It hurts to descend to the pedestal level of the petty presidency to engage in which ethnic nationality group gets what favour but the spurious and hollow claim of President Jonathan recently to the effect that his ‘dash’ to Ndigbo consist “some appointments, the Igbo are having for the first time” is unabashedly provocative to be ignored.In a message he sent to the conveners of Igbo world congress, an elitist Igbo jamboree that has little or no bearing to the condition of Ndigbo just as its counterpart, Ohanaeze, a largely political negotiating platform for Igbo political elites, president Jonathan claimed that some have said that the government has done more in appointment for the Igbo than any other in history . . .” to which a league of Igbo professional bounty hunters, considerably cut off from the conundrum of Igbo nation, would give a loud nod.
However, nothing exposes the intellectual deficit of the regime than such hollow sound bite, that seem to lack a simple grasp of the purpose of governance and the necessary infrastructure to accomplish it. And by the way, if public office holding is a favour done to ethnic nationality groups, which one among Nigeria’s numerous ethnic nationality groups should be dancing now in the market square, even naked for accidently crashing to the pinnacle of public office without the slightest exertion. However to hold this line, is to descend to the puerile level of the little minded presidency and it is this kind of reading primordial consideration to public office holding that the presidency has nosedived to ethno-religious cum sectarian choristers, that clannish bigots and clerical profiteers throw about un-intelligent tantrums to protect a presidency they consider an ethnic trophy.
And here is something the presidency should ponder if they ever ponder at all. If the best of Ndigbo is appointed to high and sensitive public office to serve the nation and let’s assume they did that or are doing it with diligence and considerable good return to the nation, how does that amount to a favour to the Igbo nation except that Ndigbo as any other ethnic nationality have benefited from credible and productive public service, rendered by onye -Igbo. Except public office holding is considered a “come and chop” affair, then anyone so appointed, will come with a funnel to drain public till to his ethnic tank. However, in the real practice of office holding especially under the current regime, the funnel does not even scoop into the ethnic, or tribal tank but into a mix grill of assorted political godfathers and investors, clique of rent seeks and marauding political jobbers.
That is why in a place like Bayelsa state, primary school pupils squat on bare floors for classes and advanced anti-social behavior like kidnapping is still rampant. Had office holding being a ticket to a life of abundance to the ethnic origin of the holder, Bayelsa would have transformed to el dorado but lack of basic infrastructure turned a Navy chopper to a taxi that crashed and killed one of its illustrious sons, the former outspoken national security adviser, General Owoye Azazi. For the proper education of the presidency, any public office appointment made as a favour or ‘dash’ to the ethnic nationality of the appointee demeans the office in its outlook, undermines it, in its function and inevitably compromises its essence with a consequence of disservice to the nation at large.
Going to town with a gong on the presidential generosity to Nd’igbo or any other nationality group for that matter simplifies a complex question of appropriate political structures that would guarantee equity and fairness to all nationality groups with respect to political participation and credible involvement in public affairs. If President Jonathan means that by his self-acclaimed extensive and unprecedented favour to Ndigbo, other ethnic nationality groups are short-changed as is ostensibly implied, then a presidency, driven by nepotism and clannishness is laying a landmine for which a future national explosion is guaranteed. Nd’igbo, especially, numerous of them not afflicted with the current virus of shamelessly scavenging for presidential favour, and largesse know that the full attainment of the potentials of Igbo nation will not derive from such tokenism as the President claims to hand out, but, through an imaginative re-invention of the Nigerian state and purposeful leadership not beholden to the antics of presidential favours. The numerous and varied Nigerian ethnic nationality groups including the Ijaw nation are entitled to a considerable autonomous political space for cultural self-assertion and productive integration into the mainstream of national affairs.
To further underscore the hollowness of any such insinuation of appointment to public offices and the fate of the ethnic nationality groups where the appointee comes from, the United Nation environmental programme report on the massive oil pollution of Ogoni land and what it would take to clean it up, is currently gathering dust under the presidency of the “son of soil”.The obviously party-politics-motivated orchestration of presidential favours to Ndigbo is a ruse that is not likely to fly. As Nigerian party politics are driven essentially by the notorious “stomach infrastructure”, some groups are raising hue and cry over a simple question that someone who happens to be onye-igbo is being asked to clear his name, over a weighty allegation that he has something to do with the deadly scourge of our time, the Boko Haram insurgency.
Prosecution is not persecution and there are thousands and one person who have been prosecuted and acquitted of all charges, leaving them more credible and respectable. The Ohaneze Ndigbo youth that threatens to designate a certain political party, anti-igbo party for making the call for General Ihejirika to face prosecution over allegation of Mr.Stephen Davis, sound preemptive. However, from what authority of the Igbo nation do such groups as Ohaneze youth and Aka Ikenga derive power to speak for Ndigbo and even make enemy on their behalf.
As President Jonathan launches his political campaign for re-election, he should be mindful notto use Ndigbo as cannon fodders or expose the Igbo nation to undue hostility from the other groups by the outlandish and unfounded claim, that his inept administration has provided favours that is incredibly disproportionate to what others got. This is not just setting the stage for future exclusion of Ndigbo from even the rudimentary appointment to federal public office but a promotion of a world view that the prospects of Ndigbo in the Nigerian project can only be enhanced through a benevolence and generous presidency. This, of course, is not correct and appropriate as Ndigbo and other ethnic nationality groups are preeminent stakeholders in the Nigerian Project and participates in her affairs as a right and not a privilege extended by any kind-hearted presidency.
In another twist to Nigeria’s ballooning conundrum under the Jonathan presidency, it announced recently the inauguration of a presidential committee on employment and to complete its sarcastic intent to the Nigerian numerous unemployed persons, the committee is chaired by Mr. Tony Elumelu, who oversaw an earth-scorched down-sizing of United bank of Africa, where he was then, managing director by retrenching several workers. He pioneered in the bank the notorious policy of contract staff, a euphemism for a casual worker, pitiably vulnerable to whims of the paymaster. For a man well known for giving the workers the boot, to now lead a presidential committee on employment is one in the series of Mr. Jonathan’s iconic paradoxes, in addition to setting up public fund for so-called private investors, who were previously claimed to have enough capital to buy up public utilities like PHCN and turn it into efficient and profitable enterprise.
Charles Onunaiju is a journalist based in Abuja.