Basil Okoh
Published on the Biafra Post 
March 6, 2024 

We all watched the address of the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and heard the speeches delivered by other Igbo dignitaries at the launch of the 188 megawatt electricity generating plant of Dr. Barth Nnaji's Geometric Power Limited, Osisioma, near Aba. What leaves a lasting impression is not what the Igbo elite and prospective investors said at the launch but what they tacitly left unsaid. 

What they said in whispers and many convoluted parables is that Igbo have resolved to grow the economy of their own land, bucking the historical failures of Nigeria.

For our true understanding of the Igbo perception of the emerging sociopolitical dynamics in Nigeria, we must index a sulking Igbo land to the search for a new Igbo resolve, in the light of the denial of Peter Obi, to escape from the entrapment within a dissonant Nigeria, to which cauldron they have been yoked. To achieve this requires giving Igbo land the investment and economic power to free itself from a disharmonious nation, without losing its present investments in Nigeria.

Since after the 2023 election and following from the swearing in of Bola Tinubu as president, (the man who became president without winning an election), the Igbo are self isolating from Nigeria, partly as a reaction to the injustice of the election outcome and also because of Bola Tinubu’s profiling of the Igbo in his strategic refusal to engage them in his government in any worthwhile position. Mostly, they feel done with the historical struggle to integrate into the failing Nigerian project since the civil war. The Igbo themselves have taken on many provocations and are now determined to face the challenge of developing their land and people through self effort, private sector driven and without involvement of the federal Government.

There is no doubt that the Tinubu faction of the Yoruba, along with the traditional northern establishment feel threatened by Igbo disengagement from the federal government. They know this is ominous. For the fifty four years of the end of the civil war, Igbo elite has been yearning and crying for inclusion in the national establishment. But the Fulani and Yoruba have excluded them, both in military and civil governments that have ruled the country. 

For the excuse of waging a civil war, the ruling Nigerian establishment have considered the Igbo a threat to national cohesion, choosing to hold the region in thrall, plundering accruing petrodollars from the deep south, seizing all federal powers and capping everyone’s development to their glass ceilings.

The Igbo endured. In these fifty years, they plunged into private enterprise, moving from the open tin sheds to the commercial city Alaba has become today, from the rented shops on Otigba street, Ikeja to the sprawling Computer village it is today.

Unapologetic and in fact menacing, the Igbo have moved from riding Honda 175 motorcycles back home to the east for Christmas to driving now in quiet V8 SUV’s.

Above everything else, the Igbo have acquired capital. Enough capital and professional capacity to transform Igbo land in the next ten years, they know now that the development of their homeland to the levels of Malaysia and Indonesia of today depends entirely on their self effort, not on any government patronage. And they are growing the collective will to take that challenge. The grounds of the launch of Geometric Power Limited provided a platform for the gathering of the clan for stoking that resolve.

This fact, known to both the Fulani and Yoruba elite who hitherto held the Igbo hostage, is forcing a new dynamic into the Nigerian political economy: how to contain the Igbo and stop them from breaking free of the Nigerian enclave without ceding political power to an Igbo man.

The fear has always been that if you let Igbo go, the rest of the regions will also seek freedom from a captive Nigeria. This fear has been deepened by the emergent truths from the 2023 presidential election. The monolithic north that the Fulani preached so passionately about and by which they ruled Nigeria, does not exist. It was a myth, a falsity exposed by the Peter Obi phenomenon.

These shifts in paradigm within the Nigerian enclave portends many novel possibilities, one of which can be a clash of civilizations arising from the schism between regions or religions. This can be triggered by a real possibility of the loss of power by the present ruling faction as the country is now actually held together by the threat of violence from the military and the other state agencies of coercion. 

Wherever the raging hunger and poverty leads Nigeria, the Igbo man is too powerful now to be held down, particularly as the powers of the Nigerian state has been whittled down by internal strife in the north, decline in military power and meltdown in the national economy.

The now evident awareness and frustration that Igboland cannot be allowed to grow economically within the present Nigerian arrangement, even by private effort, has made the sense of exasperation among the Igbo palpable. Governor Alex Otti has just laid a suit at the ICC, accusing the Yoruba led federal government of treacherously sabotaging private initiative and effort to build a port on the River Opobo that will open up a direct seaborne trade route to Igboland. Denied or not, the confrontation will definitely come in a matter of time.

The successful completion of a seaport in Igboland will spell the fall of the Lagos ports. 70% of indigenous import trade in all classes of goods in Nigeria are by Igbo. A functional port built on the Opobo River will more than halve the level of commerce in Lagos because the driving force for all the growth in commerce in Lagos is the monopoly of Lagos ports in Apapa, Tin Can, Lillypond, Ikorodu and now joined by the Lekki port.

So the Bola Tinubu government in order to maintain that monopoly is working assiduously to sabotage the construction of an operational port in Igboland. Now the Tinubu government is caught in a dilemma, an ambiguous adventure of sorts. If he allows the commercially driven Igbo to remain in Lagos, they will eventually grow to dominate its economy as they are already doing and assert themselves enough to own Lagos politics. 

On the reverse, if the Igbo are sent away for fear of their dogged hard work and growing economic power, they will return home and Igbo land will be economically transformed. The base of commerce in Nigeria will move there and the commercial primacy of place of Lagos will be lost to Igbo land and their people. Lagos will be rendered a secondary place of business. 

The prognosis is therefore that the Igbo will force their wish over the whimpers of a weak government that lacks legitimacy. World opinion, the justness of their cause and the power of the presence of their person Ngozi Okonjo Iweala at the WTO will help achieve that cause. And when that happens, the gradual loss of commercial primacy, the regional loss of economic power by the Fulani/Yoruba ruling elite, will start a cataclysmic development that will force Nigeria to peaceably drift apart. @basilokoh.


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