To tamper with the zoning arrangement, is to tease out all other arrangements including federal character, resource and revenue control…Zoning means the presidency should come south in 2023. Equity and justice mean it should go to the South-East since the other two zones have had a bite (MuyiwaAdetiba’s ‘A Game of Numbers: My Take on Igbo Presidency.’Vanguard. 12th October 2019).
Clarification of Terms/Concepts
“Big Three” was coined by Professor Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu in his 1968 civil war lecture titled, ‘Cohesion and Fragmentation in African Politics: The Minorities and the Nigerian Crises,’ in Etekpe, Ambily et al, “Lawrence Ekpebu: His Contributions to National Development, Integration and International Cooperation.” It refers to Nigerian three major ethnic groups of Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani that make up only 50 percent of the population. The other half constitutes 250 ethnic minorities.
The Big Three were created by the 1951 Macpherson Constitution that introduced the three regions of Eastern (dominated by the Igbo and the Dr. Nnamdi (Zik) Azikiwe-led National Council of Nigerian Citizen, NCNC, political party), Western (dominated by the Yoruba and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, AG,) and Northern (dominated by the Hausa/Fulani and the SardaunaAhmadu Bello-led Northern Peoples Congress, NPC).
“Big Two” was created in 1962 when Bello colluded with Zik to jail Awolowo. “Barely two years later,” writes Professor Ekpebu, “a further crack developed this time between the remaining “big two” (the Ibo and Hausa Fulani). Through the census crisis of 1963, the Federal elections rumpus of 1964, and the Western Nigerian election controversies in 1965, the crack developed into a gulf in January 15, 1966, when the Ibo leadership, hiding under the coup by Major Nzeogwu, toppled the Northern leadership of the Sardauna and Balewa with their non-Ibo friends….”
This process in elimination was then replicated in 1967 by the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani against the Igbo; leading to the emergence of the substantive Big Two that kept the Igbo from power for fifty-two years and counting. In this presentation the Big Two refers to the Hausa/Fulani-Yoruba duopoly. It also means,ipso facto, the negation of the Big Three.
“Negative Consensus” was the understanding among the Big Three not to liberate their regional minorities through state creation. The Yoruba supported state creation for Eastern and Northern minorities but not for their Western Minorities. The Igbo supported same for Northern and Western minorities but resisted state creation for Eastern minorities. The Hausa/Fulani resisted state creation for Northern minorities while supporting same for Eastern and Western minorities.
This left the minorities in a permanent political limbo, according to Professor Ekpebu. The Tiv Riots of 1964 and Isaac Jasper Boro’s revolution of 1966 were fueled by the burning hatred of minorities against unconcerned majorities.
“Weak Joints” were minorities areas in the former three regions of the First Republic that remained the Achilles’ Heel of the Big Three. Professor Ekpebu explains, “Dis-satisfied with their treatment by the major tribes, these regional “minorities” constituted the weak joints in the regional set-up…. It was these regional “minorities” which helped to weaken the regions in favour of the centre on the one hand and provided fertile ground for the predominantly regional political parties to have foot-holes in other regions and thus keep alive the idea of One Nigeria.”
The Second Republic, 1979-1983, offered Nigeria a new beginning after a long night of military misrule by the Big Two. But this too was soon overthrown by the same protagonists who feared Igbo presidency in Vice President Alex Ekwueme, President Shehu Shagari’s deputy.
But in the Third Republic, 1992-1993, a crack appeared between the Big Two when General Sani Abacha stopped the Yoruba-born MKO Abiola from becoming president. The Yoruba had cause to fear the repressed Igbo they had no problem with more than their Hausa/Fulani adversaries. Even when Abiola was poisoned, the wise Yoruba broke a cola of friendship with his killers.
In this Fourth Republic, 1999 till date, things only changed in form but not in content. The Big Two still rule to the exclusion of the Igbo. Between 1999-2007 they maneuvered the Yoruba-born Olusegun Obasanjo, who also ruled as military Head of State between 1976 and 1979, into the presidency. After him the hegemon enthroned the Fulani-born Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, 2007-2009, who died in office.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, from minority Ijaw, succeeded his boss Yar’Adua but the Big Two tolerated his presidency, 2009-2015, only with the greatest of restraints. Sweeping him out of office with the first opportunity, they installed another Fulani called Muhammadu Buhari, who also ruled as military Head of State, 1984-1985, as president.
With Buhari’s second tenure ending in 2023, the Yoruba are again fronting Bola Tinubu to succeed Buhari; while the Hausa/Fulani are also campaigning for the abolition of zoning, used in justifying Jonathan’s removal, to enable them retain power. Only that the minorities who hold the aces called weak joints may be thinking differently.
Déjà vu 2023
Following the claims of the Big Two on 2023, Senator Edwin Kiogbodo Clark, foremost Ijaw leader, urged Nigerians to see the merit of zoning the presidency to the Igbo. He wanted to know what Tinubu could offer Nigeria that the Igbo could not.
For him, Igbo presidency was a question of equity, “They (the North) had the presidency several times throughout the military era. Today, another northerner is running for eight years. The South-West have had their turn and the South-South had their turn through President Jonathan. It is only the South-East that has not had it. It is the turn of the Igbo to have it.”
Dr. Felix Tuodolo, signatory to the 1998 Kaiama Declaration, believes “It is the right of the Igbo to occupy Nigerian presidency in 2023. Nigerians expect the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani to willfully concede power to the Igbo. No tribe is superior to others because the Igbo are equal partner.” He cautioned against rigging out Igbo presidency through constitutional amendments. Concluding, “Another coup, however disguised, could forever change Nigeria as we know it.”
Nigerians thank Senator Clark for speaking out; after all an elder does not sit at home and watch detached while evil unfolds. Also, contrast Dr. Tuodolo’s pro-justitia pronouncement with the silence of the civil war heroes who refused to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil in the hateful utterances of northern anarchists who boast the North could keep power for 100 years. But can the North really do that in a dead Nigeria?
Nigeria exhibits symptoms of a dying state; including (1) Uneven development where 5 percent of the population controls 80 percent of the wealth (2) Contested legitimacy as Buhari controls only Abuja while bandits ransack the 36 states (3) Demographic pressure from multitudes of unemployed youths hooked on gambling, and (4) Debt trap as our external debt eliminated by Obasanjo and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has doubled. The plain truth is that all is not well with our own dear native land.
Yet in every election those who destroyed this country always divide us by making it a “Nigerians Vs the Igbo man” contest. To exclude the Igbo from the leaderships of the 9th National Assembly the Big Two trampled on Section 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution on federal character. Having achieved their sectarian agenda, the perpetrators declared that “The law is the law. Nothing is to be added to it and nothing subtracted from it.” Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that Adolf Hitler was a stickler for the law. Everything he did was legal.
Sun Tsu believed the law is intangible yet its effects are tangible. It is all about interpretation and application. A bad law justly applied could maintain the cosmic harmony. But a revolution could be provoked if a good law is badly applied. Suppose a revolution has already taken place in the minds of Nigerians and what is left is just the opportunity to light the fuse? The law is the law.
Friedrich Nietzsche warned saints fighting monsters to be careful that in the process they do not turn into monsters themselves. The patriot fighting the secessionist could turn separatist; the democrat into dictator, and the unionist into traitor. When a revolutionary starts valorising the law against social justice, he ends up perpetuating the very evil he sets out to eradicate. Adetiba, quoted in lead paragraph, must be commended for his warning.
National unity is impossible when 40 million law-abiding Igbos are openly harassed as rebels never to be trusted with power. We have dissipated 52 years and unquantifiable resources trying to keep down the Igbo man. But together we- Yoruba, Kanuri, Fulani, Ijaw, etc, can reverse Igbo exclusion as a necessary step in engendering national rebirth.
The starting point is endorsing the position of the Okechukwu Isiguzoro-led 27-man 2023 National Committee on Igbo Presidency Project: For proper integration, unity and maintenance of healthy democracy, the South East should be encouraged to adopt the Yoruba Model of 1999 and Northern Model of 1999; where major political parties in 1999 adopted all Yoruba candidates and in 2019 where PDP and APC featured all Northern Presidential candidate.
Professor Ekpebu clinically identifies negative consensus as producing the germs that killed the First Republic, “…the current Nigerian crisis (civil war) is as much the result of the dissatisfaction of this minority of 50percent with their lot as it is that of the quarrels among the ‘Big three.’ Had General Yakubu Gowon wasted time creating the twelve states, the germs would have also killed Nigeria.”
It is negative consensus again in this Fourth Republic. The Big Two grossly underestimate the burning hatred of the Igbo repeatedly denied the presidency and a sixth state. Must history repeat itself?
Professor Wole Soyinka warned that evil is cyclic: Meaning that Igbo exclusion will get round to other tribes also. But Professor Donald Nwoga clarified that every reality changes both within itself and from one form of reality to another: To plague others, Igbo exclusion will change to other evils. The bell tolls for all.