By Christian Dimkpa
Igbos are said to constitute about 18 million of the Nigerian population, even though no census in recent times has included ethnicity in the statistics captured. Some schools of thought suggest that Igbos could be upwards of 30 million, given their spread all over Nigeria. Whether 18 – or 30 – million strong, Igbos, unfortunately, have not had the opportunity to use their population to achieve ethnic political ends, unlike the Yoruba, and certainly, the Hausa-Fulani, the two other majority ethnic groups. Several reasons can be adduced for this history, but four reasons immediately come to mind:
1. Too many Igbos live outside of Igbo land in Nigeria.
2. Too many Igbos live outside of Nigeria.
3. The apathy of the Igbo towards actual participation in the voting process. Someone should please compare the number of registered voters in Igboland to the number of actual voters in the last election.
4. Igbo political immaturity in always tending to belong in one major party, in this case, PDP. The Yoruba own APC, yet their voting pattern clearly showed that they voted significantly for both APC and PDP.
In this short narrative, I will discuss points one, two and four. The Igbo who live outside of Igbo land in Nigeria are often the target of ethnic and religious fracas in the northern part of Nigeria, which often is rifer during election periods. As such, they tend to relocate to safer havens during election times. These Igbo, otherwise registered to vote in the North, automatically self-disenfranchise, due to this movement. In a recent photo circulated online during the eve of the elections, I saw hordes of Nigerians standing inside airplanes as they would do in molue buses. Such was the rush to move to safe grounds that safety was ignored. Now, do we know, or have we imagined, how many Igbos live in violence-prone northern Nigeria; and the effect that electoral disenfranchisement induced by sudden panicky movement outside registration areas have on the Igbo political clout in Nigeria?
Secondly, it is estimated (no official data) that about 17 million Nigerians live abroad. With illegal immigration not abating, and given the number of illegal Nigerians abroad who, therefore, are not officially documented as Nigerians in foreign countries, this number may even be modest. Now, considering 17 million Nigerians abroad, anecdotal evidence suggest that nearly half are Nigerians of Igbo origin. Such anecdotal evidence include how many Nigerians you see on the streets of non-Nigerian cities and their ethnic origins in Nigeria; how many Nigerians you know, see, read or hear of, working responsibly in foreign lands and their ethnic origins in Nigeria; how many Nigerians you know, see, read or hear of, studying in foreign lands and their ethnic origins in Nigeria; how many Nigerians you know, see, read or hear of, trading (buying and selling) responsibly in foreign lands and their ethnic origins in Nigeria; and how many Nigerians you hear of who have been arrested for one crime or visa infringement or another in foreign lands, and their ethnic origins in Nigeria. With this second background comes the question of the non-voting status of Nigerians in diaspora. Of these 17 million Nigerians, one reckons that given the average age of Nigerians who tend to travel out, that most would be eligible to vote (over 18 years old). Have we imagined how non-diaspora voting affects the Igbo political clout in Nigeria?
Now that we have embraced technology in the voting process by way of using biometric PVCs and card readers, is there anything Nigerians abroad can begin to do to see that they vote in future elections back home, at least electronically? I also do not mind going to queue at the country’s embassy to vote.
To the Igbo political immaturity (reason 4), presently, Buhari of APC is poised to win the election and be declared president. With likely no Igbo as Senator or Rep member in APC, Igbos will most likely face political exclusion for the next 4 years because they will not be among the 6 most powerful positions in the country, nor their deputies, nor the Secretary of State. But that may be a blessing in disguise for the Igbos to start to put their house in order. I have said many times that Igbo are too big a group to put all of their eggs in one basket. I have said that they should belong in equal numbers in both PDP and APC, even though I also hinted that they should not vote for Buhari because of his antecedents. Nothing stops Igbos from voting a good Igbo person in APC for Igbo positions at the federal legislature. Nothing stops an Igbo APC person from being the governor of an Igbo State. For Igbo immediate political survival, Okorocha should remain the governor of Imo State and APC should produce at least one or two more governors from the South East in the coming gubernatorial elections. Several Igbo senators or Senators-elect in PDP should consider decamping right away to APC, so that Igbos can have possible representation as Senate President or House Speaker.
Jonathan may have lost the election, but he has put the South-South into favorable political reckoning. If Niger Delta militants go haywire as a result of Jonathan’s loss, they will be assuaged with political patronage and life goes on. In contrast, the Igbo, as it is now, have no political bargaining chips. But they have another 4 years to prove that they can survive the murky waters of Nigerian politics, or they will go into permanent political oblivion.
Article by Christian Dimkpa
Christian is a Nigerian; an Agricultural Research Scientist, who writes Washington DC, United States.
It is the policy of NewsWireNGR not to endorse or oppose any opinion expressed by a User or Content provided by a User, Contributor, or other independent party.
Opinion pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of NewsWireNGR