The year 2023 is going to be a watershed in the history of this country. It’s another election year for the President of Nigeria.The outcome of the Presidential Election will determine whether Nigeria will continue with its old unproductive ways of electing its President or whether there will be a paradigm shift in terms of inclusiveness, equity, justice and integrity.
The Ibos have come a long way from the colonial and post-colonial era and have made enormous sacrifices with their resources and blood for the corporate existence of Nigeria. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr Akanu Ibiam, Dr Michael Okpara, Dr Nwafor Orizu with other founding fathers were at the vanguard of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence from our colonial masters.
The pogrom that decimated tens of thousands of Ibos living in the north in 1966 followed by the civil war in 1967 that sent hundreds of thousands of Ibos to their untimely deaths over half of them children that died from starvation and malnutrition. This was in addition to the level of devastation and destruction of properties that took place in Ibo land as the epicenter of the civil war and which left the entire Ibo land in ruins at the end of the war in 1970.
No other tribe in Nigeria has made such a monumental sacrifice and still continues to make for Nigeria.
Despite the no victor no vanquished policy declared by the Federal Government under Gen Yakubu Gowon at the end of the war, the same Govt continued to pursue repressive policies aimed at the socioeconomic and political strangulation of the Ibos.
The first of such policies was when the Ibos were directed to deposit their Biafran currencies in the banks and at the end of the exercise everybody who deposited 20 Biafran pounds and above was given a flat rate of 20 Nigerian pounds regardless of how many millions he deposited.
The policy was followed by Indigenization policy in which all foreign companies operating in Nigeria were ordered to indigenize their management structure and this forced the companies to sell off their assets to Nigerians. The policy was designed to favor other Nigerians to the detriment of the Ibos who were already impoverished and therefore could not compete with other Nigerians from other parts of the country.
And yet another oppressive policy of the Federal Government was that it looked the other way and refused to persuade the Rivers State Govt to hand back the properties of the Ibos located in their State to them when they returned from the civil war claiming that such properties were abandoned by their owners.
During the civil war Biafran Engineers and other scientists were refining petroleum products without any conventional refineries. They produced most of the weapons of mass destruction used by Biafra during the war- armoured cars, Salladins, Sallacins, Ogbunigwes and Biafran Shaw Batteries etc. These were assets Nigeria would have harnessed at the end of the war by bringing these scientists together and providing them with the right environment to continue with their inventions but Nigeria chose to throw away the baby with the bath water.
The combined effect of all these obnoxious policies was that the Ibos started life again from the scratch at the end of the war but despite the oppressive policies were able to forge ahead and before long had regained their pre-eminent positions in commerce, industry, academia and other walks of life as a result of their resilience, entreprenal spirit and never say die attitude. They were able to rebuild their broken lives and broken homes and totally removed the scars of the war from their environment without government assistance.
Nevertheless the oppressive policies continued unabated in one form of discrimination and marginalization or the other till today 50 long years after the civil war which has left the average Ibo man completely frustrated, dispirited, demoralized, downcast and utterly dehumanized.
Despite the harsh treatment of the Ibos by successive Nigerian governments, the Ibos have continued to render invaluable and selfless contributions to the socioeconomic and political development of Nigeria without let or hindrance.
Apart from the personalities mentioned above, other eminent Ibo personalities include Prof Chinua Achebe- Nobel Laureate in Literature and international literary giant, Prof Chike Obi- the great international Mathematician, Prof Kenneth Dike- the first indigenous Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Prof Barth Nnaji- international scholar and professor of Robotics Technology, Prof Felix Emeagwali- the world renowned Computer Guru, Prof Kodilinye- personal physician to the Queen of England and former Vice Chancellor of UNN, Prof Njoku Obi- international professor of Virology of the Cholera Vaccine fame, Prof (Mrs) Dora Akunyili- the great international Amazon and merit award winner of over 70 national and international distinguished service awards to Nigeria and humanity.
Nor should we forget Prof Ben Nwabueze- father of Constitutional Law in Africa, Hon Justice Chukwudifu Oputa (Socrates)- international Jurist and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chiamamanda Adichie- young international award winner in Literature.
Renowned technocrats in the persons of Ngozi Okonjo Iwuala and Prof Chukwumah Soludo- UNO economics and Finance experts.
Captains of Commerce and Industry in the persons of Innocent Chukwuma- Chairman Innoson Motors, the first and only indigenous vehicle manufacturing Company in Nigeria, Ibeto Group of Companies-indigenous cement manufacturing company, Coscharis Group- Rice Producers and Vehicle Dealers.
In the Sports arena, Olympic and World Champions, Dick Tiger- World Feather Weight Boxing Champion, Mike Okpala (Power Mike) – World Heavy Weight Wrestling Champion, Emmanuel Ifeajuna- Olympic Silver Medalist in Athletics.
At a critical moment in the history of this country when Nigerians living in South Africa were being killed and later given an ultimatum to leave South Africa as a result of xenophobic attacks, Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace was on hand to provide his Airline to speedily and safely evacuate Nigerians from South Africa free of charge.
This is only a tip of the iceberg of the unparalleled contributions of the Ibos to Nigeria. The Ibos have therefore paid their dues in Nigeria and have demonstrated the highest degree of patriotism to Nigeria.
With all these selfless contributions, how else does the country expect the Ibos to demonstrate their love for their country?
The Ibos are the only major ethnic group that has not produced the President of Nigeria fifty years after the end of the civil war.
2023 is therefore a litmus test for Nigeria to demonstrate that the Ibos are still part of this country and that they are not second class citizens in their own country. It’s the time to give the Ibos a sense of belonging. An old Ibo adage says that when you treat a child like the rest of his siblings, his joy knows no bounds.
This is the moral burden Nigeria is carrying at this very moment. How will these great Ibo men and women who are now dead feel in their graves that the country they laboured so much for is still marginalising and discriminating against their kit and kin and denying them their legitimate rights 50 long years after the civil war? What future is there for those of them who are still alive that their country does not show any appreciation for their invaluable and selfless contributions to their fatherland? What future is there for the youths of Ibo land if their country will not give them what is due to them simply because they are Ibos?
These are moral issues which 2023 can resolve and we leave it to Nigerians of honor and good conscience to ponder about.
South East for President 2023 Movement(SEFORP2023) is very confident that 2023 will not be another missed opportunity for Nigeria.
Dr Chris Obidigbo Uchay
Member, National Advisory Board
Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this article is solely the responsibility of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. The image is taken from the internet and assumed to be in the public domain. If this breaches the copyrighted material, kindly note that the break of the copyright is not intentional and non-commercial. The copyrighted material in question will be removed upon request and presentation of proof in that case, please contact me via the following email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org