By Casmir Igbokwe
British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, died last Thursday, September 8, 2022. Her demise elicited different reactions across the world. Of particular interest was the tweet by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States of America, Uju Anya. Hours before the Queen’s death, Professor Anya, who is a Nigerian of Igbo origin, wrote on her Twitter page: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”
Gosh! Anya’s hate speech went viral and has since been removed by Twitter for violating its rules. Not moved, the woman added that if anyone expected her to express anything but disdain for the monarch who allegedly supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that displaced half of her family and the consequences of which those alive today were still trying to overcome, the person could keep wishing upon a star. There are some other Igbo people who support Anya’s view.
True, Britain exported colonialism to the world. It also supported Nigeria against Biafra in the 1967 to 1970 civil war that led to the killing of millions of Igbo people. But, is it the Queen that should take the blame or the Prime Minister at the time? Even if the Queen was culpable, is it not time to forgive? Should we continue to bear grudges to the extent of exhibiting such bitterness against a dying old woman? We need to change focus.
Incidentally, the same Britain appears to have shown many Nigerians more love than their country, Nigeria. A Nigerian will most likely enjoy better privileges and human rights protection in the United Kingdom (UK) than in his own country.
As a postgraduate student in the UK in 2006/2007, I was able to vote in an election. I quietly went inside the booth, cast my vote for the party of my choice and left without any molestation or inducement from anybody. I enjoyed so many other privileges in the UK which I had narrated in my now rested column in The Punch. I do not need to enumerate them here again.
On the contrary, I could not vote in my own country in the presidential election of 2019. I was among those who queued up to vote in one of the polling units at the Ago area of Lagos when thugs emerged out the blue and chased everyone away. They destroyed the ballot boxes already filled with ballot papers. The policemen posted to man some of the polling units watched in amazement. The thugs were obviously sent by people who felt that the area is dominated by the Igbo, the majority of who had expressed support for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then.
Even in the current political dispensation, the difference is still very clear between the UK and Nigeria. The UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, is a young woman. She happens to be the third woman to occupy the position. Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May were there before her. One of the new appointees of Truss is a British-Nigerian Member of Parliament, Ms Kemi Badenoch, who is now Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade. Badenoch also vied for the position of the Prime Minister as a member of the Conservative Party. She made it to the top five in July.
As a multicultural society, the UK easily accommodates people of diverse interests and cultures. Some Nigerians, for instance, had been Mayors in the UK. The current Chief of Staff to Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State, Ernest Ezeajughi, made history by winning elections as the first Black Mayor of the London Borough of Brent in 2019. Another citizen of Anambra, Mrs. Kate Anorue, became the Mayor of Enfield the same time. Also in 2019, Mrs. Victoria Obaze from Imo State became the first Black Civic Mayor of London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In May this year, another British Nigerian, Pauline Akhere George, was elected Mayor of Lambeth Borough, London, for the 2022/2023 year. Ms George, who is from Edo State, is the first female British Nigerian Mayor of Lambeth Borough.
Apart from Ezeajughi, other Mayors of Nigerian origin are women. If I may ask, how many women occupy major political positions in Nigeria today? The only female governor Nigeria has had, Virgy Etiaba of Anambra State, emerged by accident. She was elected a deputy governor but became the governor between November 2006 and February 2007 when her principal, Mr. Peter Obi, was temporarily removed from office through the shenanigans of some political renegades in the state. Etiaba did not last in office as Obi returned to power after the Court of Appeal nullified his impeachment on February 9, 2007.
In Nigeria, we have different standards for different groups. You can call it internal colonialism if you like. In the recent presidential primaries of the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP, the rotation tradition was jettisoned to satisfy some selfish interests. A northerner is currently in power and will complete his term of office in 2023. The presidential pendulum is supposed to swing to the South after this regime. But what have we seen? The PDP gave the ticket to another northerner in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The APC went southwards, but rather than consider the South-East which has never occupied the position before, the party gave its ticket to a South-Westerner, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who claimed it’s his turn.
Yes, democracy is a game of numbers. The minority may have its say; the majority will have its way. But democracy also thrives on fairness and justice. To entrench an egalitarian society, certain parameters must be put in place to ensure peaceful co-existence among various groups in a diverse society like ours. We have failed to do that as a people. And that is why we have remained backward.
Even Kenya is gradually leaving us behind. The East African country had its presidential election on August 9, 2022. The election was largely peaceful and credible. After the poll, the outgoing deputy president, William Ruto, defeated veteran contender and main opposition leader, Raila Odinga. Ruto will be sworn in tomorrow, September 13, 2022, as the fifth President of Kenya.
The intriguing thing about the Kenyan election is that the outgoing President, Uhuru Kenyatta, supported Odinga against his deputy. He had fallen out with Ruto after their re-election in 2017. The power of incumbency, though, could not help him achieve victory for Odinga at the poll.
It could not also help him to manipulate the verdict of the Supreme Court of Kenya last week. In a ruling by the seven-member panel led by Justice Martha Koome, the apex court of the land unanimously upheld the victory of Ruto in the election. Justice Koome described the affidavit by the petitioner alleging cheating as nothing more than hot air and a wild goose chase.
The major lesson for Nigeria here is the independence of the judiciary which Kenya’s apex court has exhibited. It showed the same courage and independence in 2017 when it called for a rerun of the poll which favoured President Kenyatta. The swiftness of the current judgment, which came less than one month after the election, is also worthy of emulation.
The task before Nigeria’s judiciary is enormous. Democracy takes root with a strong and unbiased judiciary. Some of the outcome of the 2023 general election will definitely be challenged in the courts. The onus is for our judges to stand firm on the side of truth and justice. This is what we should focus on now.
Britain granted us independence since 1960. By forcibly bringing people of different cultures and traditions together as one country, it shares in the blame for our woes today. But, we need to move on. We need an unbiased and courageous judiciary. We need a strong legislature. Above all, we need an effective and unbiased president at this point of our history to galvanize Nigerians into taking positive actions for the betterment of the country. Let’s leave Britain alone and sort out our internal problems first.
Re: Ethnic profiling as dangerous campaign weapon
Ethnic profiling as a campaign sword is not peculiar to any candidate or political party in Nigeria. Virtually all of them are guilty of this madness that has now overwhelmed the entire country. Some columnists in their privileged positions, and to maintain their space made possible by their benefactors, preach ethnic support for their preferred candidate via very annoying, insincere and divisive analyses that rather tend to tear the country apart. They don’t love Nigeria’s co-existence! It was Duro Onabule the detribalised late columnist who submitted that the 1952 carpet crossing drama when West was for West, East for East and North for North was the genesis of tribal politics in Nigeria. Membership of Nigeria’s leading political parties is drawn from all ethnic groupings in Nigeria. Therefore, the problem of tribal politics in Nigeria is not that of the parties but their individual members who make up the parties’ membership. Let 2023 be a turning point in our national life.
-Edet Essien Esq. Cal South, +234 805 661 5168
Casmir, as campaign is set to begin, let moderation, mutual respect and love for Nigeria and Nigerians be our watchwords while supporting our chosen candidates in the 2023 presidential elections. We must exhibit self control in great deal and bridle/tame our tongues for the sake of our precious, but, beleaguered and pauperised nation! For crying out loud, the Igbo should be accorded their due respect and no ethnic group should be profiled or condemned as we seek the best man to govern the nation. Ultimately, it is the will of God that will prevail! Casmir, why address Buhari as ‘Mr’? Let us respect the office. Respect is reciprocal! Great minds like you discuss issues but lesser minds like F. Omondiales, Omatseye, Bayo Onanuga and S. Ayobolo discuss people and deserve to be pitied as they have refused to grow up leaving me perplexed! No matter what they say Muslim-Muslim ticket is scary!
-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +234 816 111 4572
Frederick Omondliale’s remark, though it is as bitter as it is frank, captures succinctly the position of a vast population of Nigerians about the Igbo. The high degree of phobia for the typical Igbo in the country makes a mere thought of presidency of an Igbo extraction capable of sending chills down the spine of people of the other ethnicities. The linkage of Peter Obi to IPOB and the singular portrayal of IPOB in bad light are all ploys to denigrate the Igbo man. I make bold to say without any fear of gainsaying that the apparently aggressive, overbearing and adventurous disposition of the typical Igbo may be the antidote to Nigeria’s woes with a presidency of an Igbo extraction. Nigerians are currently wise enough to outgrow these cheap propaganda having seen that the two most popular political parties in the country conspicuously have nothing to offer. Indeed the future of the country depends on a vibrant, pragmatic and determined leader such as Peter Obi.
-Dr Idongesit Inyang, Uyo, +2348084318845.
Dear Casmir, we need the Tribal Extinction Council of Nigeria (TECON) which will establish a law against sabotage to unity. With this, our place of birth or place of prolonged domicile is where we’ll say we come from and not our village. Jesus of Nazareth originated from Judah, Saint Anthony of Padua originated from Lisbon in Portugal and Google says Kwameh Nkruma of Ghana originated from Liberia. My certificates from France bear my place of birth, Ebu, Delta State.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 12, 2022