Even as the bombs boom in Maiduguri, Bama, Yola and elsewhere, properties destroyed and bones litter the grounds of Baga, Damaturu, Potiskum and its environs, even while those native to these lands ran as far as their heels could lift them, with a good number of them not thinking of returning to their lands ever again, you would still see buses conveying people from the Southeastern part of Nigeria to these same places. No, not soldiers or members of any military taskforce, but civilians, mostly traders either seeking to establish new businesses in the war torn land or persevering in their old businesses in that land. These people do not have talisman that protects them from harm’s way but their love for Nigeria drives them.
They are the only ethnic group that calls every part of Nigeria home, and should anything happen to the unity of Nigeria, no group of people will survive more than them anywhere in this country. You can hardly go to any village in any part of this country without seeing an Igbo family already naturalized with the original inhabitants of that village. The Igbos are the only group of Nigerians who understand and recognize the differences in our cultures and religions but still sees every Nigerian as siblings. They build wherever they go to and they invest like they will never go home again. They intermarry; they learn the languages of their host communities and allow their children to acculturate without the slightest discrimination. I have cousins who speak Hausa better than they speak our native Igbo and step-brothers who can comfortably say that Yoruba is their first language, while they learnt Igbo, but are not as fluent in it, as they are in Yoruba. My two grandfather spoke Hausa so fluently and my paternal grandparents chewed Igala like it is their mother tongue.
Down home, the Igbos is the most hospitable group of people Nigeria knows. Members of other ethnic groups carry about their businesses across Igboland without any prejudice from the Igbos. My paternal grandfather had a Hausa janitor by name Ali, who took care of one of his houses fully occupied by his brothers from the North. My maternal grandfather had all his children in Sokoto and till date my mother and his siblings speak clean Hausa. At no time have the Igbos instigated any clash with members of other ethnic groups who do business or reside within Igboland. On rare occasions when some youths are provoked into retaliating the killing of their kith and kin in the Northern part of the country or elsewhere, the elders would quickly wield in to stop the crisis from escalating. An Igbo man would be ready to award a contract to someone from another tribe, even though his immediate cousin or even sibling bid for the same contract. If all ethnic groups could love Nigeria, half as Igbos do, Nigeria would have become hundred times better than it is, today.
This does not sound like the story of those who are anxious to break away from Nigeria. And there are too many reasons, which are far beyond the scope of this article, why the Igbos should have been the last people to talk about seceding from Nigeria. I had argued in an earlier article titled: “HOW TO QUELL THE BIAFRAN AGITATION” that this country was built and is being sustained with the energy, foresight, creativity, industry and even blood of the Igbo, and I have not changed from that opinion. I also outlined some of the things the Federal Government can do to win back the confidence of the Igbos and make them understand that they are wanted.
Successive administrations in the country have always insisted that the Igbos must remain in Nigeria, even though very few of them have taken actions or pursued policies and programs that encourage them to stay on. The cry for secession by a good number of Igbos is in response to the mindless persecution and deliberate political marginalization being meted on them by successive administrations in this country, especially since 1966. The Nigerian government have had to declare war on the Igbos and eventually killed more than three million of us, destroying and looting our properties, destroying our businesses, raping our women and disfiguring our children just to compel us to remain in the Nigerian union, yet, close to fifty years after the end of that bloody war, a President who was in the military and was a central player in the war to keep the Igbos in the union has unknowingly or knowingly made himself the major motivator of the Igbo secession movement.
In that article some weeks ago, which was widely published online and in traditional media platforms, I set out ideas on how the federal government under President Buhari may quell the Biafran secessionist movement without allowing any blood spilled. That article was more or less advisory without any attempt at blaming the President or anyone close to him, but this one will be more expository and if you like, blame-filled than the other one.
There is no doubt that the President like his predecessors does not want any discussion on the secession of any part of the country and he has repeatedly said that. However, the President’s speeches expressing his determination to see that Nigeria remains one, is more a wish than a determination, as he has severally got so many calls wrong, especially as they affect the most industrious, most patriotic but most marginalized group in the Union.
One of the worst things the President has done to the Igbos of recent is his poor handling of the Nnamdi Kanu issue which has insultingly placed Nnamdi Kanu as a leader of the Igbos in some way. And some people even insult the Igbo by comparing him with revered Ikemba Ojukwu and Azikiwe. It is President Buhari’s fault. Someone does not become an Igbo leader by merely grabbing a microphone to spew hate and gibberish against anybody who does not agree with his mostly inarticulate and unsewn ideologies. If the President had not made Nnamdi Kanu feel so important and so powerful by talking about him and trying to defend himself from the obvious lies the IPOB radio presenter spewed against him, very few people would have been talking about the Abia boy by now. Nnamdi Kanu never imagined that the President of Nigeria hears him not to talk of dedicating sometime to defend himself from his lies. That interview emboldened Nnamdi Kanu and he took the next available flight to Nigeria. He knew that he will grow in influence and popularity in Nigeria and beyond, should he be arrested by the Nigerian government. The DSS fell for this bait and the rest is history.
Had the administration deployed good technology and security watch and quietly knock off the Radio Biafra bandwidth from wherever they plugged it, Nnamdi Kanu’s name would have fizzled off and maybe the thousands of unarmed IPOB faithful who were extra-judicially mauled down by over-zealous soldiers and other members of the Nigerian Armed Forces would have still being alive till today and the sympathy their death and the many unnecessary persecutions meted on the Igbos have brought the way of the IPOB radio presenter would not have been there. The time it took the management of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria and other agencies responsible for that to take down the guerrilla radio station also made Kanu’s followers see him as invincible.
Beyond Nnamdi Kanu, the President’s pattern of in appointing officials for his government, the state of infrastructure in the Southeast, some of the economic poliices of the present administration, including the restrictions in both land and sea borders have adversely affected the Igbos, hence, the sympathy for Nnamdi Kanu and his loosely coordinated secession movement. The Igbos have become the least patronized by the President in the appointments he has made so far. The explanation that majority of us did not vote for him is not enough for the President to treat the people of the Southeast the way he is doing.
No matter how much hate and bitterness Nnamdi Kanu may have spewed through his internet radio Station, ther is no evidence anywhere that any member of IPOB or its affiliates bear arms. The introduction of a military operation christened; “Operation Python Dance” in the Southeast further alienates the people of the area from Buhari’s Nigeria and more and more people are tilting towards the secession call by Nnamdi Kanu, as they feel unsafe and unwanted in Nigeria. For people like us who are unrepentant in our Nigerianess, decisions like this one makes it difficult for us to convince our people that the President means well. There is no security threat in the Southeast that warrants the setting up of a special military operation in the region. These soldiers have continued to harass commuters along the Asaba-Onitsha road in the name of ‘stop and search’. This development has correctly made more Igbos lose the little confidence they still managed to retain about Nigeria, as the IPOB propagandists are unrelenting in telling the people that the Federal government has concluded plans to invade the Southeast and declare another war on them. This ill-advised military operation has instigated fear in the minds of our people, thereby converting them to the secessionist movement.
Apart from not having any Igbo man among the service chiefs in this country at present, recent shortlists for cadet officers in both the military and police show a most discomfiting marginalization of the Igbos as they make up the smallest number of those recruited into the Force. Also, when top-ranking officers in the military were curiously dismissed, the Igbos made up a bulk of those affected.
Imo State gave the President the highest number of votes ever in the Southeast, the State also boasts of having delivered the first ever APC Senator from the Southeast and it is being governed by an APC Governor who is also the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, yet the President only gave the minister from this same State a junior ministerial position. It is also disillusioning that none of the so-called juicy ministerial positions was allotted to the Southeast, while the President has failed to intervene to ensure that a Southeast Rep member gets a principal position in the House of Representatives.
Nnamdi Kanu may have made statements that are deemed treasonable and could be interpreted to mean that he wants to wage war against the Nigerian State, but evidences so far brought to light by the DSS have failed to show that the British-Nigerian citizen has access to even a kitchen knife, not to talk of stock-piling arms anywhere. If ‘repentant’ Boko Haram insurgents are being granted amnesty and released from prison custody and Niger-Delta militants who have done a lot to sabotage the economy of this nation are being begged by the President to surrender their arms, it may not be out of place to also seek for peaceful and out of court strategy to let Nnamdi Kanu and his co-accused out of the hook. That the President doesn’t seem to be disposed to such option, even with many representations to that effect, makes many Igbos feel that secession is the only option.
It is not in doubt that should a referendum be allowed to hold in Nigeria today, an overwhelming majority of Igbos will vote to exit the Nigerian union. However, a more than eighty percent of those who will vote for this secession will do so more out of frustration than conviction. The Igbos are not really asking for too much, they only want to be given their equal right in the Nigerian State and not treated as a second class ethnic group.
MAY NIGERIA PREVAIL!