Continued from Part 3
“Surely, when a whole people are rejected by the majority of the state in which they live, they must have the life to live under a different kind of arrangement which does secure their existence. States are made to serve the people. Governments are established to protect the citizens of a state against external enemies and internal wrong-doers, but when the government which is supposed to protect the people turns around to decimate the same people they supposed to protect, then the people have no other option than to reject the government.” – (Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, addressing the issue of Biafra in April 1968).
This article serves as the concluding part of our last three articles (Parts 1-3), titled, ‘Nigeria, Beyond Restructuring and Igbo-Presidency’, which we started about two weeks ago. The present article concludes that our conversation on ‘Restructuring and Igbo-Presidency’ in today’s Nigeria’s geopolitical landscape. The article intends to raise some fundamental questions as to why it is the opinion of the author that the problem with Nigeria has gone beyond the issues of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency (or “Rotational-Presidency”).
Albert Einstein, the world most renowned scientist and Nobel laureate, once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Speaking from a religious perspective, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, another Nobel laurate (for World Peace), tells us that, “Hands which serve are holier and better than lips which pray.” A popular maxim states that “Dictum sapienti sat est” – enough has been said for the wise!
The issue today, the problem with Nigeria as a nation-state, since its creation by Britain in 1914, and especially after the independence in 1960, is how to address, once, and for all, the faulty foundation of the Nigerian state. That is, the faulty foundation of the Nigerian state by the British that is at the root of every other problem of political instability and its concomitant problems, the country has been passing through all these years.
These include, and not only, the constant struggle for human survival in an ‘unjust’ union of the Nigerian state, a ‘union’ of diverse mutual-hostile indigenous ethnic-groups, logged together under a colonial arrangement by the British since 1914. There is no way, to show that any form of restructuring or Igbo-Presidency (Rotational-Presidency) ‘built’ upon this faulty foundation of the Nigerian state, will ever be the best answer to the age-long problem of political instability, ethnoreligious bigotry, hatred, corruption, mediocre, lopsided leadership, bad government, military and police brutality, wars, violence, religious terrorism, religious persecutions, and bloodbaths besetting the country.
No sane person will ever opt to build his house on top of an old, outdated building that has a faulty foundation! It is like the biblical parable of the foolish man who decides to build his house on top of the sand instead of upon a new solid foundation made of rock. It could also, be likened to the biblical parable of ‘pouring ‘new wine’ in an ‘old wineskin.’ What a stupid thing to do?
In fact, what most of those clamouring for restructuring or Igbo-Presidency on a faulty Nigerian foundation have forgotten is that by so doing – building your house on a faulty, outdated foundation, you are signing a death-warrant of your entire family. Because, both you and your family could be wiped out any day and time, heavy wind or thunderstorm hits your house!
Jesus the Christ was right on the mark, when he told members of the Sanhedrin (modern-day establishments – the executive, legislative and judiciary institutions or arms of government), the following: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20; see also, Matthew 26:61ff; Acts 6:14).
In another context, Jesus said, “Unless a seed falls and dies, it cannot bear fruit.” (John 12:24). In the words of the Greek philosopher, Dinos Christianopoulos, “What didn’t you do to bury me? But you forgot I was a seed.” In simple terms, ‘The dead never die in vain.’ The question is, ‘for how long shall we continue to watch our people and other helpless Nigerians be killed like fouls every day – under the watch of the umpires of the Nigerian state, and yet pretend as if all is well with Nigeria? The bloodshed in Nigeria has reached the tipping point that it must arouse the conscience of whoever cares to know. It is high time we call a spade a spade in Nigeria and know that it is no longer business as usual! At least the recent #EndSARS protest against police brutality and bad government in the country by young Nigerians nationwide should have taught us that lesson. We should not wait until the worse happens before we begin to do the needful!
The fact is that time has come for Nigeria’s renegotiation through a referendum for self-determination of all the federating ethnic-groups that make up the British contraption. It is a deceit of the devil to say that Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. That is, while we are every day watching helplessly, the massacre of our innocent people at any least provocation, on the order and implicit complicit of the umpires of the Nigerian state. All, in the name of ‘keeping Nigeria one’, at all cost? For how long shall we continue to allow such a continued shedding of human blood in our ancestral land, without the courage to do the needful to stop the carnage?
Nigeria is a British creation, and therefore, not that of God. The Nigerian state is a colonial arrangement for British interest and neo-colonial agenda in Africa! As long as we continued to maintain and live under the shadow of this British colonial arrangement, Nigeria, we shall continue to kill ourselves for nothing sake!
As our own Nobel laureate in literature, Prof Wole Soyinka said in his famous book, “The Man Died”, “The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.” The fact is that time has come for us as a people, indeed, for each federating unit in Nigeria, to take a stand, and say, “Enough is enough. We can’t take it any longer. Nigeria must be renegotiated, and referendum for self-determination of the federating-units be conducted by the UN, now or never.” Period!
This will put to an end the present reign of bloodbaths, terrorism, lopsided government, mediocre leadership, incompetence, ethnoreligious bigotries, kidnappings, banditry, hatred and resentment of one group against the other. It will put to stop the on-going violence and killings of innocent Nigerians that is today as second nature of the Nigerian state. Otherwise, in no distant future, all of us, may either be in refugee camps or end up living under Emirates and the Caliphate by force. God forbid!
In William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, we read, “Cowards die many times before their death. But the valiant die but once.” Martin Luther King Jr. tells us in a different context, that, “The moment we are silent about the things that matter, we begin to die. … If you are not ready to die for something, then you are not fit to live for anything.” Again, Wole Soyinka, in our Nigerian clime, wrote some years ago, from his prison room at the hands of Nigerian government during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), “The man died in him who remained silent in the face of tyranny.”
What we are experiencing in Nigeria today, is the tragedy of a nation-state not founded on the will of the people through referendum and self-determination of the federating units. Not even any of the Constitutions of Nigeria since its creation as a nation-state by British in 1914, till date, is approved by referendum, popular votes or will of the federating units. The Nigerian state is a ‘fraud’, so to say. The Nigerian state is a ‘forced marriage’ of diverse ethnic and religious nationalities, with their conflicting value systems and philosophy of life, merged together through colonial fiat by the British! There is no way God can bless such a kangaroo union!
Anybody thinking that restructuring or Igbo-Presidency, founded and built upon this faulty colonial foundation of Nigeria will change anything, is only deluding him/herself? For things to move forward in the country, this faulty, colonial foundation of Nigeria must be dismantled, first, and foremost. Otherwise, nobody will take us seriously, as people! This is the crux of the matter!
Some Fundamental Questions
Prof Herbert Ekwe Ekwe, in his usual critical tone, was blunt, when he said:
“Some people make the mistake of saying Igbos returned to Nigeria after the Civil War in 1970. The fact is that since 1966 Pogrom against the Igbo in the North in 1966, and the Igbos returned to their land, the Igbos had since not returned to Nigeria. Because Biafra didn’t surrender in 1970 to Nigeria – Rather what has happened is the occupation of Igboland since then by Nigerian Police, Army and Bureaucratic machinery” (Herbert Ekwe Ekwe).
Sorry to say it: Majority of those who parade themselves as Igbo leaders and elites today, since the end of Nigeria-Biafra War in 1970, be it in politics, economics, religious, commerce, education, traditional, cultural and what have you, appeared to have forgotten the reasons and history of Igbo struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination in Nigeria. It seems that some of them have forgotten the main reasons, why the Igbo nation was subjected to three-years of genocidal war by the Nigerian State (1967-1970)!
In fact, not that they have forgotten entirely the history or reasons for that Igbo experience in Nigeria. However, most of them are yet to come out from the post-war trauma and fear that is common among a people defeated in a war! Otherwise, one wonders if all those campaigning for “Restructuring” and “Igbo-Presidency” among the Igbo ruling class and elites, have ever asked themselves some fundamental questions. For instance:
- “Why is it that fifty years after the war, Ndigbo are still begging to be accepted and integrated into the mainstream of Nigeria’s political and economic systems, as equal partners and stakeholders of the Nigerian State?” This is, despite the fact that from day one, after the war, Ndigbo spread to every nook and corner of Nigeria as if nothing had happened.
However, while the Ndigbo are found in other parts of the country, this gesture has never been reciprocated to the Igboland by the majority of people from other ethnic groups, especially, since after the Nigeria-Biafra War. Has any of those advocating for “Igbo-Presidency” ever asked himself/herself, why this? Why has Nigeria and Nigerians of other ethnic-groups refused to overcome their Igbo-hate and resentment in a nation-state we all claim is our commonwealth and home? This is also an answer to all those politicians from other parts of the country who have continued to accuse the Igbo of not wanting to be integrated into the mainstream of Nigerian society!
- Some are talking of “Igbo Presidency” in Nigeria today, sixty years after same Nigeria could not allow Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (an Igbo), the man that almost single-handedly won Nigeria’s Independence from Britain, to head the government of nascent independent Nigeria, but as a compensation, they gave him a position of a ceremonial head of state? If this happened to the Great Zik of Africa, the Father of Africa’s Independence Struggle, whom do you think it won’t happen to again today, even in your restructured Nigeria! Of course, Zik was lucky! They did not kill him even in that palliative post of ceremonial President of Nigeria!
- Again, some are talking of “Igbo Presidency” in the Nigerian State that killed over 3.5 million of your people in cold blood during the Nigeria-Biafra War, after the pogroms in Northern Nigeria, which they waged also against the same Igbo people, and which till date, nobody had tendered any mea culpa.
- Some are talking of “Igbo Presidency” in the Nigerian State that frozen all the accounts run by Igbo people in Nigerian banks during and immediately after the war, and no mea culpa till today.
- Some are talking of Igbo Presidency in Nigeria that landlocked Igboland since 1967; reinforced the landlock the more through various orchestrated anti-Igbo land-use decrees and boundary-adjustments put in place by successive Nigerian governments during and after the war in 1970, till date?
- Some Igbo politicians and ruling class are talking of Igbo Presidency in a Nigeria that has made sure that Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi, the main industrial and commercial cities in Igboland will never be opened up to international markets through railways, seaports, airports, and a good network of roads of international standard? Tell me anywhere in the world, where a city like Onitsha, won’t have an international airport, seaports, railway, and good roads network of international standards? The same for Aba, Nnewi, etc.
For many years now, they have been playing the same deceptive game with the so-called construction of 2nd Niger Bridge, a now with Enugu Airport, the only thing that resembles mini-international airport, which was shut-down for over 2 years for a reconstruction work that never took place? The present regime is now playing politics with these two projects, but we all know that in the end, nothing tangible will come out of it. It is all deception to deceive the gullible. Which are we to say or leave out? Examples of the game of double-standard of successive Nigerian governments against Ndigbo, especially since the end of the Biafra War, are countless.
- Furthermore, all those talking of Igbo Presidency, ask them, have they forgotten the coup of Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1983, which in all intent and purpose was to stop Dr Alex Ekwueme, the then Vice-President to Shagari from becoming the next President of Nigeria?
The same scenario played out in 1999 when they side-lined the same Alex Ekwueme and selected Obasanjo to be the President. This is despite the fact that Ekwueme founded the PDP and the National coalition that fought Abacha’s regime to a standstill. Yet, Obasanjo, who is their man, and who never participated in the formation of the coalition party (PDP), was their preferred candidate?
Again, don’t forget that it was the same Obasanjo, who, to make sure that no Igbo man nears the Aso Rock in any way, rushed to Bayelsa State and brought Goodluck Jonathan, made him Vice president too late President Yar’dua? And when Obasanjo saw how Ndigbo supported Jonathan administration, he swore that over his dead body would Jonathan return for the second term as President of Nigeria? Not only that, Obasanjo sealed the fate of an Igbo person becoming even the Senate President or Speaker of House of Representatives, after his feud with late Dr Chuba Okadigbo. The rest is now history!
Who has forgotten that it was to diminish and rubbish the increasing awareness Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB for Biafra struggle for self-determination was gaining, that Obasanjo in the build-up to the 2019 Presidential election, quickly reconciled with his former arch-political enemy, Atiku Abubakar? Thereafter, he immediately invited our revered Peter Obi to his Otta Farm, where he and his other friends in the dirty game anointed Peter Obi to be the PDP Vice-presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar, without consulting any notable figure or group from Igboland!
That Peter Obi allowed himself to be used in this way by those who never wished his Igbo people well, is still a mystery to many. This is the genesis of the refusal of the so-called Southeast PDP stakeholders who initially vowed not to accept such politicking in the picking of Obi by Obasanjo because it was a big slight not only to the South-east big-wigs of PDP but to the Igbo nation as a whole.
Today, the same people are on the game again. They have recruited the so-called Igbo elders, cultural groups, states governors, religious leaders, traditional rulers, and some reneged Igbo Youth groups, all shouting “Igbo Presidency” and “Restructuring.” Some prominent politicians from the Western and Northern parts of the country, who understand the game better than our people, are coming out in the public these days, in support of the “Igbo Presidency” (however, which everyone knows is not skin-deep.) Because they know, that it is the last straw that will seal the fate of Igbo race forever in Nigeria. After that, nobody will rise up tomorrow and speak of Igbo marginalization or Biafra restoration again. Because they will remind you as such, that you have had your turn. Is it when you are not President of Nigeria that you begin to shout Biafra or marginalization! It is all game and they play it better than us!
They know within themselves that even if an Igbo man is conceded Presidency in Nigeria today, his story will not be different from that of Aguiyi-Ironsi, or M.K.O Abiola, Dr Alex Ekwueme, and even that of Goodluck Jonathan! That is if the person will survive up to six months in the office like Aguiyi-Ironsi before he/she is assassinated.
- Is it in this Nigerian state, a country that preaches ‘unity’ without ‘love’, that an Igbo hopes to be elected President? Nigeria that hates and resents anything Igbo? That person must be daydreaming!
Come to think of it. Between 1983 and 1985, Peter Onu of Nigeria was Acting Secretary-General of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU). At the 1985 Summit in Addis Ababa, statesmen like Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and others, lobbied for his election as substantive Secretary-General of OAU. However, there was a major stumbling block to Peter Onu’s candidature; his Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammed Buhari was campaigning against him. Buhari claimed, “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria.” But when the crunch came, his allegiance to Nigeria disappeared.
In the election of the OAU Secretary-General in 1985, Buhari voted against Nigeria, and the Niger Republic instead. He secured the election of Oumarou, a Fulani man from the Niger Republic, as opposed to an Igbo man from Nigeria. By so doing, Buhari became the first and only Head of State in the history of modern international relations to vote against his country in favour of his tribe. (Cf. Vanguard Newspaper, February 3, 2015). Such that if today, Buhari administration is running a lopsided federal government on the principle of 97% of those who voted for him during the Presidential elections, as against 5% of those who didn’t, that behaviour has a long history in the man’s political calculation, perception and dealing with Igbo people in the political scheme of Nigeria.
- By the way, in which Nigeria is the Igbo seeking to be President today? Is it this Nigeria that is today, controlled by at least five most deadly Muslim terrorist groups in the world – the Boko Haram, Miyetti-Alla (sponsors of the Fulani killer-herdsmen militias), Ansari radical Islamists terrorists, ISWAP-ISIS, bandits and kidnappers?
- Again, ‘Where is the Igbo President of Nigeria going to live if elected today?’ Is it at the Aso Rock, Abuja (in Northern Nigeria) that is today at the hands of diehard Fulani Muslim fundamentalist Cabals and the Caliphate that control Buhari administration? The Aso Rock, some feared, might have been infested, inside-out, with ‘Muslim talisman’ and Voodoo?
The Challenge of Consistency in the Struggle for Freedom
In his “The Territorial Lost of National Sovereignty by African Peoples”, Cheik Anta Diop, the Senegalese pan-Africanist historian and Egyptologist, pens down these immortal words:
“We live in an epoch when any artist or intellectual must take a side – either for or against his people – in the struggle for freedom, justice and defence of human dignity.”
Prof Chinua Achebe, the doyen of African literature, in an exclusive interview before his demise, a few years ago, identified one of the root causes of ‘The Territorial Lost of National Sovereignty by African Peoples’, a metaphorical title of Cheikh Anta Diop’s work, cited above. According to Chinua Achebe, “What colonialism did to us (Africans) was to remove power from the elders and give it to children because they went to school. I don’t know which other people had a similar experience?” Today, most of Igbo politicians, elected to serve as state governors, legislators or ministers, behave like yuppies – spinoffs and as modern-day ‘warrant-chiefs’, serving the interest of the Caliphate and Abuja against their own people, they were elected to serve in Igboland?
Cultural dispossession of African peoples is what is at stake here! The colonial creation of modern African nation-states is not founded on African cultural matrix and worldview, but rather on the European colonial principle and neo-colonial agenda in Africa. An African nation-state like Nigeria was never intended by the British to succeed as a nation-state that could serve the needs of Nigerian people, but rather to continue to serve British interest and selfish ambition of their local collaborators in the country.
This is why any restructuring or Igbo-Presidency built upon such an edifice of colonial trappings in Nigeria, will never yield the desired result for the African people. This is why the challenge today is to disengage with this colonial arrangement in Nigeria. Let the UN organize a referendum for self-determination for the federating ethnic-nationalities that make up the country. This is where everybody in Nigeria, not Igbos alone, is supposed to channel his or her energy and talent towards its realization and stop playing to the gallery while your house is on fire!
In the marbled words of Nelson Mandela, we read, “For anybody who changes his principles depending on the person he is dealing with, that is not a man who can lead a nation.”
In any struggle, there is a need for consistency and truthfulness. Consistency is the key to freedom and victory. Once as a people (or an individual), you begin to change from one direction to the other in your chosen mission or quest for freedom, you will continue to fumble and fail until you return to the original plan and path. From the moment the present crop of Igbo ruling class – political, religious and cultural leaders and elites jettisoned on the issue of Biafra or self-determination, and started to fumble between “Restructuring” and “Igbo-Presidency”, it became clear to every Tom, Dick and Harry, that they have missed the mark.
Put in another way, from the moment the present crop of Igbo ruling class started to jettison on the famous Biafran slogan, “On Biafra, We Stand”, that was when their confusion as elders or ruling-class of the present generation of Igbo people, started to crack. Lack of consistency and inability to stand firm on the original demands of the Igbo nation in the Nigerian state is the bane of the present crop of Igbo ruling class!
Because if 50 years after the Nigeria-Biafra War and the return to “democratic” rule, those issues that led to the Biafran War are still very much with us and are not about to go away, it means that anything less than “On Biafra, We Stand”, is not acceptable. It is not acceptable, not only to the Igbo but to other ethnic groups in Nigeria as well. Because as a “metaphor”, “Biafra” stands for justice and liberation of all the persecuted indigenous ethnic-groups in Nigeria. The liberation of other ethnic-groups depends, to large extent, on Biafra freedom and independence. In other words, the disappointment of the present Igbo ruling class and elders to Ndigbo, in general, is also their disappointment to other persecuted indigenous ethnic-nationalities in Nigeria. Period!
For instance, had today’s Igbo ruling class, elites and elders insisted from day one till today, on their earlier call for restructuring in the build-up to the 2019 election, one would not have begrudged them so much. Had they continued with that call for restructuring as the only alternative acceptable to them, this time around most of them and their counterparts from other zones are focusing on the 2023 Presidential election, one would not have blamed them so much!
More importantly, the fact that these Igbo ruling class, elites and elders are often scared of projecting referendum for self-determination, as where the majority of Igbo people stand today, leaves much to be desired. After 50 years of Biafra War and those things that caused that war is still very much with us, one would have expected that the issue of the referendum for self-determination could have started to feature prominently in the political debate and ideology of these Igbo leaders, elites and elders.
This is important because judging from the state of things in Nigeria today, it is obvious that everything will eventually end-up in a referendum for self-determination of federating ethnic-nationalities. After all, it was for self-determination, freedom, and security of lives and property of Ndigbo that Biafra War was fought. How the present crop of Igbo ruling class, elites, politicians, religious and cultural leaders are afraid to speak with one voice on self-determination for their people in the failed and bloodsucking Nigerian State of today, is still a mystery to many. It is now 50 years after the Biafra War, the condition of Ndigbo in Nigeria is worse today than ever! Other indigenous ethnic-groups are also now beginning to feel the heat. This is why this is the most favourable time and opportunity to project referendum for self-determination as the only available option and solution to the problem with Nigeria.
For anyone to think that Igbo-Presidency will change those problems holding Nigeria down all these years, that person is living in another world! Just as it is also daydreaming to think that Nigeria will be better tomorrow as a restructured country. Again, those who think that way forget that Nigeria was never created by the British to succeed. The only thing that can change that faulty colonial foundation of Nigeria, is a referendum for self-determination.
This is why all those members of Igbo ruling-class and elites advocating for “Igbo-Presidency” or “Restructuring” in the Nigeria of today, need to do some critical self-examination and introspection. Because, sabotage, betrayal and treachery of those who supposed to know and help free their people, are the greatest obstacles to the achievement of freedom of oppressed people. The Igbo ruling class, elites or elders advocating for “Igbo-Presidency” and not a referendum for self-determination, need to set their priority right and stop playing to the gallery. Their actions not only derail the efforts of the few courageous and sincere individuals who are in the forefront of the liberation struggle but also confuse our uneducated and gullible public as well as serve as an enabler for the oppressor’s victory and continued hold onto power.
We forget sometimes that money is not everything. No matter how much money one has collected to derail the progress or liberation of his/her people, it won’t be long before it will dawn on him/her that you cannot cheat God.
Biafra will not fall from the moon. It must be as a result of sacrifices and set objective of conscientious and determined individuals among the oppressed people. They will be cajoled, abused, imprisoned, exiled and some of them killed, but as a people, with persistence, consistency, determination and single-mindedness, their freedom is at the corner!
If today, for instance, the leadership in the whole of Igboland decide to work together among themselves, that is, the political, religious, traditional, and cultural rulers, elites and youth leaders – to strategize their plans, channelling all their efforts to self-determination, it will be the dawn of a new day in Igboland. In fact, not only in Igboland, but in the entire old Eastern region, and Nigeria as a whole. The “Sun will rise” again on such a day in our land, never to set any more.
Together, the Igbo leadership and ruling class will begin diplomatic moves on behalf of the entire people, at local, regional, national and international levels. Only then, will the world begin to take us seriously as a people, with one mind and set objective? Today, the sabotage and betrayal are too much and overwhelming among the Igbo ruling class. These are the greatest obstacles or setbacks to the freedom of our people.
The world powers know about our predicaments in Nigeria. But they can’t do the fighting and politicking for us. We have to show the world that we are serious people before they can take us seriously. There are many obstacles. Many nations, especially Arab countries and Western Multinational companies who lobby their home governments and countries’ representatives at the UN and other world bodies, because of Nigeria’s oil, will do everything possible to block any change in Nigeria’s geopolitical landscape. For example, those people will always be against the coming of an independent state of Biafra or any newly independent state in the whole of Africa for that matter.
However, once they see that back home, in the entire Igboland and Nigeria, people are united in their quest for Biafra – elders, youths, politicians, intellectuals, religious, cultural and traditional rulers, celebrities, musicians, artists, all are promoting the cause of Biafra restoration at local, regional, national and international levels. Then and only then will that opposition from some foreign countries and powers begin to whittle down. And the present tactical support of some world powers and nations will come out in the open to facilitate things. Then and only then, Biafra will be restored in our lifetime. And other Nigerian federating ethnic-groups’ quest for self-determination and freedom, will also become a reality. The freedom of Biafra is the key!
This is what the struggle for Biafra restoration and freedom, is all about!
Continued from Part 3
Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji, a Roman Catholic Priest, a Professor Ordinarius of contextual theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.
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