Continued from Part 2
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common with unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge
In this Part 3 of our article, “Nigeria, beyond Restructuring and Igbo-Presidency”, we shall dwell specifically on why we say that “Igbo-Presidency” (or “Rotational-Presidency”) is not the answer to the problem with Nigeria. The problem with Nigeria has gone beyond “Igbo-Presidency” and “Restructuring.” In advancing our argument in this regard, our primary intention is to remind all those who are clamouring for “Igbo-Presidency” (and “Restructuring”) of the dangers ahead should they have their way.
The problem today in Nigeria is how to stop further bloodbaths and carnage in the country, how to save lives and property of all Nigerians, irrespective of one’s ethnicity, religion or philosophical persuasions. The concern is that of the struggle for human survival in Nigeria: How do we cleanse our ancestral land, which has been defiled with innocent blood by those who hold the world captive. Nigeria’s problem is not clamoured for the political post by various federating ethnic-groups. Rather, it is that of the struggle for human survival and self-determination of federating indigenous ethnic-nationalities!
If 50 years after the genocidal Nigeria-Biafra War that claimed lives of about 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos, the continued ethnic-cleansings have continued, not only in Biafraland but also in the Middle-Belt and among the minority ethnic groups in Northern Nigeria, then there is need to ask ourselves, as a nation-state, some fundamental questions, beyond issues of restructuring and Igbo-Presidency. The umpires of the Nigerian state do not want to tell themselves the truth about the problem with Nigeria. This is the crux of the matter!
The fact is that a lot of innocent blood has been shed on the ancestral lands of indigenous populations of the country, simply because, the umpires of the Nigerian state want to maintain at all cost this British contraption, and God is not happy with that. Till date, nothing has been done, at least, to appease God and the land for the blood of over 3.5 million Biafrans killed by the Nigerian state during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970. The same with the blood of those shed and been shed today in the Middle Belt, Southern Kaduna, Niger Delta, North East and other parts of the country. We do not need a prophet to tell us that God is not happy with the Nigerian state. This is no longer a time for political correctness, because, human lives are involved. Nigeria has been turned into a theatre of death and bloodbaths. This is as a result of the deliberate negligence and insensitivity of its own leaders, the lust for power of a small group from a particular section of the country, who have sworn to impose its feudalistic Oligarchy, lordship, religion and culture on the rest of us. These people have defiled the beautiful land of the indigenous populations of Nigeria with the blood of the innocent, and God is not happy about it. To intimidate, they say it is “hate speech” because you tell them the truth. They use the state-might, military and police brutality to pursue you to the grave. They have turned Nigeria into a police state and tyrannical dictatorship. What a pity?
The question, therefore, is what is the way out of this Nigerian conundrum? In my estimation, the only way out, that is, how to stop the bloodbaths, cleanse the land, restore sanity in the land and its political sphere, is for the international community (the UN), to organize a referendum for self-determination of the federating ethnic-nationalities in the country. This will afford each federating ethnic-group (or groups), to decide whether they want to continue to be part of the British contraption or to go their separate way, form their own new state (states) so that we can begin to relate well among ourselves as neighbouring states within the West African sub-region. Otherwise, in the name of maintaining Nigerian unity at all cost – the infamous slogan, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”, the Nigerian state will continue to shed more and more of innocent blood in our ancestral lands. Nigerian state will continue to do those very things God detests most, the shedding of innocent blood and defilement of the land.
One of the first things the Bible tells us God detests most is the shedding of human blood and defilement of the land with blood. The shedding of blood and defilement of the land of Israel with human blood by King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, angered Elijah so much that it inspired in him, the spirit to begin a prophetic movement in the Old Testament tradition. With that, Elijah was able to wrestle King Ahab and Jezebel, purified the land of Israel, saved his people, and restored the worship of One-True God of their Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the observance of the Covenant, in the land Of Israel! Prophet Elijah cried out to God in the following words:
“Lord, they have killed all your prophets and defiled your land, I want to die. But God said no.” Rather, “Up! Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel. … You are to say this to him, ‘Yahweh says this: You have committed murder and now you usurp as well. For this – and Yahweh says – in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick your blood too. … And against Jezebel too Yahweh spoke these words, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the field of Jezreel.’ Those of Ahab’s family who die in the city, the dogs will eat; and those who die in the open country, the birds of the air will eat.” (1 Kings 21:18-26).
The Book of Genesis gives us the reasons why we should resist and fight to a standstill against the on-going bloodbaths and defilement of our ancestral land and farmland. In the Book of Genesis, we read:
“Don’t overlabour the land. From the crops you grow, the leftover, leave it for the widows, the orphans, etc.” In the same passage, God says, “Surely, I shall demand an account of your life-blood too. I shall demand from whoever have spilt your blood on the soil. Of man, as regards his fellow man, I shall demand account for human life: ‘He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God was man created.” (Genesis 9:5-6).
Nothing God detests more than the shedding of human blood and defilement of agricultural land (farmland). For instance, “To avoid being buried in a defiled land, Jacob ordered his children to purchase land in his ancestral homeland for his burial. In fact, the Bible teaches us that there are different types of defilement of your land (or rather an environment):
- They can defile your land from that moment, God, the Creator of the earth and all therein departs from you, separates you from Himself because of your sin. The Psalmist sings, “The Lord is the earth and all therein.”
- They can defile your land by shedding of innocent blood (cf. Deuteronomy 19:10).
- They can defile your land by avenging for innocent blood.
- And so forth!
In the New Testament, Jesus minced no word in his admonition to Jerusalem for their bloodshed against the prophets and the vulnerable ones in the land (Matthew 23:37-39).
An Igbo proverb says, “Egbe belu Ugo belu” – Live and let live! Unfortunately, today, Nigeria has become a ‘Calvary without redemption’ for its citizens. A situation caused, primarily, by incompetence, mediocrity, clannishness, bad leadership, religious and ethnic bigotries. That is the lust for power and political dominance of a minority ethnoreligious group from the North of the country. The country has become like unredeemable bondage for the majority of its citizens.
But, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “You cannot get on a man’s back unless it is bent.” At the same time, however, “Only when it is dark that you can see the Stars.” This is why Napoleon Bonaparte admonishes, “To choose the right moment to act is the great art of man.” Lets’ therefore, keep the issues where they are, namely, ‘freedom, justice and self-determination!’
Persistence, NOT Igbo-Presidency, is the Answer!
Persistence and consistency in the clamour for self-determination through the legal means of the referendum is the only way out of the Nigerian conundrum. Igbo-Presidency or restructuring cannot put a stop to the bloodshed, defilement of our ancestral land, and bad government in Nigeria. Rather, it would embolden the perpetrators of these evil acts to continue with business as usual. Because in the final analysis, we will be sharing the same political system, indeed, the same socio-political space and central government with them. In that case, nothing is going to change.
The only referendum for self-determination will put an end to all these evils besetting the country. It will set free, not only Ndigbo but also, every other indigenous ethnic-nationality that feels marginalized and persecuted in the Nigerian state today. This is why there is a need for persistence, consistency and collective efforts of all the political ruling class and elites towards achieving this singular aim of the referendum for self-determination of the persecuted people of Nigeria.
Accept or reject it, self-determination has been the principle propelling the Igbo (Biafra) struggle in Nigeria since the Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria took place and the concomitant Nigeria-Biafra War that ensued as a result of the pogroms. The survival of Igbo race as a nation in the hostile Nigerian state environment, where Ndigbo themselves are not only resented but hated with a passion by other ethnic-groups, was the spirit behind Ojukwu’s stand at the Aburi (Ghana) Conference of 1967. When the other side reneged on the Aburi Peace Accord, Ojukwu stood firmly on his Biafra’s self-determination and independence pursuit. This fact is succinct, summarized as follows by Carol Mundy:
“There was a Biafran T-Shirt in the war that was worn that read, “In Biafra, We Stand” after the failure of Aburi Peace Accord … Biafrans have tried and tried with Nigeria, but clearly obviously too much has happened, far too much blood has been spilt, a sacrilege to all Biafrans … So let’s keep it real, plain and simple – BIAFRA. ‘In Biafra, We Stand.” – Carol Mundy (a Biafran activist).
The renowned African-American author, Toni Morrison once said, “A Blackman does not understand what fighting for his freedom is. He will always put the needs of his stomach first before the freedom and self-determination of his people.” The late African-American Congressman John Lewis, a civil right icon of his time, answered someone who asked him to go it easy to avoid getting into trouble, as follows: “Get in Trouble? Yes, good trouble, I must get into… We do not march on our freedom gradually; we want to be free, now.” You cannot stop the cause of history, once the axe is laid on the plough! As one author put it, “In breaking the cycle of silence, I learnt that indifference is a bigger monster than love or hate.”
Freedom is not a cheap thing! You do not win your freedom on a platter of gold! There are sacrifices and prices to be paid and it takes the long and tedious job, persistence, consistency, clear aim and focuses of the leaders of the oppressed people before the freedom becomes a reality. You must have a clear idea of what you want and go after it with courage, determination, consistency, truthfulness, steadfastness and love. Once you deviate from your original goal and begin to gamble here and there, there and then, you will automatically, meet your self-defeat.
“Igbo-Presidency” or “Restructuring” is only a way to buy time, waiting for the worse to happen. Nobody should pretend that those you are dealing with are fools. Because if after 60 years of Nigeria independence, and clamour for “Igbo-Presidency” and “Restructuring”, nothing has happened, nobody should be under the illusion that the same people who have resisted Igbo-Presidency and Restructuring all these years, will turn round overnight and accept it. Impossible!
Even if they concede you that, it will be nothing less than “Greek-gift”, which will spell more devastating doom to the people of this country than hitherto imagined. Therefore, as we say in Igbo, “Ka enwere ehihe chowa ewu oji tupu chi-ejie.” Which loosely translates, “let us use the day-time to look for the dark “child-goat” before the night falls.” The English will say, “Let’s make hay, while the sun shines.”
This is the most favourable opportunity to decide whether we really want to do the right thing, save the lives and property of our people, or shall we as a people, continue to delude ourselves, playing the same old game of dancing to the gallery in the Nigerian conundrum. That is, waiting for the worse to happen, instead of doing the right thing now as a people and nation to avert the looming danger!
Look at how many unarmed peaceful young protesting Nigerians of the End-SARS protest, gunned down by the military on October 20, 2020, at Lekki tollgate Lagos, and yet nobody wants to take responsibility for the carnage? The worst of all was the post-End SARS protest massacre of Obigbo (Oyigbo) residents in Rivers State by the same military at the order of the state governor, which till date, has not raised any national or international outrage!
What type of country is Nigeria? Tell me, what a right-thinking person would like to continue to have as his/her country, a nation-state which looks elsewhere while its citizens are killed like fouls by either security operatives or members of Islamists’ terrorist groups? Only rogues or those who benefit from the rotten system and carnage in the land can accept that kind of situation!
All these indicate that any further delay in renegotiating the Nigerian state will portray Nigerians of all ethnic-groups as people in a state of “insanity.” God forbid! Insanity is doing the same thing over, and over again, and expecting a different result. Yet it seems to be the factory reset for the Nigerian ruling class, especially, of most of those calling for Igbo-Presidency and Restructuring. The fact is that “The more you hope on Nigeria, the more heartbreak you get. You more you hope on Nigerian leaders, the more you will be disappointed.” This is why it is high time we look beyond Igbo-Presidency and Restructuring, and go straight to the root of the Nigerian problem, tackle it from there, once, and for all!
Referendum for self-determination of federating ethnic-nationalities, for me is the best available option for the desired “renegotiated Nigeria.” What the country urgently needs now more than ever, is a ‘renegotiated Nigeria’ through a referendum for self-determination.
We need to go back to the drawing board, to Nigeria’s founding story, and ask ourselves the hard and fundamental questions, ‘is this Nigerian state working for us, has it ever worked, and will it ever work?’ Did the British create Nigeria to succeed as a truly just, equitable and stable nation-state, to advance the well-being and development of Nigerian citizens? These hard questions about Nigeria are begging for an urgent realistic answer and solution!
To be continued
Continued from Part 2
By Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji, a Roman Catholic Priest, Professor Ordinarius of contextual theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.
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