General Elections: Igbos and bigotry, by Osita Chidoka
I will speak about the 2023 Presidential election after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has completed the upload of results on the IREV portal. As of today, Thursday, March 2, 2023, at 5.56 pm, INEC had uploaded results from 153,546 Polling Units, five days after the election!
Despite my desire to maintain silence about the elections, I am constrained to comment on a dangerous view spreading across the country. I need to intervene in a growing narrative about Igbo votes across the Southeast states for Peter Obi, the Labour Party Candidate.
Some have used the vote numbers to push a patently false view that the votes for the labour party is another evidence of Igbo bigotry and ethnic voting. This view is false, evil, and designed to promote hate against an ethnic group.
For clarity, I campaigned and voted for Atiku Abubakar and still believe that the Igbo pathway to the Presidency will require an inroad to the North West and North East at a minimum of 25 -30 percent combined with parts of the Northcentral, Southeast, and South-South for victory. The second pathway consolidates a victory across Southern Nigeria and the North Central, with above 10 percent showing in the North West and North East.
Many Igbo intellectuals shared this view in 1979. Leading Ndigbo like Alex Ekwueme, Chinua Achebe, Arthur Nwankwo, C.C. Onoh, Chuba Okadigbo, Nnia Nwodo, Uche Chukwumerije, and others were not in the NPP.
To the issue at hand, I will reproduce a portion of my review of the book “A POLITICAL HISTORY OF MODERN NIGERIA: WORDS AND THOUGHTS OF MBAZULIKE AMECHI Volumes 1 & 2 in December 2019 at Concorde Hotel Owerri.
In 1999, Igbos voted for President Obasanjo from South West despite the painful loss of Alex Ekwueme, their son, at the primaries of the Peoples’ Democratic Party in Jos. Chief Obasanjo got 3.2 million votes from the South East, about 70 percent of the votes in the region in 1999. In 2003, President Obasanjo secured 4.5 million votes, about 68 percent of the votes in the region, while Ikemba Nnewi Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (an undisputed Igbo leader) secured about 22 percent of the votes.
In 2007, Ndigbo voted for Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who is from the North West and with a running mate from the South-South region. Ndigbo voted against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari irrespective of the fact that he had an Igbo man as his Vice-Presidential candidate.
In the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections, Ndigbo voted for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the South-South region. It is important to mention that a similar false narrative held that Ndigbo had an enmity with the people of the South-South region. Yet, President Jonathan secured over 90 percent of the votes in the South East region in each of his elections. However, Ndigbo did not vote for General Buhari (a Northerner), but in 2019, they voted for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is from the North East region.
Here is the fact! Electoral results from 1979 to date show that the South East is ethnically blind regarding voting. This voting pattern is the ultimate proof of the cosmopolitan ethos of Ndigbo. Ndigbo will vote against an Igbo Vice President if he is co-yoked with a president seen as anti-market, anti-merit, and divisive. Ndigbo will vote for a Northerner and a devout Muslim if they believe he is a man of character and not divisive. Similarly, they will vote for a candidate from the South West if they think he represents their basic ethos (as with Obasanjo).
In Presidential elections, Ndigbo vote primarily on an ideological basis in support of inclusion, the rule of law, freedom, democracy, and open markets. The 2019 elections have also shown that Ndigbo will always vote in line with their conviction, irrespective of threats or attacks.
The 2023 South East votes for Labour Party are in line with established voting tradition. I saw it coming. However, from data and experience, I believe that the geographical coalition behind Labour Party will fall short of the required spread and or a majority of votes.
As we confront the grave issues around the poorly conducted 2023 “election-like event,” we must refrain from hate speeches and prejudices that run counter to facts. I will not allow it.