There is always a huge political risk and danger whenever erratic, embattled, and paranoid leaders assume the responsibility of “protecting” their ethnicity in a multicultural country. The simultaneous emergence of Nnia Nwodo and Nnamdi Kanu (who were both erratic and paranoia) as the leaders of Ohaneze Ndigbo and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), respectively, was thus, unfortunately, a bad omen for Igbos in Nigeria.
In the past seven years, IPOB has been praying for calamity to befall Igbos. By promoting hatred, anger and conflict between Ndigbo and herdsmen; Igbos and Yorubas; Igbos and multiple South-south ethnic nationalities; Igbos and Hausas; Igbo and everyone else in Nigeria, IPOB, tried and thankfully, woefully failed to ignite any major conflict. Their intent of imposing upon Ndigbo an eccentric state of falling in love with ourselves made them popular among Igbos.
Unfortunately for Chief Nwodo, he became the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo at a time that the ethnic sentiments whipped up by IPOB have, unfortunately, been accepted by much of Igbos in the street. His authority as the most powerful figure in Igbo affairs (supposedly) was thus threatened by the emergence of a vociferous and divisive character in Nnamdi Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu, through IPOB, did everything to intimidate the Igbo politicians and groups in the middle. Chief Nnia Nwodo was, thus, forced to mimic Nnamdi Kanu in order not to lose the Igbo voice on the streets.
The attempt by Nnamdi Kanu and Nnia Nwodo to outwit each other made them take the extreme position that was and is very divisive in national politics. To remain relevant and avoid the wrath of IPOB Internet soldiers, Chief Nwodo, felt the need to do something groundbreaking to be the man of the people. Chief Nwodo gradually started acting and sounding like Nnamdi Kanu.
In the process, he, unfortunately, dragged Ohaneze Ndigbo into dangerous partisan politics to the extent of openly endorsing a political party, something a cultural group that is apolitical should tactfully avoid. That was the genesis of political miscalculations and blunders that have brought Ndigbo to this cul-de-sac in Nigerian politics. It may take more than a generation to repair the damage caused by Chief Nwodo and Nnamdi Kanu in Nigerian national politics.
It is bad that the market valve of Igbo politicians has been so degraded that even within the PDP, they are all shying away from national politics. This has placed Igbos in a precarious position going into the next round of major politicking at the national level.
The lesson from this is that the politics of nationalism by an ethnic group that is not the majority in a multicultural country could backfire if not handled with the dexterity and care that it deserves. Today it is very easy to mobilize the support of members of any ethnic nationality in Nigeria based on minor, real and perceived cleavages. However, having erratic and ambivalent leaders as spokespersons is bound to be detrimental to any minority ethnic nationality in the complex Nigerian political equation.
As the saying goes, “Cry wolf often enough and you eventually get eaten by the wolf, even if the wolf is you.” The political relevance of Chief Nwodo, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB were eventually swallowed by the wolf that they have been crying for years. Now, Nnamdi Kanu is on the run, just like Odimegwu Ojukwu. Chief Nnia Nwodo, on the other hand, was reduced to a weak political figure after he failed in his attempt to help Chief Atiku Abubakar win the 2019 presidential election.
There is a saying that unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves. These are two characters, Chief Nwodo and Nnamdi Kanu, who failed to think before talking may have destroyed the Igbo political class in Nigeria.
Finally, the truth is that however much it rains on us; no wild banana tree will grow on our heads. No wild banana will grow on the heads of Igbo politicians soon in Nigeria after the damage caused by Nnia Nwodo, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB.
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. For success, be it in having a restructured political system in Nigeria or having a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, the Igbo political class will need to work with other ethnic nationalities for any meaningful progress.
If the pestle misses the mortar, it pounds the ground. Chief Nnia Nwodo, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB completely missed the mortar. They have pounded the ground and damaged the pestle.
It may be difficult to whitewash the fact that Chief Nnia Nwodo, Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB have destroyed the market value of Igbo politicians in Nigeria. They have damaged the Biafran Brand.
To repair the damaged Biafran brand, what Igbos need now is hope, not fear. We should renegotiate the tension between reckless, self-expression and strategic action. There was no strategic action in the activities of IPOB over the last couple of years. There was also no strategic plan and thus no political achievement by Ohaneze under the leadership of Nnia Nwodo.
Nnia Nwodo and Nnamdi Kanu failed. Unfortunately to acknowledge that gaining support is an art, involving the ability to justify an agenda, establish credibility, appreciate what the other party is looking for, and remaining politically astute.
Finally, on this day as we mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Biafran Civil War, a true honor for Biafran Soldiers who fought gallantly during the civil war is a paradigm shift to a Renaissance with political goals that will refresh and perpetuate Igbos through education, proactive political engagement in such a manner that will ensure that Igbos grow and thrive in an open Nigerian society.
On Twitter @Churchillnnobi