Date Published: 12/03/09
Abati's Arrogant Ignorance By Miss Onyechi Anyadike
I am writing to disagree with Reuben Abati in two aspects of his article titled 'Minority rights: The sin of lying' (The Guardian, Friday, November 20, 2009). One aspect actually, is basically getting my response, while the other, my disagreement.
On the first aspect, Abati accused the Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland, Dr. Martins Uhomoibhi, of feeding his audience at the recent UN Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva, Switzerland, with lies about the true situation of our Federal Character Principle, and that the Ambassador had falsely painted a positive picture of its impact on the Nigerian minorities. Against the Ambassador's position, Abati believes the minorities in Nigeria are treated as lower class citizens, making veiled reference to the politically dominant Hausa-Fulani of the core North by citing examples of General Yakubu Gowon, who is from a minority group in the Middle-Belt, and whose minority status, Abati claims, was to the disadvantage of his nine-year rule, and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who, it is believed, cannot be the natural heir to the throne because he is a Southern minority, and the crises generated by the disagreement between 'indigenes and Hausa-Fulani settlers in Jos North Local Government' of Plateau State. Except his reference to the Biafran War of Liberation, Abati can be assumed to have grouped the Ibos among the majority groups in Nigeria.
It is only when it is very convenient for the Yorubas, Abati's ethnic group, that they include the Ibos as victims of Hausa-Fulani political domination. But whenever it is to their advantage, the Ibos are one of the three major ethnic groups. Now, Abati is attempting to justify the erruption of the Biafran War as a result of Hausa-Fulani domination. But it is on record that the Yorubas (with a few exceptions like Prof. Wole Soyinka) were against the Igbo battle for the liberation of its people by secession. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had opportunity to serve a single term and ensure another single term for an Igbo PDP candidate in the person of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, to serve out the PDP zoning pattern of eight years for the South, his Yoruba kinsmen urged him on for a second term, and Obasanjo even began to dream of a third term. After being beaten in his third term bid, Obasanjo had an opportunity to support an Igbo aspirant to break the Hausa-Fulani political domination for once, but he opted not only to return power to its base, but to deliberately hand pick a reluctant candidate who he had thought he could manipulate. And now that the chosen one has turned out to be his own man, they are complaining of Hausa-Fulani domination!
The Ibos have neen treated as lower class citizens since the civil war. Aside from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe's Ceremonial Presidency in the First Republic, the closest to Igbo power control since the war was Dr. Ekwueme's Vice Presidency in the Second Republic. Besides the loss of being part of the control of political power, the Ibos are yet to find their former footing in economic power. It took nearly forty years after the war for a policeman of Igbo extraction to be at the helm of police affairs!
Like every of his kind, Abati should not include Ibos as lower class citizens only when it is convenient for him. The Ibos do not enjoy equal status with the two other so-called 'Nigerian three major ethnic grous'.
On the the second aspect, Abati claimed in the eighth paragraph of his article: 'In the last census and national identity registration exercises, some ethnic groups were deliberately not listed in the forms. These are facts'.
While I cannot say with all authority that ethnic group was not included in the registration form of the national identity registration exercise as I was not old enough to be registered in 2003 and therefore do not have the advantage of participating, and checking to confirm on the Net after reading the article, was fruitless, and Nigerian officials are not reputed for responding to such enquiries if indeed ethnic group was included; but I still have fresh memories of the 2006 census exercise because I was counted and I duly responded to the questions from the enumerators. Ethnic group was not included in that form not to mention excluding some groups due to their minority status, as claimed by Abati!
Not only that, my memory cannot fail me on the interview I watched on AIT during the period, where a National Population Commission (NPC) official explained that ethnic group was excluded in the questionaire to avoid controversies that could arise from figures ascribed to ethnic groups, that that was the reason why NPC used residency and not ethnic nationality. The official also added that this was done just as during the national identity card registration exercise. The official could have added that to support his argument. That is why I cannot say with all authority that ethnic group was also not included in the questionaire during the national identity card exercise.
That puts paid to Abati's 'These are facts' claim. And to think he was accusing Nigerian students of not showing enough interest in history! Maybe Abati is more abreast with ancient history and not modern history. And when next he wants to comment on history (ancient or modern), he should endeavour to cross-check his facts very well because a newspaper serves as a source of research and reference for undergraduates and not as an object of scorn for a student like me. And when columnists feed the public with ignorance as facts, and with such arrogance and confidence as Abati did, then every concerned Nigerian should note the consequences on academic research when Nigerian newspapers engage in 'The sin of lying'.
Miss Onyec hi Anyadike,
University of Nigeria,