The Igbo are the only group, among the three major ethnic groups, that have not produced a president since the return of democracy in 1999. Also, they are the only ethnic group, among the major three, that have not produced a vice-president since 1999.
It appears the ethnic group has been consigned to the backwaters of politics and power. Sometimes, it comes third or even fourth in the matrix of power sharing.
At present, the Igbo have no leverage or significant influence in the government.
In fact, they have never been so divorced from power before as they are now. Today, the highest position of authority occupied by an Igbo person is that of deputy senate president. This is in spite of the wealth of contributions of the ethnic group to the country.
However, despite the dwindled political fortunes, one thing is incontrovertible about the Igbo; they are the most intellectually sophisticated, economically empowered and politically conscious of all Nigerians.
I do not subscribe to the false argument that the Igbo are not “politically alive”, because it fails in the face of intellectual interrogation. The Igbo do not see politics as just an event; they see it as means to protect their economic interest, their land and their future.
The Igbo have no time for frivolous politics; they are not interested in any politics that does not guarantee the safety of their business, communities and lives. Also, the argument that the Igbo are not politically aware fails when it is interrogated in the crucible of history. The Igbo ran a republican system of government, where the highest form of politicking took place, before the incursion of the British.
I have always said that despite my global orientation, the Igbo agenda and that of my core constituency will remain the centrepiece of my politics. As a senator my obligation is to my constituency, my state and Igbo-land.
What then can the Igbo do to reaffirm their place in Nigerian politics and rise to the leadership of the country? The late revered Igbo leader, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu was prescient; he saw today, and he provided an answer. He believed the Igbo would have political leverage in Nigeria if they identified with a political party – the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) – embraced it as their own and promoted it. Ojukwu’s wisdom is the solution to the present Igbo displacement in Nigerian politics.
I joined APGA because I believe that the party is the conscience of the Igbo, and it is the veritable platform on which the ethnic group can rise to the leadership of the country. We must build APGA to become a force that is indispensable in the political equation of Nigeria. We must consolidate the party so that it can speak as the voice of the Igbo and also shake hands with other parties, and most importantly be at the table with the party in power to negotiate for the ethnic group. This will remove the perception of the invisibility of the Igbo from national issues, and also discourage disparities. It will also bring renaissance to the formidable south-east politics in Nigeria.
I still believe APGA has the magic-touch to turn the south-east into a land of gold.
APGA bu nke anyi!
Stella Oduah, Senator (Anambra North).