By Emma Obunike Nwosu

The call on Nigerians by Oha n’ Eze and other regional organizations, from both the North and the South, throughout Nigeria, to vote for Atiku Abubakar, in the 2019 Presidential election, to salvage the country, gives one hope that our elders of conscience and experience can speak truth to power and point the way.

The principal purpose of government is the prosperity of the people, starting from security of life and property. But under this government, in addition to Boko Haram in the North-East, we have become saddled with widespread genocide of Fulani herdsmen; all sorts of banditry throughout the North, particularly the North-West and all sorts of hostage-taking and scorching economic hardship throughout the country. One would not know where the promoters of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) for second term see the dividends of democracy and his integrity, whereas, the evidence on ground is that everything has worsened, from nepotism to security, disunity, Rule of Law, power supply, exchange rate, inflation, unemployment, public debt, foreign investment, emigration and human development and transparency indices, e. t. c. Either they cannot figure the trajectory of his government or are dwelling in a secret place or are under a spell.

This piece is for every Nigerian but addressed to the Igbo (who are always the pawns on the chessboard of Nigerian politics) in particular. Make no mistake about it: I doff my hat for the Igbo. They have always stepped forward to be counted. They were at the vanguard of Nigeria’s independence struggle. They have been at the vanguard of education, sports, arts, science, technology, commerce, industry and everything that makes the society tick. If their inventions during the Civil War alone had been harnessed, we would be saving trillions on the import of military and engineering hardware by now and Nigeria would have advanced several steps, globally, in science and technology, national income and national security. The Aburi Accord of January, 1967, would have arrested feudalism and unitarism and set Nigeria on the fast lane to all dimensions of prosperity. Perhaps, the most prudent state, today and the leader in indigenous industrialization, is Anambra State, an Igbo state. E. t. c. Their Achilles heel is in Nigerian politics.

Politics, they say, is the art of the possible. The Igbo must distinguish between major and minor factors, between what is feasible and what is not possible and between corporate and personal, percuniary, interests in horse trading. For example, it would be too gullible and mercantile to fall for the bait that, if they voted for PMB this time round, the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) ticket for the office of President in 2023 would be theirs. What happens to Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other frontrunners who have been labouring?

Igbo have neither the structure nor the equity in the APC to morally bargain for that ticket. They are unlikely to get the backing of PMB who has not forgotten the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat (distorted into an Igbo coup) in which Sir Ahmadu Bello, his model, was, unfortunately, killed. Anyway, why back the wrong horse? Going by performance, it is unlikely that the APC would survive the 2019 general elections not to talk of remaining a viable party by 2023! The party is so scared of the elections that it has resorted to ‘guerrilla warfare,’ intimidation of the judiciary and castigation of foreign observers for opinions much lighter than the outright interference it enjoyed as opposition party towards the 2015 elections!

The Igbo must realize that the odds are stacked against them for now and must take a more pragmatic route, than conventional hustling, in bidding for the Presidency. This time, they should concentrate on collaboration with other well-meaning Nigerians to vote emphatically, throughout the federation, for Atiku Abubakar who can engineer an egalitarian, competitive and productive federation in which they will thrive. Having, perhaps, the greatest equity in Nigeria, it is not the way of God almighty that they could be sidelined forever.

Atiku Abubakar has even lowered the threshold by going for the Presidency with one of their best (the indomitable and prudent Peter Obi, former governor, who deserves the most credit for setting Anambra State on the path of prosperity) as Vice President. Peter Obi is simply fantastic for the season and will be the best gift by the Igbo to Nigeria, as President, in due season. The choice is a testimony to Atiku’s acuity in matching talent with mission. It is also an unequivocal hand of fellowship to the Igbo who should stick with him. Obi’s gullible, mercantile, traducers, particularly, in the South-East, need to sheath their dagger and pecuniary interests for the corporate interest of the Igbo, in particular and Nigeria, in general.

Moreover, there is nothing to compare between PMB and Atiku in presidential profile. Although originally from the feudal stable as PMB, Atiku, like many other Fulani, is re-invented. His cosmopolitan and democratic credentials are tested and well-known. He is a team player with a sense of belonging for all. He is passionate about education and, like President Emeritus, Dr Olusegun Obasanjo, is always searching for solution to Nigeria's challenges. One has lost count of his public lectures and interventions. He has a grasp of domestic and international economics and current affairs. He is healthy-looking and agile. His public and media appearances have been electrifying and convincing. He has the critical presence of mind.

In contrast, PMB seems too challenged, old (apparently, much older than 76 years) drab and feeble. His formal education is too little (he is probably, the least-educated African Head of State, today, in the
largest African country of almost 200 million people, with millions of graduates and thousands of professors) yet dogmatic, has no record of self-development and seems blank on domestic and global economics and current affairs. His public and media appearances and presence of mind have been so dismal that he is now being shielded. Nothing can compensate for these deficiencies. Those propping him are mischievous. He has been a beneficiary of government from childhood and has served Nigeria enough.

Furthermore, the Igbo must learn from past mistakes. One of such fatal mistakes occurred after the 1959 general elections to usher in the first independent Federal Government in 1960. There was no credible reason for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the NCNC to abandon the coalition with Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Action Group to form that foundation Federal Government (to enthrone an egalitarian and progressive society) only to pave the way for Sir Ahmadu Bello and the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) that were latecomers to the independence struggle and were largely reluctant about independence from Britain! Nigeria is still suffering from the feudal governance culture then instituted. While the Western Region came under the siege of the NPC-controlled Federal Government at an earlier point, it was the Eastern Region which ended up with war and paid the greatest price of feudalism in millions of lives and property!

That feudal culture has been characterized, among others, by the quest for ethnic and religious domination; over-centralization of economic and political controls; nepotism and relegation of merit in recruitment and promotion in the Public Service; lopsided allocation of population, states and local government areas (for skewed distribution of legislative seats, revenues, public institutions and projects) and the subversion of national institutions (such as the Judiciary, the Electoral Commission, the Population Commission and the Armed Forces and the Police) to suppress the people and rig elections and censuses.

Atiku and well-meaning Nigerians, from both the North and the South, Christian and Moslem, including PMB’s wife, kinsmen and confidants; former Heads of State; traditional rulers and clerics as well as foreigners, who can read between the lines, have seen that the country may not survive another four years with PMB and his all-conquering cabal who have intensified the wave of feudalism. It is against the Igbo experience and worldview not to join the move against him or to elect someone bent on turning Nigeria into an ‘animal farm’ of serfs and masters. Nothing can compensate for the subjection of a diverse society to the lordship of one region and religion.

Being predominantly entrepreneurs, the Igbo must also be guided by the prospects of the enabling environment for business under each candidate. In particular, to command better regard in Nigeria,
the Igbo must significantly domicile their commercial and technological activities in the South-East along with security of life and property, all of which are substantially dependent, under the current federal structure, on the support of the central government. Atiku promises to correct the dearth of Federal Government attention to the South-East. He has also been advocating an egalitarian and competitive federal structure, capable of galvanizing diversified production and economic boom, whereas, PMB insists on the current predatory unitary system holding back and pauperizing the country!

Being multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, Nigeria could only thrive and maximise it's potential, economically and socially, on a structure that appreciates peculiarities and compels and constitutionally empowers federating units to look inward to work with the people to develop the cultural, human and material resources of their domains, to put the country back in business, as was the case with the regions in the First Republic when Nigeria was rated among the fastest developing economies in the world. The key is diversified production. There is no end to poverty and corruption with the predatory dependence on volatile crude oil revenues.

PMB must also account for pledges made for his 2015 election, none of which has been duly accomplished. Many have been abandoned or repudiated or reversed. For example, instead of reducing it as pledged, the pump price of petrol has been raised, from N87 to N145 per litre, with subsidy to the importers - which he had claimed to be fraudulent - still ongoing. Instead of raising the Naira to parity with the United States’ Dollar it has been devalued by about 100 per cent. The liberation of a number of local government areas in the North-East has been nullified by Boko Haram advancing from the taking of soft targets to sacking of military bases, with our ill-equipped and ill-motivated soldiers deserting. He has never given credit to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government which set the momentum for his touted, exagerated, infrastructural and agricultural output.

By misguided utterances, strategies and general lack of capacity, the economy had been plunged into recession, with the aftermath of dramatic rise in unemployment, inflation and all versions of macro-economic instability and social tension. Nigeria’s public debt stock now exceeds 24 trillion compared to 12 trillion as at March 2015 (about the time APC displaced PDP) without much to show for the quantum increase. With Debt Service to Revenue Ratio exceeding 66 per cent and recurrent expenditure currently exceeding 70 percent of budget, the country is tendentiously being rushed into another debt trap! The low Debt to Gross Domestic Product Ratio being bandied to justify this borrowing binge does not apply to our volatile mono-product economy.

Nigerians have been more distressed and pauperized than ever and are now commonly enslaved and jailed all around the world. Some die in the high seas and in the desert, running away from the increasingly scorching hardship. Yet, the executive and the legislative arms of this government still cling to outrageous and predatory remuneration, overheads and lifestyle. PMB has retained the large Presidential fleet he condemned and has spent more time and money on the overseas healthcare he questioned than former Presidents’ since 1999 combined, yet, did not find it imperative to upgrade tertiary hospitals. Instead of curbing borrowing and cost of government, taxes are to be increased on suffocating citizens!

One could go on and on, but the summary is that (1) there is an ominous resurgence of ethnic and religious domination under PMB. Nothing can compensate for the impending slavery (2) PMB has not delivered on previous pledges to deserve re-election. His party is just unmatchable in propaganda, particularly, in passing the buck to the PDP government (3) Atiku Abubakar towers above PMB on presidential attributes needed at this time. Personal integrity, even if it exists, is not enough (4) Nigeria will not advance without altering the current predatory structure of the federation and (5) in the February, 2019 Presidential election, the Igbo should not fall for the bait of APC’s 2023 Presidential ticket but should vote along with well-meaning Nigerians for Atiku who has pledged to restructure the federation for egalitarianisn, competition and productivity. IPOB should bury the idea of election boycott and rather rally its members for Atiku. A word is enough for the wise!

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