Igbo people resort to threatening violence against fellow Igbo people who hold opposing political views or who exercise their constitutional right to freedom of association. The Igbo should not, in this age and time, be coerced by the threat of violence when all options for Igbo political liberation must be explored. It is not politically healthy.
The coming of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the labour Party (LP), into the forefront of national politics and contention for the leadership of Nigeria from 2023, has created a new development in the politics of Igboland. There is, therefore, the need for the Igbo nation to rise, early, to nip this strange development in the bud before it is too late.
Just last Wednesday, a letter written by an amorphous group called ‘Concerned Southeast Youths’ of no particular address but only a telephone number and an email address surfaced. The letter dated September 9, 2020, was signed by one Ike Obiorah and addressed to the paramount ruler of Nnewi, His Majesty, Igwe Kenneth Orizu. The author (s) of the letter used the medium to call the attention of the revered traditional ruler to the viewpoints of Chief Dan Ulasi as expressed on national television and in support of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. A paragraph in the letter reads: “The Concerned Southeast Youths are heavily troubled about Dan Ulasi’s continuous attack on our sensibilities and wish that the revered Igwe Nnewi use his good offices to call him to order otherwise, Dan Ulasi and the interest he represents in Nnewi Royal stool will have the entire Igbo youths to contend with”.
Another paragraph in the letter asks: “Does he speak for himself, Nnewi, or for Nnewi Royal Stool? This clarification from the Royal Nnewi Kingdom is of extreme importance because it will shape our actions, against Dan Ulasi and all those attached to his public dance of shame, moving forward”.
Note that this is not in defence of Ulasi and his views. I write because I am more worried about the image letters like that create for the Obi brand. So, it is immaterial what viewpoint, as expressed by Ulasi, which the amorphous group is vexed with. The material issue, for me, in this letter is the growing discontent with democracy in Igboland. In as much as the people are vexed with current developments in the political parties, there is also the need to be accommodative of opposite opinions.
Democracy thrives on the plurality of opinions. Opposite viewpoint is a healthy democratic habit. It promotes choices and growth. There is no place in the world where democracy is subject to one line view. Even in despotic regimes, people have had to express their opinions and aligned themselves with options that satisfy their beliefs and views even when they do not win or achieve any success with such.
While those behind the letter are free to align themselves with a political movement that in their belief best answers to their feelings and views, so also do other people.
As bonafide citizens of the federal republic, people have the rights to express their political beliefs and views. Those who do not share the political views of those behind the letter, like the authors, are also protected by the constitution of the federal republic to freely associate with anybody or group, including political parties, and also, freely hold opinions for or against any issue including political thoughts. There is therefore no law which forbids or bans anyone from freely associating with a political party that serves his best opinion. there is also no known judicial pronouncement vacating or suspending the right of any Nigerian to associate with any political movement of his choice or to even hold and express a political opinion, or whatever opinion, for or against any issue in Nigeria. To this extent, therefore, the letter to the Nnewi Monarch constitutes a threat to the life of Igbo people who hold political opinions contrary to those of the authors of the letter, or, who associate and align with political parties or movements which the authors of the letter do not align with.
This is where the danger is. There is a growing resort to intolerance of opposing political views. This has become prevalent since Obi defected to the LP. Sadly, this is not what Obi represents. The Peter Obi that some Igbo youths are ‘marketing’ this way has climbed the political ladder exercising his democratic right to hold an opinion and either agree or disagree. It was in the exercise of this democratic right that he left the PDP for LP. As governor of Anambra State, Obi also encouraged a plurality of viewpoints. He accommodated those who disagreed with his governance style. He worked with the opposition in Anambra state. He did not threaten Anambra’s sons and daughters who did not support his party or government.
Having shown that accommodating spirit in politics, it is believed that those who support his presidential hopes should be able to emulate his examples and learn how to accommodate opposing viewpoints. It is further hoped that his supporters should be able to emulate him and seek to win with superior arguments, not threats. Obi has always won with superior arguments. His public outings have won more converts to him because of his superior argument and postulations. That is why he is in pole position to form the next government in Nigeria.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor told President Muhammadu Buhari during his recent visit to Imo state that the Igbo people “desire a country that provides us the platform and opportunities to contribute our utmost best to the growth of our fatherland”. Obi epitomises that. However, Igboland cannot achieve this platform which it desires through threats or coercion. The Igbo nation cannot grow, and cannot develop either politically or socially if Igbo people resort to threatening violence on fellow Igbo people who hold opposing political views or who exercise their constitutional right to freedom of association. The Igbo should not, in this age and time, be coerced by the threat of violence when all options for Igbo political liberation must be explored. It is not politically healthy.
If we recall, the taunts the Igbo nation suffered in the post-2015 general election, were mostly on the argument that the Igbo nation voted massively for PDP. Those who taunted the Igbo nation used that as the basis for segregating against the Igbo in the sharing of national offices afterwards.
In 2019, the Igbo nation also adopted the PDP candidate. Again, the Igbo people suffered taunts and were vilified for freely exercising their political franchise. As 2023 approaches, it will be detrimental to Igbo political visions to violently coerce every Igbo person against holding a divergent political view. That is certainly not the sort of democracy Obi is preaching.
It is, therefore, necessary to, at this time, encourage Igbo youths to open up to the realities of political participation and involvement. Obi is a choice no doubt, but he is one of the available choices and no one must suffer any harm from his own people for making a choice or for holding and expressing an opinion. Authors of the letter to Igwe Orizu should rather seek to make use of available spaces on national television, like others do, to express their views and market their choice for 2023. Threatening mayhem against those who do not align with their thinking is the easiest way to de-market and destroy the Obi brand and whatever promises it holds for Nigeria’s future.