By Casmir Robert
Last week was not a good one for Igbo nation. It was a gloomy week in which Igbo patriots shed tears of disappointment.
We were let down by those we sent to the Senate to protect, defend and project Igbo interests. The so called Senators of the region ran away from their office, refusing to stand up for those they hold their mandate when it mattered most.
The Senate voted on what unarguably is the most crucial clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on Wednesday 14 July 2020. The clause sought the legalization of e- transmission of election results. As people inherently democratic Igbo people were 100% in support of that move as it has the potential to dramatically alter positively the country’s electoral process trajectory.
But when television cameras came alive at the hour of decision, almost all Igbo senators with the exception of only four scurried into hiding. Of the four Senators Enyinna Abaribe, Abia, Francis Ezenwa Onyewuchi, Imo and Utazi, Enugu voted “Yes” to electronic transmission of results.
Those true sons of Igboland not only stood up to be counted but as well upheld the will and wishes of their people.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu on his part again proved right critics who have long accused him of being an Igbo saboteur by voting down the bill.
The lawmakers who ran AWOL were former Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu, former Governors Rochas Okorocha, Theodore Orji, Sam Egwu, Chimaroke Nnamani, Stella Oduah, Uche Ekwunife, Ifeanyi Uba, Obinna Ogba, Frank Ibezim and another Ebonyi, Senator. They were no where near the NASS that fateful day.
One week after the betrayal Igbo people are still shell shocked and confounded like people hit by tragedy. Yes, it was a tragic political experience however you examine it, because beyond what I would call the outward harm of sending democracy back fifty years, that unconscionable and inexplicable betrayal seriously dealt devastating blow to the image and political interests of the zone.It is sad to admit but it is true that the hard to forgive legislative rascality has once more reinforced some misconceived stereotypes about the Igbo nation.
Out there in the larger Nigerian society those who detest the nation have, sustained for decades the narrative that Igbo can never speak with one voice and therefore, do not love themselves. They claim that Igbo love money more than their lives, and can kill even their parents to make money.
As much as these hate induced labelling are untrue, baseless and unfounded, you can’t help but view what transpired on the floor of the Senate last week from those prisms.
In the Senate we have the South East Senate Caucus and PDP caucus as microscopic platforms which majority of the Senators who ducked the voting belong to. Essentially these caucuses serve the purpose of providing platforms, where, those who belong to them meet to forge common position on legislative issues before hitting the floor.
So, if there is such window available to the turncoats and which, certainly, they availed themselves prior to that voting, does the final outcome of the exercise not validate the pernicious sentiment that Igbo can’t speak with one voice?
Does it not also give some sense of credibility to the allegation that Igbo love money? Already some pundits are insinuating that nothing else but money, or dirty cupboards could have made them abandon the most important duty expected of them in the 9th Senate.
That cowardly shirking of responsibility is also going to seriously negatively impact the legitimate quest for Nigeria President of Igbo extraction. As have been pointed out the mass boycotting of that day’s sitting by the senators could not have been mere coincidence. It was not ordinary. it appears like some powerful political interests pulled the strings from behind the scene, perhaps using the carrot and stick strategy. Stick for those with allegations of corruption hanging on their neck and carrot for others with little or no baggage.
Now, if powerful political forces were behind that despicable action, wouldn’t it be safe to conclude that they still posses the wherewithal to shut them up on the issue of 2023 presidency?
Undoubtedly, as i have argued on several occasions it is the regions political leadership – governors, National Assembly members and maybe, federal appointees – who should be in the vanguard of the presidency clamour. As they lead other Igbo would throw weight behind them and collectively, the ambition may materialize.
But, in a situation where those who should shine the light chose to become free prisoners then the project is dangerously threatened.
Truly, by the time you studiously itemize the litany of injuries the runaway lawmakers inflicted on the psyche and interests of Igbo, you would be forced to say that they committed a serious crime against them.
In my thinking they committed capital offence against their kinsmen and women. And in consequence therefore, they deserve capital punishment. Igbo people should pay them back in their own coin by abruptly terminating their political careers come 2023.
All of them should be voted out of office, and should never be supported again in any future political contest. In fact, they should be ostracized and henceforth, treated as outcasts in Igbo land.
However, if by omission or commission they find themselves in Abuja post 2023, that would only mean that Igbo rewarded failure. And once that happens then the regions future political interests is doomed as it will be condemned to playing second fiddle ever, since betraying collective Igbo interests will become the rule and not the exception.
Luckily, however, it was not completely doom and bust on that fateful day, as the courageous performance of the trio of Senators Onyewuchi, Abaribe and Utazi, did provide some ray of hope that is all hope is not lost. Their actions really brought back memories of courageous Igbo spirit typical of Chinua Achebe characters like Okonkwo and Ezeulu in Things Fall Apart, and Arrow of God.
To the keen observers of the Senate and indeed, National Assembly, what Onyewuchi and Abaribe did could not have come as a surprise.
They have been the two most consistent voices defending Igbo nation interests in Abuja. They were the two who spoke in the wake of the suspected abduction of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by Federal Government from Kenya, demanding respect for his fundamental human rights.
At the height of alleged killing of innocent citizens during the unknown gunmen scar, Senator Onyewuchi also wrote to Chief of Army Staff and Inspector General of Police, calling for halt to the alleged unprovoked killings.
Indeed, space and time would not permit the listing of their numerous interventions but, suffice it to say they have so far succeeded in making sure Igbo nation voice is loudly and clearly heard in Abuja and by extension, the entire country.
We are grateful to them. They should continue to shine the light for those coming behind to see the road, so that collectively we will continue to fight until its Uhuru.