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By Jimbuoy Okoye

I tend to be reminded that when a child is crying with his hand pointing in one particular direction, either one or both of his parents may be found in that same direction. This is a statement of fact as well as an Igbo adage. Dr. Chris Aniedobe's persistent cry for an ideology of one-nation-one-Nigeria instinctively merits a more serious attention from all of us. There must be something good in there for Ndigbo especially. Otherwise, I don't see why a learned gentleman in the mould of Dr. Aniedobe should be so deeply concerned.

The last 2003 general election has confirmed that we are saddled with a political class desperate for power without purpose. Even the media, which ordinarily have the propensity to influence public opinion, appear to have compromised their integrity and to have allowed the politicians to tinker their independence of mind to a level where we can no longer believe their stories and news reports.

In the light of the foregoing, it is highly reassuring to know that there are still Nigerian Newspapers (like Vanguard) which are committed to the publication of articles that are capable of uniting Nigerians. It is even more gratifying to see that there are still Nigerians deeply concerned about their country's deplorable condition. One of them is Dr. Chris Aniedobe. Evidently, Dr. Aniedobe does not seek to be selfishly relevant or politically expedient. He simply wants to be right and to correct the rest of us based on sound principles and unshakeable rectitude. His latest effort on the way forward for Ndigbo (nay, Nigerians) is full of honest introspection and marked by characteristic boldness. Thus, he does not spare any of Nigeria's political institutions and 'misguided' intellectuals like Prof. Omo Omoruyi where he (Dr. Aniedobe) is convinced they erred in a way that was to have serious consequences for national cohesion.

Dr. Aniedobe believes (and I share his view) that inordinate tribalism has created wide social chasms across the nation, cleavages which have since defined our national life. The task before Nigerians now, according to Dr. Aniedobe, is not to allow ourselves to be held hostage any longer by mistakes of the past. National unity is, therefore, a desideratum. Dr. Aniedobe is urging us to re-consider some of the errors of judgement we so blatantly committed in the past as a nation. He illustrates with considerable legal specifics that 'when a country commits to nationhood, it commits to adoption of uniform laws that apply equally to all citizens, irrespective of their state of origin, unless countervailed by a more compelling issue of national purpose.' Dr. Aniedobe argues spiritedly that there is hope once we recognise that our will-power and genuine effort to shun tribal sentiments in our dealings with others can lead to the much-needed nationalist orientation in Nigeria. What Dr. Aniedobe seems to be saying is that all Nigerian tribes have sinned and have, therefore, contributed in one way or another to our bumbling national life. Consequently, he opines that new bridges of understanding and reconciliation are badly needed now.

Dr. Aniedobe's command of logic and his appeal to reason and common sense bring a most worthwhile insight into his passionate call for NUC. His case for unfettered unity based on proper appreciation of the dynamics of our recent collective experiences is gripping. Some people who know him too well may still be under the illusion that Dr. Aniedobe is so preoccupied with his 'utopian' political ideology that he often fails to face the reality on ground in Nigeria today. I used to have this impression about his writings too. But I've now come to realise that this impression is by no means correct or healthy. I?ve come to discover that Dr. Aniedobe's write-ups are based on a brave survey of contemporary Nigerian events and peoples, examining such issues as accountability, rule of law, economic emancipation, the adequacy or otherwise of the presidential system of government, state police, the land use act, the basis of our co-existence as a nation, the need for a robust legislature, the desirability or otherwise of sectional parties, etc. His commentaries are always detailed and even where you hold opposing views, you cannot but concede that he does think deeply before taking a position. I, for one, am not enamoured of the idea of Ndigbo alone shouldering the responsibility of enthroning the rule of law in Nigeria while the other tribes exclusively revel in lawlessness. Yet Dr. Aniedobe's reasons for his position cannot be easily faulted without some repercussions in the near future.

Any ethnic or tribal party is, in his considered opinion, an anachronism in the 21st century. Dr. Aniedobe precisely feels that tribalists are rear-guard combatants, people preparing to catch a train which has long departed from the station. In a pluralistic polity like ours where centrifugal and centripetal forces are in a fierce contest for the nation?s soul, every political party should serve as a vehicle for national mobilization, rather than a bandwagon for kinsmen alone. Parochial parties can exist in mature democracies without the system being in mortal danger, but not in a typical developing nation which is a new and delicate historical and political formation. Against this backdrop, Dr. Aniedobe is definitely right in lampooning most of us (especially the APGA apologists amongst us) for nursing undue political ambition that has tended to sorely highlight our tribal differences at this time of national search for integration.

Chris Aniedobe's National Unity Conference is one of the very few calls which analyses the Nigerian condition and links it to its current political and economic circumstances. Most other lamentations of the Nigerian situation are just full of rhetoric and are obsessed with raw political innuendoes. They tragically ignore the importance of the economy in determining social behaviours and political indices. Dr. Aniedobe displays, in his latest effort, an impressive knowledge of development economics. Not quite surprising. One thing which must be said about Dr. Aniedobe, a lawyer and an engineer combined, is that he is acutely keen on societal transformation and re-engineering. Most leaders who changed dramatically the development fortunes of their countries came from backgrounds not easily associated with economic or development matters.

Let us take Lee Kuan Yew, in the opinion of most analysts, the most important Third World Leader in the last 40 years. He took Singapore (less developed than Nigeria's Bayelsa State, without any mineral deposits and without prospects) from the abyss and morass of backwardness to the dizzy heights of a world economic power. Singapore , a city state of only 3 million, is perhaps the most transparent, the cleanest and the most disciplined country in the world. All this transformation took place in less than one generation. Lee Kuan Yew is no economist, but a lawyer. "I was never a prisoner of any theory", he wrote in his excellent book, From Third World To First: The Story Of Singapore From 1965 To 2000. "What guided me were reason and reality". Another great Third World leader is Mahathir Mohammed, the Malaysian Prime Minister, a visionary and thinker whose performance has continued to amaze and stun the West. He is a medical doctor. Park, who set in motion the economic machinery which got South Korea out of its Third World economic mess, even though the country has no mineral resources, is another great leader worthy of note. He was a professional soldier who came to power in 1961 via a military coup d?etat. Augusto Pinochet has a messy human rights record, but he turned Chile into South America's third largest economy, with a solid manufacturing base. He is a soldier and geophysicist. Frank D. Roosevelt ended the Great Depression in the United States (from 1929-1939) with his New Deal. He was no economist. Americans had their best economic times in history under Bill Clinton. He is a lawyer.

While admiring the wonderful transformation which other peoples have undergone on account of having imaginative leaders, let us console ourselves that the same feat can still be achieved in Nigeria . But we have to get our politics right, as Dr. Aniedobe has eloquently and relentlessly campaigned thus far. What is needed is a government, a leadership which can produce answers to the myriad social, economic and political problems that confront the nation. When Nigerians stumble on such a leader, they will find that it does not matter in the least what tribe or zone he comes from. What will matter is that he is able to enunciate and carry out development programmes that will better the lot of the average Nigerian, irrespective again of ancestry, and earn the country honour and respect in the comity of nations.

There is nothing to add to, or subtract from, Dr. Aniedobe's extremely thoughtful and clarion call for the unity of Nigerian nation except to conclude this review with a warning shot from Dr. Aniedobe himself. He wrote: 'As a contemporary Nigerian and Igbo leader, I will fight to transform Igboland to an exemplar of good citizenship in a united Nigeria, and you can tell the neoconfederatists, Ohaneze, APGA, Igbo leaders of thought, and all other institutions purporting to speak for the Igbos, that the nationalists among us will resist every attempt to move us from the edge of the jungle to the jungle hintherland of any political formula based on tribal accommodation.'

Osondu, please tell Dr. Chris Aniedobe that we are right behind him on this all-important battle to transform Nigeria for the better. Let him just count on our support any day. More grease to his elbow and more ink to his prolific pen. On your part, Osondu, please keep taking us out of the thick forest of tribalism which has remained the bane of Nigerian society since the inception of our embattled nationhood. We are, indeed, comfortable with your vision and mission statement. And we believe that with you at the vanguard of BMP, we shall soon see the light at the dark end of the tunnel. So help us God!!!


Jimbuoy Okoye (Akalanze Nimo)

Return to Osondu Editorial "National Unity Conference (NUC) is a Brilliant Idea."
The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

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