A former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has described the Igbos as third rate citizens in the Nigerian project.
Kalu said rather than being accorded the status other major ethnic groups within the Nigerian project have, the Igbos have been consigned to the background in the scheme of things in Nigeria.
Kalu, who spoke on Thursday at the British House of Commons in the United Kingdom, said that the statistics, which form the very basis of the existence of the country, have glaring evidences that the Igbos, who occupy the South East part of the country, are not as highly valued as the Hausa and Yoruba ethnic stocks.
He said the statistics, ranging from the distribution of the country’s commonwealth to the opportunities to govern at the federal level and the number of states, local government areas and senatorial districts in each of the geopolitical regions of the country point glaringly to the value placed on the Igbos by the Nigerian state.
He said: “The Igbo in Nigeria have become the receptacle of anger, hatred, envy and frustration oozing out of their fellow compatriots.
“But this is on the level of the transaction between private citizens.
“How about the place of the Igbo in respect of the manner in which public affairs are conducted by the Nigerian Federal Government and its agencies?
“The simple answer is that the rain has continued to beat the Igbo.”
To back up his argument, Kalu told the gathering, which included Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially those based in the United Kingdom, that while the South East has just five states, other geopolitical regions have between six and seven states.
Specifically, he said the North West has seven states while others have six.
In terms of local governments, the South East also has the least – 95.
The North West has 186 local government areas, North East 112, North Central 115, South West 138 and South South 123.
For the federal constituencies, which form the basis for election into the House of Representatives, the South East has 43 while the North West has 92, the North East 48, North Central 49, South West 71 and South South 55.
For Senatorial Districts, the North West tops with 21, the North Central, North East, South South and South West all have 18 and the South East with the least, 15.
Kalu said: “The above table does not represent an opinion or a hypothesis. It represents the blatant reality of the third rate status forced upon the Igbo in the political space in Nigeria.
“We, the Igbo, have striven but thus far failed to persuade the Nigerian establishment about the hurt and humiliation and deprivation that come with the idea that we as a people are legally condemned to third rate status in our own country, as amply demonstrated by the above table.
“The implications of this calculated fraud against my people are so massive and go entirely untold: unequal allocation of resources, unequal voice in the Federal Executive Council, unequal representation in the National Assembly (the gravest of all), unequal participation in the administration of justice in the federation, unequal participation in the federal civil service and adjunct bodies, unequal representation in the armed forces and paramilitary organisations, unequal representation in the diplomatic corps ensuring incapacity in showcasing the Igbo culture as part of a pan Nigerian culture in our foreign missions and embassies, fewer primary, secondary and higher education opportunities for our children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”
Kalu went further to state that these disparities have been taken further to the rulership of the country.
He said that while those from the North Central have ruled for 17 years, 11 months and 20 days as at the time of the address to the House of Commons, the North West has occupied the country’s presidency for 13 years, 11 months and 10 days; the South West for 11 years, 10 months and eight days; the North East for five years, three months and 15 days; and the South South for five years and 23 days.
But for the South East, leading the country has only been for six months and 13 days.
Kalu added: “The structural disparities are constitutionally entrenched (please see the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999), thus their grave implications for Ndigbo are beyond the primary questions of inequity and marginalization.
“The histories of nations are replete with evidence of existential threat to any group whose marginalization is made a subject matter of constitutional enshrinement.
“With unequal voice in the Federal Executive Council, in the National Assembly, on the federal judicial benches and a vast array of other fora in which the Igbo suffer sub-parity representation, the strength of the advocacy of our problems and priorities is thus diminished. Little wonder, then, that the South-East zone, the area inhabited by the Igbo, still manifests the physical characteristics of a conquered and occupied land, 43 years after the civil war.
“Quite apart from the psychological assault it represents for Igbo people, the practical issues of unequal representation and unequal allocation of resources are calculated to retard the development of our region and our people. The massive difference which the resources and human empowerment that we are denied might have made in our society is something that calls not just for a sober reflection but a gritty resolve to bring about their speedy resolution. The Igbo tenacity, drive and relentless optimism to pursue life’s enduring dreams of family, faith and success and to overcome life’s challenges will see them through. But the world must listen to them whenever they cry out. For every for they have long suffered and endured in silence, as the rain continues to beat them.”
Kalu said this was the major reason for the formation of Njiko Igbo, a group with the mandate to push for the election of a president of Igbo extraction for Nigeria in 2015.
He said: “The presidency of the Nigerian nation has not eluded the Igbo by accident or by an act of divinity but by human design; and it is through human pressure that we can attain it.
“Njiko Igbo is the catalyst and conduit for our collective action. We trust that you recognise as we do, that power concedes nothing without a demand….
“Njiko Igbo is an organisation dedicated to the struggle for the ascent of a citizen of Igbo extraction to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015.
“We are fully committed to the security and peace of our nation, and to the comradeship of a common justice and equality for all Nigerians.
“We are neither supportive of nor opposed to any political party or the aspirations of any individual politician. Our primary mission is to enlighten and mobilise the Igbo population, both home and in the diaspora, to stand firm and united in the pursuit of our collective goal. Our secondary duty is to connect with and persuade the rest of the Nigerian population about the justice of our cause.
“Njiko Igbo is waging this struggle precisely because there is an irrefutable evidence of blatant anti-Igbo bias in the manner in which the political architecture of this federation is constructed.
“Gross injustice is the ultimate outcome of that deliberate discrimination. And every man or woman possessed of conscience has a duty to take a moral stand against injustice whenever and wherever it is manifest. This expression of conscience forms the tradition of the deepest value we share as a people.
“The impulse to demand justice and the instinctive revolt against injustice constitute the most essential ingredients of humanity. If we recognize this philosophical essence of what truly defines our sentient nature, then we must accept that this struggle is not only inevitable but mandatory.
“Our strategic operations are two-pronged: (a) an intensive drive to build and foster a united front at home and, (b) an energetic national mobilization campaign to marshal public opinion and secure the solidarity and support of a majority of Nigerians.
“Our methods will be conciliatory, unaggressive, solicitous and flexible but without being amenable to the old easy compromises and defensiveness that reinforced prejudicial assumptions about us as a people. We shall seek to accomplish our mission in a manner and style deferential to elders, respectful of the sensibilities of other tribal groups and faiths, attentive to criticism and open to disputations.
“We are embarked on a big and noble dream borne out of the necessities of our history and the imperatives of our justice, equity and fair play. While our history is a proud, large, and significant imprint in Nigeria, the reality of our contemporary existence has been rendered small by the politics of the Nigerian republic. This time calls for self-assertion and Igbo people must rise and answer the challenges with one voice.
“We are not pursuing the orthodox argument connected with the zoning of the presidency. This is, instead, a struggle for justice and equality of opportunity through the instrumentalities of persuasion, mobilization, projection of a creative vision for a stronger and a successful federation.
“No one should be in any doubt that the political struggles and strife raging in this country today, and which will rage for at least another generation, represent the struggle to assert group identity and legitimacy, expressed through the mechanics of politics. Igbo people can ill-afford to take a passive stance in the maelstrom.”