Bi­afra: Enough is enough

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

With the ad­vent of this po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion, which be­gan in May 1999, the north sank deeper into a sea of poverty, il­lit­er­acy and job­less­ness amidst the greed of ra­pa­cious, con­science­less rul­ing class, whose only tar­get is to be at the cen­tre of power ir­re­spec­tive of how the re­gion fared. Ig­no­rance and medi­ocrity have taken over at the ex­pense of saner minds. The north, steeped in his­tory of unity, com­pro­mises and lead­er­ship sagac­ity, has turned its back on its past. While the late Sir Ah­madu Bello shone light on the re­gion dur­ing the pre and the im­me­di­ate postin­de­pen­dence pe­riod, the re­gion is now so frag­mented along ethno-re­li­gious lines that the emer­gence of an­other Sir Ah­madu Bello may be near im­pos­si­ble. Our match­less source of power has been our unity, but we have aban­doned this in favour of “elite power”. Is it any won­der there­fore that the re­gion was brought to its knees in all facets of hu­man en­deav­our right be­fore its com­peti­tors?

The mas­sacre of north­ern po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers on the night of Jan­uary 15, 1966 left a re­gion try­ing to play catch-up with the rest of the coun­try rud­der­less. The uni­fi­ca­tion de­cree pro­mul­gated by the Ironsi gov­ern­ment was specif­i­cally tar­geted at the “feu­dal north”, what­ever it may mean. It was meant to curb the per­ceived over­bear­ing in­flu­ence of the re­gion on the af­fairs of the coun­try. But if ‘truth be told’, to para­phrase the name of one of the Jan­uary 1966 coupists books, the de­cree was meant to strengthen the hands of the Ig­bos in all spheres of the coun­try’s polity.

Much as those who want to re­write the his­tory of the im­me­di­ate postin­de­pen­dence Nigeria would want the rest of the world to be­lieve that the se­ces­sion and the sub­se­quent civil war was a con­se­quence of the iso­lated killing of Ig­bos in Kano, the north must strive to bring to fore the real ver­sion of his­tory and the chronol­ogy of his­tor­i­cal events that led to the thirty month old need­less civil war. The Ig­bos, by their ac­tions on Jan­uary 15, 1966 and the sub­se­quent tri­umphal at­ti­tude dis­played in north­ern towns ig­nited the fire that nearly en­gulfed them. The star­va­tion the­ory and the 20 pounds pay­out by a benev­o­lent fed­eral gov­ern­ment to every Igbo per­son af­ter their sur­ren­der can all be traced to the ac­tions of their lead­ers. We are now re­liv­ing this same at­ti­tude, which pit­ted brother against brother.

When Nzeagwu and his band of killers mur­dered north­ern and western po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers to the to­tal ex­clu­sion of those of eastern ex­trac­tion, the Ig­bos ap­plauded them and basked in the mis­taken glory of dom­i­nat­ing the rest of the coun­try. No sin­gle Igbo elite con­demned this bar­barism. When the north woke from its slum­ber, the cries of “pogrom” rented the air. Killing the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers of the north wasn’t a crime but “re­tal­ia­tory” action by north­ern mil­i­tary of­fi­cers was worth brand­ing a whole re­gion as bar­baric. The killing of Ironsi was a re­sult of the fail­ure of his gov­ern­ment to pros­e­cute those who car­ried out the mas­sacre of Jan­uary 15. To north­ern­ers at the time, those mas­sa­cred by Nzeagwu and com­pany were men of match­less virtue, faith and char­ac­ter.

With the emer­gence of Nnamdi Kanu on the eastern hori­zon and crim­i­nal si­lence from the Igbo elite, it may ap­pear his­tory is about to re­peat it­self. An up­start, barely lit­er­ate wannabe has taken to the air­waves in the last two years hurl­ing in­sults at the lead­er­ship and peo­ple of the north with no sin­gle con­dem­na­tion from the Igbo elite. He was rather egge­don by those who should know bet­ter. He is re­ceived in gov­ern­ment houses and palaces with pomp nor­mally re­served for roy­alty. Action as is known begets re­ac­tion. Get­ting fed up with the in­sults from Kanu and the deaf­en­ing si­lence from the Ig­bos, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing in the north, some north­ern youths came to­gether and is­sued what they called “quit no­tice” to Ig­bos liv­ing amidst them. That they should leave the re­gion on or be­fore Oc­to­ber 1st, 2017. Then all hell broke loose. A hith­erto pli­ant gov­ern­ment got to action by invit­ing var­i­ous groups to Aso Villa for only God knows what. The Igbo elites found their voice and those liv­ing in the north be­gan run­ning to gov­ern­ment houses and palaces to pledge their al­le­giance to a united Nigeria. Sud­denly Kanu doesn’t rep­re­sent any­body; he is on his own; he is a lu­natic. But is that what we see? Come on, please let’s be real.

The Ig­bos only now re­alised how the hos­pi­tal­ity of the north­ern­ers made it pos­si­ble for them to have in­vest­ments worth N4 tril­lion in the re­gion. They for­got to tell us the to­tal in­vest­ments of all north­ern­ers liv­ing in the east. While the hos­pi­tal­ity of the av­er­age north­erner made it pos­si­ble for the Ig­bos to have this quan­tum of in­vest­ment in the north, the hos­til­ity of the av­er­age Igbo man made it im­pos­si­ble for any­body, from any part of the coun­try to live and in­vest in Ig­boland.

The never-end­ing ex­cuse is ‘marginal­i­sa­tion’. Have the Ig­bos cared to know how the rest of the coun­try fared un­der ‘their’ gov­ern­ment of Good­luck Jonathan when Pius Anyim and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held sway? If my mem­ory serves me right, the Yorubas were not worse than the Ig­bos now, yet they didn’t threaten the coun­try; the north was turned into a bat­tle­ground and was per­pet­u­ally un­der siege from Yola to Sokoto with all its at­ten­dant con­se­quences, yet they bided their time. When the time came (2015 gen­eral elec­tions), the north and the west, the two re­gions ‘marginalised’ by Jonathan and the Ig­bos, came to­gether and kicked them out of Aso Villa. The folly of those who sup­ported Jonathan mas­sively is now blamed on the rest of the coun­try. Every un­couth lan­guage hurled at the rest of the coun­try by any lu­natic fringe is fair game.

I do not choose to live un­der a union where the vic­tim is al­ways por­trayed as the vil­lain by an un­crit­i­cal and bi­ased press. If the Bi­afra ad­vo­cates, pro­po­nents of re­struc­tur­ing and pur­vey­ors of such other mun­dane clichés will have the courage of their con­vic­tions, let them come out to call for the dis­so­lu­tion of the union. We can then sit at a round (or even ob­long) ta­ble to de­cide along which lines we will go our separate ways. The mar­riage is not worth the in­sults. Enough is enough. Toungo wrote this from Abuja. piece

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