When President Goodluck Jonathan visited Anambra State on May 23 for the burial of Professor Chinua Achebe, he made a telling statement that still reverberates in my heart many days after.
Whether it was consciously said, or for ego tripping, I cannot tell. But he told the world as the service went on that Ndi Igbo have been the greatest supporters of his administration. I know for sure he did not say so for the sake of hubris or to make Igbos have a feeling of psychedelia. He did not come for politicking because I assume he was quite aware of the sombre nature the occasion demanded. As a scientist, he must have said so after aggregating the facts and cross-checking the data.
It was a fact nobody could controvert. From the formation of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the administration of Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, the Igbos have been at the fulcrum and vanguard for the restoration of democracy. The Igbos, through their voting power and numerical strength, have ensured that PDP maintained the lead in every election that have been conducted since the emergence of this democratic dispensation. The President was not therefore hyperbolic; he was saying the truth, only that he was economical with it: the Igbos are indeed not only the blocks and foundation of his administration but also the pillars upon which this government stands.
But upon this overwhelming support which the President publicly acknowledged, what have Igbos gained by putting all their eggs in one basket? What have they gained by this which, for lack of a better term, I may call blind support and unalloyed loyalty?
When asked the secret of his success in business, Warren Buffet, the contrarian American investor and twice the third richest man on earth, said that his success lies in the fact that, contrary to what we may have been taught in school, he does not scatter his eggs in many baskets. He puts all his eggs in one basket, but he watches that basket carefully.
Igbos, in their usual business manner, may have wittingly, or perhaps, unwittingly adopted this Buffeterian typology into politics by putting all their eggs in one PDP basket. But are they watching that basket carefully? What are they gaining or losing by this unusual political marriage?
I flew to Lagos last month via the renovated and Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu, a decision partly because I wanted to see what was going on here. I have frequently used of the airport, but it was my first time of using it since the renovation work started, and I can say that truly there was something different, maybe a breath of fresh air!
On my return, I wanted to see, and if possible feel, the extent of work going on at the Benin-Lagos Expressway that has been a death trap for motorists and travellers for years. Was I underwhelmed by what I saw? Not in the least. I was overwhelmed given the fact that that road had been in a state of neglect for the past thirty years.
It was a smooth drive from Lagos to Asaba. Then the story changed when we crossed the Niger Bridge and entered the Igbo heartland. From Onitsha to Awka was a sorry spectacle. Dilapidated and beaten up, the road was a clear testimony of the neglect the Igbos have been subjected to since the end of the civil war. We meandered our way on one lane with on-coming vehicles, trying to make sure we don’t end up in the ditch and trenches all over the road. And from Awka to Enugu was like going to hell. There was no road, no tarred pavements, nowhere to put your tyres on the road unlike what I saw in the western part of the country.
When I came back, I started thinking and asking myself some questions. What is it that the Goodluck administration has been able to do for the Igbos for their support of his administration? Are the Igbos better off now in the regime of Jonathan than during the administration of Obasanjo? Questions and more questions!
I must say without mincing words that the Igbos, because of poor political calculations, have not been able to aggregate their demands and translate their electoral power into concrete tangibles. They have not been able to make their voices heard when it comes to sharing the national cake. They have given much to the Jonathan administration but when you look around to see what they have gotten in exchange; your expectations fall flat on the ground.
Infrastructure-wise, the Igbos are the most marginalized in the federation. No single federal road in the region is in good state. Onitsha-Awka, Awka-Enugu, Enugu-Abakaliki, Enugu-Port Harcourt etc. are in pitiable and despicable conditions.
The Yoruba political bloc is majorly in the opposition, with Action Congress of Nigeria as their rallying point. Majority of them are not in PDP, but they have garnered more federal patronage than the Igbos in all ramifications. Like giving a sop to Ceberus, the federal government has started reconstruction of the multi-billion Lagos to Ibadan expressway to curry their votes in the 2015 presidential election. This is in addition to many other huge federal government projects in the geopolitical zone. But rehabilitation of the Onitsha-Enugu and Enugu-Port Harcourt expressways awarded to shadowy contractors have lingered since the Yar’adua administration.
The Igbos are the endangered specie in the nation’s political space. The problem of the Igbos is made more visible when it is understood from the point that the region has been unable to collectivize, aggregate and channel their strength for the good of the region.
Yes, Jonathan may have given political appointments to some Igbo sons and daughters of Igboland. But how does this translate to better life for the average Igbo? How does that drive away the darkness and poverty in the region, which in turn has given way to kidnapping, armed robbery and other epithets of backwardness?
The 2015 election is fast approaching, and the Yorubas in their political savvy are already aligning and realigning. They are crying of marginalization and screaming blue murder even when they are being favoured over and above other ethnic nationalities. They are doing this to make their voices heard to attract more largesse to the zone. But the Igbos are basking in the euphoria that they are behind Jonathan.
I was going through the debate over Jonathan’s scorecard in his three years on the saddle where the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim gave a rundown of the spread of political appointments across the states. It is true that, going by the figures, the Igbos are proportionately represented. But in governance, the fastest and best way to tell lies is to present your facts in statistical data, which was what the government did.
It is not in doubt that the Igbos have been adequately represented in the Jonathan administration. But the Jonathan administration has not dropped its ripe fruits of its goodness on our tables. We still depend on our generators for light, what they now call “I pass my neighbour”. We still depend on our streams for water until Elechi came to make that history for Ebonyi State. Politics is about doing the greatest good to the greatest number. It is about getting dividends, receiving dividends because when the people queue up in line to cast their ballot to choose a candidate, they are doing so in the implicit faith that they are depositing their fate and future in the bank of democracy for which they are entitled to receive dividends for their investment.