In this second and final part of the interview series with Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu Uko, founder Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Secretary General, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) to mark the 20th anniversary of the IYM, he argues that it would be difficult, given the treatment of Ndigbo in Nigeria, for the majority of them to accept the country.
Voices from across the 6 geopolitical zones seem to agree that 2023 should be granted to the South east to produce Nigeria’s president. What are your views on this?
Every body agrees Ndigbo have been ill-treated since 1970. Nzeogwu, Adegboyega, Ifeajuna and co didn’t conspire with the thousands of Igbo men, women and children slaughtered in the well organised three-wave pogrom of 30th May-3rd June, 29th July-3rd August and 29th September-3rd October 1966, that triggered the loss of faith that led to the Aburi, Ghana summit; that led to the declaration of Biafra. Regretably, cost of the very bloody war that cost Nigeria Bakasi peninsular, control of our oil resources and stable economic and political growth ever since, has been borne by Ndigbo alone. Envy and fear of Ndigbo unwittingly established an anti Igbo political culture that seems to suit everyone just fine.
Nigeria did not know when to apply the breaks on the punishment meted out to Ndigbo over the years. Denying Ndigbo their dues and rights over January 1966 coup and the attendant civil war, does not make sense really. Like I said elsewhere, the younger generation of Ndigbo will never accept to be part of Nigeria where they won’t have a say.
The two major political parties agreeing to zone the presidency to the Southeast for the 2023 presidential elections won’t be a bad idea, but I am yet to see any sign that the two big parties are seriously considering that. Moreover the political thinking in all the political engine rooms, doesn’t support that line of thought now.
There’s a possibility though, that those deliberately flying this kite, are hoping to use it to blackmail Ndigbo in the hope that Igbo political class will swallow the bait, jump into the fray in droves, quarrel amongst themselves, thereby giving the anti Igbo forces the opportunity to blame Ndigbo for their inability to put their house in order. All those are possibilities and permutations. An Igbo man as president of Nigeria would serve as a soothing balm and a unifying gambit to heal the land, but that still won’t solve Nigeria’s structural problems. There’s no alternative to the necessary political structural changes needed to save Nigeria. Changes like, power devolution and whittling of central government’s powers. Handing the presidency to any section of the country, whilst this unitary structure remains, simply amounts to a Greek gift. Yes giving an Igboman, opportunity to govern Nigeria for a season, is alright, but restructuring our polity in order to save Nigeria is more important.
Do Igbo youths believe in Igbo president?
Igbo youths are not excited about Nigeria. It’s worrisome, but it is true. They see the Nigerian state as a huge joke, at best as an insincere, unfriendly establishment, out to hurt and harm them.
All their lives, the Nigerian state has been faraway from them. Every thing is skewed against him. From the cutoff marks for both unity schools entrance exams and Jamb are designed against him, he wonders why he has to score tripple the entrant points granted other sections of Nigeria, before he would be admitted to study. He wonders why those who post bogus and overbloated census figures, think anybody believes their overblown figures. He knows he is shut out from a lot of positions in Nigeria. He sees unqualified characters manning several government agencies and making a total mess of it.He sees elections brazenly rigged in broad daylight, with unpopular candidates imposed on the hapless nation.
He looses faith in the country. He believes there’s no point voting in elections, as your vote clearly doesn’t count. Why que under the hot sun to register for a pvc and another rigorous exercise to que to vote, when at the end of the day, your votes do not matter, as the political class announces what ever result, they want announced.
They have completely lost faith in Nigeria. Nigerian state interestingly, also do not seem to care, how Igbo youths feel about Nigeria. So, over the years, Igbo youths have convinced themselves that Nigeria is not our home. Only about 30 percent of Igbo youths ever bother to register and only about a quarter of this 30 percent actually comes out to vote. So actually less than 10 percent of Igbo eligible voters ever participates in elections in Nigeria. The political class knows all too well about this grave apathy, but they don’t bother, as long as they are duly elected by the small marginal voters. They also inflate figures during the rigging process. So, the problem simply continues to get worse.
The Igbo have been so badly treated in Nigeria, that they seem to have lost interest in Nigeria. Maybe offering the Igbo the presidency might rekindle their interest in Nigerian elections, I doubt. I know their soul and spirit is long gone. They believe Nigeria hates them. It’s sad, but that is the situation.
Who’s to blame for all this resentment?
Every body is guilty. We need to try and bring back their soul back. By giving everyone a sense of belonging. How? Through power devolution. By restructuring the polity. There’s no other way. I’ve been intensely dealing with Igbo youths for decades now and I can tell you this. They will never be part of Nigeria, where they will have no say. Never.
Has the IYM achieved its aim?
Only time and the public can judge that. IYM was designed to water the ground, sort of open the eyes of Igbo youths and wake them up to the fact that they just have to wake up and fight for justice as Nobody is going to fight for them. It’s not a 100 metres dash, rather, it’s a marathon long distance race. We need to be prepared for the task ahead.
But many of the Igbo youths are fighting for another nation?
Nigeria pushed them out, by refusing to listen to their cries long before now, by refusing to restructure Nigeria long before now, by refusing to engage them before now. It is wrong to ignore their cries of injustice. Ignoring them, simply means you are asking them to go to hell of do your worst. The shoe has been hurting them for long, for decades they cried. Till date the Nigerian state has never bothered to engage them to find out why they are crying. The Nigerian state encourages their agitations by refusing to engage them.