THE AFFLICTION OF NDI IGBO
Historical fact holds that Nigeria is mainly a tripartite state, selfishly chiselled out by the colonial vultures and helplessly held by our early post- colonial leaders. The Hausa, Igbo and the Yoruba nations were seen and presented as the most visible people among over two hundred and fifty nations that make up Nigeria – “Nigeria,” a name that Awolowo once described as a mere expression of a geographical entity. The creation of the Eastern, Northern and Western regions of those days, with the Hausas, Yorubas and the Igbos, holding sways in those regions respectively, and the inclusion of only the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages in our schools curriculum, are all pointers to the above historical fact.
Unfortunately, as events keep unfolding, the Igbos are gradually and systematically being sidelined. It started as Igbophobia prior to independence, when Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, who held sway in the then Lagos legislative elections of the late 1950s, was frustrated out by Awolowo and his cohorts on the ground that he wasn’t a Yoruba man. Then came the ethnic cleansing and pogrom meted against the Igbos in the northern part of Nigeria before the genocide of 1967-1970. That was the chapter one of the anti-Igbo thesis.
Rounding up the chapter one in 1970, which left over two million Igbos dead, another chapter was opened. It was the stage of unimaginable marginalization of Igbos in all facets of life in this theatrical stage called Nigeria. Igbos were forced to leave their thousands and millions of pounds in the Nigerian banks during the war and fled for their lives. After the genocide, few that survived it were denied access to their money and a ridiculous twenty pounds was ordered by the government to be given to Igbos, no matter the amount the person had in the banks. Please, was that in line with the principles of “No Victor, No Vanquished” so professed? How could one balance the confiscation of choice properties of Igbos in major cities of Nigeria like; Port Harcourt, Calabar, Lagos, Kaduna etc, after the Civil war, and termed them abandoned properties, with the hypocritically pronounced “No Victor No Vanquished” of Gowon and his infamous advisers?
Obasanjo seemed to have penned down the last pages of the chapter of Igbo marginalization and watered the ground for Yar’Adua to execute the next stage, being the present stage of total Alienation or Exclusion. His choice of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, you might wish to know, was to solidify his personal relationship with Yar’Adua’s family. Between 1976 and 1979 that Obasanjo ruled as a military dictator, the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, elder brother to President Umaru Yar’Adua, was his Second-in-Command. The two were arrested in 1995 by Gen. Sani Abacha, for allegedly plotting a coup. Shehu Yar’Adua later died in detention while Baba Iyabo narrowly escaped death. So Obasajo imposed Yar’Adua on Nigerians through a “do or die” approach to compensate the family, and thwarted once again the hope for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2007 as people expected. Though Igbos, I must confess, did not help matters in that regard. But to that, I will come later.
At least, every sane Nigerian concluded that Igbos would be consoled with the position of the Vice President. Again PDP, under the tight gripe of Obasanjo, denied Igbos the position and ceded it to the Niger Delta. The calculation, we all know, was to cage the provoked youths of the oil rich region and douse their consciousness from furthering their rightful and justifiable agitation for fair treatment, resource control, if not outright independence. But the ongoing situations in that region have proved the ancient truth that liberty is better than ribbon. What else do you expect of a people whose lands are impoverished, resources sapped to make Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and even Zamfara mini-Londons, while leaving them in squalor and abject poverty?
As though that wasn’t enough, the position of the president of the Senate, that the Igbos were ridiculed with for the past eight years, was snatched and added to the North. Some quarters saw that as a challenge to the people of the East. In the House of Representatives, it was said that the speaker would be of Igbo extraction, which people saw as too megre. Provocatively, the said compensatory position was dramatically given to the West – the area that held sway in Aso Rock for the past eight years. To this, well-meaning Nigerians and international community cried foul for such a degree of injustice. From then, it becomes clear that Igbos are marked to be pushed to obscurity and to be rendered politically irrelevant in this floating balloon called Nigeria.
The drama continues. On the eve of the retirement of the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, he was directed by President Yar’ Adua to handover to the next highest officer. I termed it a Presidential slip of tongue. The man that the mantle landed in his palms was Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, an Igbo man, from Akpugo, Nkanu west Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Insultingly, within 24 hours of the slip of tongue, it dawned on the presidency that allowing an Igboman to hold such a position, wouldn’t be in line with the spirit of Igbo exclusion agenda of the government, hence, Onovo was ordered to hand over to Mr. Mike Okiro, his junior, as the police boss. What an insult, you may say.
As concerned Nigerians, including legal luminaries like Gani Fawehimi, Ben Nwabueze and others were yet to recover from that shocking decision of the presidency in the choice of the Inspector General of Police, against popular opinion and natural justice, another misile was let loose against the already afflicted people of the South East. It was the blatant refusal of the powers that be, to release Dr. Ralph Uwazurike, after all others accused of treasonable felony as he faces were released. It started few months before the end of Obasanjo’s civilian dictatorship, when he released his kinsmen – Ganiyu Adams and Dr. Fredrick Fasheun – the factional leaders of the violent Odua People’s Congress (OPC). They were among some ethic militia leaders and freedom agitators earlier arrested and charged for treason. Others included; Alhaji Asari Dokubo, of the Niger Delta Volunteers Force, and Dr. Ralph Uwazurike, of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Out of them all, it is on record that MASSOB maintains a clean non-violent approach to her activities, yet it is the worst treated by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Following the release of the OPC leaders before Obasanjo left office, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, assuming office as the Vice President of Nigeria on the 29 th of May this year, made good use of his position and freed Alhaji Asari Dokubo – his kinsman, on the 14 th of June. Just fifteen days of his assumption of office. Then, Uwazurike, the most peaceful among all of them, was left to perish in detention, then granted a strange 3 months bail, he is expected to back to continue languishing in the dungeon – after all, his kinsmen, the Igbos, have nobody in government to influence his release or to ensure that justice is done in his case.
I need not go into the fact that among the six geopolitical zones of the country presently, the South East is the only zone with only five states, notwithstanding the fact that it is one of the most populated zones. Other zones have seven or six states at least. Sometime last year, His Excellency, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Governor of Kwara State, in a radio programme stated that there was no rationale for not creating another state in the South East. He described it as an open injustice that should have been addressed long ago. Again, Nigeria has International Airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt. There is no such Federal presence in any state of the South East. Yet the last line of the second stanza of “our” hypocritical National Anthem reads: “To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. What a deception!
Moreover, a cursory view of the appointments to key positions in this government of a questionable mandate, shows that president Yar’ Adua is effectively delivering his lines from the already written script for Igbo exclusion. Just have a look at this list and pass your own rational judgment: the Chief of General Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief Justice of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and Secretary to the Federal Government, no single person from South East was appointment to any of the above key positions. Yet, we shamelessly say, “One Nigeria”
Appallingly, it has entered even ‘our’ national sports teams. The captain of the Nigeria under 20 team for the Canada 2007 World Cup was to be VictorOzokwo, an Igbo guy, the son of Patience Ozokwo, the popular actress. But while in Canada, before the games started, Ozokwo was forced to handover the captainship to one Ezekiel Bala, against the wishes of the majority of the players. The coach allegedly said that he got the order from above. Then, Bala took over and Ozokwo was confined to the bench, with a false excuse that he was injured. Thank God for that poor and disgraceful outing. Don’t be surprised if you hear that Kanu Nwankwo is dropped for Makinwa as Super Eagles’ captain.
I wish the unfolding scenarios will really serve as an eye opener to Igbo leaders, who over the years have shown a clear lack of a united front or a single voice. When it was obvious that Ekwueme was becoming the choice of Nigerians in 1999, Jim Nwobodo contributed significantly in frustrating him. We are good at fighting ourselves than forming a united front to achieve a collective goal. If not Ekwueme and Okadigbo against Zik, it will be Jim against Ekwueme, or Ojo Maduekwe versus Orji Kalu, or Jim versus Chimaroke, or Chimaroke versus Ken Nnamani, or Chris Uba versus Chris Ngige, or Arthur Nzeribe versus Enwerem, or Pious Anyim versus Sam Egwu. What a shame! We all saw what happened in Yoruba land during the 2003 election. Alliance for Democracy (AD), that led governments of the whole Yoruba States, buried their differences and supported Obasanjo, their kinsman, even though in PDP, for the presidential election. But in Igbo land even some that have no clout to head a village meeting, will always come out for the Presidency, either as agents of North and West, to serve as stumbling blocks against their fellow Igbo man, or as a result of their befuddled minds that are ignorant of political arithmetic of Nigeria. I want to humbly state that until we jettison the Igbo Enwe Eze (Igbos have no king) mentality, and form a single front, our future in Nigeria remains gloomy.
Be that as it may, I want to passionately appeal to the powers that be to, as a matter of urgency, reverse the apparent agenda of Igbo exclusion. To continue in that will be tantamount to planting a time bomb. It will be most counter-productive. The God that still holds the already depleted tiny chord that holds this country must be running out of patience. He will definitely not sit tight and watch, while the leaders brazenly skew justice from its natural balance.
You might choose to vilify me if a say that Yar’ Adua and his cohorts deserve no accolades anytime they choose to release Chief Ralph Uwazurike and integrate Igbos fully in this government. But that is the truth. They should rather be booed, because, as they say, Justice delayed is justice denied. Surely, at the end of the tunnel, there must be a light. After all, the Israelites survived global attack and the state of Israel came into being in the 1940s.
I wish to conclude by making reference to Mr. James Barnard, a one time American consul in Nigeria in the 1960s. Reacting to the state of the nation, he said, “It is no good ducking under or hedging around the single immutable political realities of this country, which is: in any race for the material benefits of life, starting from the same point, and on the basis of equal opportunity, the easterner will win by miles . This is intolerable to the north. The only way to prevent it from happening is to impose artificial shackles to the progress of the East …” Undoubtedly, that is exactly what they are doing to Igbos now – imposing artificial shackles on the progress of the east, by the alienation and exclusion agenda of the power that be. Then, I ask, are we still Nigerians?
Ogbonna Sunday writes from
Lagos – Nigeria.