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OPINION: Waffling Ohanaeze and the Igbo aspiration



OPINION: Buhari’s presidency at Nigeria’s expense [1]

IN light of the challenges facing the Igbo today in Nigeria, the last thing that the beleaguered people should have to contend with is a fractionalised socio political umbrella body. Unfortunately that’s exactly what Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been grappling with for some years. And it seems the situation is deteriorating rather rapidly.

The Igbo who are the only large, in terms of population, group of people who are indigenous to Nigeria [a fuller exposition on this another day] have been facing existential threats. The threats to emasculate and possibly annihilate the Igbo have been on for the better part of a century. And evidence abounds. We, Ndigbo, make a grave mistake by thinking that our plight, predicament and a genocidal disposition to our people by others was a consequence of the loss of a self-preservation struggle of 1967-1970, otherwise called the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. No. The outcome of the civil war or Police Action on the mainly Igbo nation of the defunct East Central State [ECS] as the then Nigerian military ruler, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, sadistically put it was not the genesis of the hatred of the Igbo and the determination to shut them up, subdue them or even exterminate them.

A casual examination of the travails of the Igbo in Nigeria in the past eight decades or so will affirm this assertion. This has been in spite of the enormous sacrifices by some Igbo personages especially Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe who reportedly declined an alliance between his political party,the National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons [NCNC] and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group [AG] political party in the first republic. The NCNC and the AG had their strongholds in southern Nigeria. History has it that Azikiwe instead opted for an alliance with the conservative Northern People’s Congress [NPC] of Sir, Ahmadu Bello, at personal cost. He reasoned, perhaps correctly but certainly wrongly in the face of present realities, that the unity and stability of the nascent nation would be impaired by any alliance between the NCNC and the AG, two political behemoths in the south. It’s important to recall that while the defunct Eastern region and the defunct Western region attained self-governing status in 1957, three years before Nigeria’s independence, the defunct Northern region, by choice, gained self governance in 1959, on the eve of independence.

The north was virtually crippled by the fear of domination by the south which was relatively more affluent, sophisticated and whose peoples were better exposed to Western education and so equipped with the nuances of Western style administrative skills. So when Azikiwe, an Igbo, declined an alliance with Awolowo, a Yoruba, both of the former Southern Protectorate, it was ostensibly in furtherance of national unity and the banishment of the real or imaginary fear of southern domination of the perceived backward north. By so doing, Azikiwe also passed the effective rulership of Nigeria to the north whereby Sir, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, of the NPC became the prime minister and head of government while Azikiwe settled for the post of governor general and later president, both of which were ceremonial offices.

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Enough of the aside though the brief insight could be useful to the younger generation in the wake of the discontinuation of effective teaching of Nigeria’s chequered history in important segments of our educational system.

Back to the assertion of the continual genocidal tendencies of some other nations in Nigeria to Ndigbo and the waffling of Ohanaeze. The other day I happened on a timeline of targeted attacks on Ndigbo in parts of the country since the 1940s, and it made for grim reading.

Taking us through the timeline here is not intended to inflame passions but to serve as a lesson or a reminder to the younger generation of Ndigbo of how the country they supposedly belong to had been treating their parents. It will also be a guide to the present leadership of Ndigbo, especially the Ohanaeze variant, of where we are coming from and the need to think on their feet. The attacks and killings of Ndigbo had happened in Jos, today’s capital of Plateau state in 1945; genocide in Kano in 1953; pogrom in parts of the north in the aftermath of the January 1966 coup and the July 1966 counter-coup; the massacre of May 29, 1967 when over 200,000 mainly Igbo civilians were mowed down in one day in the north; and, the 1967-70 war where an estimated three million Igbo were killed. It was also during this period that the notorious and documented Asaba [then Mid-Westregion but now Delta state] genocidal war crime happened. The list of the attacks and targeted killings of Ndigbo is almost endless including 1980 in Kano; Maiduguri, 1982; Jimeta in Adamawa state, 1984; Gombe in Gombe state, 1985; Zaria in Kaduna state, 1987; Kaduna and Kafanchan, 1991; Bauchi and Katsina states in 1991. The litany of chilling and spillingofIgbo blood would include the incidents in Kano in 1991; Zangon-Kataf, 1992; Funtua, 1993; again Kano, 1994; Kaduna, 2000, 2001 and 2002; Maiduguri, 2001; Jos, 2001 and 2008; the beheading of Gideon Akaluka in December of 1996 while taking refuge in a Nigerian Police Station in Kano for alleged blasphemy; post April 2011 instigated riots over presidential election result when a Christian southerner was declared the winner; Jos Christmas eve of 2010; Madalla Christmas Day massacre of 2011; Mubi [Adamawa state] killings of January 6, 2012; and the Apo [Abuja] six murders by police on June 7, 2005. There is a reward for killing the Igbo, and that could possibly be the reason why the leader of the police team that murdered the Apo six Igbo chaps in cold blood is today serving as an assistant inspector-general.

From the onset, we said that recounting the perils the Igbo have endured in this country was not intended to inflame passions. But how much will it matter if it does given that these are historical facts from the perspective of the victims. However, the incidents were recalled to serve as a guideline to the various segments of the Igbo leaderships, particularly Ohanaeze Ndigbo. As we say in the Igbo nation, and this probably applies in other nations in Nigeria and elsewhere on the African continent, that if you do not recall where the rain started beating you, you’reunlikely to remember where you were sheltered from the downpour.

A very troubling audio message recently went viral on WhatsApp social media where one of the voices in a two-man conversation ‘revealed’ that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo was planning to send a delegation to the north to beg the northern leaders, especially the Fulani, for forgiveness for the killing of their political and religious leaders during the military coup of January 1966. It was claimed that the military coup was conceived and executed by the Igbo in the Army, a false narrative that has found its way into Nigeria’s history books. This is not surprising given that the acceptable and dominant official
history of any war is usually written by the victors.

The defeated can only do so much in refuting a skewed narrative. Fortunately, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has come out swinging and disclaiming the contents of the viral and vexatious audio message. The body ostensibly went further to get the man who made the weighty allegation in the audio on WhatsApp to recant. The president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, took a step further by frontally addressing and debunking the allegation of plans to go and beg anybody over anything. He also claimed that the assassins and felons who bombed the country home in Enugu state of Chief John Nnia Nwodo, and that of Prof. George Obiozor in Awo Omamma in Imo state, two of his predecessors, were after him. It is up to security agencies to protect the limbs and life of every Nigerian.

However, a few days after Ohanaeze Ndigbo disclaimed the viral audio about begging, it issued a statement by one of its committees where it proclaimed its plan to embark on trips to all parts of the country to promote forgiveness, reconciliation and national unity. It claimed in the document that without a procured forgiveness, progress would continue to elude the country. The document unsettled a critical segment of the Igbo nation. At least two things raced through the minds of some in the Igbo intelligentsia-the coincidence of an owl chirping in the night and a child dying in the morning, and the issue of a barbecued and well grilled bushmeat with a heart dripping with fresh blood. Some among the Igbo have remained perplexed-is this a case of trying to explain the puzzle of six and half a dozen? But no matter.

The important thing to note is that if the so-called promotion of national forgiveness and unity is the priority of the extant Ohanaeze leadership, then they have no grasp of the yearnings and aspirations of the ‘Oha’ part of the Ohanaeze. And that will bea shame for a body currently led by a Biafran war veteran who carried, probably still carries, bullets or pellets of bullets embedded in one of his legs since the civil war. It cannot be. It should not be. Spin doctors cannot make what is wrong, right. That document exposes how the ‘Eze’ is alienated from the ‘Oha’ in the present Ohanaeze. And the gulf is huge. For the avoidance of doubts, no boneheaded national forgiveness, reconciliation and unity will work in the absence of equity and justice in the affairs of Nigeria. And I am persuaded that that’s what a majority of Ndigbo want.

But the present structure of this country does not conduce for fairness, equity and justice. It has been a winner-takes-all set up since the military abrogated the Eastern, Western, Northern, and Mid-West regions of the first republic. This has been further entrenched since the emergence of the victors andthe vanquished after the civil war in 1970. So, for the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to be relevant to the people it purports to lead, its minimum preoccupation should be the pursuit of a new Nigeria where there is fairness, equity and justice.

Nigeria is not working for Ndigbo. Nigeria is probably not working for Ndi-Yoruba. If it is working for the Yoruba, there may not have been need for a letter first to former President, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari [the Nigerian affliction], and a recent one to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu [their son], by a segment of the Yoruba nation, demanding a country of their own. It’s URGENT that the ‘Ezes’ [leaders] make themselves relevant to the ‘Oha’ [people] of the long suffering Igbo nation. The weight of history is on the shoulders of Iwuanyanwu and members of the Ime Obi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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