Effects of Tribalism on National Development: Nigeria’s Political Experience

By Obiotika Wilfred Toochukwu

A heavy sense of foreboding fell over Nigeria at the midnight announcement of the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election Result. Normal activities ceased as everyone awaited the sudden rending of the skies and possibly, the end of the world. When the day passed uneventfully, many Nigerians grew disillusioned. The bold became cynical and the following months saw a total decline that Nigeria is still battling with up till today.

The decline continued in every aspect of the national life and integration. The event became known as the “The Great Disappointment”. The tribal bigots in Nigeria found in the academics, economic, political and religious institutions had every reason to support what had happened.

They equally took other well-meaning Nigerians as fascists who may be promoting Igbo agenda (tribalism, racism). The desire for revenge was predictable not just among the Igbos but for everyone who desires a transformation and a New Nigeria.

Certainly, we have minds that wander, bodies that age, hearts that doubt, eyes that lust, convictions that crumble but all these are not meant to affect or influence our national growth negatively. We crack under pressure but Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion. The Constitution and Rule of Law could be seen as a guardrail to prevent anyone in leadership from making huge and regrettable pitfalls. But what has happened to the Nigerian Constitution even the Judiciary?

The Pre-colonial and Pre-independence Era had the Igbo Communities in terror due to communal clashes, struggle for power and dead ends of paganism. With the coming of the British and West African Slave Trade Route, the same scampering continued.

We had the likes of Chief Nwiboko Obodo Onyike (1893-1959). He is from Ebonyi State and had dealings with the colonial masters who made him a paramount chief. We also heard of King Onyeama n’Eke of Waawa Land. He is acclaimed the greatest king from Northern Igbo. From the book, ‘God of Africa’ or ‘The

Story of African God, we learnt more about the Onyeama Family. Dadi Onyeama revealed certain things about his father. These great men who had the trust of the colonial masters did not lead nor rule their people with justice. We may not blame them so much because they were never civilized in thought, motives and action.

The entity called Nigeria is the outcome of an evening conversation between Lord Lugard and his wife in 1914. The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorate is what was sustained by the upcoming political leaders that Nigeria had. After Lord Lugard, eight other Governor-generals controlled the country before we finally had independence. Nnamdi Azikiwe was six years older than Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. Zik championed the struggle for independence with all his might.

He was the first voice in Africa. The likes of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyetta of Kenya were small boys that Zik of Africa settled with a lifetime ambition of becoming presidents in their Countries. Zik was committed to the course of One Nigeria even during the Biafran war. We need to set these precedents to know when Nigeria started getting it wrong.

Again, the first military officer trained by the British in Nigeria was an Igbo man. Aguiyi Ironsi was the first Commissioned Officer in the military. The first in everything of an Igbo man was not competition nor rivalry. It was an excellent spirit found in the Igbo blood. Nothing could stop it until bloodshed, killings, overtook envy and jealousy.

After the first military coup; the envy, hatred and fear of the Igbo tribe became fully manifested. Obafemi Awolowo introduced tribalism to Nigerian Political realm. After the first military coup and what was termed ‘Igbo Coup’, the Fulani Oligarchs saw every reason to reclaim their mandate of “Born to Rule”.

The Hausas and the Yoruba saw every reason to displace the Igbos. All the money Awolowo dumped in Soviet Union was gone with its collapse. Muhammadu Buhari toed the same steps as a civilian president from 2015 to 2023. The Fulani hegemony became

glaringly enforced during Buhari’s Tenure. Those killed in Benue, Jos and Kaduna would still prefer to be killed by the Fulanis than to liaise with the Igbos.

After the Biafran War and the genocide, we could feel little or nothing about an Igbo man. Gowon and Awolowo were driven to frenzy by their victory. The blood of millions of Igbos and the destruction of the Eastern Nigeria satisfied their thirst. What next? They tried Alex Ekwueme as a Vice President which could be a mistake in 1984. Ibrahim Babangida used Ebitu Ukiwe as a Vice but did not succeed.

Obasanjo did not go by the dictates following his experiences. Igbos formed part of Obasanjo’s cabinet as a civilian president. But we can count how many Igbos had become Vice-presidents, Senate presidents, Speaker of House of Representatives since 1999.

A story has it that there was one small Chukwuemeka who came from the east to do boi boi apprenticeship in Lagos. He served his Oga for five years and was settled. Within three years of settlement, he has bought land in Lagos State in a swampy area. He settled all the Obas and Alayes.

He sand-filled the swampy land with millions of Naira and erected a gigantic building. He still got the required permission and asphalted the road leading to his house. But this does not stop the Yorubas from identifying the real owners of Lagos and those that developed it.

The APC and the cabals have so far stated that it is only God who can remove Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the presidency but it is not a thing to be worried about. The serious concern and question are: Can Nigeria survive Tinubu? There are few things that do not have elastic limit.

The situation of life in Nigeria; not the poverty, unemployment, hunger, insecurity or hardship but the reign of terror and mismanagement is a grave concern. For Nigeria to survive 8 years of Tinubu would be a miracle and for Nigeria to continue without Tinubu as the president would be a miracle as well. Everyone awaits this divine intervention and after Tinubu’s tenure, a Fulani would take over.

Besides, every other tribe in Nigeria mocks the Igbo man by telling him to put up a revenge. ‘Do your worst’, they

revenge. ‘Do your worst’, they would say. The Igbo man does not get bothered about the social injustice, economic disparities, human right abuses or crave for international attention. It is crucial to recognize that the consequences of marginalization and oppression are not limited to the affected tribe alone; they can destabilize the entire society and hinder its progress. It is Nigeria as a country that suffers from the missing impact and contribution of Igbos in the political governance and not just the Igbo man.

After the Nigerian-Biafran War in 1970, the then head of state and the finance minister wished death to the remaining Igbo sons by assigning only 20 pounds to every surviving Igbo from the banks. The 3Rs – Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation was initiated which was never implemented. Every Igbo man started from the scratch and struggles began.

It never occurred to the owners of the Nigerian State that an Igbo man could ever be richer.  The economy of the South Eastern States has dwindled geometrically with the inhabitants staying indoors for most days. Sit-at-home is what everyone in the South Eastern States is eager to keep as many have been killed or means of livelihood set ablaze for failing to observe the order.

How do we justify the several agitations for the emancipation of Igbos. Is it possible for Nigeria to have an Igbo President? Would Britain in all her imperialism welcome an Igbo man in Aso Rock? Your guess is as good as mine. The state of nationhood in Nigeria is shaky and ready to collapse not just for the Igbos alone but for every Nigerian. Anywhere there is property in Nigeria, they are owned by the Igbos.

Anywhere there is commerce, trading in Nigeria, it is the Igbos. When you see jeeps and executive cars, it is the Igbos. Anywhere there is church growth, religion, it is the Igbos. It is not about the God they serve; it is about a special breed of generational people.

Nowadays, we hear different war songs in disguise from the Igbos. The Ohaneze, a socio-cultural organisation, under the leadership of HE Chief Engr. Dr. Emmanuel

Iwuanyanwu, had long been trying to redress and address the injustice done to a tribe. We witness gatherings like ‘Igbo Economic Summit’, ‘Igbo Day 2023′. They are all geared towards finding a solution to the Igbo Problem of Nigeria. The problem of the Igbos is the Igbo problem of Nigeria.

Tribalism can bring division leading to social tensions, conflicts and even violence. Presently, there is corruption, unfair resource distribution, and political instability because a particular tribe or ethnic group is favoured. The economy is on a free fall because of tribalism. The sense of national identity and unity is weakened and citizens are challenged to find common goals and values essential for development.

Finally, the vision of a New Nigeria was seen through the integrity, capacity and capability of an Igbo man. To foster national development, it is essential for governments and societies to work towards reducing the influence of tribalism and promoting inclusivity, equal opportunity, and unity among all citizens.

This can help create an environment where everyone can contribute to the development and progress of the nation. Leaders should actively promote unity and condemn tribalism. They should lead by example, demonstrating tolerance and respect for all ethnic and tribal groups. Compassion is one thing people need more than anything else in this world. Most Nigerian political leaders are brutal and heartless.

Compassion is a deep yearning that responds to the needs of people. “I understand your suffering, hardship” is often given by the presidency which is just sympathy. Sympathy can just sit around feeling sorry for people. Compassion has to do something for them.

Since the beginning and independence of Nigeria as a country, no political leader has come up to declare that he has never stolen public money but an Igbo man did. Go and verify’ was the maxim for integrity and competence from an Igbo man. Let’s watch and see how Nigeria will survive.

Obiotika Wilfred Toochukwu writes from Lagos, Nigeria.