What is happening presently between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, should interest us in Nigeria. There are several reasons for this assertion.
In the first place, don’t forget that it was exactly when the same scenario was playing out between Israel and Palestine in 1967, that the Nigeria-Biafra War ensued (1967-1970)! The Nigeria-Biafra War started immediately, the 1967 Israeli (Yom Kupur War) with Palestinians was ignited by forces that be. That was when the federal government of Nigeria also, on its own part, decided to move into Igboland and the Nigeria-Biafra War ensued.
Unfortunately, immediately that happened, the attention of the world, especially, the International media, UN, and other world powers shifted to Israeli-Palestinian war, and of course, to the Vietnam War in course then, in the same 1967. Thus, the world was kept in dark about the genocidal war Nigeria, and British governments and their allies, USSR, and Arab Egypt were beginning to execute against the Igbos and other Easterners then. A war in which an estimated 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos, were killed by the federal troops and their foreign allies, British, Russians, and Egyptian pilots and rockets. Till date, the world pretends as if it knows nothing of what transpired between Nigeria and Igbo Biafrans during the war, thanks to British domineering, powerful diplomatic overtures against the Biafran Igbos, victims of the war.
Today, similar event is unfolding before our very eyes. Immediately the Israeli-Palestinian War of 1967 started, the British, it was alleged, advised Yakubu Gowon military junta to move into Igboland. Indeed, the Nigerian federal troops did move into Igboland, bombing towns, villages, market places, etc., and killing whatever moving object they found there. This was testified in an international television interview, by no other person than Lt Col. Benjamin Adekunle, the commandant in-charge of federal troops stationed at Port Harcourt during the early period of the war.
Fast forward: Not few days ago, British High Commissioner Catriona Laing, visited some powerful politicians in Northern Nigeria and Lagos. Few days after, we heard news also of the visits to Nigeria, of the British defense chief, and British Foreign Minister for African Affairs. Both of them were in Nigeria, meeting with heads of the Fulani-dominated Nigerian Armed Forces and Police, and some notable politicians from the North and Lagos axis. The Eastern Igbo block was totally, shut out of those supposedly top British foreign officials’ visits to Nigeria.
Moreover, the outcome of what followed, after those visits and meetings of representatives of British Establishments with their Nigerian allies, was the renewed military offensive of the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police in Igboland, which we are witnessing today. As this is happening, the next thing the world is greeted with again, as it was in 1967, is the news of the radical Palestinian Islamist terrorists group, Hamas, firing rockets and missiles into Israel. These attacks, in turn, have provoked the Israeli reaction for self-defense, that today, the news of which, have taken over the front pages of all mainstream international news media, television, radio, newspapers, internet, and what have you.
In this way, the world and international community are “switched-off” from coming to know about the on-going military offensive of the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police in Igboland (Biafra), and other parts of Nigeria. That is, exactly, what happened during the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra War! The forces that be, used the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and the Vietnam War of 1967, to keep the outside world away from knowing the atrocities being committed against Igbo Biafrans during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970).
Ironically, Aso Rock Presidency was the first to react, few days ago, against Israeli self-defense strategies on the Hamas attacks on Israeli cities and innocent citizens. I repeat; Nigerian federal government was the first foreign country to react and condemn Israel, and not Hamas, for the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflicts! Quo vadis? What does this tell you if not that the Aso Rock Presidency is for the Hamas and not for Israeli self-defense and security in the Middle East geopolitics and conflicts. This of course, should not surprise anybody!
Hamas is an offshoot of Osman bin Laden’s al Qaeda radical Islamist terrorist organization. Founded in Saudi Arabia by the Saudis prince, late Osman bin Laden, who later escaped to Yemen and finally, settled in Afghanistan, where he was eventually, killed by the US forces. Hamas took off from Osman bin Laden’s al Qaeda’s den in Afghanistan, and from there relocated to Iran and, thereafter to Lebanon, from where, till date, it uses as its base, and receives military help from Iran, as the terrorist group launches sporadic attacks on Israel, from time to time.
It suffices to add, that al Qaeda, when it eventually, reached the Middle East crescent, precisely, Syria, changed its name and nomenclature to what we know today as, Islamic States of Syria and Iraq (ISIS). Thereafter, an offshoot of ISIS, managed to reach the Horn of Africa, and established its base in Somalia, with the name, al-Shabaab. The terrorist group also succeeded in reaching the Maghreb North Africa from Somalia, settling in the extreme western part of Algeria, where they are causing great havoc of violence today. This group was very pivotal in the fall of Ghaddafi, and the unending conflicts we see in Libya today.
Thus, from Algeria, the group began to form alliances with the Muslim terrorist group, Boko Haram in the North-East Nigeria. This alliance has metamorphosed into what we know today as Boko Haram-ISIS West Africa (Boko Haram-ISWAP). The group has since formed similar alliances with other Islamist terrorist groups operating in the other parts of Sahel region of West Africa. In fact, it has been alleged that the militias of these Islamist terrorist groups, are the ones been recruited today by the forces that be, to invade and takeover the ancestral homelands of indigenous ethnic-communities of the Southern and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria, for their evil agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria.
Another thing to note, is the Saudi Arabia matrix of al Qaeda and ISIS, as well as Boko Haram-ISWAP terrorist groups, and of course, the Nigerian Fulani herdsmen militias (a.k.a. bandits). The founder of al Qaeda, Osman bin Laden, was a fugitive Saudi prince. The spread of his terrorist group, under different names and nomenclatures, up to West Africa and Nigeria, also followed the same roots their Saudi Arabia forbears, came to settle wherever they are found in Africa today. This is true of Fulanis, who originally, migrated from Saudi Arabia to North African Maghreb, and from there to the Sahel region in West Africa, including Northern Nigeria, and other West African countries, where Fulanis are found today.
The above historical background of the origins and spread of al Qaeda (and ISIS Islamist terrorist groups), from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and Afghanistan, and then to the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Somalia, and Maghreb Africa, to the North-East Nigeria, and finally, to other countries of Sahel West Africa, is very necessary for understanding the Nigerian connection. It helps us appreciate, the complexity of the mess Nigeria as a nation state, has found itself today. The reason why the war against these terrorist groups, Boko Haram-ISWAP and their cousins, killer-herdsmen (a.k.a. bandits), appears more complex and difficult to address than ever. Added to this, is the alleged complicity of the present federal government of Nigeria in abetting them.
Israeli-Palestinian Crisis vis-à-vis Nigerian-Biafran Conflicts
It is true, that the Israelis-Palestinian conflicts, which resurfaced violently, few days ago, have a long history. However, in recent times, it all started from 1948, after the creation of the modern State of Israel and Palestinian protectorate territory within the same Holy Land by the United Nations. That is, after the Jewish Holocaust and the World War II, in which an estimated six million Jews were killed by Nazi regime in Germany. In modern times, therefore, the conflicts have lasted for about seven decades since 1948.
In our Nigerian context, however, if truth be told, we all know that the present federal government of Nigeria, has renewed its military offensive in Igboland of South-East and parts of South-South zones, targeting Igbo youths of pro-Biafra movements, IPOB, ESN, and others. Again, don’t forget that exactly the same scenario played out at the beginning of Nigeria-Biafra War conflicts in 1967. That is, when the federal government of Nigeria chose violence instead of dialogue, against the Biafran Igbos.
After the diplomatic overtures for greater regional autonomy (or what some refer to as ‘confederation’ solution to the Nigerian problem), reached between the governor of Eastern region, Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu and the Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, at the Aburi, Ghana Conference, organized by ECOWAS Heads of States (the famous “Aburi Accord”), many thought, the evil days were over. However, unfortunately, on reaching Lagos, the British and the Northern Nigerian Oligarchy ruling class, advised Gowon to renegade on the Aburi Accord.
From there, the federal military troops moved into Igboland and other parts of the defunct Eastern region. They started the military hostilities against the people of the region. From there, Gowon military junta, immediately, abolished the regional system, and created the infamous 12 states of Nigeria in 1967, balkanizing the former Eastern region into three states (East Central, Cross River and Rivers States). Thus, setting the minority neighboring ethnic-groups of the riverine areas in the Old Eastern region against their Igbo kith and kin who live in the upland.
The aim of which was to short-change Ndigbo and Igboland ‘forever’ in the scheme of things in Nigeria, and to quicken the Biafran surrender. That is, in preparation for the total execution of the Nigerian war against the Biafran Igbos. This was the most successful, sinister strategy, so to speak, which Yakubu Gowon military junta used to execute the Nigeria-Biafra War against Ndigbo. The balkanization of the former Eastern region by Gowon military junta, worked perfectly well for that sinister agenda.
It landlocked greater part of Igbo upland and other Biafra landscape in general. Immediately that happened, Gowon military junta enacted its blockade and starvation policy against Igbos who live in the upland of Biafra. In fact, it is said that more people died as a result of the blockade and starvation policy of the federal government, than those killed through the bullets of the Nigerian federal troops. It is estimated that over two million Biafrans, mostly women and children died as a result of kwashiorkor (malnutrition disease) caused by the blockade and starvation in Biafraland during the war (between 1967 and 1970), and the remaining, 1.5 million people died from the bullets of the Nigerian federal troops.
The federal government adopted the deceptive war slogan, “To Keep Nigeria One, Is a Task That Must Be Kept.” That task, unfortunately, hinged on the massacre of over 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos by the Armed Forces of the federal government of Nigeria and their foreign allies, British, Russia and Arab Egypt. It began with the July and October 1966 Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria, and lasted till the end of the open war combatant hostilities, itself, between Nigeria and the nascent Republic of Biafra.
Are Ndigbo, the Problem with Nigeria?
Today, people of other indigenous ethnic-nationalities in Nigeria have come far. Many have come to the realization that Ndigbo is not the problem with Nigeria. Today, every indigenous ethnic-nationality, be it in the Middle-Belt, Southern States, or the minorities in the North, all are experiencing in one way or the other, what Igbos had experienced, and are still experiencing in the name of keeping ‘Nigeria One’ that has never worked. Each of the indigenous ethnic-groups from these regions, are all, today, struggling for their survival and self-preservation as a people, in the face of common enemy.
That enemy, in the mind of many, ‘is the lust for power and domination by the minority Northern Fulani Muslim ruling Oligarchy and their support for herdsmen terrorism’, which is ravaging the entire country today. This minority ruling class and Fulani Oligarchy from the North, have in fact, done more damage to the collective image and interest of the great Fulani nation in Nigeria and throughout Africa, a fact most of them are yet to come to reality with.
Thus, the minority Fulani Oligarchy and ruling-class’ lust for power and domination of the indigenous ethnic-nationalities, as well as their alleged complicity in the on-going herdsmen terrorism, is the problem with Nigeria. It is the root cause of the perpetual state of insecurity, military and police brutality, violence, ethnic-cleansings, bloodbaths, and political instability in the country.
Anybody thinking that it is by military solution, injustice and violence against Igbos, that this problem with Nigeria is going to go away, is only deluding himself/herself. Because for over half a century now, the Fulani-controlled federal government of Nigeria have been using lopsided federal leadership, discrimination and violence against Ndigbo, and some other ethnic-groups in the country, as a state policy. In fact, it is the policy they have been using against any indigenous ethnic-nationality that dares to raise its ‘ugly’ head, to challenge the faulty Nigerian structure or political system.
In particular, the federal government has been using violence against Ndigbo, as the only option available for resolving the Nigerian problem, but all to no avail. This is because, ‘violence begets violence.’ Nigeria is today, at the point-of-no-return towards its ‘renegotiation’ as a nation state! No amount of violence against the Igbos or any other indigenous ethnic-nationality, for that matter, will ever stop it.
In the midst of all these, methinks that the only viable solution for Nigeria, is for the UN, US, EU, UK, a well as African Union and ECOWAS, and other world powers, to come to a consensus on the lingering Nigeria-Biafra conflict, and resolve it once and for all. In other words, let these world powers and international community quicken the ‘Nigerian solution’, by organizing referendum among the component units – different ethnic-nationalities that make-up that British contraption, called Nigeria.
In this way, each ethnic-nationality could decide through referendum, whether to continue to remain as part of Nigeria, or to separate a bit, and form it’s own independent state, so that different ethnic-nationalities that are trapped in that contraption, called Nigeria, today, could begin to relate well among themselves, as neighboring independent African states and as member-states of ECOWAS sub-region. Anything outside this, is postponing the doomsday.
“A Stitch in Time Saves Nine!”
Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji is a Roman Catholic Priest, is Professor Ordinarius of contextual theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.
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