“Who says Igbos cannot be president? Are they not Nigerians?” It was Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly who suddenly blurted out those words in the middle of his homily to his congregation that day. Presto! On hearing this, those ardent in the pursuit of a Nigerian president of the Igbo stock might have clapped in their hearts and minds, thinking that they’d found a strong supporter of their cause.

Wait for it. Bakare was later to tell the congregation how the late Prime Minister of the country, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, placed a curse on the Igbo that they will never rule Nigeria. As if he was beside the late prime minister on that day, Pastor Bakare went ahead to narrate a never-heard-of account of Balewa’s last minutes, how his killers poured wine into his mouth, tormented him and shot him in the mouth.

Magnanimous Bakare offered, there and then, that he would deliver the Igbo from this terrible curse. Whatever connected the incident to Bakare’s acts of evangelism boggled the minds of dispassionate watchers of that video clip. What was the pastor up to? What was he set to achieve?

It was not difficult to discover that Pastor Bakare was towing the familiar path of calumny against the Igbo, to paint them black in the minds of many Nigerians who are already adjusting to the reality of an Igbo as executive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023, something yet to happen in the entire life of the nation.

Bakare’s story, from indications, had no bearing to his topic, but he allowed the unfriendly spirit of hate to take possession of him as he stood preaching. In the first place, Bakare assumed that a group of soldiers who allegedly shot the prime minister were sent to do so by the entire Igbo race, that perhaps there was a forum where Ndigbo met and decided to carry out the killing. And the curse; by believing that it was already working, Bakare was implying that Balewa had destinies in his palms and that his migrant Fulani tribe that forcefully established themselves in the land area now known as Nigeria had absolute authority to decide who rules Nigeria more that those who live in the River Niger area, the reason for the name Nigeria.

However, Bakare’s postulations were disproved by the fact that Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi mounted the saddle, albeit by happenstance, after Balewa.

In any case, how did it turn out that to rule this country is the greatest blessings a tribe could have? Bakare belongs to the tribe that sees Aso Rock as heaven, a place to wine and dine, make merry, command life or death on whomever, whether right or wrong, and feel on top of the world. He is one of those holding the view that election into a position of authority in the country is an invitation to a feast rather than a call to serve. In 2023, I guess this country needs not a ruler but a leader who would right the wrongs already done to the entire people of this country.

For years we have had happy go lucky people occupying the seat of Nigerian government and for so long have we watched our land flowing with oil wealth being plunged deeper and deeper into poverty, to the level that the nation now appears to struggle for the top position as the world poverty capital. Neither the tribes of those who have been ruling nor the country had become well off since they have been ruling the country. We, therefore, do not see the wonderful luck in occupying the Aso Rock, nor should a lover of this nation deliberately want to bar any Nigerian from whatever corner of the country from being president.

Bakare, as a pastor, a man of God, should have been concerned about the nation getting the right president who will not plunge the nation into further debt, who will improve upon the wounded economy of the nation which has suffered several recessions in less than six years, who will eventually desire to act against the perpetrators of wanton killings and crime bedevilling the country.

No matter how hard he tried to hide it, Bakare’s subtle aspersion on the tribe of Igbo can be seen to have a sinister purpose and is the latest of the numerous tackles that have come the way of the Igbo as they race towards Aso Rock in 2023. Aware that the weight of equity tilts so much in favour of the Igbo, their traducers know that the only way to stop them was to rake up hackneyed sentiments that drag the nation backwards. Of course, the intention of the so-called pastor has been made manifest by his joining the race for the presidency. Bakare feels that the only way he could make his candle burn is to extinguish another person’s.

No project has ever been as beleaguered as the project to produce a Nigerian president from among the Igbo. The people have suffered neglect since they came out of a war that they were not prepared for. As the Igbo went through tribulations arising from the war, many who should be Igbo denied that they were not, just so that they would be exempted from the systematic marginalisation planned for the people. Now, good Nigerians are rethinking this sordid situation of a people, showing that a ray of hope is appearing in the horizon for the Igbo. We discover that those who denied their Igboness are forcing themselves back into the fold and are scrambling to represent their masters in Aso Rock. In other words, they would be in Abuja as Igbo, but act out the scripts of their masters.

Our politicians should refrain from playing the bat, flying with the birds at night and crawling with the mammals at noon. Should this project work out, its beauty would be when an Igbo that is Igbo (Igbo nke bu Igbo) is seen presiding over Nigeria.

Truly, Nigeria will be better for it if they help this project to come to fruition. The benefits of an Igbo president, as it is usually referred to, are numerous. First, it would bring to a conclusive end the fratricidal war fought fifty-something years ago in the country, in which the rest of Nigerians, joined by UK, Egypt, Russia and others, sustained their hostilities upon the Igbo who were merely struggling to extricate themselves from ethnic cleansing. The Igbo would feel once again fully reintegrated into the Nigerian fold.

The implication would be that secessionist tendencies would be laid to rest and there would be no more reason to shout Biafra. So long as the Igbo are seen by the likes of Bakare as a cursed people who should not aspire to positions in the country, a people to be seen and not to be heard, there will continue to be disturbances and many more Nnamdi Kanus might inevitably spring up.
The good thing, however, is that the advocates of “Igbo presidency” are growing in leaps and bounds, even among other ethnic groups. If the late Wada Nas, a strong promoter of the northern cause, was able to tell the nation in his time that an Igbo ought to be president in 2007, why can’t it happen in 2023? It ought to happen, Bakare or no Bakare.

Dr. Odu writes from Owerri; dirimrich2018@gmail.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here