By Akin Ojumu

Since its independence, Nigeria has had thirteen heads of state. Nine were Hausa-Fulani, two Yorubas, and one Niger-Delta, and one Igbo. 

The only head of state of Igbo extraction Nigeria has had was General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and that was by mere happenstance. Aguiyi-Ironsi assumed the role of head of state for a measly 194 days just to fill the leadership vacuum created by the 1966 botched military coup that led to the death of the civilian Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

The following is a roster of Nigeria Heads of State:

(1) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Prime Minister)/Nnamdi Azikiwe (President)
(2) Aguiyi Ironsi (Military)
(3) Yakubu Gowon (Military)
(4) Murtala Muhammed (Military)
(5) Olusegun Obasanjo (Military)
(6) Shehu Shagari 
(7) Muhammed Buhari (Military)
(8) Ibrahim Babangida (Military)
(9) Ernest Shonekan
(10) Sani Abacha (Military)
(11) Abdulsalami Abubakar (Military)
(12) Olusegun Obasanjo
(13) Umaru Yar’Adua
(14) Goodluck Jonathan
(15) Muhammed Buhari

Understandably, some may read this list and want to argue that Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo, was Nigeria President from 1963 to 1966. Those who advance such an argument ignore the fact that, as the Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the de facto head of state and head of the government in that parliamentary system of government and not Azikiwe, who was the President. So, technically, Azikiwe was never the head of state of Nigeria.

It’s 62 years since Nigeria gained independence from the British. Yet, no Nigerian of Igbo extraction has emerged Nigeria head of state ever since Aguiyi-Ironsi’s short spell in the position. Of the 2 major political parties in Nigeria since 1999, none has fielded on top of the presidential ticket an Igbo. On the 3 occasions that one of the two major political parties have had an Igbo running mate, the party lost the election. Since 1999, Nigeria has neither had a President or Vice President of Igbo origin.

1999 Presidential Election
Olusegun Obasanjo/Abubakar Atiku vs Olu Falae/Umaru Shinkafi

2003 Presidential Election
Olusegun Obasanjo/Abubakar Atiku vs Muhammadu Buhari/ Chuba Okadigbo

2007 Presidential Election
Umaru Yar’Ardua/Goodluck Jonathan vs Muhammadu Buhari/ Edwin Ume-Ezeoke

2011 Presidential Election
Goodluck Jonathan/Umaru Sambo vs Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Bakare

2015 Presidential Election
Goodluck Jonathan/Umaru Sambo vs Muhammadu Buhari/Yinka Osinbajo

2019 Presidential Election
Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi vs Muhammadu Buhari/Yinka Osinbajo

Remarkably, the Igbos have served Nigeria loyally and have represented the country patriotically over the years. These industrious people have distinguished themselves in many fields of human endeavor. In education, medicine, science, technology, commerce, banking, sport, name it, the Ndigbo have consistently made Nigeria proud. 

Take for instance the 28-man squad that represented Nigeria in the AFCON 2022 competition. Sixteen of the boys were of Igbo origin. To put that in context. While the Igbos make up only about 18 percent of the Nigeria population, nearly 60 percent of the Nigerian football squad at AFCON 2022 was Igbo and these were their names:

(1) Maduka OKOYE
(2) Wilfred NDIDI
(3) Frank ONYEKA
(4) Henry ONYEKURU
(5) Chidera EJUKE
(6) Kelechi IHEANACHO
(7) Moses SIMON
(8) Daniel AKPEYI
(9) Samuel CHUKWUEZE
(10) Alexander IWOBI
(11) Chidozie AWAZIEM
(12) Kenneth OMERUO
(13) Francis UZOHO
(14) Kelechi NWAKALI
(15) John NOBLE
(16) Olisa NDAH

One nation bound in freedom, peace, and unity. To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. Unity and faith, peace, and progress. These are the words in both the Nigeria national anthem and the coat of arms. Unless Nigerians start to live up to their best ideal as a nation, these words amount to nothing but mere slogans. 

When one ethnic group is perpetually denied the opportunity to rise to the highest office in the land, Nigeria cannot achieve freedom, peace, or unity. As long as it remains impossible for an Igbo to become president of Nigeria, the country will not experience meaningful progress. There’s no fairness or justice in the marginalization of an ethnic group. For Nigeria to become a better union, the road to Aso Rock must become a level playing field. 

An Igbo man must be the next president of Nigeria. So, vote Peter Obi in the 25 February 2023 presidential election. Igbo Kwenu!!!

Originally published in May 29, 2022.


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