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The essence of partisan politics is to assemble a winning leadership team which can mobilize and distribute national resources in ways that can enhance societal peace, justice and prosperity for all citizens. It should be assumed that all the political parties that are contesting in this round of general elections share this vision to some extent. At least, most of them profess to be so committed publicly. Nigerian democracy blossomed with the registration of up to 30 political parties thereby providing ample outlets for the average citizen to express oneself, act out political wishes and pursue noble dreams for a better nation. The acid test for Nigerian democracy is the 2003 general elections. Without inhibition, the nation’s political parties have gone to the electorate to ask for mandate to govern for the next 4 years. Preparation and conduct of the elections have not been hitch-free, as is usually the case but INEC is generally seen to have played the role of an impartial referee. Lethal violence has marred the electoral exercise in some places and allegations of rigging of votes are galore.

Some outcome of 2003 general elections could not have been predicted only a few months ago. PDP’s near clean sweep of the Southwest zone and retention of control of the rest of the South provide the ruling party an unprecedented political muscle to deliver its will for Nigeria, if it could, in the next 4 years. AD, which to a great extent motivated the founding of its counterpart in the East, APGA, has been castrated and rendered impotent after it has lost the control of all the governorship positions it held with the exception of Lagos. APGA has unexpectedly failed to make any tangible inroad in its target base of the Southeast. The ANPP has been stripped of its control of Kwara thereby leaving its scope of influence restricted to the deep North. In order words, the ANPP has effectively been downgraded to a regional party by the outcome of the 2003 general elections.

All states of the Southeast remain firmly under control of the ruling party. This disposition augurs well for those who desire to build block solidarity between Igbo states and the contiguous states in Southsouth zone which are similarly under the aegis of the PDP. Planning and establishment of regional economic cooperative ventures in infrastructure, for example, as well as collaborative political agenda will certainly be much easier under a unifying party platform. Internally, Igbo political leadership in power in the Southeast will not have to traverse party lines in relating with one another. The PDP now stands tall head and shoulder above the crowd of opposition parties in the area, some of which are expected to eventually pitter out of existence due to lack of resources for self-sustenance.

All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) made a heroic effort to position itself as the Igbo party, whatever that was intended to convey to the average citizen. Its failure to garner groundswell of support from the Igbo electorate during recent elections could be interpreted as a sort of rejection of the party’s raison d’etre. The electorate may have tried to assert through their votes that the victorious candidates of Southeast origin in other national parties are Ndiigbo too who can also do good by our people under present circumstances. The next 4 years shall be very trying ones for APGA if it can ever succeed in establishing a niche for itself within the consciousness of the average Igbo. The 2003 general elections have helped it to make its intentions known publicly. In the coming months and years, it must proceed to flesh out its agenda and programs clearly enough to make it irresistible to the average Igbo. The prospects for this neophyte party can become quite bright if it can successfully package its message and also distance itself from closely identifying with public figures whose track record could detract rather than enhance the party’s image nationwide.

PDP governors of the Southeast now constitute the bona fide political leadership of the zone and they must step up to play this role with a visible sense of commitment. The Ohanaeze, as presently constituted, has been badly bruised by its unsuccessful push for Igbo presidency in 2003. The idea, though noble intrinsically, was derailed by poor planning and execution. Ohanaeze leadership worked itself into a confrontational stance with the now re-elected governors of the Southeast and the President ostensibly to shore up its pursuit of the Igbo presidency project. The leadership of this apex Igbo group, though sociocultural in outlook, opted to play in the political terrain and lost out. The task ahead is for Ohanaeze leaders to quickly find the way to make up with the victorious politicians of the Southeast or resign their positions to allow for fresh blood to take over the mantle of leadership. It is unlikely that there will be harmonious relationship between the Ohanaeze Ndiigbo and Southeast governors if neither of the above options is implemented by present leadership of the apex Igbo body.

The conclusion of 2003 general elections provides a fresh opportunity for Ndiigbo and their political leaders to commence a new coherent endeavor to improve the quality of lives of our people. For any headway to be made in a timely manner, everyone concerned should be made to understand what has to be done and how we shall proceed. More than anytime in recent history, there is a need for a clear agenda for Ndiigbo. Presently, there are disparate and dissonant voices of groups and individuals on the best way to move Ndiigbo forward. Some Igbo groups devote their energies on seeking ways and means to dissociate Alaigbo from Nigeria if possible. On the other hand, millions of Ndiigbo are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria where they pursue their survival needs amidst compatriots from myriad sociocultural backgrounds. Ndiigbo cannot present a coherent group agenda with this type of dichotomous mindset. Beyond partisan idiosyncrasies, personal and group ideologies, there is a common denominator that links Ndiigbo to their survival needs in today’s Nigeria and world.

Ndiigbo must meet face to face, from across party lines and ideological divides, to find that common denominator. This is the ultimate challenge for Ndiigbo in this post-election era.

* Feedback from Dr. Chris Aniedobe
The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

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