Opinion

Before the South East Goes to Grief (3)

By Chuka Ucheagu

By 1965, the Eastern Nigeria’s regional economy had become the fastest growing economy in the world. It grew since 1958, at a massive 10% rate per annum. Within the same period, the Eastern Region, controlled by the Igbo, was at the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy.

They controlled and commanded the Army, dominated commerce, the professions, sports and social life. All these were the fruits of the vision of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Opara, Dr. Akanu Ibiam and other Igbo leaders at that time. These leaders’ vision, especially that of Zik, were carefully cultivated and implemented since his return to Nigeria in 1937. And then, boom!

A group of hot-headed  youngsters mainly led by junior military officers, mainly Igbo, lacking wisdom but seething with raw passion, suddenly struck, and set in motion a chain of events that eventually served all the Igbo the humble pie that today has become their lot.

Same passion that drives Mazi Nnamdi Kanu with his founded and controlled Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). His fiery speeches laced with curses under his breath on IPOB Radio based in London, left much to be desired. Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it.

The Caliphate with the help of Britain, during and after the atrocious war, balkanized Biafra land in a hateful move to prune all vestiges of power and influence of the Igbo over the ethnic groups in South Eastern Nigeria in particular and Nigeria in general.

They maliciously intended Alaigbo (Igbo Land) to be landlocked, to ensure they did not rise again or become a force to be reckoned with in the political equation of the country.

To keep them in check, they conceived and rammed politics of exclusion on the Igbo. They connived with other ethnic groups and instigated the minorities of the defunct Eastern Region especially the Igbo speaking groups of the riverine areas and across the River Niger, against their people.

So they began to rewrite their history and introduced queer alphabets in their Igbo vocabulary to wipe out their “Igboness”. So there was Rumuokoro instead of Umuokoro, and Wike instead of Nwike. Some towns even changed their names, like Igbakiri became Igbanke. It was a huge set up.

Not done, they handed every Igbo who operated bank accounts before the war a measly 20 Pounds, no matter the hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of Pounds they had in their Banks, in a satanic move to rob them of every economic power.

The government literally shared the loots of war that belonged to Ndigbo. Simultaneously, they were coveting properties belonging to the Igbo especially in PortHacourt and some parts of the North after naming them Abandoned Property.

All the positions in government previously occupied by the Igbo were taken over by other groups, and they were never reintegrated. So the “defeated” Biafrans were completely entrapped in a maze within a contraption. Double wahala for dedi bodi, courtesy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti! The mouthed 3Rs of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, was a hoax.

More so, they systematically attacked institutions of learning to ensure this “conquered people” never developed. They forcefully converted mission schools to government schools to ensure learning is controlled: how you think and know. This accounted partly for the rot in our education sector now.

Unknowingly the government became an undertaker of qualitative and wholesome education. The Igbo say that onye ji mmadu n’ala ji onwe ya (you cannot hold someone down and be free).

Though efforts are made in some parts of the country to return schools previously taken from their original owners, it is not recording huge success. It is a costly price paid for being foolhardy because government now realized that they do not have the capacity to own and sustain schools without organized private sector.

Now they have Nigerian irredentists of Igbo extraction. While the average northerner chants one Nigeria, the average Igbo practice it. Those misguided and naive Igbo can sacrifice their fellow Igbo and igboness for one Nigeria that does not exist. It exists only in the mandibles of the leeches that suck her dry.

Even with their show of patriotism and nationalism, the Igbo are the ones short-changed and receiving the short end of the stick in the Nigerian project. They are maligned and accused of not being united. This mother of all lies in order to entrench the divide-and-rule tactics of Igbo haters no longer holds water. People now know better. It is only a united people that could pull themselves out of economic ashes of a debilitating war and came out wealthier than their detractors who left them for dead.

Often I wonder how we keep living a lie. A lot of issues do not correlate at all. The leaders chant one Nigeria but are not ready to do what is required to keep Nigeria united. From injustice of state creation to unequal allocation and sharing of resources, from lopsided appointments in favour of a particular section of the country to partial administration and dispensation of justice by placing some ethnic groups above the law and others beneath it, from government orchestrated, malicious agenda to portraying a People (particularly Igbo) as a problem of the country and marginalizing them in every aspect of national development; the list is endless. They sold these lies and bought a dangerously gullible audience who retell the lies.

Why must our leaders be selfish and anachronistically insouciant to establishment of strong institutions that will benefit them now and generations yet unborn and birth developmental strides that will uplift this country? Why will a set of people delight in subjugating, oppressing and impoverishing their own people, who elected them to lead?

Why do leaders not fraternise to do good but evil? We are building a nation that will outlive us, right? So, why can’t we see beyond our nose? Why is leadership a rocket science in Nigeria? Can’t they rise above primordial and ethno-religious sentiments? Can’t they see they are simply slaves to idiocy and insanity?

Clearly Nigeria is not working. And some concerned citizens saw that it is not working and want the country to be restructured so that it can work. Others saw that it has gone beyond restructuring and want to self-determine so that their people will build their own nation to live fully as human beings – fully alive. Now the same corrupt leaders block the latter group of freedom fighters and aver that status quo ante must be maintained.

Apart from being a contraption, Nigeria for the time being has failed in all the indices and characteristics of a nation. It has impoverished its people, courtesy of our corrupt leaders, and prides itself as the poverty capital of the world. Right now it is broke and its inflation gallops geometrically, leaving in its wake a reality that this country may likely face hunger and famine soon. Food crisis looms.

Instead of answering the clarion call to patriotism and nationalism at this critical point of our history, the ruling party and Buhari Presidency are busy playing the ostrich. This incompetent government will rather deploy its scarce resources smoking out Kanus and Igbohos of this world (activists) than provide needed governance in economy, security and welfare of the people, on which hinged their Change Mantra.

Not tired of its practice of totalitarianism and fascism, this government is galvanizing what is left in its pocket to birth a one-party state.  There is nothing sinister and undemocratic that this government does not engage in. Like I asked before: “to what end?”

So there will be no peace in Nigeria. Take that to the bank. With the level of injustice and inequality in the country, it is impossible to have peace. And with the level of brazen affront and impunity on this country, it beats my imagination that it still hangs precariously in a balance as a country. Globally countries with one-tenth of Nigeria’s myriads of problems had broken into different countries.

It is even worse now: the hunger in the land because of poverty, and rising cost of foodstuffs because of the short fall due to insecurity – that prevented farmers from farming due to the menace of the murderous herdsmen. Nigeria is simply sitting on a time bomb.

Before the South East goes to grief, therefore, they should never allow a repeat of history. Biafra fought a just war and Nigeria an atrocious one. They should win this inevitable war by suing for peace, though the level of injustice now has surpassed what triggered the first war.

A lot of groups from the South East are working assiduously towards self-determination of the Igbos. Notably among them are the Lower Niger Congress (LNC) led by Barr. Tony Nnadi, the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-determination (NINAS) cofounded by Dr. Augusta Anosike, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Raph Uwazurike and lately the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

All the mentioned groups for Igbo agitation have employed non-violent approaches to their struggle until recently when IPOB formed the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to flush marauding Fulani herders out of the farmlands and stop open grazing of cattle which is the root cause of herdsmen incessant attacks.

Let it be on record that before IPOB took up arms, they were simply a bunch of protesters who demanded for independent state of Biafra via a Referendum.

It was the Nigerian state that mowed them down in their hundreds for only protesting and when they gathered in the open to pray. It was the Nigerian State that killed 28 people in the country home of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu when its soldiers invaded his house to possibly execute him on that fateful day.

Kanu miraculously escaped and later surfaced in Israel. But the trauma and after-shock of the home invasion killed his parents – though poisoning was not ruled out. So it is apparent that the oppressed will react too. Ndigbo has a saying that it is only a tree that would be told that it would be cut down and will remain on the spot. Easy to assume then that this gruesome and lethal attack birthed the armed wing of IPOB.

However, nobody should die for what belongs to them. Therefore, the recent deaths of people across Alaigbo and parts of Niger Delta by Unknown Gun Men (UGM), ESN and Nigeria’s Security Operatives are totally uncalled for.  There are processes towards self-determination in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), with its 46 Articles.

NINAS is at the 15th step of the 16 steps designed and being executed by them since 1999 to fulfil the conditions of the UNDRIP. They are just a step away to Referendum to be supervised by the UN. Tony Nnadi’s LNC is also at its last phase. MASSOB has peacefully progressed in its cause, save for the incarceration of it founder and some crisis in his organization. Perhaps all they require is synergy.

With the control of IPOB Radio by Mr. Sam Ekpa due to Kanu’s illegal abduction and his second wave of incarceration, I hope that a better approach and strategy in the rights struggle of IPOB would be adopted. Given the federal government’s shenanigans, to the extent of having a highly placed individual at the UN headquarters, the movement championed by abovementioned groups, when played by the rules, cannot be stopped.

Therefore, it is imperative that the people should not resort to violence to overcome injustice, oppression and subjugation. Though Restructuring is a route not yet explored, non violence is the best strategy to self-determine as being adopted by NINAS, LNC and MASSOB. IPOB should re-adopt it, before the South East goes to grief.

Chuks Ucheagu, a Political Scientist, Development Economist and Social Commentator, writes from Abuja.

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