Stop The Winner- Loser Acrimony: Redeem Nigeria’s Damaged Reputation By Rees Chikwendu

Let me be very clear from the start: I am not a politician, but a student of political studies and neutral observer of political issues and developments – especially those that affect my home country. I am a proud Nigerian. I have always identified myself as a proud Nigerian in all countries I have lived or visited. I do not carry any shame of being a Nigerian. I do, however – often and in every form – abhor the image of Nigeria, marred by poor leadership. I am appalled at the high level of illiteracy in the country and the denial of the right to education of millions of children in Nigeria (especially in northern Nigeria). I am filled with sadness when I see Nigerians bickering one another on ethnic sentiments instead of sharing the good found in each ethnic group. They have allowed their minor dissimilarities to set themselves apart.
Having had the opportunity to travel to and live in other countries, to experience other cultures, and having been treated sometimes unfairly by others because of my race or country of origin, I have come to see the need for Nigerians to be united. I have had issues with some acquaintances who wish for a divided Nigeria, where each ethnic group would have its own country. But how many countries would you get out of Nigeria if each ethnic group goes its separate way? Would that finally serve us peace in that region? I think we all (in our sincerest self) know the right answer. Nigeria is stronger united, with every ethnic group – big and small – being accorded the dignity as humans and citizens of one nation. This is possible, and it requires true leadership, a strong vision, and social engineering. The rest of Africa is looking at us to take back our place as the leader of Africa. My friends from other African countries do pray constantly for the sleeping giant to wake up from its slumber and take its rightful place in Africa.

At this period in Nigeria’s history, I have been watching the euphoria of many Nigerians for the hope of change. Nonetheless, as per usual, this excitement and happiness is again being tainted by the ethnic bigotry and hate speeches that has often trailed anything out of Nigeria. Why all the hateful comments against Ndi-Igbo this time? What has Ndi-Igbo done to other Nigerians to deserve hatred against them? Honestly I haven’t seen anything wrong from Ndi-Igbo besides their enterprise and integration into any society they find themselves. If Nigeria is to be truly one entity, are not her citizens supposed to integrate anywhere they live in the country? Are they not supposed to do businesses and develop where they live? That is just the spirit of Ndi-Igbo, which should not be despised by those that wish for a true and one Nigeria. It should be emulated! Yet Ndi-igbo are being berated and discriminated for who they are in their own country.

Without any bias, Ndi-Igbo spirit is a model for Nigeria’s development. If any leadership in Nigeria could put aside bias, the Ndi-Igbo model could level the playing field and put Nigeria head-to-head with any Western nation. They are achievers, no matter where you place them. Leave them in a lurch and economic deprivation, they will come out more prosperous than before. The late Sarduana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello tacitly acknowledged the industriousness of Ndi-Igbo in a YouTube video. This does not in any way mean that other ethnic groups in Nigeria are not industrious. But in terms of effectiveness, Ndi-Igbo model should be adopted or fashioned into Nigeria’s economic and industrial development plan. How else would you explain the rise of a people who fought a Civil War, lost everything, but today rose to the top to become one of the most enterprising ethnic groups in Nigeria and Africa? The only ethnic group today in Nigeria that is probably on par with Ndi-Igbo is the Yoruba ethnic group. This is the spirit that thrust nations into development, not something to discard. Ndi-Igbo should be the envy of Nigeria (with respect to other ethnic groups) by bringing them fully onboard into Nigeria’s economic and industrial development plan; that is, if we are truly one Nigeria.
In the last presidential election that took place on March 28, Ndi-Igbo again exhibited one of those qualities that made them who they are – that is, a proud and trustworthy people. They have principles and political ideologies which they believe in just as other ethnic groups in Nigeria have their own political ideologies. Ndi-Igbo promised the outgoing president of their mandate based on their own political ideologies and principles. Honestly, many Ndi-Igbo should have known that president Goodluck Jonathan would not win that election, but they have proved to be people you can trust any day and time; they stood by the promise they made to the outgoing president. They were aware of the price to pay on the decision to fully support president Jonathan, but they – in united action – gave their mandate to him. They are not back-stabbers and betrayers! Is that not an evidence of Ndi-igbo unity? Should that not be an example of Nigerian unity? This is something to be commended, not chastised. When push comes to shove, there will always be winners and losers in politics. Those are the rules of the game.

In a democracy, especially one that claims to be consensus or representative as Nigeria’s, winners and losers are both supposed to be happy. In fact, nobody is a loser; that is, if it is believed that those who ‘won’ are forming government to represent the interests of the citizens. Yet happiness and/or satisfaction are expected to be higher when the interests of those forming the government are close to the interests of the pure majority. So I don’t see any shaking and need for the divisive sentiments spreading across the country and social media platforms.
At the end of the day, the APC government will make policies on collective action problems, which would benefit all Nigerians. Highly quality institutions that promote rule of law and low corruption would not know one particular ethnic group alone, whether Ndi-Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, etc., instead the policies will be there to serve the interests of all Nigerians. If, for example, APC implements social welfare schemes, it will serve all economically disadvantaged citizens, and not only a Yoruba or Hausa. As long as the policies of the government are in congruity with the wishes of the citizens, everyone benefits. What Nigerians should be preparing for now is how to hold the new government accountable, not whether Ndi-Igbo voted for APC or not. The hate speech must stop!
In the end, Nigeria is not a one-party system democracy. There is need for opposition to keep those within government on checks. If there were no Nigerians on the APC opposition to raise the alarm, change would not have taken place. Opposition is healthy in a democracy, and I think the decision of Ndi-Igbo has put them more on that side of the political game. Those using hate speeches and threats against Ndi-Igbo only expose their political inexperience or amateurism. One of the priorities of Ndi-Igbo at this moment is to have a favorable political environment to carry on their businesses and commerce in peace. Can’t we all agree that it is time for Nigerian politics to transcend ethnic bigotry and embrace politics of ideology? (The answer is yes!). Therefore, if you by all means abhor the racism against blacks all over the world, then you have to stop the discrimination against Ndi-Igbo, because I don’t see the difference.

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