"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves"- Harriet Tubman.
"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves"- Harriet Tubman.
I watched the Minister Information and Culture Lai (aka Lie) Mohammed’s ‘Politics Today’ interview with Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television a few days ago and I felt sorry for Nigeria.
Tangentially, I take the title of this article to be humdrum. Why? Goodluck Jonathan was prognosticated to be the last president of composite Nigeria, but the doom prognosis is now legend.
Without obviating the trepidation and tension that eclipsed the country before and during the 2015 general election, Nigeria survived Jonathan; I believe it will survive President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the whirling of events in the past few weeks gives me colly-wobbles. The unity of Nigeria is not only held by a tenuous thread at this time, the country is also teetering on the brink of a violent hate war.
Since 2014, the agitation for an independent state of Biafra has revved. But no doubt, the agitation grew in decibel few months after Buhari ensconced himself in government. Why? I believe it is because of the sectionalism and nepotism that has become accenting features of this administration, and of course, the neglect of the south-east which the president does not take a liking to.
Inasmuch as the secessionist agitation is a live threat to the unity of Nigeria, the Kaduna declaration dispatched by a coalition of northern youth groups led by Arewa – that the Igbo must leave the north before October 1 and that their property will be expropriated – is a deadly uppercut to the bloody jaw of the nation’s unity.
Although, a good number of northern leaders condemned the declaration, some other persons, “elders”, from the region endorsed it. The fact is, with the proclamation a deeper wound has been inflicted on the nation’s body. And it is an open-sesame for hate mongers and sizzled bigots to tear what is left of the country’s “bond” to pieces.
It was not surprising that some militant groups in the Niger Delta delivered a riposte, in kind, to northerners in their region – that they should leave the area before October 1. A day to celebrate Nigeria’s independence is now a potential doomsday. And of course, secessionist agitators cashed in on the divisive lineaments of the declaration to call for an exodus of their people in the north. This is, principally, a chaotic time in the history of the country since the civil war.
As a matter of fact, I have never feared for Nigeria’s future until now. Yes. The compost of hate, caterwauling, bitterness and recriminations on social media induces severe fear and anxiety. But in the deep of this fear, I believe that the country will not teeter off the precipice. Why? What binds Nigeria is maximally strong but ludicrous.
Nigeria is not held together by God, values, sacred principles or beliefs, but by corruption, indiscipline, greed, nepotism, incompetence, lust for power and vested interest. These are the strong forces cementing and patching up every leak in the roof of the Nigerian dome.
Again, as the 2019 general election closes in, there are more ominous threats to the country’s survival. While Arewa bleats power must remain in the north in 2019 even if Buhari is incapacitated, Ohanaeze youth threaten secession of the south-east if an Igbo does not emerge as Nigeria’s president in that portentous year.
Still, I believe we will survive 2019.
The 1985 song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ by Veno Marioghae conveys my thoughts. Nigeria will survive even when everyone knows that it is not working. It will. Yes, again, because it is where “I chop, you chop”.
In conclusion, the Buhari government must work at forging a united country. Nigeria has never been this divided. It has been said countless times that Buhari is sectional. This is a fact, and I know he knows it. The excuse that Jonathan too was sectional in his appointments and in the distribution of resources is what it is, an excuse.
Buhari must do better. Soon the sun will set on his government, how does he want to be remembered, as a sectional leader? As former President Olusegun Obasanjo once said, the problem with Nigeria is that it lacks a national leader. Buhari can make himself one before the end of his administration. His legacy should matter to him now. He is 74!
Saraki’s CCT discharge
Conspiracy theorists are now conjuring up funny stories of why Senate President Bukola Saraki was cleared of 18-count charge of false asset declaration by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on Wednesday. As a “religious reporter” of the trial, I say with accustomed dispassion that the federal government bungled the case from its parturition. The witnesses called by the government were at best vacuous and impotent. They gave layers and layers of contradictory statements. In fact, one Samuel Madojemu, the chief investigator of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the agency which filed the charges against Saraki on behalf of the government, publicly said his organisation did not carry out an independent investigation of the allegations against the senate president before filing the charges. Imagine?
Osinbajo’s north-south consultations
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has shown much of the rare leadership stuff he is made of. His deft intervention in the hate exchange between the south-east and the north saved a combustible situation. If it were to be some other presidents or even his “boss”, a listless committee would have been set up to look into the issue. But Osinbajo personally intervened in the matter, dousing the sputter of tension. That is leadership!
Twitter: FredrickNwabufo, Facebook: Fredrick Nwabufo
Most columnists, writers and public commentators have shied away from doing so but today yours truly will treat a matter and pose a question that is in the hearts and minds of many both within and outside Nigeria.
Fifty years after the civil war ended, Igbos do not yet feel a sense of belonging, acceptance or safety in the Federation called Nigeria.
The sad part is that this belief is shared not just by the generation that witnessed the war and its deadly consequences, but Igbos across all generations, including the millennials who have been socialized into believing that there is a gap between their people and other Nigerians.
Let us not deceive ourselves about certain plain truths. The civil war is perhaps the most remarkable incident in Igbo history in the last century.
The pain, the loss, all about it, is deeply imprinted in the Igbo consciousness.
Whereas the Igbo nation has shown great resourcefulness since the war, and its people have proven to be enterprising and determined to hold their own in every sphere of life, including outstanding contributions to the making of the Nigerian state, there are Nigerians who still regard and treat the Igbo suspiciously.
Anti-Igbo sentiment may not be so openly expressed, but it is usually something beneath the surface.
There are landlords in many parts of Nigeria, for example, who will never rent out their property to an Igbo man.
The Igbo tenant is easily stigmatized. I have heard people complain that Igbo tenants are too stubborn or that when you rent a room to an Igbo man, he will end up sub-letting that one room to all kinds of persons from his village, putting pressure on the property’s limited facilities.
Some landlords insist that an Igbo tenant could even start eyeing the property, to buy it off the landlord, or if it is a shop, the Igbo trader would end up renting the entire street, and could turn the street into an Igbo neigbourhood.
This stigma has been a source of agony for many Igbos seeking accommodation, particularly in Lagos, but it is of course completely baseless stereotyping. There are good and bad persons from virtually every Nigerian ethnic group.
The stereotyping of the Igbo person can also be found in the political arena.
It is assumed by some persons, and such statements have been made to my hearing, that the only reason an Igbo man cannot be President of Nigeria is because every Igbo man sees himself as a potential President, and should the Presidency be zoned to the South East, the struggle for the ticket could result in inter-community strife in Igboland.
The name of the group is Igbo, but when other Nigerians want to be mischievous, or perhaps out of ignorance, they refer to Igbos as Ibo, and when you try to correct them, they may insist you don’t seem to understand. It is I-Before-Others (IBO).
Igbos have also been held responsible for all sorts of things, kidnapping, drug trafficking, child trafficking, armed robbery – even when there are criminals from virtually every community in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, they are one of the most vertically educated ethnic groups in Nigeria, and the most enterprising in all fields.
A friend once said that if you enter any community in Nigeria and you don’t have an Igbo man running a small shop there, or engaged in some other kind of business, then you have no business staying in that community.
Igbos are also obviously the most integrated ethnic group in Nigeria, which is why it is ironic that they are also the most vilified.
I wrote what I considered a harmless piece recently in which I referred to the declaration of Biafra in 1967 and quoted excerpts from the Ahiara Declaration.
I got a phone call from a friend who declared that I should stop encouraging these “Biafrans”. Nothing I said made sense to him.
“You don’t know those people”, he declared.
“I know people from all parts of Nigeria,” I said.
“You don’t know Igbos. Has there been any problem in this country that you know in which Igbos have not been involved? They have started again, heating up the polity with threats of secession.”
“It is a sign that all is not well with Nigeria,” I retorted.
“Don’t mind them. I don’t think anybody wants to secede. If Igbos really want to secede, you think it is Nnamdi Kanu that will be speaking for them?”
“It takes just one illuminated soul to start a revolution.”
“Don’t bring that line. Everything is not textbook, this man. Just tell those Igbos not to include my people in whatever they are looking for. We are their neighbours.
“They dragged us into the civil war. This time around, they’ve gone to draw a map, including my people. Biafra does not extend to the South-South. We are just looking at them.”
“Biafra is an idea.”
“I don’t want to hear all these textbook things, I have told you. Which idea? See, most Nigerians do not support Biafra. They think Igbos are just playing games. I’ll send you some other articles written by other Nigerians and you’d see what I am talking about.
“People are angry that anybody will be talking about secession in 2017! Nigerians are fed up with Igbos and their games. President Jonathan gave them everything but on election day, many of them stayed at home and refused to vote. Now, they are talking secession.”
“But Yorubas are also talking about Oduduwa Republic.”
“The Yoruba are not going anywhere. What they want is restructuring, fiscal federalism. Which Oduduwa Republic?”
“The people of the Middle Belt are also aggrieved.”
“Anybody can be aggrieved. You can’t please Nigerians. And some of these things are political. Obasanjo became President, Niger Delta carried arms; Jonathan got there, Boko Haram kidnapped children, Buhari is there now, and all the ghosts of Biafra are frightening everybody. But these Igbos, tell them they are not going anywhere.”
“I am surprised you are talking like this.”
“What is the matter with those people? They are all over Nigeria. They are even selling land in Lagos. But no outsider is allowed to buy half a plot of land in Igboland.
“You carry Igbo girl sef, na problem. Go and check your email. I will send you other perspectives on this matter.”
Before long, I received a mail indeed. The fellow had put together a collection of anti-Biafra, anti-Igbo articles which he urged me to read, with the rider that I should pay particular attention to the fact that some of those articles were written by Igbos.
I ignored the rider. Some of those articles could have been ghost written. What is clear, however, is that all is not well with Nigeria.
We are a country that needs to be rescued from the centripetal forces tearing us apart, and the leading forces today would include, as was the case before now, ethnicity, religion, the politics of hate, and citizen alienation.
If my review of the stereotyping of Igbos in Nigeria and the reported conversation with an Igbo-hater does not fully convey the seriousness of this situation, then the June 6 ultimatum issued to all Igbos living in Northern Nigeria by a coalition of Northern Arewa youth groups should.
A group called the Northern Emancipation Network, comprising 16 Arewa youth groups, has asked all Igbos living anywhere in Northern Nigeria to pack their bags and baggage and be out of the Northern region by October 1, 2017.
When the 19 Northern Governors met and dismissed the threat as misguided, the young Arewa Igbo-haters issued a riposte and more or less asked the Governors to shut up.
Their message is that since Igbos no longer want to be part of Nigeria, they should get out, because they, Arewa youths, do not want belong to the same political union with Igbos. They are angry that on May 30, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Biafra (IPOB) succeeded in shutting down a part of Nigeria to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra.
The arrogance of the Northern youths is insufferable. It speaks to virtually everything that other Nigerians are uncomfortable with about the Fulani North: a born-to-rule, hegemonic tendency.
It is an assault on the Nigerian Constitution, to the extent that the Constitution does not grant any individual or group, the right or the power to determine where any Nigerian may live or work or die or acquire property.
All Nigerians are equal before the law. The Northern youths, who do not think so, held a meeting, a press conference, and issued statements. The Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai asked the Nigeria Police to arrest them for promoting ethnic hatred.
The only response we have had from the Police Headquarters so far, is from one Jimoh Moshood, described as Police Spokesman telling Nigerians that the Arewa youths “are not sitting in the market waiting to be picked up.”
Moshood, if you actually said that, then you should be relieved of your position forthwith.
If you are a spokesperson and you have nothing intelligent to say, the best option is to remain silent, otherwise whatever you say will be used against you in the court of public opinion.
So, the Nigeria police only arrest people when they go to the market and wait to be arrested? Is that the new police that we now have?
The Northern Emancipation Network called Igbos all kinds of names – “unruly, reckless, insatiable, uncultured, confrontational, ungrateful” – and since they issued their ultimatum, the polity has been heated up, ethnic hate has been promoted, the Igbos of Nigeria have been further alienated.
This was how the civil war of 1967-70 started. Nigeria cannot afford another civil war.
No country survives two civil wars. Already, Igbos in the North are reportedly relocating back to the South East or elsewhere in Nigeria.
Young Nigerians from the North, the East and the South started the civil war.
The politics of ethnicity and the rhetoric of hate ignited the fire that consumed the nation for three years.
The scars have not healed because 50 years later, the youths of the North and the East are again lighting up the fire of hate. On June 6, the Northern Emancipation Network also asked Northerners in the East, I hope this includes the peripatetic herdsmen, to return to the North!
The Nigerian Government must take this on-going febrile conversation between the North and the East more seriously than it appears to be doing. The security agencies do not have to go to the markets to look for what is not there.
When there is a threat to the state, it is their duty to identify the threat and act on it.
All persons who are working hard and making provocative statements to cause a national crisis should be monitored and checkmated. With all the difficult challenges facing this country, at this moment, our security alert system should be pushed a notch higher.
If the security agencies fail to act, particularly on the matter of the coalition of Northern youths promoting Igbo hatred, the Federal Government would have committed a grievous sin, likely to be interpreted as aiding and abetting.
And there would be persons who will legitimately ask: are we confronted with a hand of Jacob and voice of Esau situation? Who is sponsoring the Arewa youths?
Who granted them the permission to use the platform of Arewa House to spew anti-Igbo hate speech? Who is blocking their arrest by the security agencies? What those boys have done is even worse than the threat of secession by Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters.
But the message is clear: Nigeria is not yet a nation. A country where any group or association can threaten to expel another group is not yet a nation.
The common enemy is not the secessionists. The common enemies are the political leaders, the tribal demagogues, the political opportunists, the religious bigots, the paid shamanists, who continue to manipulate Nigeria’s destiny to suit their own purposes. There can be no country except the people love the nation and the state.
I am persuaded that my academic friends, Drs. Habib Yakoob, and Ahmed Bedu, will help in deconstructing the grammatical nuances of the title of this piece. Since the separatist discourse gained traction, I have dilly-dallied on the very sensitive issue given the misconstruing that is bound to arise from any intervention, however, objective.
As a people, we are given to the banal, pedestrian and simplistic. We shy away from critically interrogating the facts, we indulge in labels in its stark derogatory form, we are wont to pretend in the abysmal sense of pretension, and above all, we wish that in being politically correct, all our fault lines will simply correct themselves or vanish into oblivion. How wrong!
Our love for spiteful labels blinded us to thoroughly excoriate Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media for the unwholesome and grammatically deficient tag of “Wailing Wailers.” It is a constitutional guarantee for the citizen to hold an opinion, demand accountability and transparency, especially from a regime that lays claim to Change; a regime that promised to denude itself of the malfeasance of the past. So when we became blindsided to the contemptible nature of the “wailing wailer” tag, and others responded with the “hailing hailer” sobriquet it reinforces the fact that it is “We Are Who We Are.”
Society is a constant pendulum, therefore, one should not be too surprised that ours is on a ferocious swing with no consistency in the values that define progressive climes. Imagine, only a few years ago, some of us were ready to demand the head of Emir Mohammed Sanusi, then as Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor on a platter for his attempt to seek for greater transparency in the affairs of the oil behemoth called NNPC. We went hysterical, we brayed and clawed for “his seeming temerity” and effrontery to become an activist governor, when others before him were conservative, seen but not heard.
As a section thundered their angst, those on the “other side” clapped, engaged in terrifying ululations and egged Sanusi on. Alas, a few years down, the emir brought his activism to “their” fort but it was a mortal error, an unbelievable heresy to seek for the upturning of the old order. It was a curious sight to see those, like we say in the new Nigerian parlance, who had stood by the emir in his titanic encounter with the Jonathan Presidency, “jumping upandan” like monkeys on a swing. As they turned on Sanusi, those “on the other side” clapped and sent him on with encouragement in demystifying what they consider archaic and a drawback to our development. It is simply “We Are Who We Are.”
To the ongoing agitations; go to your homeland, we want our own republic, and other such war cry for the spoils that Nigeria has become, WE Are Who We Are. Everyone is seeking for the greater advantage out of the Nigerian enterprise because we have failed to look at the country as an enterprise where the worker’s wage is commensurate with his labour.
We abhor healthy conversation and dialogue, we are adversarial to opinions and suggestions other than ours. It is simply, We Are Who We Are.
History has shown amply that sitting across the table to talk, to negotiate, to bargain, to look each other in the eye and espouse some “bitter, hard truths” is the panacea to strife and war. Can we for a moment desist from being Who We Are?
It is normal for a public figure, a successful one for that matter, to attract occasional sneer, derision or outright envy. But it is abnormal when such a thing is turned into an organised mob of muckrakers with a mandate to smear the target personality by every available spit they could get. This is the case with an on-going mudslinging against Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, using the free passage of all garbage offered by the handy social media.
A recent example of such trashy offerings; one that went viral on account of the key words deliberately used to attract curious readers and to easily smear is titled “Tambuwal and the politics of Buhari’s illness,” penned under an obvious pseudonym of Mamman Abdullahi. The mudslingers got a lot of people there: Tambuwal, politics and the ill health of President Muhammadu Buhari. Ordinarily, people would want to find out what links a respected personality like Governor Tambuwal with the health condition of the president and, more still, the alleged politics of it.
However, from the very first sentence of the piece, the emotion of the hatched men is laid bare. The intent, as the opening line crudely puts it, is to paint Tambuwal’s 30 years of public life as one characterised by “betrayals and treachery”. The rest of the malignant article rode along this line. Lies upon lies are lined up; spun from contemporaneous events and purported historical antecedents of Tambuwal to paint him – as the agenda setting first line puts it – a betrayer and treacherous person.
The instinct initially was to laugh this off and move on, as one of those things politicians often encounter. However, on a second thought one is tempted to put out a response because the professional liar who authored the faceless hogwash presented tissues of lies in a way that may look factual to unsuspecting public who knows not.
First, let me say that I am an innocent bystander in this issue. I am intervening because I knowledgeable enough about most of the issues raised in the initial article. I am not holding brief for Tambuwal, and the fact that he knows nothing about this work gives me the pleasure to state what I know without inhibitions or guidance from him. The said article stands on no factual ground. It is sheer concoctions. At best, it is not more than a spectacular fictional narrative skewed together by a fertile mind with agenda for grave mischief. To accuse Tambuwal of selling himself to be appointed as vice president – a vacancy that does not exist, is not only funny but a clear assault on truth, and on the man’s personality and intelligence. In truth, chasing shadows (which is what vying for a non-existent post is) is the least thing that can be inferred in Tambuwal’s dealings as a public servant.
Additionally, from the searchlight some of us have kept on him over the years, Tambuwal is a man of faith with a strong sense of gratitude to the almighty who elevated him from being a legislative aide to first, Nigeria’s Number Four position, and now the first citizen of his state. This has never been lost on the Tambuwal that I know. For him, and all people of faith, chasing after another thing when you are not half-way into what God almighty blessed you with is some mark of ingratitude. For emphasis, Tambuwal has never had divided attention since assuming the position of the Governor of Sokoto State. He has executed his mandate in such a way that today, midway into his first term of four years, the consensus in Sokoto is for him to carry on for additional term.
It should also be stated that as someone who has been actively involved in politics since the beginning of this dispensation, Tambuwal has developed extensive network of friends, associates and admirers, so it is foolish and mischievous for any of his engagements with such associates to be interpreted in any narrow manner. From his time in the National Assembly, it is clearly evident that it is in his nature not to abandon his friends because of the trappings of power.
Will Tambuwal work to undermine Buhari? Certainly not! Recently, a story of Tambuwal’s 2012 visit to the then opposition leader, Buhari in Kaduna was shared online. That year, Buhari had returned from a medical trip and Tambuwal, as Speaker, led some of his colleagues to Buhari’s house for a sympathy visit. Not a few in the Green Chamber, especially those of the ruling party, raised eyebrows at the visit. Their thinking was that as a member of the PDP, Tambuwal should not be seen publicly hobnobbing with Buhari. But Tambuwal stood his ground and insisted that politics aside, Buhari, being a former Head of State, deserved respect and recognition.
As if sensing the little controversy the visit would elicit, Buhari asked Tambuwal why he wasn't afraid to visit with a full compliments of reporters. "We're here to see how you are feeling and to pray to Allah for bringing you back home safely," the Speaker told him. At the end of the visit, Buhari thanked Tambuwal profusely; saying for identifying with him when it was risky to do that, Tambuwal had shown genuine concern for his well-being. He also prayed for him as he departed.
I brought this issue to show the bond, and respect between the two leaders.
While the writer and his sponsors ignorantly dropped the name of Abubakar Shehu Tambuwal in a bid to deceive the readers, we were all living witnesses to Shehu’s directive to his supporters to support the candidature of Tambuwal during the last electioneering campaigns in Sokoto even though they don’t belong to the same parties. If Abubakar Shehu Tambuwal has issues with Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, would he have supported him against his party in 2015?
Tambuwal’s brand of politics is one that embraces friends and foes alike. It is in public domain that the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, was one of the staunchest opponents of Tambuwal when he aspired to lead the lower legislative House in the year 2011. But immediately he won the election, Tambuwal made Dogara the chairman of the all-important House Services Committee. His opponent in that election, Mulikat Adeola-Akande, was made the Majority Leader, the first time a Female would hold such an important position in the country.
Do I need to remind us of Tambuwal’s relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo? After kicking against Tambuwal’s emergence as Speaker, Obasanjo eventually became one of Tambuwal’s mentors and he had this to say a few days ago in Abeokuta: “Mr Governor, I would apologize that I am going to embarrass you small. When you emerged as the Speaker (in 2011), you know I was not satisfied; because that was not the arrangement of the then PDP. It was the former administration and the then leadership that did that and I expressed my view. When you came to me, I told you that you were not the problem, but the party then. I told you that I am pleased by the reports I got of you as the speaker, and again I am still getting good report of you in your state. You are one of the examples of the youth that have been doing well in politics.”
One person who cherishes Tambuwal’s political dexterity is the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Despite the seeming differences of opinion following the election of principal officers of the National Assembly last year, Tinubu had this to say about Tambuwal when he visited Sokoto for an event at Usmanu Danfodio University: “Governor Aminu Tambuwal represents the new hope of a new progressive political era. The people of Sokoto made a good choice in electing him governor. A man of and for the people and a true patriot, his commitment to advance the welfare of the people is remarkable. We must support him in his mission to bring greater development and prosperity to Sokoto for the benefit of all of her people.”
Adjudging Tambuwal as a betrayer because of changing political allegiances is a mark of political ignorance and dishonesty on the part of the mudslingers. Politics is opportunity and all politicians vie for opportunity to serve and to work with like-minds. If a platform or political alliance loses focus, is collapsing or no longer viable, it is unwise to wait for the roof to collapse on one’s head. President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, moved from the ANPP when it was obvious he was being frustrated internally, to form the CPC. And when CPC proved impotent as a political machinery to achieve his ambition for the nation, he collapsed into the alliance that formed the APC. There is nothing wrong with such moves.
Also, such political steps are sometimes taken out of patriotism as exemplified in the 2014 mass action against the unpatriotic PDP regime, in which Tambuwal incidentally played a prominent role to the admiration of vast majority of Nigerians.
One is entitled to disagree or even hate Governor Tambuwal for whatever personal reason, but the allegations labeled against him is almost the zenith such malicious undertaking could attain. It is not just because Tambuwal’s name is smeared but also because of the dangerous namedropping and dragging of the names of very important and responsible personalities just to achieve the sinister aim of portraying Tambuwal – who from all indications, is minding his business – in a very bad light.
Abubakar, a Quantity Surveyor, wrote from Aso Drive, Abuja
The early part of June 2017 saw Arewa Youths issue a “Quit Notice” to the Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. This followed the 50-year anniversary of the Biafran war where both friends and foes of Biafra took turn to tell their stories with objective emphasis on the Igbo. After a careful analysis, it has been easy to dismiss the entire anniversary exercise as orchestrated by the politicians as busy doing something very close to nothing. Thus, I am prompted to ask: Did the Igbo Kill Jesus?
The Igbo people need no introduction. Though their population is unknown, the Igbo are everywhere. Definitely well-known are their ingenuity, resilience and, of course, overflowing technological and scientific acumen. This informs the famous quotation by the then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, that the Igbo are as “the wandering Jews of West Africa—gifted, aggressive, westernized…” These attributes are more than enough to enable the Igbo to enjoy steady political power and development in Nigeria. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
Much of the blame at the anniversary was heaped on the loss of the Biafran war. Yes, the Igbo have endured all sorts of discrimination because of the war. But to continue to drum the linear excuse 50 years after the war only goes to fortify the rationale for the fetid question: Did the Igbo Kill Jesus? Did the Igbo kill Jesus not to even remember where the heaviest of the rain started and how it is beating them?
Let me resist the temptation of harping on the missed opportunities before the war when Nnamdi Azikiwe and his Igbo intelligentsia had a commanding influence in national politics—both in prestige and ideology. Now in the post-war, it is not impolitic to suggest that the Igbo have seen a fair share of political positions throughout the post-war democratic dispensations beginning from the regime of Shehu Shagari to that of Goodluck Jonathan. The tragedy, regrettably, is that there is no tangible development in the East besides primitive accumulation of wealth by the individual politicians themselves.
To sustain the unhindered looting of development projects in the zone, the Southeast leaders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) perfected one of the most blatant political perfidy in recent memory. Though they were keenly aware that the PDP would rationally zone its presidency to the North in 2019, the Igbo leaders deceived their people with the false premise that uniting with the South-South zone to support President Jonathan in the 2015 election would guarantee a presidency of Southeast extraction in 2019. It was not surprising, therefore, that Muhammadu Buhari’s eventual triumph over Jonathan was generally seen as a rude coup d’état in East.
This development, coupled with the abject lack of development in Igboland plus President Buhari’s infamous outburst to punish the Southeast and South-South zones for voting against him in the 2015 elections, heightened the renewed call for Biafra by innocent youths. Notably, the agitators retained the natural map of Biafra and added parts of North Central zone.
The more troubling, however, is the mindboggling hypocrisy being exhibited by the Igbo politicians ever since. Outwardly, they (particularly those in PDP) appear to fan the agitation. Inwardly, these political merchants know that the innocent youths are merely being exploited as usual. After all, the same politicians who are continuing to deploy the proceeds from looted development projects in Igboland to acquire choice properties in Abuja and Lagos would resist any plan to leave Nigeria.
This explains why the Igbo PDP leaders craftily deflated the agitation and its exigent cause. For instance, instead of capitalizing on the undeniable natural bond between Southeast and South-South or the seemingly sense of unity among the two zones following the 2015 elections to launch Eastern Caucus at the National Assembly or emulate the North to create Eastern Governors Forum, the “wise” men from the East succumbed to making the cause of Biafra solely an Igbo-Southeast affair.
What the looters did was to simply embrace the age-long state bandwagon to distort the Biafran history to the Igbo disadvantage. The so-called Igbo leaders or any sensible elite for that matter cannot claim ignorance of the fact that natural Igbo territory is beyond the Southeast. Moreover, Biafra is not even an Igbo word to begin with. In fact, it was Frank Opigo, an Ijaw—not Igbo—who christened the new nation at time of its birth in May 1967. How soon can they forget that the last Head of State of Biafra, Phillip Effiong, is not from the Southeast? What does it take to remind them that the former Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, a Biafran war commander, and current Secretary-General of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Joe Achuzia, is not from the Southeast? What curse would make them to join to act as if though Chukwuma Nzeogwu, who led the coup commonly blamed for the civil war, was not an Igbo from the South-South? What does it take to acknowledge that a good number of influential figures from the South-South subscribes to the Biafran cause? Even if Biafra has suddenly become an exclusive Igbo agenda, how can any reasonable Igbo elite circumvent the knowledge of natural Igbo settlements in the South-South and North Central zones?
Obviously, there are crises of leadership in Igboland as there are excuses. As my father, Ilogebe Ogbonnia, the Ikeoha, would always say, “a habit of excuses is the best friend of failure.” The latest excuse is the term “Restructuring”, whatever that means. The loudest perspective is that the Igbo will witness the desired development once the country is restructured along tribal lines—as if the local governments and states in Igboland are headed by the Hausas or Yorubas. The political racketeers now want us to believe that the over $100 billion in federal money that entered the Southeast zone since May 1999, for example, was looted by the non-Igbo.
Make no mistake about it, the merits for restructuring or independent states can be profound. But could lack of restructuring suddenly be responsible for the failure of Ndigbo to use occasion of the 50-year anniversary of the Biafran war to chart a clear roadmap for the future? Is lack of restructuring truly to blame for the failure of Ndigbo and the South-South to emulate the North in creating concrete unifying agendas in the East 50 years after the war? Further, is lack of restructuring responsible for the perpetual failures of South East Governors Forum or Igbo umbrella groups, such as World Igbo Congress and Ohaneze Ndigbo towards unity of purpose?
Not long ago, 1991 to be exact, the Igbo people of Awka and Onitsha Divisions witnessed a form of restructuring in new Anambra State for rapid development. A purposeful visit to Awka, the state capital, is a painful testimony of what to make of the timbers and calibers of Igbo people that hail from such a richly endowed state.
The dawn of 2017 was a cool breeze in the entire Nigerian polity with the emergence of John Nnia Nwodo, a dynamic figure, as the President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo. But Nwodo’s reign is already trending as a fall before the rise. The apex Igbo organization already appears hijacked by faceless politicians. A day hardly passes without one manner of “Ohaneze Youths” fouling the media space, shamelessly posing as shields to politicians who have cases to answer with anti-corruption agency for looting funds earmarked for development projects in Igboland.
The worst is that the folly does not stop with the Igbo politicians. A host of the Igbo people, including their business men, have not fared better in terms of common sense. It is a common knowledge that the leading cause of armed robbery, kidnapping and, of course, the Biafran agitation is attributed to lack of employment and development in the East. Yet, the Igbo prefer to invest massively in other regions rather than their native land that remains 75% underdeveloped.
Karl Marx once remarked that, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” The first Head of State of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, never failed to wonder if in fact Mr. Marx had Ndigbo in mind for continuing to repeat the tragic mistakes of the pre-war era when they paid direly for investing in other regions at the cruel expense of their homeland. Ojukwu has been rolling in his grave learning that even Olusegun Obasanjo, a perceived Igbo enemy, has joined to admonish the Igbo to first demonstrate the ability to manage their meagre resources and the common sense to invest in their native land before the dream of an independent Biafra. It is no wonder, therefore, that the very economic boycott of Igboland by the Igbo made it convenient for the Arewa Youths to respond to the Biafran agitation by serving a Quit Notice to the Igbo living in the Northern Nigeria.
Given the Igbo predicament, and in view that the people are said to be of Jewish ancestry, it might then be roundly apt to ask: Did the Igbo kill Jesus Christ to appear so cursed to deserve the self-inflicted marginalization they are going through? That is, what other omen could warrant that the well-known “Igbo sense” would never be used for the collective interest of my people? What other immortal sin could subject the Igbo youths, for instance, to continue to extol the same corrupt politicians who have mortgaged their future? What is behind the raging oddity that two pea-brained and notoriously corrupt Yoruba elements, Femi Fani-Kayode and Ayo Fayose, now appear to be the official spokesmen of Ndigbo? Biko, what excuses would cause that there are no more consequences for bad behaviour in Igboland?
The apparent dilemma is tipping the critical threshold for mass revolution. The alarming success of a recent Sit-at-Home Order by the Biafran agitators must alert the sit-tight Igbo politicians that the political logic of clinging on excuses to deceive the masses no longer favours them. Effective leadership is measured by results, not excuses. Therefore—for now—unless the answer to the central question of this piece is positive, instead of the mindless freebooting of project funds in the area, it is incumbent upon the Igbo politicians to capitalize on the widely-acclaimed ingenuity to maximize available resources to start implementing strategic action plans that mirror some of those critical development visions commonly graced along restructuring or under a sovereign republic. True.