President Muhammadu Buhari waltzed—or better still, swaggered—through the South East zone the other day. Abakaliki, capital of the Ebonyi, the Salt State, was his first port of call. His friend, his groveling friend that is, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, the State governor had invited him to commission a few projects the governor had built, including a 700-metre bridge!
It was such a privilege for the governor to be the first to have Buhari, the great conqueror of the Enyimba spirit, visit the South East, one of the two territories on the Eastern corridor that must be taught the bitter lesson of contemporary Nigerian citizenship: you don’t question any action of the desert prince, a god-man who is always right. The other territory is the South South, except that there is neither a groveling Wike nor a quisling Dickson to embrace oppression on behalf of their people with gusto. But, we shall return to that later.
Umahi may well havegood reasons to show gratitude to Buhari. According to the governor, the President has assisted his State to develop the agric and solid mineral sectors. Very well. But, what I do know is that Ebonyi is yet to become a net exporter of rice or salt because of Buhari.
As a matter of fact, I read, the other day, a report in which the Cross River State governor Prof. Ben Ayade said he is investing in rice plants so his people would process their rice in the State because the bulk of the rice processed in Ebonyi is actually from Cross River State! I have no proof of that, to be sure, but it is enough to make me ask this question: so, just what are these momentous ways in which Buhari has assisted Ebonyi’s agric sector if neighbouring Cross River is now besting Ebonyi, traditional home of local rice in Nigeria, in rice production?
I wager that there is a grander reason–for the President–for this burgeoning but clearly odd friendship with Umahi. Ebonyi is the bastion of Islam in Igboland. Afikpo, in Ebonyi South Local Government hosts the biggest Islamic and Arabic Study Centre in Nigeria.
And, as is well known already, the President loves his religion and, by extension, those who love and help to promote it, especially if such people are powerful South Easterners like Dave Umahi who, withingly and or unwittingly are helping Islam to make big in-road into nearly 100 per cent Christian Igboland.
Of all the South East governors, for instance, Umahi was the only one that clearly told IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu to stay off Ebonyi land. And to show he meant it, the governor called in the army. But, at that time, Buratai, Nigeria’s ruthless Army Chief was yet to receive his orders from the king, who was still recuperating from his illness in a London hospital, to “destroy every threat to national unity.”
That was why troops did not attack when IPOB defied Umahi and welcomed Kanu to Abakaliki for what turned out to be a successfulIPOB rally.
Most Nigerian leaders from outside Igboland tend to love it when there is no consensus in the East as to the way forward; in fact they promote it. Former President Obasanjo, at the height of his impunity-infested administration,appeared so angry at the progress Anambra was making under Ngige that he simply turned a blindeye when his ‘political associates’, in a fit of benumbing insanity, practically set Anambra ablaze.Now consider Buhari.
The President opposes restructuring (he hates the word with bile) while Ndigbo want it; in fact, they desire it. Such diffident support for restructuring, as exemplified by Ohanaeze’s Ndigbo’s campaigns, which seem to be pulling the rest of the country, especially the southern half, towards the direction of restructuring as an alternative to break-up, which an Igbo group promotes, makes Buhari even angrier with Ndigbo. Umahi opposes restructuring too, in spite of Ohanaeze (he wants the status quo to remain provided the president would be magnanimous enough to allow more money to be given to the States).
He fears that restructuring could return the country to regionalism and he doesn’t want Ebonyi to be part of any regional arrangement with the rest of Igbo mainland. So, he is in cahoots with the President. Persecution complex? Not really: just trying to err on the side of caution, you would say. For, somebody must stand as a bulwark against the predatory instincts of the rest of Igboland against ‘Abakaliki’!And, in Umahi’s reckoning, if there is anyone to assist the governor, the savior of Ebonyi, protect ‘Abakaliki’ from the rest of predatory Ndigbo, it is Buhari. So, as could be clearly seen, the Buharia and Umahi’s is a friendship rooted in dubious, even convoluted, political and religious interests.
Which is why Umahi is loathe to contemplate any untoward political development around the President. Is it any surprise, therefore, that the Ebonyi governor, an engineer elected on the platform of the PDP, was the first to certify the ailing (?) Buhari fit and able to seek election for a second term come 2019? And you ask, just how will Dave Umahi juggle this? Will he still support his own party’s presidential candidate when he eventually emerges to fly the party’s flag in the 2019 presidential? Or will he go all out to support Buhari to win Ebonyi in the hope of getting an unmistakable presidential nod to win his own re-election as governor, even if on the ticket of a party other than the President’s?
As they say, when we get to the bridge, will cross. But, it is interesting to notethat while the President was in Ebonyi and having a real good time with his host, a member of the opposition, he couldn’t as much as settle alittle but lingering dispute between Ogbonnaya Onu, his Minister’s faction and another faction of the APC in the State? Worse still, he ignored appeals by APC leaders in Ebonyi to call Umahi to order for what they described as the governor’s “highhandedness in dealing with the opposition in the State!” What is going on? But, no matter.
From Abakaliki, the President hopped over to Awka, ostensibly for the grand finale of the APC governorship rally for Candidate Tony Nwoye. Although he didn’t exactly meet a crowd ready to prostrate in obeisance to him (his earlier planned visit to the Palace of the Obi of Onitsha was cancelled at the last minute because he wanted Anambra traditional rulers, including the revered Obi to meet him at the APC campaign ground in Awka and they turned down the ‘offer), he was consoled by the fact that the State governor was practically on his knees apologizing for the ‘mix-up’ in communication, which made it difficult for the State’s natural rulers to do as the king pleased.
An agitated Governor Willie Obiano, Akpokuedike Aguleri (it means if you call a meeting behind a strong man’s back, you must call the meeting afresh when he comes),was seen standing before Buhari, his red cap tucked neatly into his ampit, and explaining himself. Obiano, a titled man in Igboland, an Ozor title holder in the warrior Kingdom of Aguleri and governor of easily Nigeria’s most human-resource endowed State, obsequiously removed his red cap, the symbol of honour and attainment in Igboland, to greet a fellow politician from a different culture, who only happens to be President of the Federal Republic! Hello!
Oh, ok, he went to thank the President for the honour of coming to Anambra, even if on a campaign rally,and to apologize on behalf of traditional rulers who, convinced that the President would never have invited the Emir of Zaria and members of the Kaduna State Council of Traditional Rulers to a campaign ground for a meeting, stayed away from such a meeting and he needed to disrespect his own culture to be seen to be respectful to the paramount ruler of Nigeria? Perhaps. But, were all those genuflection and obeisance necessary, really?
In any case, Obiano is also smart–make no mistake about it. It is just possible that at that point in time, the Anambra governor had his eye on the big—his re-election—and needed to stoop low to conquer. And he did. For the first time in history, an Anambra governor won in all 21 local councils of the State. And he has Buhari to thank for making it possible!
Anambra is the Light of the Nation. Thanks to its governor, we now know that elections are won or can only be free and fair at the behest of the President. Can anyone hope to win an election against such a President? Hello, Atiku Abubakar!
The point is this: twice President Buhari has rolled tanks into civilian space with the disastrous consequences we are all familiar with. Twice in national broadcasts, he has reserved nothing but diatribe against Igbo leaders and he does not show any tinge of conscience when he does things against Ndigbo.
An all Igbo leaders do is lead him into the square on horseback, singing all hail the king, he’s never wrong? Never even a single criticism, even if diplomatically couched, against misdeeds of the President against the people they purport to lead?
The other day, Abia governor said the South East won’t enact laws banning open grazing. Why? Because, according to Ikpeazu, the South East plans to “get our people to get into the business of ranching and once that happens, open grazing will disappear!” or something to that effect. Can you beat that?
Nobody is advocating any unnecessary antagonism against the President. But, he is human. Whenever he does something that adversely affects the Igbo (and he does such things 10 times a day!), the least we expect is that those we have put in office to lead us should be able to say ‘no, but that is evil against our people; could you do the other way, Mr. President?’ Leadership isn’t always about self-preservation, if it at self-preservation is an element of leadership us. It is up to our leaders to decide how to address this challenge.