwe Any Igbo who is anybody in Nigeria or anywhere in the world must persuade Igbo in Nigeria to play the real politics now that will make them to have the respect and support of other Nigerians or they should keep quiet forever. I am appealing to all the South East Governors, senators, House of Reps members, Ministers, Speakers of the South East House of Assemblies, South East elder statemen and women, Council of Chiefs in the South East, the Academia, Our distinguished Chieftains of Industries, Investors and our great men and women in diaspora to persuade and help Anambrans to take a decision on Saturday 18thNovember, 2017 to play the real politics of electing an APC governor and consequently move ahead to vote whoever emerges from the North as APC presidential candidate. This is to position ourselves for 2023 President of Igbo extraction.
Igbo have complained of marginalization since the end of the civil war in 1970 and yet we have not played the real politics with other Nigerians to make ourselves relevant.
Throughout history I have known that politics is a serious business. Professor Laski of the London School of Economics teaches that politics is superior to Economics. Bishop Desmond of South Africa says politics is too important to be left to politicians alone.
Another school of thought says that there is no alternative to politics if you want to change the world.
The Jews Igbo claim to have affinity with were in control of the businesses in almost all the great cities in the world before 1945. They ignored politics. It took the tragic political intervention of Adolf Hitler which led to the death of six million Jews to let Jews know the importance of political power over economic power.
In the midst of the June 12 1993 crisis, the late Alhaji Maitama Sule felt that the North is good in Politics and therefore should always produce the political leadership of Nigeria. He said that Yoruba are good in economy and industry while the Igbo are good in business and commerce. Through raw courage, brevity, boldness, dint of hardwork, cultural competence,the late Chief M.K.O Abiola broke the jinx on June 12 1993. Even though he did not live to realize his dream he liberated the people of Southern Nigeria from slavery, and disgrace. If there was no June 12 1993 there would not have been May 29 1999 when General Obasanjo took the centre stage. I am a living witness to the huge sacrifices Yoruba made to get us where we are today. Many of their leaders were killed, some imprisoned here in Nigeria and others chased abroad. The rest is now history but Obasanjo and Jonathan reaped from Chief Abiola’s surpreme sacrifice. If you do not play politics you perish!
Anambra state is strategic in igboland for various reasons. That very important state is the pride of igbo just like Lagos is the pride of South West and Kaduna or Kano, the pride of the North. Anambra is the economic nerve centre of the South East, the richest in terms of anything, the pacesetter. Anambra drives the events. Some people say if Anambra is good Igbo land will be good.
Now what is to be done? All the South East leaders I have mentioned above must persuade the voters in Anambra to vote in APC for strategic reasons. We have to work with other Nigerians if we have to be politically relevant again. Yes, APGA may have done very well in Anambra but we have to look at the big picture right now. 2023 is the shortest distance to Igbo presidency in Nigeria if we take this hard decision today. The late Ikemba Nnewi, the founder and brain behind the party spoke many times about mainstream politics and we must play it now no matter whose ox is gored.
The world will not blame us for taking decisions and then fail but the world will not forgive us for not taking decisions at all. I have said my own side of the story and let history be my witness.
As we gradually move towards 2019 and 2023, I am beginning to get worried whether Igbo is putting their acts together to take a shot at the Presidency in 2023 when the North would have completed their 8 years? I am worried because I do not know whether we understand the dynamics of the politics we must play to position an Igbo for the exalted office in the land. Are we thinking or considering the political party that will bring us closer to the Presidency in 2023? Is it PDP, APGA or APC? If it is PDP are we playing the real politics?
BY JOE IGBOKWE
As we gradually move towards 2019 and 2023, I am beginning to get worried whether Igbo is putting their acts together to take a shot at the Presidency in 2023 when the North would have completed their 8 years? I am worried because I do not know whether we understand the dynamics of the politics we must play to position an Igbo for the exalted office in the land. Are we thinking or considering the political party that will bring us closer to the Presidency in 2023? Is it PDP, APGA or APC? If it is PDP are we playing the real politics? If it is APGA what are we doing to take APGA across to those who will vote for our candidate? If it is APC what are the plans to key into the ruling Party? Of all these three Parties mentioned above which one presents the shortest distance to the Presidency in 2023?
Now let me analyze these three Parties, their stand, capacity, spread, and leadership.
APGA rules only one State out of 36 States in Nigeria. It is only domiciled in Anambra State and has not moved beyond Anambra State to reach out to other Nigerians. For an Igbo to be elected to the exalted office other Nigerians especially Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and others must vote for him. Without sounding immodest Anambra State occupies a unique position in Igbo land. Anambra is the engine room of Igboland politics and they lead the way. Now if the State that will lead others to the mainstream is saddled with APGA, where is the plan to work with others? If you ask me I will suggest that we do the needful by joining other Nigerians to play the real politics. APGA cannot lead Igbo anywhere in the politics of Nigeria. If Yoruba can sacrifice ACN to form an alliance with other Nigerians to give birth to APC, Igbo needs to think again.
What of PDP? Now, this Party is still being pulled down by internal contradictions, credibility crisis, and the hangover of 16 years of massive looting of Nigeria. PDP may not be the option for Igbo because for 16 years the party was in power, the South East was officially and systematically neglected. Besides PDP just zoned the presidency to the North and assuming their candidate wins in 2019 what is the guarantee that the winner will not seek a second term in 2023? Therefore, I do not think PDP is the shortest distance for Igbo Presidency or the way to go.
Now, what of APC? To all intents and purposes, I think APC provides the best platform and the shortest distance for Igbo presidency in 2023, and Igbo must take this very seriously. To do this, Igbo must look at this big picture. Igbo must consider everything. Igbo must sacrifice APGA for the big business in 2023. Igbo must swallow this bitter pill in order to be politically relevant in Nigeria again. Pride, arrogance, political stupidity, bloated self-worth, persecution complex, selfish sense of superiority, leadership complex etc must be jettisoned for other Nigerians to trust us. We must also prove to other Nigerians that we love them and Nigeria. Trust is the key factor. Let us stop the hate speech and ethnic bigotry and work for a new Nigeria of our dream. Igbo must stop the Biafra project because a lot is at stake.
It is counterproductive and provocative. If we are sensible and I think we are, we should be faced with the choice of the best option for Igbo in Nigeria. The best option is that Nigeria offers the biggest market for Igbo in Nigeria. We must rise now to remove the huddles and take the hard decisions. We must not give those who make us to look little the oxygen we breathe. Let them suffocate for us to make progress. It always seems impossible until the deed is done. Let us selectively and productively deploy committed men and women in Igboland to work with other Nigerians to create a new Nigeria. We need a war of sense now and not the war of words and bullets.
Someone once told me that if a man stands in a place for so long without making a move, the lizard will climb him thinking it is a tree. We have made political mistakes for a longtime and mistakes are allowed. After all he who makes no mistakes makes no progress. This is the time for Igbo to move on in Nigeria. (Sahara Reporters)
The Republican News
Ever since President Buhari won the 2015 Presidential elections he was destined to win having labored in 2003, 2007, 2011 and then 2015 a very vast preponderance of South-South and South East indigenes have descended on the President, pouring invectives, calling him names, abusing his person and his exalted office, preaching hate, and ethnic divisions. I have followed this dangerous trend over a year now, and it is not abetting. It is growing like wildfire every day. In recent times the South-South people whose son lost the election have moved on except the criminal avengers who are fighting for their pockets only and destroying their environment.
I have seen spirited and genuine efforts being made by the leaders of South-South to bring peace to the Niger Delta, and I heartily commend them for this. It is in their own interest. But in the South East, our people have refused to move on. In the diaspora, in Nigeria, in schools, in the markets, on the streets, in Churches, in Town Meetings etc Igbo have refused to move on. Every move the President makes to rebuild and reposition the country is abused, castigated and ethnic meaning read into it. The dangerous trend has become so embarrassing that one is compelled to speak out. While leaders of South-South have made interventions to make way for harmony and peaceful co-existence, Igbo leaders have maintained a deafening silence but this silence is no longer golden. Ethnic bigotry and hate speeches our people both at home and abroad dish out everyday endanger our people living in all parts of Nigeria. President Buhari belongs to a section of Nigeria and must not run away with the thinking that his people will be happy and clap for us when we malign and abuse one of their own.
No ethnic group in Nigeria moves and settles in any part of the country like the Igbo. They settle and do business in almost every part of the country, and when we throw stones to other Nigerians, we endanger their lives and their businesses. The worst sets of Igbo guilty of this dangerous trend are those living outside the country. While some of them are engaged in meaningful employment, many of them are unemployed. They have become economic refugees and cultural savages. They have formed an association of hate preachers and wailing bigots. They have through actions and deeds created millions of enemies for Ndigbo in Nigeria while they waste their precious gift of time abroad doing nothing.
Last week the Vice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in Afe Babalola University Ekiti State as Guest Speaker during the University’s Convocation ceremony. In the cause of his speech, he told his capacity audience the Niger Delta Avengers are not freedom fighters but those fighting for their pockets only. I saw the story on Facebook and other sites on the internet. The one on Facebook caught my attention because of nearly 400 reactions as at the time I read it. I took mental note of the reactions and the names attached to it. 95% are Igbo names and they abused and called the Vice President unprintable names for speaking the truth. This is a shame. Ignorance should not be a virtue. Ignorance is a disease. Foolishness is a tragedy. This is ignorance stupid. This is mental darkness. A roaring lion kills no game. It is only a river that wants to get dried up that forgets its source. A Chinese proverb tells me that “He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.”
Now, it is time for the Igbo to move on and join other Nigerians to begin the process of rebuilding Nigeria. I want Igbo Governors, elected Senators, elder statesmen, House of Reps Members, House of Assembly members, political leaders, traditional rulers, Igbo intellectuals, professionals, market leaders, town union leaders, village heads, etc. to rise up to defend the integrity and honour of Igbo race. Are these ignorant ones who preach hate speaking for us? Are they representing us? Are they our brightest and bests? Are those asking for Biafra and using it as business venture speaking for all of us? Have we taken a look at the situation in South Sudan today? Shall we continue to sleep pretending that all is well? Can we be honest enough to see the real danger ahead? For how long will our leaders continue to be silent on these weighty issues? Can elders continue to sleep while the kids wear snakes as necklaces? Can the young teach tradition to the old? Who will bell the cat in Igboland? Who will call the ignorant kids to order?
Did the Yoruba go to war when June 12, 1993, Presidential Election won by their illustrious son Chief MKO Abiola was annulled on June 23rd, 1993 on a sheet of paper by IBB? Did Yoruba go to war when Abiola’s wife Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was murdered in Lagos on the morning of Jun 4, 1996? Did Yoruba go to war when the winner of that historic election was poisoned on July 7, 1998? Did Yoruba go to war when those who killed Abiola imposed Obasanjo on them as President in 1999? Did Yoruba accept Chief Ernest Shonekan when IBB made him head the interim government in 1993? Yoruba rejected OBJ and Shonekan because this unique race has never been slaves to public office and yet they have remained number one in Nigeria in almost everything. This is wisdom and strategic thinking at work.
Those of us who have lived in Yoruba land for years did not only learn how to wear Aso Ebi, eat Ewedu soup or dance Owambe, music…
We must have also learned other unique things from them like sharing property to both male and female children, religious tolerance, ethnic tolerance, transferring legacies from generation to generation. Do you know that APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s wife is a Christian? Do you know that former Governor Fashola’s wife is a Christian? We can learn a lot from Yoruba. Yoruba too can learn from Igbo in areas of thinking home, business enterprise, self-help, apprenticeship, etc.
A Yoruba woman, a Pastor Mrs Eunice Olawale Elisha of the Redeemed Christian Church of God old NEPA Road Phase 4 Kubwa, Abuja was killed by unknown persons on Saturday morning of July 9, 2016, while preaching the gospel around 5.30am. I have followed the reactions on the internet and Yoruba do not behave like the Igbo. They have been speaking but not preaching hate. They have called for the culprits to be fished out, prosecuted and punished. If Mrs Eunice Elisha had been an Igbo hell would have been let loose. There would have been abuses and abuses. But Yoruba are not Igbo. This is civilization. This is strategic thinking. I hope our people can learn from this. Civility is not a sign of weakness. He who fights and run away lives to fight another day.
To have ears is not to listen, to listen is not to hear, to hear is not to understand, to understand is not to put to practice. I know that writing this may not get me many friends among the Igbo, but it always gets me the right ones.
Joe Igbokwe, a politician and an Igbo, tells BAYO AKINLOYE about his relationship with the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and why he is not in support of any movement for an independent state of Biafra
Do you believe that Igbo are being marginalised?
Yes, Igbo have been marginalised in Nigeria since the end of the Civil War in 1970. It is a deliberate, systemic, and strategic marginalisation. We have six zones in Nigeria. In the North-East, there are six states; the North-West has seven states; the North-Central has six states; the South-West has six states; the South-South has six states but the South-East has five states. This imbalance has left Igbo with the least number of states, local government areas, governors, ministers, senators, House of Representatives members, and House of Assembly members. It is the same thing with revenue allocation, both in the state and local governments, and federal appointments, to mention a few.
If you grant one additional state to the South-East today, the region will at once have one more governor, one state capital, more senators and House of Representatives members, more local government councils, one more House of Assembly, a federal university, a polytechnic, one more minister, ambassadors, thousands of jobs and take-off grants. Nigeria must do this now and it is going to change a lot of things, calm nerves and (resolve) agitations. We must do this and the time is now. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s constitutional conference approved one additional state for the South-East in 2006. The region has yet to get it.
Nnamdi Kanu has become a popular figure in the South-East, recognised by prominent personalities. Don’t you think he is the new leader that can truly lead the Igbo?
The late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has done his bit, Ralph Nwazurike has done his bit and he is still fighting. Nnamdi Kanu has also joined but his method of agitation is potentially dangerous and frightening. Nnamdi Kanu became popular by abusing other Nigerians – calling Nigeria a zoo and preaching hate and ethnic bigotry. Hate speech can lead to an exchange of hot words, and the next ( the thing that can happen) is war. Once there is a full-scale war, thousands or millions will die. After the loss of the 2015 (presidential) election, which Igbo never thought Jonathan would lose, hell was let loose. The colossal and tragic loss led some Igbo leaders to believe in anybody that will throw as many stones as possible at the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari. I can understand this. They did not play better politics as they put all their eggs in one basket. Kanu became what they needed to fight back.
Now you must hear this: Kanu is not an Igbo leader and can never be one. He is a kid. The Holy Book says: ‘Woe betides a nation whose leader is a child.’ We have competent, trusted and tested leaders in Igbo land. We have millions who do not believe in the so-called Biafra and when the chips are down, you will hear them loud and clear. Leading a sophisticated and hard-working tribe like the Igbo is not an all-comers affair. It is for the serious-minded; the cerebral; the educated; the cultured; and experienced. We have yet to know Nnamdi Kanu’s pedigree, temperament, antecedents, and education. You cannot put a crown on a clown and expect a king. If a blind man leads a blind man, both of them will fall into a pit. Kanu – with all due respect – cannot lead the Igbo. This I know, all things considered. What we need now is a war of sense and not a war of bullets.
But do you support his call for a state of Biafra?
Support for a state of Biafra? No, sir, and I say this with all emphasis in my command and with all the energy at my disposal. I have my reasons. One, South-East is too small for Igbo enterprise. Two, diversity should be a big plus in Nigeria and not a minus. We are better united with justice, equity and fair play. Three, Igbo have invested heavily in the ‘project Nigeria’ so much so that throwing away their monumental investments for the sake of a small Biafra is tantamount to committing political, economic and social suicide. Four, all Nigerians have paid the price of the unity of this country with millions of souls (lost) between 1966 and 1970. Therefore, we must work hard to remain one nation – for one destiny and one God. Five, given the history of Igbo and their republican attitude, I do not think we can manage one another in Biafra. Biafra may turn out to be another South Sudan because of leadership tussle and struggle for power and positions. Six, Biafra is landlocked. Seven, Nigeria provides a big space for Igbo to operate. I can go on and on to give you 10 reasons but time and space will not permit me.
Why do you think prominent national figures like Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, and Dr Alex Ekwueme from the South-East have publicly associated with Kanu?
I do not think Ekwueme, Amechi, and Prof. Nwabueze are supporting Nnamdi Kanu for Biafra. They are advocates of the restructuring (of the country) who are using Biafra agitation as a tool of blackmail to achieve their desired objectives of getting a restructured Nigeria. Their tactical support is not an endorsement for Biafra. This I know.
So far, it would appear the Indigenous People of Biafra have gone about their agitation without employing violence and the government has been criticised for trampling on IPOB members’ rights, with claims that some of them were killed by security operatives and others left in jail to languish without being tried. Do you think that’s right?
IPOB in deed and in word has not been making their agitation without violence. Have you ever listened to Radio Biafra? They preach hate, violence and war. I saw a video of Nnamdi Kanu in the United States asking Igbo residing there for money to buy arms to fight other Nigerians. I know what they told him. Hate speech leads to war and war leads to deaths and, therefore, IPOB preaches violence. In the South-East, they extort money from traders after intimidating them. They harass citizens and threaten them with violence. They intimidate them to close their shops. I suspect that they bear arms also. They have talents for mischief. This is potentially dangerous. IPOB is exposing Igbo to another war and this is unacceptable.
Don’t you think Odumegwu Ojukwu would have thrown his weight behind Kanu if he were alive today?
I do not think Ojukwu would have supported violence through hate speech and abuse of other Nigerians. Ojukwu would have known that there are millions of Igbo residing and doing their business outside Igbo land. Ojukwu would not have thrown his weight behind anybody that will endanger Igbo lives and property across Nigeria. Now, have you asked yourself why the Arewa youths issued the notice to quit to Igbo residing in the North? They did so because nobody has monopoly of violence or hate speech. They did so because prominent Igbo leaders kept quiet while Nnamdi was preaching hate and is still preaching hate to date. They did so to demonstrate that there can be balance of terror and hate.
If you feel Kanu isn’t fit to be Igbo leader in the mould of Ojukwu, who can?
The President General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, is there. The five (South-East) governors are also there. There are also other prominent leaders in Igbo land. We have never sat down to pick one Igbo leader in Igbo land. Maybe time has come for us to do so because of Nnamdi Kanu’s nuisance value. When elders are not at home, children may wear snakes as necklaces.
Do you think the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra and IPOB deserve the kind of treatment they’ve been getting from the government?
What treatment have they been getting? Please go back to history. No section of this country can be said to be free from this kind of treatment. Do you know what the Yoruba went through or what they suffered between 1993 and 1998? Do you know what the northerners suffered during the Maitasine and Boko Haram crisis? No serious government will sit down and allow a group to become a threat to national unity. An intelligent and well-informed approach is the way to go. Constructive engagement is the way forward. With common sense – even though common sense is not so common – we can get the world to pay attention to us. Violence, hate speech, and ethnic bigotry bring war and people will die.
With the enforcement of the stay-at-home protest by IPOB, do you still deny the fact that Igbo are firmly behind Kanu?
May we never use the sit-at-home protest Igbo do every year on May 30 to remember the fallen heroes to think that it is an endorsement of Biafra. It is not, please. May 30 means so many things to so many Igbo. Yes, we lost the war but we have not forgotten the consequences.
Have you met Kanu before and do you have any relationship with him?
I have not met Nnamdi Kanu before and I have no relationship with him. I offered to have a debate with him, so that the world will know the content of his inner chambers when he said he would defeat seven professors in a debate on Biafra, but he ran away. I wanted to use that debate to bring to the fore his carriage, his thoughts, and inner disposition. He did not accept the challenge. I also made public my story and asked Nnamdi to do the same. He kept quiet. The young man has nothing to offer. Someone said he is an over-bloated (sic) kid with a protozoan intellect.
If you were to meet Kanu face to face, what would you tell him?
I would tell him that the fundamentals have changed for anybody to talk and think about Biafra at this present stage and age. I would tell Nnamdi Kanu that with equity, justice and fair play, a united Nigeria is a better option (than Biafra). We must also work with other Nigerians to get a Nigeria of our dream. Building a nation is not as easy as milking a cow. Difficult situations require difficult solutions. Biafra is not the solution. (Punchng.com)