BY REV. FR. GERALD NWAFOR
I voted for Peter Obi of the Labor Party and I have voted for Peter Obi of APGA. I have also voted for Peter Obi of the PDP. And I heard some people saying that the Igbo people are political bigots and ethnic jingoists. I did not pick a quarrel with any of the assertions but let us examine the Igbo people and the rest of Nigeria from 1999 to 2023, and see who should fall into the categories being apportioned to the Igbo people of southeast extraction.
By nature, we are all political beings because we have an interest in how we are governed, and who governs us. The fact that we are political beings does not make us politicians because to become a politician means that the act of politicking is your means of livelihood and survival. Back to the real business of our voting pattern that has made the other Nigerians call us names. We can beckon the records of our voting style since 1999 and see who should be named a patriot and who should bear the name bigot.
The truth of the matter is the political expediency of the political class when it favors them and the political prostitution when it is not in their favor. MKO Abiola won the votes of the Igbo people even when one of their sons Sylvester Ugo was on the ballot with Bashir Tofa. In 1999 the people of eastern Nigeria voted massively for Olusegun Obasanjo of PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) who is a Yoruba man to become the president of Nigeria.
And the Yoruba people of western Nigeria voted for their son Olu Falae of AD (Alliance for Democracy) for the presidency, and nobody raised an eyebrow. And the truth remains that we were faithful to the part for the first four years in power but had nothing to show for it. But we are not gullible people: we give people time to fail or pass. In 2003 when northern Nigeria voted massively and rigged massively for their son Mohammadu Buhari we did not count our losses under PDP. We voted massively for a Yoruba man again and PDP was proud to say that Eastern Nigeria was one of their strongholds and it was rightly so because we did not see tribe. We were voting for capacity, competence, and trust.
The Yoruba people voted their son Obasanjo against Buhari. The Igbos did not call any group names. It was a clear victory for the Yoruba people and the whole Nigerian population was in support. Not even the northern hegemony worried about why the Yoruba politicians played anti-party politics by voting for their son instead of the party. In 2007 the eastern Nigerian people voted massively again for a Hausa Fulani person Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and nobody called them bigots. While we had a presidential candidate of Igbo extraction who led us during the Nigerian civil war, we did not vote for our son and we gave our vote to the PDP candidate who was from the Northern part of the country.
The north voted massively for Buhari their son and one of their local champions, and although he did not win you can see clearly that the north wanted him by all means. Now if the people of the west or north are accusing the easterners of voting for their son and brother Peter Obi in 2023 they should look at the voting pattern of the Igbo people from 1999. Very recently in 2011 the Igbo people voted for Goodluck Jonathan from the South-south and voted for him again in 2015. Fast forward to 2019, the Igbo people voted for Atiku Abubakar of PDP and the heavens did not fall. In the last 30 years, the easterner has voted more liberally and patriotically than any other tribe in the Nigeria political configuration, against the backdrop of any ethnic affiliation or any group of people in Nigeria.
And they are the only people who have overwhelmingly voted for people outside their climes. In 2023 the same trajectory of voting for capacity, competence, and trust presented itself in the person of Peter Obi of the Labor Party. Igbo people voted as they were accustomed to doing and people have the guts, the audacity, the effrontery, the courage, the nerve, the balls, and the bravery to call them bigots. The vote for Peter has nothing to do with tribe or religion. If we examine the record of all the persons who present themselves for the office of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, I do not think that any of the candidates will match his record on the three characteristics and integrity.
The Yoruba people who wanted to install their son, by all means, should know that we are the most patriotic people in Nigeria. I have lived in the west, the south, the north, and the east of Nigeria, but the Igbos were the only people who could settle and develop a state outside of their own state or their geo-political zone, which is the eastern part of Nigeria. My brother has a house with family in the south, my uncle lived in the north with the family with valuable estate still standing, and the number of my family members living in the west now with flourishing businesses is uncountable. I have not seen a business in the east owned by a non-easterner. This 2023 election has nothing to do with the tribe of the Igbo people: well-meaning Nigerians who saw in Peter what Nigeria needs to move forward voted for him.
By the time this article was written, somebody has been announced the winner of the election, but I think it is too early to mention names for now. By May 29th, 2023, the body who was sworn in by the Chief Judge of the Federation should be acknowledged as the President not minding the outcome. I hereby urge people to remain calm and watch the events unfold in the next 60 days, because we are not bigots but political beings.