While the crisis faced by millions of Igbos across Nigerian political landscape today is different from the pogrom, that resulted in the Civil War, our response has largely failed to evolve with the changing times and realities. The past decade for Ndigbo was nostalgic and characterized by misplaced priorities and the boring pursuit of the enigmatic, yet an elusive independent state of Biafra.
It is a New Year and a new decade, and per Benjamin Franklin, former President of the United States, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.” To be better and take our rightful position in Nigeria, Igbos should recalibrate their agenda in 2020.
Every good science student knows that there is a difference between the weight of the helium-filled balloon and air. Eddie Zipperer wrote and I quote, “If you operate under the assumption that helium is heavier than the air around you, you’re going to lose your balloon. If you’re smart, you won’t lose many balloons before you change your assumption. If you don’t change your assumption, you’re going to keep losing balloons and start to look pretty stupid in the process.”
Igbos lost priceless political balloons in the past decade because of the false assumptions and pursuit of elusive goals. As we start the New Year, there is an urgent need for Igbos to change their assumptions to stop losing political balloons.
Here are some important questions for Ndigbo: Between Nigeria and Biafra, which is heavier? Between Nigeria and Biafra, who is losing balloons? What are the balloons? Why should you care?
I know that these are open-ended questions, as such; I will leave the answers to the various medium of free speech available to Nigerians all over the World Wide Web. To recalibrate the Igbo agenda in 2020, however, I will emphasize that the task, before every Igbo, is not to argue for an unlimited domain of free speech. The task before every Igbo man including myself is not to abuse, curse and call Nigerians of other ethnicities names. The real task is how to transform our anger, sentiments, and energy into something tangible – political action and transformation. We should not let our egos prevent progress and forward-thinking this 2020.
In a series of articles over the years, I have been consciously and consistently presenting arguments backed by facts on why Igbos are better off under a “united” Nigerian State. I have been insisting that the only way to save the good memory of Biafra is through the promotion of “one Nigeria”.
This piece in this new series that I have called “Igbo Unpopular Opinion” is a clarion call on my brothers and sisters to dedicate 2020 and beyond to recalibrating the Igbo agenda first at our states and local government levels, before national. What should be the Igbo Agenda? Again, an open-ended question, but we need to start streamlining the answers to this all-important question in the Nigerian context. How?
“Look at the ceiling”. “Look upwards”. The effect may be the same, but the two directives are different. In the first case, you are asking someone to look at something specific. In the second case, you are asking someone to look at a path.
Unfortunately, for long, Igbos have been looking at a direction. We have been looking at the bread and manna from Lagos, then Abuja. We have been looking up to the politicians of Igbo extraction sent to Abuja to “emancipate” us. We have been electing state governors without the vision and capacity to manage village meetings to pull out the beard of a tiger. We have been electing senators, representatives, and members of state houses who Chinua Achebe described as “politicians with plenty of money but low IQ”. We have limited our thinking to the “magic” that will happen, politicians, once we “realize” an independent state. Illusions!
To recalibrate the Igbo agenda in Nigeria, we need to start looking at something specific that will lead to political transformation in Igbo Land; we must change the course of our focus. The first step at recalibration of the Igbo agenda this new decade is by electing leaders that will transform the Igbo states.
The need to restructure Nigeria has been trending in Nigerian political discourse in recent years. If that is going to be the cornerstone of the Igbo agenda within the Nigerian State, we need to clearly define what it means. We need to build a coalition around it, market it and push for its implementation.
Such a coalition cannot materialize under the last decade’s atmosphere contaminated with name-calling and annihilation of other ethnic groups that constitute this beautiful country. Let the immature name-calling and ethnic jingoism pass with 2019.
Let me end with Oprah Winfrey’s famous New Year message, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” The New Year stands before us Igbos like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting clear progressive goals. The year 2020 and the new decade ahead of us is a golden opportunity for Igbos to get it right.
Happy New Year Nigerians
Churchill Okonkwo, Ph.D.
On Twitter @Churchillnnobi