By Jude Atupulazi
Last Saturday, March 16, was certainly a black one for humanity the world over. It was a day 49 Muslims were slaughtered in their mosques in New Zealand by a trigger happy 28 year-old man who simply hated Muslims and immigrants, including President Donald Trump of America.
On the said day, the man loaded his car with powerful guns, parked a few metres from his targets, calmly entered the two mosques one after the other and shot everyone in sight. He would come out and shoot sporadically, shooting one woman who fell on the pavement crying for help, but the only help she got was a hail of bullets on her head. She died instantly. Sixteen minutes after the police were alerted, the man was arrested and 12 hours later, he was charged to court on a one count charge of murder. Everything was so, so quick.
In the aftermath of the killings, it was like the world had come to an end in Europe and America, and, indeed, in the entire civilized world. World leaders poured out condemnations of the killings, speeches were made by them, all identifying with the government, families and people of New Zealand. You saw a world that placed a high premium on human life. They all wept with the people of New Zealand in a touching show of solidarity. All this, rather than make me happy, instead, made me sad.
I was sad because the situation of things in Nigeria came staring me in the face. I remembered I was in a country which treats human life with disdain. A country where human beings will die in their hundreds and life goes on as though nothing happened. It happened many times across many states in the country, especially in the northern parts.
Need I remind you of the Benue massacre? What about the Plateau genocide? Do you need to be reminded about the Southern Kaduna ethnic cleansing? These are places where human lives had been brutally terminated without as much as a whimper from the federal government.
The saddest day was the day 72 people were buried in Benue and our president neither uttered a word nor visited. But we all know that had this happened anywhere abroad in the civilized world, the entire nation would have gone into a meltdown.
Now, because our leaders do not pay any regard to human life, when such calamities befall us, we are left to carry our cross; no world leader commiserates with us and it is because they know we won’t value it. This is so, so sad.
Again, look at the speed with which the culprit of the New Zealand killings was arrested and taken to court just 12 hours later. In Nigeria, our security agencies are still searching for the Fulani herdsmen who killed innocent people across the land; in some cases, more than two years after the commission of the act! But these same security agents will defy the speed of light in arresting perceived opponents of the president or his party and, as in the case of Onnoghen, the suspended chief justice of the nation, prepare charges against him in record time, even though it was over the weekend!
In any country that calls itself one, human life is valued above all else. It makes the citizenry feel protected, loved and valued. Down here, because human life has been thrown to the dogs, the citizenry have been reduced to the level of animals. That is why people are killed at the slightest excuse through mob action. Sometimes the law enforcement agencies either partake of it or stand and watch.
I was torn between laughing and being angry when I heard that our president joined other world leaders to commiserate with the families and government of the slain New Zealanders. Here was a president that cares less when his own people are killed in even larger numbers. But when such happens abroad, he ”joins” others to say how sorry and pained he is. Isn’t that hypocrisy?
But the same man under whom more lives have been wasted since the civil war, has just been reelected, according to the nation’s electoral umpire, INEC. It is as if those people in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna, have said to Mr President, ”Oga, thank you for killing us, we are very happy to die and that is why we voted for you again.” Can you beat that? But that is perhaps a story for another day. Suffice it however, to say that Nigeria increasingly looks like a country that has lost her soul.
Igbos, endangered species in Nigeria?
On Monday, just before I wrote this piece, came this social media report that the entire Trade Fair Complex in Lagos had been shut down by the Lagos State Government. That Trade Fair Complex, if you don’t know, is a major business hub of Igbo traders in Lagos.
Before this story, there had been threats against Ndigbo by Lagosians, of dealing with them for over stepping their bounds in Lagos. Recall that during the last elections, Igbos in Lagos were accused by the indigenous population of trying to dictate the tune in the politics of the state by using their large numbers to sway votes in favour of the candidates of their choice who happened not be the choices of the indigenes. They had therefore warned Ndigbo against interfering with the affairs of Lagos State or get the sack.
But the question these people fanning the embers of ethnicity in Lagos fail to answer is whether the Igbos, as Nigerians, are not supposed to exercise their franchise as Nigerian citizens wherever they are. They have also not answered the question on whether the country’s constitution does not guarantee Igbos and other so-called foreigners in Lagos the right to vote and be voted for.
What is happening in Lagos is also happening all over the country. It did not even start today. After the civil war, Igbo property in Rivers State were confiscated under the Abandoned Property Act. Under this, those who fled home during the hostilities were forced to forfeit their hard earned property to the so-called indigenes. In doing this, they ignored the huge contributions of Igbo people in the development of their land.
To say that Ndigbo are the truest Nigerians is to state the obvious. These are people who call any part of Nigeria they come to, home. They settle and mingle with the people they meet there and take them as brothers. But over the years, what they have been getting in return have been deaths and more deaths. But will you blame the Igbos for being true Nigerians? It is in their DNA to be the way they are.
Those blaming Igbos for controlling the economies of their host communities should search themselves. Did Ndigbo in those places cut off the limbs of their hosts and thus stop them from fending for themselves? Did Ndigbo in those places steal their money? Are not those Igbos honestly pursuing their destiny and reaping from their efforts? Did Igbos stop the Yoruba or Hausa from coming to settle in Igbo Land, do business and prosper? Is it our fault when all the Hausa people in Igbo Land can do is to polish shoes and guard homes? Did any Hausa or Yoruba man ever complain that he came to the Southeast and requested for land to develop and he was refused?
Methinks that the treatment of Ndigbo outside Igbo Land is borne out of jealousy. When able bodied young men in Lagos wake up in the morning to play a game of drought, while their Igbo counterparts head straight to their shops to do honest business, why should they envy the Igbos when they reap the fruits of their hard work?
The truth is that Ndigbo have paid their dues in Nigeria and deserve some respect; even accolades. Although one may argue that Ndigbo have the option of going home if they are not wanted in Nigeria, such a decision is not easy so long as the governments of the day in Igbo Land fail to provide the enabling environment for that. Merely asking them to come home is just what it is: lip service.
But while I believe that we must strengthen our home base and make it attractive and vibrant enough for our brothers in diaspora to return, Nigerians must know that we are well within our rights to live anywhere in the country and share whatever rights and privileges therein as the constitution of the land stipulates. Those who feel bad about it can as well break away from Nigeria and allow those who want to live in it to do so.
By constantly harassing Ndigbo outside Igbo Land, the country is showing also that she is losing her soul.