Consequences of antisocial behaviour of Obi’s supporters

Suddenly, the 2023 election has become a tripartite tribal war between three Nigerian dominant ethnic groups. With the last-minute defection of Peter Obi from PDP to Labour Party, he was to become a rallying point for disillusioned Igbos, betrayed by PDP they had faithfully served for 22 years. To spite Igbos, PDP, in breach of its constitution, settled for Atiku Abubakar, notorious for shopping for presidential tickets from any party during every election season.

With prominent Igbo stalwarts of APGA and PDP defecting to join Obi, with millions of otherwise indifferent urban-based Igbo youths coming out for voter’s card registration across the nation, including Lagos where they unilaterally shut down Alaba market, and with Obi now hijacked by his obedient supporters, Obi has become the messiah Igbo had waited for since 1999.

That the PDP sacrificed the interests of the south-east and south-south that have always provided the winning votes for it, sometimes with the blood of their people, as Prof. Ise Sagay once said of Rivers, it was obvious Atiku is the adopted candidate of the ‘owners of Nigeria.’

The combination of events leading to the sudden emergence of Obi and Atiku as representatives of two of Nigerian dominant ethnic groups has inadvertently brought a change of fortune for Tinubu.

Here was a leader humiliated for seven years by the government he helped to install, bore scars of misplaced aggression of frustrated Nigerians who saw him as enabler and promoter of Buhari’s candidacy, with philosophical equanimity (with apologies to Ray Ekpu), and survived the evil intrigues of Buhari’s ‘loyal gate keepers’ and APC oligarchy by the fortuitous intervention of rebellion of 11 northern governors that placed the nation first during APC Abuja convention night of many knives.

If all this, including Tinubu’s audacity of ‘Yoruba lokan” (it is the turn of Yoruba), did not earn Tinubu the support of his hypocritical Yoruba fathers, who often observe their ‘Afenifere’ creed (love your neighbour as yourself) in reverse, the antisocial behavior of Obi’s obedient supporters, who unfortunately cannot articulate the nature of Nigeria’s problem, must have finally convinced other Yoruba sitting on the fence that since a part cannot be holier than the whole, it is impossible to impose their culture on the rest of the country.

From this stage, the narrative seems to change for Tinubu. First was the distorted history of Lagos by Igbo Area TV claiming, among other falsehoods, that Lagos is no man’s land, that Igbo has the highest population in Lagos and contribute 60% of its IGR, and that the next governor of Lagos must come from Anambra or Delta.

This was followed by a trending video of 89-year-old Tunde Oduwole, of ‘Project Nigeria,’ appealing to Ndigbo leaders to control their unruly youths, who after allegedly warning Tinubu not to campaign in the east, threaten to lynch anyone coming to campaign in Alaba market wearing Tinubu’s campaign vest. His declaration that Yoruba will not tolerate in their region ‘the nonsense going on in the south-east’ where elected governors shiver when IPOB militants cough was, of course, an appeal to Yoruba patriotism.

But, dear compatriots, there is nothing sinister about tribes being the building block for modern society. By nature, we are individuals and groups. And tribalism is the behaviours and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.

Europe, after two devastating tribal wars they falsely called world wars, discovered the nation state as well as modern democracy were inhibiting the freedom of individual and group identity. In response, they settled for a federal arrangement which ‘formally recognises groups’ identities as legitimate and autonomous participants in the political process.’

In Spain, we have the Basque, Galician, Castilian and Catalan. British 25 tribes coalesce into Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. Elsewhere in the world, Japan, China, and India celebrate their various tribes. The Jews and their Arab step brothers, bequeathed to the world the Abrahamic religion, science, arts and terrorism.

This was why the British vision for Nigeria, according to Oliver Stanley in 1920, was a “national self-government that secure to each separate people the right to maintain its identity, its individuality and its nationality, its own chosen form of government, which had been evolved for it by the wisdom and accumulated experiences of generation of its forbearers.” In line with this British vision, regionalism was put in place by Richards 1947 constitution while the 1954 Lyttleton ensured each tribe or group of tribes had powers over law and order, education, economic development etc. while Macpherson 1957 constitution consolidated everything.

But as the struggle for power became intensified by representatives of the dominant ethnic nationalities, tribes became instruments for political manipulation of the largely illiterate electorate in whose name the politicians falsely swear.

Ibibio State Union was formed in 1928, while Igbo State Union over which Zik presided as National President was formed in 1930. But when Egbe Omo Oduduwa was formed in London in 1943 by Awo and others, Zik saw a tribal association that must “be fought up hill and down dale’ all over Nigeria.” In the 1951 election to the western region house, Awolowo’s AG won by 45 seats to Zik’s NCNC’s 35. Awolowo was labelled by Zik and his supporters as a tribal leader who prevented him from becoming premier of West in 1952. They had nothing to say about the result in the east where Zik’s NCNC won by 64 seats to UNP’s 4.

In the 1954 federal election, AG in its Yoruba land won by 23 to NCNC’s 18, while in the same election, in the east, NCNC won its base by 32 to 3. Yet Igbo leaders did not see the beam in their own eyes.

The feeding of uninformed Igbo youths with falsehood is responsible for the mutual suspicion between ordinary Igbos and their Yoruba compatriots. This was why Awolowo, whose helicopter was stoned in Aba in 1998, scored just about 0.8% of Igbo votes, and why MKO Abiola won only one Igbo during his pan-Nigeria landslide victory, later annulled by Babangida, aided by leading Igbo politicians including Arthur Nzeribe, Chukwumerije, Walter Ofonagoro and Apamgbo.

Between 1999 and 2015, Igbo leaders, just as they did during the first and second republics, ate with their ten fingers under Obasanjo and Jonathan. Contracts for the second Niger bridge, dredging of River Niger, East-West Road, among others, were awarded but never executed.

In 2015, Tinubu mobilised the Yoruba for the victory of Buhari, who has remained overwhelmed by Nigeria’s challenges of nation building. But unlike Igbo leaders who pulled down the first and second republic governments over sharing of positions, Tinubu, who never participated in government or sought contract, patiently waited for his time.

But as soon as Tinubu declared interest in the 2023 presidential contest, he was labelled a traitor and tribal leader by Igbo leaders who wanted to reap where they did not sow. That was the impetus needed for Obi’s supporters to unleash a vicious attack on a leader who laid the foundation for the development of Lagos, where they today take refuge from the anarchy that has taken over the whole of the south-east, including Obi’s Anambra.

Now the die is cast. Exhibition of antisocial behaviour, which finds expression in abuse, intimidation, threat to use violence and utter disregard for the feelings and right of others by Obi’s obedient supporters, can only drive the Yoruba who are social, celebrate companionship, respect the feelings and protect the rights of others, towards making an informed choice between Obi and Tinubu in 2023.

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