By IK Muo
The socio-political atmosphere preceding the 2015 historical elections was very tense and it was under that situation that Oba Akiolu of Lagos ordered Ndi-Igbo in Lagos to either vote APC or else they would end up in the Lagoon. People joked about politically bizzare and ethnically explosive statement, for instance, that the Igbos would just turn the lagoon into another Lekki! Nobody admonished the Oba and the best comment was don’t mind the man; that is how he talks. The Lagos APC advised that nobody should take his proclamation seriously, did a we-are-one campaign and Ambode, whom the same Oba had declared the governor even before APC primaries, promised an inclusive government. How inclusive has his government been? Go and find out! For instance, I just learnt about a circular that everybody should wear Yoruba (not traditional) attires on Fridays and that Yoruba language should be used in meetings and school assemblies. I have not eye-marked it but the mere thought of this in a cosmopolitan environment like Lagos shows how inclusive the government is!
Not long after that, the Akure wars erupted. The Deji of Akure did not give my brethren a quit-notice but like Saul, he supervised the physical attack and humiliation of the Ezeigbo, raised ethnic tension against the Ndi-Igbo in Akure, banned the Ezeigbo title and was short of banning red caps in his domain. It was actually a quit notice because he asked them to leave if they would not comply with his imperial order within10 days. From there, the internet warriors took over. It was all about Ndi-Igbo who did not respect their kind hosts, who were ill-mannered and who should go home if they could not cohabit peacefully. It never matterd that there were –and there are-Serikin Hausawa in Akure, Lagos, Enugu and indeed in every part of the country. It did not matter that Ndi-Igbo had lived in Akure long before the Deji was born and that his predecessor publicly recognized the office and its holder. It did not even matter that the issue at stake was about market leadership, where those in the market chose their own leadership that the Deji did not like. As for the Ezeigbo title, my views on this nauseating issue is contained in an article I wrote about 20 years ago titled This Ezeigbo Industry and published in almost all the national dailies. And that was when there was still some sanity in that ‘industry’ unlike now when every street has an Ezeigbo!
As all this was happening, the IPOB/Kanu affair erupted: the arrest and extra-judicial detention of Kanu whom the FG had turned into an overnight heroe by the same very detention; demonstration for his release and massacre of IPOBians by our blood thirsty security forces who only show their prowess whenever peaceful groups are involved and eventually, the question became: what does Ndi-Igbo want? OBJ said that the agitation was fuelled by hunger and attention seeking behaviours; PMB said Igbos should forget Biafra; General Buratai said that those seeking for Biafra would wait another four millennia while Ibrahim Coomassie, (a former IGP and Chairman of ACF) stated that the increasing quest for Biafra was based on emotions rather than Logic, and he had the temerity to say so at Nsukka, where some IPOBians were probably in the audience. Others were asking whether Igbos wanted the presidency, restructuring or Biafra and while this was going on, Kanu was released from detention with the queerest form of bail condition in Nigerian judicial history: an Israeli Rabbi as a suretee, amongst other things!
On 30/5/17, Ndi-Igbo, as they have been doing in the past, decided to sit at home, in remembrance of millions of their kingsmen who were murdered under government supervision in the north and those who died during the Biafran war of independence. Our compatriots in the old Eastern Nigeria,and the current Delta/Benue States ought to be involved because they all saw the war and lost people also. Maybe, they didn’t feel that a public show of remembrance was necessary or more probably, they did not want to be acused of Biafranism. The memorial sit-at-home was total and unfortunately for our blood-thirsty security men, they did not see any Igbo youths to kill, maim or arrest. The sit-at-home was not about the Biafranisation of the East; it was in remembrance of the dead. But those who would beat a child and prevent him from crying, did not find it funny. Demonstration for whatever purpose in the East is anthema. Sitting at home is also a problem, as if staying at home had suddenly become an offence! It did not matter that in a country like Rwanda, there is an annual period (not just a day!) of remembrance of the victims of their own season of anomie. Anyway, Ndi-Igbo shocked the world as they forgot their shops for once and sat at home without any noise. And then, the reactions started pouring in.
First was Ango Abdulahi, who is already on injury-time on earth and should be busy tidying up his books. He went revisionist and turned history on its head by saying that Biafra attacked Nigeria first, that the whole Biafran affair was all about politics as the Igbos were trying to pocket the rest of Nigeria and urged the government to deal decisively with anybody fermenting trouble. He had even said that northern Nigeria was subsiding southern Nigeria! It was then I rememberd that back then as a student union activist at UI, we used to call him VC without CV. And then, from nowhere, a so called coalition of northern youth groups gave the Ndi-Igbo up till October 1 (a generous three clear months plus some extra time) to quit the north and this was just because they decided to stay at home on 30/5/17. And since then, all hell has been let lose, for and against; some genuine, some fake, some in the fire-for-fire mode and some pretentious like those who would stir the forest from one side and come out from another side to ask: who goes there?
IPOB supported the quit-notice; after all they had been asking every okoro man upnorth to return home. Governor El-Rufai asked the police to arrest the rascals and IGP assured that they had sent dictatives after them only for the fellows to meet in the same Kaduna for a second time to defend and clarify their quit-notice. It was after El-Rufai spoke that the Presidecy (the London or Abuja branch office?) supported him, assuring that the security forces were on red-alert. Ohaneze stated that the notice was treasonable but called for calm; its youth wing asked Ndi-Igbo to defend themselves and they would only support one-Nigeria on the condition of 2019 Igbo presidency; Afenifere asked all southerners to leave the north, Niger Delta youths and a coalition of militants (all of them, generals) vowed to decalare RONDEL republic and asked all northerners to quit Niger Delta; middle-belt youths assured Ndi-Igbo of warm welcome, saying they were not part of the north; OODUA youths stated they would not align with the north on the matter while MASSOB is not in support of war. Ango Abdulahi supported the quit notice on behalf of NEF but Paul Unongo Vice Chairman of the body condemned the quit notice, denied any support for such nonsense. Obasanjo warned all the youth groups, APGA advised the Ndi-Igbo to leave the north and decamp from APC to APGA. The quit notice has also been condemned by Atiku Abubakar(it is reckless and provocative), Senator Jibrin( on behalf of ACF) the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Tanko Yakassai on behalf of the Northern Elders Council, Guru Maharaji (who gave the Sultan 14 days to make a definite statement in the matter), and Prof Suru Gambari. Rochas Okorocha called on MASSOB and IPOB to desist secessionist agitation; Ohaneze declared a support for restructuring and not secession, while Ojukwu Jnr asked his brethren to BE CAREFUL. A former Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Danmusa, however aligned with the northern groups because the “Igbos are ungrateful’
Mazi Ohuabunwa(the only Mazi in town, after Mazi S.G Ikoku) saw the eviction-order as an unflinching support for restructuring as well as an indication of northern resentment of Ndi-Igbo because it showed clearly that they are tired of living with the Igbo in one country and would want that arrangement changed. They have several reasons they resent the Igbo. But it looks like the most obvious is the amount of property the Igbo own in the North and their apparent prosperity wherever they live. Rather than live in batchers and in makeshift temporary structures, they buy massive plots of land and build multi-storey block houses and establish chains of businesses. They do not behave as strangers or those in transit; they settle and live like indigenes and sometimes live more affluent lifestyles than the indigenes! This is similar to the reaction of the Eastern Mandate Union, led by Arthur Nwankwo, which agreed with this particular section of the Kaduna Declaration:: “We wish to draw the attention of the authorities and all other interest groups that there is nothing difficult or impossible for all the units that make up Nigeria to pull out if they so wish. We cite the example of the split of several independent nations from the old Soviet Union, the separation of Pakistan from India, the recent divorce of South Sudan with the former Sudan and most recently, the exit of Britain from the European Union”. The EMU sees this as a support for restructuring.
Leaders from Southern Nigeria frownd at the attempt to turn the mater into Hausa-Igbo affair, and declared that an injury to one is an injury to all, insisting that the Arewa youths and their sponsors must withdraw the quit notice given to the people of the Southeast as failure to do so, will be taken as an ultimatum given to the entire Southern Nigeria to quit their region and any attack against anybody from the South will be considered an attack against the Southern Nigeria. One SKC Ogbonna wondered aloud in exasperation whether Ndi-Igbo were the ones that killed Jesus but, the Acting President or Coordinating VP reiterated what has been this government’s position all along: We’re in a marriage as a Nation and we must remain together. I don’t know whether he spoke as a VP, as the acting vicepresident, as a pastor or as a professor of law as all of the above
So, with this babelish bedlam in a country experiencing socio-economic distress and a president on AWOL,where do we go from here? However before we delve into that, some South African communities recently issued eviction orders on Nigerians and that was within 24 hours(15/6/17-16/6/17). Our government did not know how to react,( and we are always reacting, rather than being proactive) given that eviction orders have just become common place among Nigerians in Nigeria and thus they just said: it is a lie! Thankfully, the South-Africans have rescinded the order. Anyway, it is wrong to believe that the Arewa youths are on their own and that they just emerged from no where to audaciously make their infamous, treasonable declaration. Our people say that when the mother-goat is chewing cod, the kid learns from her and that a child sent on a thieving operation by his father does so with reckless abandon. They have heard what the elders have been saying openly since the 1950s and what those who are more diplomatic than the senile Ango Abdulahi say in whispers today; they have observed that in Nigeria, you can do anything with and to Ndi-Igbo and get away with it, including midnight deportation, the Nimbo massacres, decapitation of Igbo business capabilities in the name of urban renewal, militarization of Igbo-land, bare-faced murder on flimsy excuses (The World Igbo Congress has documented about 60 of such instances) and the like. This is more so if you are from the north. Those who are saying don’t mind them are also vicariously liable because they had done a lot to criminalise Ndi-Igbo, raise negative sentiments and discriminate against them, whether it is through the Lagos declaration or the Akure wars.
The similarity between the current scenario and the 1966/67 scenario is also obvious to all: advice to remain calm, repeated assurances of government protection and the inviolability of constitutional right of freedom of residence. Even those who left the north then were encouraged to go back north by the one and only Ikemba, only for them to be systematically butchered by people who could not (and still do not) distinguish between humans and cows once it came to butchery! I don’t believe that Ndi-Igbo should be on the run always but our people say that precaution is not an act of cawardice. It is also interesting that in this mater, the FG only issued a statement after the short giant of Kaduna had spoken; that El-Rufai had reassured that they were still searching for the invisible youths (even after their leader said he was available for arrest) and that DSS only spoke two weeks after the infamous declaration- giving any group more than enough time to wrecked havoc and cleared the evidence! That shows how serious, coordinated and focused we are as well as our sense of responsibility and proactiveness. It also shows the extent to which we can trust the government whether at the center or at the ‘provinces’. On this score, I agree with Mr Ojukwu that we must be CAREFUL. It is also obvious that if those who are audaciously promoting the grazing area bill had also initiated the trading area bill, nobody would have ordered anybody to quit!
My sincere advice to all is that 2017 is not in anyway like 1967 because the only similarity is the ‘7’ and I like an aspect of the VPs recent statement:Every stone thrown into the market place will hit unintended targets, and nobody knows whom that would be. This is akin to what happens when the shit hits the fan. But the most important fact is that while it is easy to start any push-push, no body knows how long it would last, how it would end and what the consequences would be. In any case, he who starts the fight does not always win and the question for a witch doctor boasting about his expertise in curing diarrhea is: where did you keep your anus? In other words, how is he sure that the diarrhea will not afflict him?
It should also be obvious to all, especially those suffering from acute Igbophobia that what is on board now is more than an Igbo question; it is a national question. Whenever people start discussing or agitating about equality of access to opportunities and resources, safeguards for the interest of all communal and social groups and especially minority groups, as well as the very intractable and broad issue of social and distributive justice, then, it is a national question. (see Ik Muo, ‘Ojukwu is dead: long live Biafra’, Business Day,17/4/12). The only issue is that different people ask that troublesome question differently. Some Ndi-Igbo are clamouring for Biafra; some are against Biafra, some are clamouring for restructuring, some are indifferent and Mr Umahi who is tragically, the governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of SE Governors forum, believes neither in Biafra nor restructuring. For him, Nigeria is very wonderful as it is; this is indeed wonder-full! Other peoples in Nigeria are also clamouring for their own separate enclaves and while some are doing so in the public space, some are doing their own deftly underground while others are steadly capturing all the capturables in Nigeria, creating the ground for more national questions.
We should all be free clamour and agitate but justice and equity will lead to peace and this will SURELY douse these agitations. Those who are threatening fire and brimstone as if Nigeria were their personal or sectional estate should remember that those who make peaceful change impossible make the other alternative inevitable. Within this week, a helicopter had bombed the Venezualn Supreme Court while a car rammed into the Brazillian presidential palace. But whatever the case, one of my friends, the Ariam of Igboariam made the vital point that Even if Biafrans go; even if Arewa quit notice stays, even if Oodua goes, even if Nigeria splits into many independent states, if the twin issues of inequality and injustice are not addressed, the problem is nt solved because inequality and injustice are responsible for the crises and agitations in Nigeria and all over the world.
Further reactions to this melodrama have continued to flood the public space.Dr Indabawa sees the Kaduna Declaration as suspect and a coded message to the Nigerian state, the Igbo elites, the Yoruba bourgeosie, the military and the international community, that might lead to disintegration sooner rather than later. And that was just as Ohaneze Ndigbo, dissociated itself from seccesional agitations and instead opted for restructuring. Sam Omatseye believes that the ghost of Biafra, like that of Banquo, is haunting Nigeria because we are a nation of self-deceit lying to and at ourselves. Dan Agbese decried our unworkable military federalism; Abraham Ogbodo warned that nations that thrive on forced unity are not known to thrive for long while Fani Kayode gave a condition for Nigeria to remain one: treat us all as equals, offer our children and our people equal opportunities…’’. For Obong Attah, the only solution is fiscal federalism and he was sure that Ndi-Igbo would be happy in a just Nigeria while; Atiku called for restructuring while PMB/APC said no way and the governors have followed the well-beaten path: the unity of the country is sacrosanct and non-negotiable!
Opayemi Agbaje strongly believes that the calls for secession in “Biafra”; the calls for Sharia in the North-West and North-East; the grumbles in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria which is getting more intense and may boil over sooner or later; the unrest and militancy in the Niger-Delta; and the unceasing calls for “true federalism” in Western Nigeria shows that the status quo is unsustainable and is about to collapse. The vision of a unitary Nigeria in which a minority establish a permanent hegemony over the nation has failed and produced only a corrupt, unproductive, unstable and disunited nation. It has produced “Boko Haram” in the North-East; sabotage and militancy in the Niger-Delta; widespread poverty, illiteracy and tens of millions of children outside schools in the North-West and North-East; murderous conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers and indigenes across the whole country and particularly in the North-Central; disgruntlement in the South-West; and growing calls for secession and independence in the South-East. In the whole of Nigeria, all that unitarism has generated is poverty, unemployment, inequality and crises. There can be no justification for proceeding further on this path to ruin! (Opayemi Agbeje, the road to restructuring or ruin BD, 21/6/17).
Before this era of declarations, the Ag President had assured us that the promise of our constitution which we have sworn to uphold is that we would ensure a secure, and safe environment for our people to live, and work in peace, that we would provide just and fair institutions of justice. That we would not permit or encourage discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, beliefs or other parochial considerations. That we would build a nation where no one is oppressed and none is left behind(Colloquim marking the 50 years of Biafra). But our governments, both the ones before and the one he currently heads, have serially failed to walk the talk. That was why Chief Nwodo of Ohaneze, at the same colloquim, advised that We must find creative ways to manage a complex multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. History teaches us that no society is static; the status quo cannot endure forever. We must find creative ways to promote political, economic and social justice within a nation and between the people that comprise it. If not, then we are invariably opening the doors to future threats of chaos, disorder and societal dislocation.
Long before this time, Sanusi lamido, current Emir of Kano at the same Arewa House, had declared that it was unfair for a country that forced the Igbos to remain in Nigeria and deliberately pauperized them through several policies, to, at the same time deny them equity, warning that There is a new Igbo man who was not born in 1966 and neither knows nor cares about Nzeogwu and Ojukwu. There are Igbo men on the streets who were never Biafrans. They were born Nigerians and are Nigerians, but suffer because of the actions of earlier generations. They would soon decide that it is better to fight their own war and maybe find an Honourable peace than to remain in this contemptible state in perpetuity. ..If this issue is not addressed immediately, no Conference will solve Nigeria’s problems.” – (“Issues in Restructuring Corporate Nigeria” 11/9/99).
Thus, at the center of all this, is the issue of equity or lack of it. Just before the Kaduna Declaration, the Lower Niger Congress had made a comprehensive presentation at the Igbo Summit convened at Enugu by the World Igbo Congress on 27/5/17 with the prophetic theme: Navigating the future. They reviewed the past and the present, and reiterated their call for self-determination referendum, arguing that: “the disputations constantly rocking Nigeria are more of a deep-lying clash of civilizations than the previously held views revolving around shallow symptomatic issues such as leadership deficit, economic disparity and corruption. These are mere symptoms of the deep-seated malaise; the twin phenomena of Sharia and feudalism make the union of Nigeria unworkable since the faith and social dictates of the Islamic North require adherents to kill the other groups who they consider “infidels” and thus inferior people. Since no one can compel the Muslim North to abandon Sharia and embrace democracy and constitutionalism nor can anyone compel the Christian South to embrace Sharia and feudalism in place of Christianity and constitutional democracy, Nigerian state has been a union of attrition; the attempt to “equalize” the two mortally opposed civilizations saw the elevation of mediocrity in the name of quota system and now “federal character” and the result has been the wreckage that the world calls Nigeria. The frustrations arising from this has, more than anything else, fueled the demand by the indigenous peoples of Eastern Nigeria to get off the yoke of Nigeria and all the associated bloodletting engendered by irreconcilable religious and political differences;That the issues which led to the Civil War remain starkly unaddressed till date – degenerating further by the oppressive actions of our “conquerors. They concluded that The current escalation of the quest for an exit from a failed Nigerian union must, therefore, be seen by the global community in its true context as the continuation of an almost 50-year-old fight for self-determination driven by a clash of irreconcilable civilizations and cultures arbitrarily erected through colonial imposition.(The Trinity of the Igbo Question, the Eastern Nigeria Question and the “Biafra” Question in Nigeria: A CASE FOR SELF-DETERMINATION REFERENDUM)
But of all the reactions to the infamous and historical declaration, I like this ‘retroactive’ one from a strange quarter which is very similar to Agbaje’s stand:…it is tragic that Nigeria is still submerged in the morass that Ojukwu already identified… Today…There is agitation for the review of the revenue allocation formula. There are strident calls for the convocation of a sovereign national conference…Didn’t Ojukwu warn of these landmines ahead? Were all these issues not already settled at Aburi? …And is that not why we are still suffering today, living in a rickety and decrepit country that can burst at the seams any moment? I tell you, Ojukwu was a prophet, and like most prophets, he had no honour in his own country.. But whether we like it or not, there’s no way we won’t return to Aburi… I only hope it will be sooner than later, before Nigeria goes to grief. That was Femi Adesina, a big man in the current government, avowing that he stood ‘on Aburi’ ( Daily Sun, 2/3/12). I wonder what he would be saying today!
Surely, we need not go back to Aburi. But I read enough of European history( for my HSC) and I am also a living witness to the not so distant scatter-scatter events in the same Europe. The truth is that Nigeria, as it is constuted today and as it operates today cannot endure. It is a matter of time and whether it would be peaceful or bloody depends on the people involved and their strategies. Those in authority today MUST act fast to reduce the number of alienated and angry individuals and groups. And the only sure-route to this is equity and justice, which is not difficult to attain. If it is through reconstruction, so be it. When two Nigerians in the same neighbourhood write the same examination, and the person who scored 3 marks is admitted while his friend who scored 120 fails, in the same country, or when herdsmen deliberately destroy farms, kill the farmers and occupy their land, and nothing happens,then…
By the way, why not grant this refrendom request, not just for Biafranists but for every group that wants out and for the rest to say how they want this country to be run? I assure you as the spirit that I am, that the outcome would be a surprise; a surprise that will be positive or negative depending on ones aspirations. Of course if government executes the referendum the way it runs our electoral process, then we know the outcome upfront.
In the days of missionery priests, whenever the villagers asked the interpreter what the priest had said in his sermon, he would reply: what he said last Sunday is what he also said today.Two years ago, I argued as follows:So, which way Nigeria? Break up like Sudan, break down like Somalia or move forward in peace based on justice, acknowledging the right of different people to some degrees of autonomy over their affairs so that rather than being suffocated together, we give breathing space to ourselves? The choice is ours. Dividing Nigeria is not a faill proof solution but in the absence of equity and fairness, it may become the only option( Ik Muo(2015)The Eni Njoku phenomenon and the future of Nigeria; Eni Njoku lecture, University of Lagos). What I said before, is what I am still saying, only updated for recent developments. Unfortunately as Eziekiel declared thousands of years ago nothing shall remain the same again (Ezk, 21:26) . Nigeria cannot remain the same again after this season of eviction notices, declarations and counter-declarations. (I have just heard of the Daura Declaration) And sincerely, I am worried!
When Nigeria became a nation, Pope John xxiii, composed a prayer for Nigeria which inter alia reads…make us wise to seek ruth in all things and live honestly…; inflame our hearts with supernatural charity which will overcome dissensions, rivalries and resentment of tribe and province and draw all together into a union of true brotherhood… ( Sacred Heart Prayerbook, 4th edition, p82) It appears that the ingredients of crises were there all along and that this scenario was even obvious to non-Nigerians. It also appears that we did not pray with all our hearts or that we have done so badly that God decided to ignore our prayers. On 15/6/17 when I wrote the first part of the treatise, the responsorial Psalm, taken from Psalm 85 declared that ‘The lords glory will dwell in our land or that God will give us prosperity and our soil will yield its harvest (vs 12) but that is on the condition that justice and peace have embraced; (vs10). On 22/6/17 when I concluded the article, the responsorial was Psalm 111:7 The Lords handiwork is justice and truth.I didn’t say so; it has been there from time immemorial. Those who have ears, let them hear…