Classical historians are quick to point to the heartbeat of politics when spins are thrown up for political discourse. It is a settled fact, politics is organic with biological growth pattern – stunted, normal or stagnant. The dimensions in Nigeria which has grown into the Twitter space, is making fair political appraisal somewhat skewed depending on what feeds into timelines.
Only a constricted, narrow-minded witness to political awakening in Nigeria today would argue that there is no other Nigeria apart from the one he lives in. There is a new Nigeria, and it is on Twitter. This is where the new crop of politicians, especially the presidential aspirants are popular. This is their domain, their polling unit, yet they don’t win twitter polls. Let’s leave this for another day.
Twitter, as always, has politically come alive. The excitement this time is not about political wizardry or a masterstroke spin, it is about Peter Obi, the golden Igbo man whose time for a comeback into mainstream politics has come. Perhaps, the much-awaited rallying point that has been elusive to the Ndigbo has come. At least this is the feel from South-eastern Twitter. How this translates to actual cult following on the streets, not on twitter, is what must not be joked with.
The baptism of ‘consultation’ and ‘anti-consultation’ that greeted Obi’s nomination gives some concerns for worry. More concerning is that this may well be reduced to Igbo politics and that very Ndigbo political ascendancy may be elusive again. But Obi should be careful as you never know how dangerously toxic political gambling has become until it fatally ensnares you with its tantalising possibilities. That is where and when the cheering twittering audience becomes a howling mob. Ask Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who just ‘resurrected’!
Nnamdi Azikiwe’s brand of politics was a truly national one, bottoms-up and with pragmatic programming, perhaps a learning reference for the Ndigbo so as not to squander the happenstances that threw up Obi.
Herbert Macaulay founded Nigeria’s first political party, Nigeria National Democratic Party [NNDP] in 1923. The party won all the seats in the elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933. The dominance of the NNDP was challenged by the National Youth Movement [NYM] which was founded in 1933 by Professor Eyo Ita. Other members of the NYM were Zik, H O Davies, Samuel Akinsanya, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli, Samuel Akintola and others.
It was a truly national platform which fought and won elections to the Lagos Town Council in 1938, ending the dominance of the NNDP. The NYM split over irreconcilable differences of its members and Zik left the party and teamed with Herbert Macaulay to form the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons [NCNC]. Macaulay was elected the President while Zik was elected the Secretary General. At the death of Macaulay two years after, Zik took over as the President of the party. Zik effectively led the struggle against colonial rule. He became the Leader of Government Business in Eastern Nigeria and later Premier of Eastern Nigeria and finally the Governor-General and later the President of the Republic in 1963. Zik’s political achievement is yet to be matched by any other Igbo and it was achieved within the context of national politics not Igbo politics.
Peter Obi is in a political bout, he would now need to make more friends than enemies across regions. He is not the presidential candidate but Atiku/Obi ticket is an Ndigbo ticket as far as South-eastern Twitter is concerned. Obi is going to be the centre of PDP campaigns especially when APC throws corruption salvos. The caveat is that he must not be seen to be too Igbo as Ndigbo votes alone cannot do the magic Twitter is excited for.
The ghost of the lost Biafra war must be consigned to history, bringing the lessons of the war to bear on the morass of the moment. The Biafra war cannot be wished away but the Igbo cannot continue to move forward with their heads slightly inclined backwards. You will either trip or not move fast enough. Ndigbo should realize that it is in a race with the Yorubas that have an appreciable level of cultural oligarchy, which instils rhythm and pattern in their political posturing and with the North; where a combination of feudalism and common language have helped to hoist an acceptable uniform identity.
Biafra emotions don’t win votes on the streets. It has never won and it will still not win. For the dispassionate ones, there is an alternative reality on the streets, another route to realize the Ndigbo political ascendancy. These ones are weighing options, making friends across party lines and crossing artificial boundaries to negotiate the Ndigbo ascendancy. For these ones, the street is their primary home, twitter is just a relaxation resort for them.
Peter Obi and his twitter nation must embrace reality, put emotions behind, connect with real people and ruthlessly take the Ndigbo project as a national project. Otherwise, the Ndigbo dream may well be in perpetual aspiration than reality.