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My determination to keep well away from insult from current conversations between Ndigbo and the Yoruba was so compelling until recent interventions from some Yoruba sons who appear to be playing political games or avenging old personal wrongs. I am angry and sad because I know that Yoruba families have taken their responsibility to succeeding generations more seriously than these two.The tribe is the only one today in Africa that instinctively makes sacrifice towards the next generation without even thinking of the cost or pain. I know of no family in Yoruba land where duty can be considered sufficient when the children in the household are not in school.
On the contrary, many current Igbo parents send their promising generation to fetch money by all means from Lagos and the rest of this country. A significant number of male Igbo population is substantially an illiterate one. Only the girl child is lucky because tradition finds them physically inadequate for the rigour of excruciating toil. The society is therefore an asymmetric one, with substantial female population too educated to relate long term with their illiterate male counterparts. Finding no place in an unbalanced society, some behave with impunity as they adopt western cultures and seek relationships away from uneducated Igbo men not fit to handle their dustbin.But since the early 50s Igbo elite has sought to dominate Yoruba land and colonise its people. It has not yet happened but it will if care is not taken because I am also quite conscious of the power of aggression and the tendency for ignorance to seek to dominate. History reminds us, and Arnold Yognbee tells it clearly:
”History teaches us that when a barbarian race confronts a sleeping culture, the barbarian always wins”.
How can we be sure our culture is not in slumber with regards to the confrontations of Ndigbo? Are we not, by our negligence preparing the next generation for colonisation? I believe it is time to benefit from this exchange going on between Igbo and Yoruba youth and their elders. For if we do not seize this moment provided fortuitously by the Achebe and “deportation” provocation, we may be preparing the road of guilt and shame for our children. I certainly do not want my children to wonder if ever a Yoruba leader, particularly one of the status of a deity like Awolowo committed genocide. I do not want to answer charges that we are a race of lazy buffoons who surrendered their homeland to barbarians.
Ndigbo is aggressive and determined in pressing their agenda with deliberate focus as they buy up indigenous family homes, concubinate with Yoruba divorcees, marry their children and jubilate triumphantly around town all with dirty money. At the moment, they adopt noise as strategy to shut down alternative ideas and viewpoints. For me, Fani- Kayode has just only burst the bubble. We cannot afford to put our children in harm’s way by permitting a crowd of ill-educated, poorly trained semi illiterates to superintend over their future.
But as arguments and debates go, In the process of child education, I plan to advance some arguments on the Starvation allegation as I have studied it, offer an opinion on Igbo “superiority and success” claims from a purely indigenous perspective and warn about the need for strategic definition of Yoruba objectives in the light of internal strife. I hope to write briefly about what Awolowo means to my generation and what that meaning should translate to as we contest with the Igbos for Lagos and the rest Yoruba land.
THE CURRENT DISCUSSION BETWEEN YORUBA AND NDIGBO
First, permit me to admit that Igbos have been winning and Yorubas merely reacting to their carefully orchestrated agenda. Their reactions are in some cases self-defeating, apologetic and unsure and sometimes self-serving and opportunistic ways. Some have criticised Femi Fani-Kayode even to the extent of abusing his illustrious father. And these are Yoruba men, prominent and intelligent but with no reputation for wisdom and common sense. This may be the time to teach some wisdom to them and those still hibernating under some illusion of studied diplomacy, biblical morality, duty to Nation, fairness rights under a confused constitution. Ndigbo has no time for these sentiments. Igbos fight rough, obey no rules and attack and destroy you if you hesitate. That Cambridge educated young man, Femi Fani Kayode is a Lawyer but also a historian. He has been educated in the best traditional Institutions teaching his trade, just like his father before him, his Grandfather before his father and his great grandfather before his grandfather. He comes from a long line of educated elites and knows that silence does not carry far where noise prevails. Personally, I can live with his occasional indiscretions.
Talking about Igbo insults, One Chuka Odom, one time Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory writing on the back page of This Day Newspaper of 23 August 2013 advances this insult to ridiculous heights when he said:
”Yes, the Igbos are proud of their entrepreneurial skills just as the Yorubas are proud of their penchant for fanfare and merriment. Every tribe has an identity”.
Now you heard a former Federal Minister talk disparagingly of a superior race as one of laziness and constant merriment. If this was Fani Kayode speaking, some Yoruba opportunists would be blaring jingoism from the roof tops. By the way, I cannot be angry with Odom. That is his belief. And Fani Kayode was right to go into the history books to tell Odom and his likes the history of a barbarian which migrated to Yoruba land to be educated but failed to learn any manner along with the letters. But must we just shut up and observe them dance naked. No. A Jewish proverb says:
”He who puts up with insult invite injury”.
Again here I believe we do not deserve insults and Pierre Corneille warns
”He who allows himself to be insulted deserves to be”.
Like Fani Kayode, I am convinced that we do not deserve to be insulted and must not stand insults lamely. We have put up with insult for too long, hence the current injury inflicted by Ndigbo. Now with Femi insulting them, we are not just getting some attention, we got lots of it and the conversation is finally changing.
Diplomacy does not work where punches are already being thrown freely. George W. Bush made that point clearly:
In defence of our Nation, a President must be a clear eyed realist. There are limits to the smiles and scowls of diplomacy. Armies and missiles are not stopped by stiff notes of condemnation. They are held in check by strength and purpose and promise of swift punishment.
The Igbo initiative is clearly an invasion which cannot be checked by pacification or diplomacy but strength of purpose and swift and stiff punishment.
Fani Kayode has challenged Ndigbo with historical facts and apart from abuses and curses; he is yet to get a rebuttal of facts presented.
It is time for old and young Yorubas to cut out the diplomacy nonsense, don their reading glasses and adopt the power that has always been considered worthy by their forebears, the power of ideas and get to the debating table with invaders from across Onitsha, the Igbo. It is time to match them fact for fact, boast for boast, noise for noise and aggression for aggression. Yoruba should use the superiority of the brain which we suffer to invest in over brawn that petty trading demands.
BIZARRE YORUBA MEN
Two prominent individuals frighten me in their motivation on this matter. Mr Femi ArIbisala who claims to be a pastor and Mr Adeseye Ogunlewe, the former Obasanjo Works Minister who held Lagos including his home town of Ikorodu to ransom while he tarred the shiny roads you see today around Kubua and Katsina. But we must not lose the advantage of accommodating differing opinions. That has been the strength of the Yoruba and the gift we must present to the next generation.
DEPORTATION OR COLONISATION
We all know what this should be about but unfortunately, is not. It should be about elites and destitute, about rights and power and right and wrong. It should be about whether a Government has a right to decree that the poor must not exist alongside the haves that Government can as a matter of impunity throw away Nigerians in the dead of night from anywhere they chose to reside like Lagos Government did. It should be about whether Nigerians cannot live in convenience with others as Anambra did in the past. It is about whether Abia Government will win tomorrow if somebody takes them to court for sacking over two thousand Igbos from its civil service. It is certainly not about deportation. The Igbos do not believe that Fashola has any tribal sentiments neither do they sympathise with the poor destitute in their midst, how much less the deported to their midst. They fully understand that Raji Fashola is a one way bulldozer of demolition for as long as a Mega City remains to be built. Machines can demolish anything or anybody as far as his fanaticism goes. Fashola is therefore just an excuse to extort concessions and embarrass the Yoruba. He certainly does not belong in this conversation which we all have longed for since Chinua Achebe wrote that valedictory book. We need everybody in this dialogue, our area boys, our demolition squad, our professionals and most importantly, our intellectuals. I believe we can steer this talk anyway we want it if we understand how significant this time is in our lives with the igbos. The conversations must be propelled to the logical end through research, debates and disagreements no matter how controversial and partisan or divisive. I shall seek to contribute to the conversation Ndigbo wants and Achebe provoked and so should you. First let us deal with the our domestic destitute.
FEMI ARIBISALA AND OGUNLEWE
I talked about some Yoruba people, their confusion, their distractions, distortions ill motives and selfishness. But more importantly their pettiness just because they have minor disagreement with individuals or are hoping to harvest Igbo electoral potentials. Two very good instances surfaced in articles recently. One from one Femi Aribisala who practically handed Lagos over to Ndigbo for Governor because he and his parents encountered Late Chief Remi Fani Kayode, Femi’s late father in unpleasant circumstances almost 50 years ago. It was the most distasteful article I have read in a long time.
I shall not dwell on the unimportant in regards to this individual. It is left to the people of Ikorodu to call him by his true name. The severity of that verdict will reflect the values of the Ikorodu people and I know them. They are true sons of their parents.
As Minister of Works at Abuja, Ogunlewe did nothing to ameliorate the troublesome hold ups at Ikorodu while he concentrated all his energy on Kubwa, Katsina and Mokwa roads. But that did not make his larger than life image of “Akotileta” which he enjoys today as that man who as Minister prevented the vegetation of Lagos and formed a flotilla of miscreants around the Marina attacking all motorists and collecting tolls. These are not my concern. For our children’s sake, I want us to examine what this man said in reaction to current Igbo Yoruba debate.
He said, “The arrival of Dr. Namdi Azikiwe to Lagos in 1937 from Accra after his studies in the United States, stimulated the political and cultural environment of Lagos as no other has before or after him. Zik literally resurrected the wizard of Kirsten hall from political death. Zik represented Lagos in the western house. The NCNC was the power in Lagos, and not the Action Group. The Igbo were prominent in the governance of Lagos in the Lagos City Hall.”
What a patriot, what a lover of unity. My questions to Ogunlewe are as follows:
I. Is Lagos a No man’s Land because it allowed Azikiwe his oratory? Simple yes or no will suffice
II. Was Nnamdi Azikiwe the sole founder of NCNC? The first leader of that party, Herbert Macaulay, was he Igbo? Where were the H.O. Davies of those times and so many prominent Yoruba sons who gave accommodation and comfort to Azikiwe after he was thrown out of Ghana?
III. What point is Ogunlewe making by saying NCNC was in power in Lagos and not AG. Was NCNC an Igbo Party at the time it was in power in Lagos?
Ogunlewe embarks on self-glorifying name dropping.
“Interestingly, I was born at plot number 8, Okoya Street, Idumagbo- Lagos, while the Ojukwu families were residing at number one to three on the same street. I grew up to know the father of Odumegwu Ojukwu. Chimbizie and Azuka grew up with us on the same street. Even the Chibeze small parking space at the end of Okoya Street is called Ojukwu.”
When he says interestingly, who is interested in where he was born. The questions are:
I. Did Sir Louis, Chimbize, Azuka and Emeka Ojukwu claim even at that time or at any time in their lifetime to be Lagosians?
II. At Okoya Street Idumagbo, was the Igbo man the King or paramount ruler. Was Okoya and Idumagbo Street a no man’s land way back then when Mr Ogunlewe was playing “Lagos Boy”?
III. Why is Adeseye Ogunlewe claiming Ikorodu and not Idumagbo today if he does not know where his parents belong and that vegetables have roots?
IV. At that time, were Hausas, Kogi and other Nigerians not living there? Did they claim to own Lagos as Orji Kalu and his co travellers claim?
V. In spite of Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Lagos roots, did he ever claim to be a Lagosian. Bless his soul, that true son of Nnewi always knew and acknowledged the mother that gave him suck.
I am Yoruba but I know where I come from. Even though I am Yoruba and have lived three quarters of my entire life in Lagos for upwards of 40 years, I shall not claim to be a Lagosian and when you ask my children, all born here in Lagos, they tell you with pride bordering on arrogance, where they come from. Another Yoruba adage says it is the crack head who points at his father’s house with his left thumb.
Ogunlewe is not finished yet with his “Uncle Tom” essay.
He said, “Anytime I visited where I was born today in Idumagbo at Lagos Island, the entire place is covered by Igbo traders in their thousands. They were never troublesome but decent and accommodating. They have virtually taken over all properties of the indigenes. They succeeded in developing all our properties, married to most of our children even from the royal families. There is no single house you will visit without an Igbo man selling wares there.”
Ogunlewe is the happiest man alive because Igbo took over his entire family. The street car park, the Ogunlewe house where he was born, they now occupy with their wives and married their children. All because of money.
Congratulations. Is that not what you have been waiting for all your life? For Igbo to take over your house, marry your children and rule over your home? He says they have virtually taken over. No, they have not “virtually”, they have actually taken over and driven Lagos “Akotiletas” your kind out of town. Like the Cowboys of Western movies, they may indeed produce a Governor the way they arrive in morning, afternoon and night busses, thanks to physically tall but mentally short characters like some who claim to know where they come from.
After the success of his two full length movies, Mirror Boy and Last Flight To Abuja, United kingdom-based Nigerian filmmaker, Obi Emelonye, returns with an Igbo language movie, Onye Ozi. In this interview with FUNSHO AROGUNDADE, the producer and director spoke why he decided to do a film in that language.
Why did you decide to shoot a film in Igbo language this time around?
I have always wanted to shoot a language film because I believe our language remains our form of identity. Many Nollywood filmmakers use English language as a medium of expression because it is a language imposed on us as official language. But the ability to tell our story and deliver messages in our native language always has a lasting effect. Tunde Kelani, a filmmaker, that I look up to as an inspiration has proven that with almost all his works. He is one of the successful filmmakers that Nigeria has produced and he has used Yoruba language as a medium of communication in his films; and has recorded tremendous success and earned international recognition as a filmmaker. However, I am concerned that Igbo language is becoming an endangered species, according to UNESCO. A lot of parents no longer speak the language to their children because they don’t consider it hip. They feel the language is not trendy enough. But we have to change this warped perception. So, I thought after the success of my last two films which were done in English language, I have to take up the challenge to take the present Nollywood back to where it started with the film Living In Bondage an Igbo language film that helped revolutionise the Nigerian film industry.
Tell us about the new film?
It is called Onye Ozi. It is a situational comedy set and shot in London. It is all about a young graduate played by Okey Bakassi who just arrived in United Kingdom from Nigeria. He came in with very high expectations but at the welcome party organised for him by his wife, a white man being pursued by some assailants was shot right in the middle of the party venue. While everybody ran away, Okey braved the odd and offered to help the dying man. Before he died, the man handed over an envelope and a bunch of keys to Okey. From that moment, Okey embarked on a journey that was to change his life and people around him forever. Onye Ozi is a situation comedy with a deep spiritual story. The film also features a number of white actors who spoke pure Igbo language in the movie. They include co-lead Stephen Moriaty and Anthony Aclet. Also in the film are Ngozi Igwebike, Adesua Atuanya and D’Kachy Obi-Emelonye.
Why the choice of Okey Bakassi for the lead role?
Okey Bakassi fits well for the role. I have worked with him twice before on some comedy flicks and they were successful. In Nollywood, he has not really done a lot of acting as he is more of a stand-up comedian. But after he dabbled into politics a couple of years back, he slowed down. But since his return, he has done more of stand-up comedy but I thought he should come back to his natural turf. And he has proved me right with his A-class delivery in Onye Ozi.
Are you not bothered that producing a language film will limit your scope?
Producing an Igbo language movie for me will cause no limitation. In fact, if you see Onye Ozi, it was produced in such a way that without even listening or understanding the language you will flow with the message. Basically, it is well sub-titled. But the success we recorded when the film was premiered in London in 18 October was a huge boost. Besides, while the premiere was on in London, we simultaneous premiered it online on IrokoTV, Africa Nolly and Ibaka TV platforms in about 60 countries. The most popular place where the film was watched online was the United Kingdom. It was followed by Saudi Arabia. On the night of the premiere, over 66,000 people clicked to see the trailer, while about 2,000 people paid online to watch the film. That alone confirmed that the film will be a success.
What is your take on the fact that M-Net Africa has AfricaMagic channels for Hausa, Yoruba and Swahili but none for Igbo where the bulk of Nollywood practitioners come from?
You know what? I am deeply concerned. I was at the maiden edition of the AfricaMagic Viewers Choice Award held in March this year. At the event, my earlier film ‘Mirror Boy’ won the ‘Best Drama’ award. During the award ceremony, there were categories for Yoruba, Swahili and Hausa and non for Igbo. That was part of the motivation and I said then that I have to make an Igbo film even if it the only one that could earn a nomination in the subsequent edition of the award.
Part of the problem we were told was that there are not enough content to start a channel for the Igbo. So, are you championing the cause now?
Yes. What I wanted to do was to encourage more of our people because apart from the art of making film, it also a business. I see no reason why an Igbo story being told from Igbo perspective and culture and shot in an Igbo village setting should have English as a medium of expression and delivery. With due respect, I know that if you tell a story about witch doctors and become successful, every other person will follow suit. So if I make an Igbo film in Igbo and it is successful definitely everybody will want to make one because they think it is the common denominator.
As a producer, how was the transition from serious drama to comedy?
There is no transition my brother. This is not the first time I would be producing a comedy movie. Even in my past productions, I always inject comedy into some of the scenes. Gone are those days where you shoot a film and it comes out a serious drama. Even in Hollywood, most of the films now have a bit of thriller, adventure, comedy and suspense. Good films should have comic scenes because comedy is good. It relaxes people. It makes us forget our problems. The idea of people coming to watch a film is to relax not to get stressed but to escape from their immediate problem and get entertained.
Talking about budgeting, how much did it cost you to produce Onye Ozi?
Seriously I don’t like discussing budget. But Onye Ozi is a much smaller budget production compare to The Mirror Boy and Last Flight To Abuja. Nevertheless, big budget never determines the success of any film. Just like a producer who spent almost $8million to produce a film in Nigeria and is struggling to sell the film, it is not just about spending money, it is about doing something that works.
The Igbo, whose traditional homeland — Igboland — is in the southeastern portion of the country, are Nigeria’s largest ethnic group. Most are Christian, but many Igbo, even while practicing Christianity, nonetheless consider themselves Jewish.
In the past few decades, several thousand Igbo have taken this self-identification a step further and embraced Judaism, which they see as their lost heritage. The phenomenon of Igbo identification with Jews dates to the 18th century, following the Igbo’s encounter with Christian missionaries and their introduction to the Bible, in which they found similarities between Igbo customs and those of the ancient Hebrews.
Some Igbo, such as the 18th-century writer Equiano Olaudah, concluded “that the one people had sprung from the other,” an opinion shared by the worshipers at Tikvat Israel. Earlier this year, Nwafor invited me to Abuja to celebrate the annual Purim holiday — the Jewish Festival of Lots, based on the biblical Book of Esther — as well as to learn more about Nigerian Jewry.
Upon exiting Abuja’s air-conditionless airport terminal, I was met by Nwafor, who was wearing a blue and white Tikvat Israel T-shirt. A waiting car took us to Kubwa, the neighborhood where Nwafor and his wife, Amaka, live with their children. For the next week I was their guest, and as my host, Nwafor never left my side, accompanying me on all my trips to homes, synagogues and sites in Abuja. Among the many vis
I used to be a keen observer and admirer of the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN). Apart from the visible progress he might have made in governing Lagos, I believe he is an astute and tactful politician. That could go as the most outstanding part of his personality. For almost eight years, he worked out a very rare but functional arrangement where he focused more on the day-to-day running of the state, while he allowed his former boss and Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria now All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, to hold sway and take full charge of the political arena. Do not take my word for it but it takes a man of considerable political acumen to function effectively under the shadow of a maverick politician larger–than-life politician like the “Lion of Bourdillon”, as many call him, and yet be able to create a remarkable political niche for oneself. Managing overbearing political bosses is a virtue that many of our politicians have not developed. Fashola not only achieved this but managed to create an impression of a visionary leader on anyone who visited Lagos recently.
However the controversial deportation of Nigerian citizens of Igbo extraction resident in Lagos by giving them an emergency destitute status has brought Fashola’s true divisive and odoriferous tribal personality into the public domain. It is unarguable that many admirers of Fashola are rankled and startled and now see him in a different, largely uncomplimentary light. Apart from the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Fashola is one other governor who has demonstrated, in my view, that he has a direction and who anyone can hold a conversation with about good governance and development. My admiration for the conduct of these two used to be so boundless that I would nominate them without hesitation for any bigger national assignment only if I had the slightest opportunity. But not anymore, at least for Governor Fashola.
For the benefit of those who do not know the details. A Lagos State agency known as the Kick Against Indiscipline, obviously on the orders of the state governor, was said to have arrested some people predominantly from Igbo extraction about two years ago on the suspicion that they were leading destitute lives. They were detained in several locations in Lagos under some dirty and largely inhuman condition. Many of them allegedly died in the process out of starvation and sickness. A few who survived were later packed into a lorry like cows and deported to Onitsha where they were dumped near the head bridge at Upper Iweka and abandoned there. There is a possibility that not all of these hapless deportees were doing meaningful things before they were caught. However, some of them reportedly confessed to be petty traders and roadside food hawkers before they were nabbed by some overzealous KAI operatives. They disclosed that much when they were interviewed. But those are all by the way. How come they were interviewed to find that if they spoke Yoruba language before bundling them into prison? How come they bundled all of them into Onitsha even when some of them might have been from Calabar, Yenagoa, or even Uyo? Was it a pre- rehearsed attack against a perceived enemy ethnic group? When and where were these hatched?
As the debate continues to rage, many informed minds have continued to condemn Fashola and his government. However, a few ethnic jingoists have tried desperately to justify the action of the governor, who I am sure might have realised the import of his mistake by now. But I am certain that such arguments as indigene/settler, host/guest conversations have become anachronistic. And so I will not waste valuable time on the contribution of one tribe or the other to the growth and development of Lagos State as some have been preoccupied with.
However, I want to point out some personal views for all of us to consider, extrapolate and draw conclusions. The first point is a short story. During my days at the University of Ibadan, I used to spend time with a relation who lived in the Mushin area of Lagos. I remember it was a storey building and I often came to the narrow balcony to watch a mammoth crowd hurry across to Isolo, Idi-Araba, Surulere and other parts of Lagos. I recall vividly how I helplessly watched hoodlums on several occasions snatch bags and valuables from unsuspecting passers-by. If you are in doubt, try to walk around the area in the evening. You will notice some people following you and singing praises initially and appealing to you to “bless” them. If you hesitate, they will turn violent and “bless” themselves by force by dispossessing you of your valuables. They are still there as I write. Now, if a destitute person is someone who is poor and does not have the basic necessities of life. If the goal of the KAI campaign is to rid Lagos of poor, homeless beggars and non-taxpaying individuals as someone opined, then their destination should be Mushin. There, they will find trailer loads of such individuals but of course the destination of such vehicles will never be Onitsha. If the Lagos State Government was talking to its Anambra counterpart, why did it decide to drop the “deportees” at the Onitsha head bridge in the dead of the night, not in Awka or any government establishment?
Besides, how come the Lagos State Governor decided to contact, as he said he did, only the Governor of Anambra State on a matter as sensitive as this? Why did he not write other state governors in the South-East and South-South?
Instructively, during the last census exercise, Fashola and his fellow politicians were literally begging Ndigbo and other “settlers” not to go back to their states but rather stay back in Lagos and be counted. Now that they might have contributed to the mega population size of Lagos for which is a clear tool to bargain for national resources, these same people have become disposable street urchins. What could have inspired this state-sponsored hatred? Some say that the pre-civil war fear of Igbo dominance is still a factor. No. Not at all. The effect of the civil war on Ndigbo is so devastating that it will take many more decades to be neutralised, whatever anyone might think to the contrary. Many of the Igbo who left the East after the war went out in search of survival. After the war, they lost their jobs, money, properties and everything. Some of them who had millions of pounds in the bank had to forfeit them and were given only 20 pounds, on the orders of the Federal Government to start life. The only option they had was to continue to travel to places that were inhabitable to trade and farm etc. That was how the Igbo began to migrate to other parts of Nigeria in search of livelihood and survival. It takes a hard-working person to rebuild considerably from the rubble of war with only 20 pounds. Sadly, many years after the civil war, many other tribes with covert backing of politicians are still fighting against Ndigbo. Ndigbo are the least represented in everything Nigerian because, unfortunately, the divisive sentiments that pervaded during the civil war are still very active in the hearts and minds of many. If you look at the lopsided nature of the Nigerian civil service under the name of Federal Character, you will cry.
Since independence in 1960, ethnic issues have been deliberately politicised to give a clique of power-thirsty individuals, a dubious legitimacy. The civil war worsened it and politicians have continued to exploit it to their advantage. Amidst these sad and almost inescapable realities, one would only imagine that Fashola would have known and done better.
It must be noted out that the deportation saga has very tricky political implications. It has a potential of deepening inter-tribal suspicion with counterproductive political repercussions. For instance, Ndigbo constitute a majority of the non-Yoruba voting population in Lagos State that will be too difficult to ignore. How come Fashola mobilised these “street urchins” to vote for him only to remember towards the end of his last tenure that they are a bunch of nuisance that needs to be deported? Why did he not do it before 2011? What about 2015?
CNPP cautions Obi over backlash
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State yesterday cleared the air on the controversies trailing the alleged forceful ejection of some Igbo from the state, saying only 14 destitutes were picked on the streets, ehabilitated and resettled back to their state.
Governor Fashola thus distanced the state’s government from the claim that those resettled were 67 or 72.
Fashola who also disclosed that he just ordered the rehabilitation of a mad woman who was allegedly impregnated by unknown person in Oshodi, said the state’s government’s care for its residents had no ethnic or political colouration.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has urged Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State not to allow the controversy cause rancour between Igbo and Yoruba in Lagos.
In a statement signed by the state’s chairman of CNPP, Hon Akinola Obadia, the group said that the issue should not be allowed to cause disaffection among the Igbo people living in the state with their Yoruba neighbours.
The CNPP also warned against tribalising the alleged deportation issue. The statement reads in part: “We in the CNPP have gone extra mile to find out the fact from government source on the issue of the return of destitutes in the state to their states of origin.
We decided to make a clean breast of the matter against the disinformation and rumour some people are making.”
Speaking during a visit of Aka Ikenga, Igbo community in Lagos to his office in Alausa, Ikeja, Fashola said what happened was indeed minor issue that had been exaggerated to score cheap political gain.
Explaining the genesis of the controversy, Fashola recalled that there was correspondence between the Lagos State Government and the Anambra State liaison in Lagos.
Governor Fashola explained that his Anambra State counterpart could not claim ignorance of the whole matter.
Anyone wandering the back streets near Omiya Station at 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 2, might have passed a particular office building, unremarkable except for two African men standing on a 2nd floor balcony, rope in hand, lowering a car-sized Ugo (eagle) costume down to the parking lot. One of them was Tony Ikeotuonye, chairman of the Anambra State Union, one of Japan’s two largest Nigerian immigrant civic associations. He had slept lightly and awoken at 6 to begin loading costumes into a Nippon Rent-a-Truck, a process culminating in the curious scene that greeted passersby that morning in Saitama.
This was the unglamorous prelude to an African masquerade performance more than two years in the making. Ikeotuonye and the costumes were expected in Yokohama by 10 at Africa Fair, the public face of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). They were to take the stage at noon, and theirs would be the sole scheduled event representing the diaspora that links Japan to Africa.
For Ikeotuonye, it was gratifying to find himself only 70 km and a few hours away from showtime. The idea of establishing a masquerade troupe in Japan had initially provoked a great deal of skepticism among his constituents. Since then, much time and money had been spent, and odds defied, to make this ambitious aspiration a reality.
The potentially momentous economic developments TICAD invoked also provided the Africa Fair performance — and its participants — with a sharpened sense of occasion. Rapidly rising GDPs meant that many investors again regarded Africa as an emerging market. Breakneck Chinese investment had stirred Japanese insecurities. Yet Japan’s trade aspirations mingled with enduring uneasiness about a continent troubled by weak institutions, its culture and customs utterly remote to most Japanese.
Surely Japan’s African expatriates could play a role: They were the only Africans that Japanese citizens encountered on a daily basis, and — as one masquerade performer put it — “No one who knows Africans personally is afraid of Africans in general.” But Africans constitute a mere sliver of Japan’s comparatively small immigrant population, and their role in public discourse remains minimal. The scheduling of two masquerade performances at Africa Fair — by the Anambra State Union and its Imo State counterpart — offered members of the Igbo Nigerian immigrant community a rare opportunity to publicly present themselves in a manner that might surprise and impress a Japanese audience: as a highly organized, civically engaged diaspora whose culture shares common features with Japan’s. After all, what is masquerade if not matsuri’s African equivalent?
Dreux Richard is an American writer, journalist and literary translator living in Tokyo. He writes about Japan’s African community for The Japan Times and serves as Kyoto Journal’s literary translation editor.
Engaging, if messy, documentary seeks to answer the question.
“Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria” is one of those peculiar documentary films that makes a sort of nonsense of everything I know about film and art. On the one hand the film, which is produced, written, directed, shot and edited by Jeff L. Lieberman, is a baggy, often shapeless mess, meandering and repetitive, filled with side roads that lead nowhere and a narration that borders on the amateur.
Despite that, “Re-Emerging” is frequently engaging, often charming and, finally, a very pleasant experience.
The Igbo are one of the larger ethnic groups in modern Nigeria, a nation of 170 million people and over 250 such ethnic configurations. For much of the region’s history, they have been referred to as “the Jews of Nigeria,” a band of overachievers who are the source of much of the brainpower of the country and a subject of much persecution. When they attempted to form a separate nation, Biafra, in the late 1960s, the resulting civil war had dire consequences for the Igbo but, for a moment, they were on the world’s mind, if only as the victims of an attempted genocide.
There have long been rumors of a more direct connection between the Igbo and Judaism, and in a country currently torn apart by Christian-Muslim sectarian violence the idea that a third religious element could emerge is certainly intriguing. And there are many Igbo who believe that those historical rumors are rooted in fact. “I’ve always known the Igbo are Jews,” says Shmuel Tikvah, the central figure of the film.
And he has been acting on that belief for many years now, exploring Judaism through the Internet, teaching himself Hebrew and moving slowly from the Catholicism with which he was raised to Sabbatarianism, a hybrid apparently unique to Nigeria, and finally to Judaism itself. He is one of about 3,000 Igbos (out of a population of 25 million) who are practicing Jews.
As depicted by Lieberman, these Nigerian Jews are a warm and welcoming group, eager for knowledge of and contact with the rest of the Jewish world, vocal supporters of Israel and spirited worshippers, a small but charming community. Those qualities, combined with a refreshing candor, are what make “Re-Emerging” a delight despite its flaws and messiness. Shmuel is a wonderfully earnest young man, determined to get a bona fide Jewish education (he aspires to study for the rabbinate at Jewish Theological Seminary) and to become his nation’s first rabbi. His relationship with the elders of the tiny community is pleasing to watch, and the elders are nothing less than the Nigerian equivalent of the tough but tender Sisterhood ladies and Men’s Club old-timers that you admire in your own congregation.
The problem with “Re-Emerging” is that Lieberman lets his story drag him anywhere; like a child with a short attention span, the film wanders into numerous cul-de-sacs. There is a comparatively lengthy and utterly irrelevant section exploring the Igbo roots of the Geechee/Gullah communities of the Sea Islands of the United States and some eccentric and unconvincing passages attempting to tie the Igbo to Hebrew linguistically and one lost opportunity. More seriously, the film misses an opportunity to explore the function of Christianity in a post-colonial Africa, although it is smart enough to raise the issue. Equally problematic is Lieberman’s fascination with images of children at play; the kids are adorable and the footage is occasionally amusing, but the time could be better spent exploring the children’s lives as outsiders in their native land.
Therein lies the film’s greatest shortcoming. There are numerous questions left unanswered by “Re-Emerging.” Lieberman never offers expert historical testimony regarding the actual nature of the Igbos’ origins, only the kind of folk etymologies that are notoriously unreliable. He never explores why both Israel and the U.S. are so reluctant to grant student visas to Shmuel, or why the Jewish world seems so uninterested in the Nigerian situation. (Indeed, the film is completely lacking in any Israeli responses at all. The closest Lieberman comes is a newspaper headline claiming that the Israeli ambassador to Nigeria approves of the Igbos’ apparent interest.)
And yet, “Re-Emerging” is an entirely amiable film. If only it were a better film, it could be much more.
“Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria,” by Jeff L. Lieberman will be shown at the JCC in Manhattan (76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue) Tuesday, June 4 at 7:30 pm. For information, call (646) 505-4444 or go to www.jccmanhattan.org.
When I read your trilogy on Biafra, published in The NEWS Magazine of 25, February, 4 and 11 March 2013, based on 21,000 pages of American Secret Files, as you claimed, I wondered whether it was the same Damola Awoyokun who wrote EINSTEIN AND THE EXPRESSWAY CHURCHES in resplendent logic and language that is writing again. To read 21,000 pages is quite a feat, even if each page contains one line only! The time needed to read 21,000 pages will certainly tend to infinity as we say in mathematics.
I do not intend to take you up on the possibility of such a task. You sought to create the impression that since your source is American Secret Files, all you said is unquestionable truth. The USA being the world capital of present day CAPITALISM, every political opinion emanating from there is ideologically suspect by people of different political orientation. Reason being partly because of what John Buchan said in his novel – THE THIRTY NINE STEPS, ‐“ Capitalism has no conscience no fatherland!”, and partly because the USA is the sponsor of a very deadly type of international terrorism detailed by John Perkins in his book – CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN in which he said “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who can cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections,payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. …..I should know; I was an EHM……Jaime Roldos, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama both had just died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government,and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We EHMS failed to bring Roldos and Torrijos around,and the other type of hit men, the CIA – sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in.
“……Because of my fellow EHMs and me, Ecuador is in far worse shape today than she was before we introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and engineering. Since 1970, during this period known euphemistically as the Oil Boom, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under – or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. …….Third World debt has grown to more than $2.5 trillion, and the cost of servicing it – over $375 billion per year as of 2004 – is more than all Third World spending on health and education, and twenty times what developing countries receive annually in foreign aid….” With this background of American insatiable quest for global economic domination established by an American, who was an insider, the credibility of your source of information on Biafra, is blowing in the wind, coupled with the
fact that you are apparently the Obasanjo type who swallows everything from the white man; as illustrated in his hiring of Baroness Lynda Chalker as his omnibus guide, counselor and supervisor.
21 million pages from American secret files cannot match the account of MAJOR ADEWALE ADEMOYEGA who was not only an ear and eye witness, but also, participated throughout in the planning and execution of the January 15, 1966 coup, from Genesis to Revelation so to speak. He was one of the SEVEN MAJORS who held the one and only formal meeting of the coup, one of the FIVE MAJORS that planned and executed the coup and also one of the THREE MAJORS that formed the inner core! Odia Ofeimun’s regrets and lamentations that the FORGOTTEN DOCUMENTS OF THE WAR including Major Ifeajuna’s account of the coup did not see the light of day is unhelpful. Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu being Igbos, their account, will not be accepted by most non – Igbo Nigerians because of the igbophobia that has poisoned their reasoning.
The unfriendly and destructive outburst from a section of the Yoruba nation against Achebe’s new book on Biafra, confirms that Ademoyega’s book on the coup ‐ WHY WE STRUCK, received scant or no attention from the Nigerian reading public. This has remained so even though it is known that ADEWALE ADEMOYEGA is non–Igbo, but a FULL AND RED BLOODED YORUBA IN NAME AND BEING! His ‘offence’ is that because of Nigeria’s victory over Biafra, in that war, facilitated by the strange and most unusual collaboration and collusion of COMMUNISM AND CAPITALISM, to suffocate a people struggling for survival, the first of its kind in world history and made possible by the intellectual domination of Ojukwu by Britain our former colonial master, he did not join the band wagon of anti – Igbo feeling to hold the Igbos as the sponsors of THE GLORIOUS JANUARY REVOLUTION. I will quote Ademoyega’s book copiously and extensively in an effort to bring out the true picture of that event even before an unwilling audience. .
History is also taken to mean his story. Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe has written his “THERE WAS A COUNTRY ‐ A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA”, laying emphasis where he chose. Damola, you can write your own history of Biafra or Nigeria and lay emphasis as you like. Nobody has the right to task anybody on where emphasis is laid. It is most improper if not immodest of you to assault Achebe on this score.
On the January 15, 1966 revolution, it is now known, settled and agreed that the FIVE MAJORS who planned and executed it, had as the final part of the operation, to free Awolowo from Calabar prison and make him their leader. With this in view, why do you persist in calling it an Igbo coup? The best interests of Ndigbo will not and cannot be served by Awolowo, as the new leader of the revolution, were
the coup to have succeeded in Lagos. If it were an Igbo coup, the arrangement would have been that power would be ultimately handed over to an Igbo man not to AWOLOWO. Because of your uncritical obsession that it was an Igbo coup, which did not have the welfare of Awolowo at heart, you said “ In reality, there was no army unit heading to Calabar to spring Awolowo from prison.”
Major Adewale Ademoyega counters your stand thus “……Yet there was one arrangement we had left till the date was fixed. It was the arrangement for the release of political prisoners, particularly Chief Awolowo. Now that our own date had been tentatively fixed for mid ‐ January, it became necessary to gear up that arrangement. At the end of the first week in January, Major Anuforo and I arranged to meet Captain Udeaja……….Having briefed Udeaja generally and got his consent, we gave him his task. He was to fly in a special plane provided for the purpose to Calabar on the morning of the D – Day , to effect the release of Chief Awolowo and bring him to Lagos on the plane…”. Damola, you seriously need to note the above point even if it goes against the grain.Yet, if all the FIVE MAJORS were Igbos, their intention was national.
Entre Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu in ‐ 13 YEARS OF MILITARY RULE by James O. Ojiako, a Daily Times Publication. “We seized power to stamp out tribalism, nepotism and regionalism .There were five of us in the inner circle and we planned the details. On Saturday morning, the officers and men thought they were going out only on a night exercise.
It was not until they were out in the bush that they were told the full details of the plan. They had bullets, they had been issued with their weapons but I was unarmed. If they disagreed, they could have shot me.
It was truly a Nigerian gathering and only in the army do you get true Nigerianism…….They did it for the good of their country……” Where did Ndigbo come into this business in the light of Nzeogwu’s statement? Tell me Engr. Damola Awoyokun, the all knowing authority on the January coup and the Nigeria – Biafra war.
You said” Ojukwu”, said Stephan, (the West African correspondent of Bavarian Broadcasting, Munich) “was a supporter of the coup, the first in the country’s history. He sympathized with the January 1966 plot makers, but was careful enough to avoid any overplayed attachment to them. Ojukwu told me later that it had been him who had requested General (Aguiyi) Ironsi to crush the coup…” How amazing?Ojukwu an Igbo man, advising Ironsi another Igbo man, to crush an Igbo coup! The two parts of this sentence are mutually exclusive. Though your belief in an Igbo coup is very strong, you went on probably subconsciously to quote your American Secret files where they said, ‘According to Lieutenant Colonel Abba Kyari, military governor of North Central State, “there is no question that Major Nzeogwu, Ibo leader of 1966 coup in Kaduna, had been a nationalist, not a tribalist, who was acting for the good of all Nigeria.” Damola, Nzeogwu was acting for the good of all Nigeria not for the good of the IGBOS, SO SAID A NORTHERN MILITARY GOVERNOR! When Nigeria engages in dastardly behavior it does not attract your attention as in this case where your American files continued to quote Abba Kyari“….explaining that Nzeogwu having been falsely informed that Nsukka was in Biafran hands, boldly entred Ubolo Eke, near Nsukka at night and was killed. Nzeogwu’s corpse was transferred to the North and given full military burial, but not before northern soldiers had plucked out his eyes so that he would never see the North again.” What an effort, a dead man being prevented from seeing again!
With this type of treatment given to the corpse of a dead man, only God knows what they did to Colonel Tim Onwuatuegwu who was captured alive! They may still be killing Onwuatuegwu up to this day! Your American files said again, ”At the Kano airport, soldiers seized an Igbo stewardess from a plane on which she flew in from London. She was never heard of again.Chinua Achebe had extensively discussed the prevalent national resentment of the Igbos by other Nigerian ethnic groups. Ndigbo cannot help this unjustified, diabolical, conspiratorial, animosity against them by volunteering their extinction from the planet earth. Almighty God placed Ndigbo in this part of the globe, and they will not betray the responsibility of preserving their specie. You concocted all types of fables to portray the IGBOS as being unsympathetic on the size of the northern casualties during the first coup.
Ademoyega speaks again “….It would be recalled that by late 1965 the efforts of the Balewa Government to Northernise the top echelon of the army was already bearing fruit. Some Northerners were already holding most of the strategic positions in the Army. Those positions could easily be used to thwart our attempt to change the Government. Sheer caution dictated that we would be sure to neutralize those officers so that our revolution would have a chance of taking off and succeeding. Later events did fully justify our apprehension, since it was the escape of only one of those marked down for arrest that brought us intense hardship and finally compromised our success.
There was no plan to arrest or kill all the officers above the rank of Major as was later claimed by extreme Northern propagandists. Even among those earmarked for arrest, only four were Northerners, two were Westerners and two were Easterners. But the North had always had more than 50% of the intake of officers into the Army since 1961, and more than 70 % of the intake of the other ranks. Therefore if casualties were to happen, it was more likely to be in that proportion than anything else.
The wicked propaganda that followed the coup was only made possible by the weakness and non – revolutionary principles of the Ironsi regime, which bore no semblance to the well ordered and well controlled government that was envisaged and could have been run by us if our plans were fully executed…”
In your prejudiced mind, you trivialized the critical and crucial safety valve that ABURI ACCORD provided by saying “All his (Ojukwu’s) performances in Ghana that culminated in the Aburi Accord of January 1967, or discussion with the Awolowo led National Conciliation Committee five months later, turned out to be ruse. ” You overlooked the very important fact that at Aburi, an agreement was reached, signed and sealed by Ojukwu and Gowon. When they returned to their countries, instead of implementing the accord as signed, Gowon allowed his ‘super’ permanent secretaries, to interpret that document which was not written in Greek or Latin language, but in plain simple English language, and ended up, refusing to implement it and therefore PRECIPITATED THE WAR. If Gowon had implemented the ABURI ACCORD as signed in Ghana, on January 5, 1967, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAR. I should have closed my case here in ABURI, but could not resist the urge to respond to some of your other foibles.
Nigerian commentators on the civil war always fight shy of the ABURI ACCORD and its tremendous and strategic importance, because by so doing, IGBOS are set up for the kill on the guillotine of ethnic cleansing. Every unbiased umpire will agree that THE CIVIL WAR WAS CAUSED BY GOWON BECAUSE HE REFUSED TO IMPLEMENT THE ABURI ACCORD! Any objective and sincere inquirer on the cause of the war, should go no further than the ABURI ACCORD! In Biafra, we had as our mantra, ON ABURI WE STAND, while Gowon, instead of standing on ABURI with Biafra, torpedoed and demolished the good work done at Aburi.
Even though the credibility of your American Secret Files is hanging in the balance, I am curious to note what they said here. “The secret US document called Njoku the best Enugu has (and one of the very best Nigeria has produced).The UK defence advisor who had known Madiebo as subordinate officer First Recce Squadron for several years, said he is “perfectly charming socially, but quite worthless
professionally. He is weak, ineffective commander and consistently had worst recce squadron.” To affirm what he was saying, he showed the US defence attaché, Madiebo’s file at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Madiebo’s records were abysmal…..”
The coup was purely a Nigerian enterprise by patriotic citizens. Ndigbo or The Igbo State Union as at the time had no hand in the coup, as confirmed by Ademoyega when he said “It was in mid – November 1965 that we held the one and only formal meeting that preceded the coup .The meeting was held in Lagos, in the military quarters of Major Ifeajuna……The meeting was very short. There was a consensus
that something had to be done quickly to save Nigeria from anarchy and disintegration and to restore peace and unity to the nation. It was agreed that only the use of force could bring immediate end to the violence being perpetrated in many parts of the country. It was, however, agreed that the use of force should be minimal. Political leaders and their collaborators were to be arrested, but wherever an arrest was resisted, it was to be met with force. Otherwise, no one was to be killed. Only the heads of government, that is, the Prime Minister, the four regional premiers and their right – hand men, were considered most essential to arrest throughout the country. And among their military collaborators, only the top echelon and those holding strategic positions were named for arrest. These included the GOC of the Nigerian Army, General Ironsi, the commanders of the two brigades, Brigadiers Ademulegun and Maimalari, the Chief of Staff Army HQ, Colonel Kur Mohammed, and the Adjutant General of the Army, Lieutenant – Colonel Pam. Others were the Deputy Commander of the NDA, Colonel Shodeinde, the Quartermaster – General of the Army, Lieutenant – Colonel Unegbe and the Commander of the 4th Battalion which was based in Ibadan and was the most politicised unit of the Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Largema.
Contrary to the load of wicked propaganda that has since been heaped on us, there was no decision in our meeting to single out any particular ethnic group for elimination or destructionOur intentions were honourable , our views were national and our goals were idealistic. We intended that the coup should be national in execution so that it would receive national acclamation. We planned that the use of force should be minimal so that our methods could at once be seen as superior to those of the politicians, who simply went on killing the very people they were called upon to govern. The need to bring more of the middle level officers (Majors and Lieutenant – Colonels) was discussed. But the few names that could be mentioned had to be dropped because their interpersonal connections would compromise the security of the planning. After ninety minutes of discussion, the meeting was over. We dispersed as if from a prayer meeting since it was a Sunday and the Lord was in our midst……..“
NNA Plan to Wallop the West
“It was at this time that I met Chief H. O. Davies for the first time. He was a famous politician who had been in the nationalist struggle since 1941. He was a Federal Minister under the Balewa Government….I soon got into deep conversation with him on the political situation in the country, I was particularly interested to know what the Federal Government’s view was, apart from Balewa’s public statements.
Chief H. O. Davies made it clear that the Federal Government had no, solution to the political crisis” (Damola are you hearing this? Since the Federal Government had no solution to the crisis the January boys not the IGBOS had to step in.)” He said that everybody was just waiting to see what would happen next and that nobody knew exactly what that would be; but surely something was bound to happen. I
left Chief Davis feeling that the Balewa Government had something up its sleeve .Otherwise, the minister would not be so emphatic that something was bound to happen…“ .
On January 3, 1966, I went to work with Ifeajuna. After extensive prodding, we discovered that the Balewa Government had a terrible plan to bring the Army fully to operate in the West for the purpose of eliminating the elites of that region, especially the intellectuals who were believed to be behind the intransigence of the people against the Akintola Government. It was for this reason that the government
had attacked the intellectuals of the Region, especially those at Ife, intimidating and victimizing them for their refusal to support it. People like Solarin of May Flower School, Ikenne, were among those marked down. It was also intended that if the plan succeeded in the West, the next target would be the East. The Federal Government was to use loyal troops for this purpose and the 4th Battalion at Ibadan
commanded by Lieutenant – Colonel Largema and the 2nd Battalion temporarily commanded by Major Igboba, but soon to be taken over by Lieutenant ‐Colonel Gowon, were designated for this assignment.”
If the January boys had not intervened, Sardauna and the Balewa Federal Government would have recolonised and severely subjugated Southern Nigeria and placed it in a condition far worse than Southern Sudan experienced before her independence. Damola, I hope you can now see that the January coup was very divinely timely. Ademoyega continued ” The operation was fixed for the third week of January 1966, when the Sardauna would have returned from his pilgrimage, and Lieutenant – Colonel Gowon would have completed his takeover of the Ikeja Battalion. In preparation of this horrible move by the Federal Government, the high echelons of the Army and the Police were being reshuffled.
Major – General Ironsi was ordered to proceed on leave from mid – January. He was to be relieved by Brigadier Maimalari, over the head of Brigadier Ademulegun…..In the Police, Inspector – General Edet was sent on leave from December 20,1965.The officer closest to him was retired and the the third officer, Alhaji Kam Salem was brought in as the new Inspector – General. The stage was thus set for the proper walloping of the West…….
“Late on the 14th, news reached us that the Sardauna had been having a meeting in Kaduna on that day with Chief Akintola of the West, and that both Brigadier Ademulegun and Lieutenant Colonel Largema were in attendance. It was obvious to us that they were putting finishing touches to their planned “walloping of the West”. But we felt confident that we were one step ahead.”
After the revenge coup, neither the triumphant NORTH nor you Damola, expressed sympathy to Igbos because of the over 200 Igbo casualties compared to the about 26 casualties of the first coup by your account from the American secret files! .” You went on to say” that the Igbos in the North were widely taunting their hosts on the loss of their leaders. Celestine Ukwu,a popular Igbo musician, released songs titled Ewu Ne Ba Akwa (Goats Are Crying) and others celebrating “Igbo power….”. I do not intend to comment on your assertion that Igbos in the North celebrated the death of northern leaders because it is neither here nor there. But the record song you referred to, was a high life number released by Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson a Kalabari, long before the first coup. You had to foist authorship of that highlife record, on Igbos to further criminalise and calumnise them. At that time, once a highlife record was released, whether by Bobby Benson, E.C.Arinze, Stephen Amechi. Victor Olaiya, Eddy Okonta, Chief Bill Friday, Roy Chicago, Victor Uwaifo, Agu Norris, Baby Face Paul, Ambrose Campbell and His West African Rhythm Brothers, Stephen Osadebe or any others, those of us in the know, would immediately and correctly name the author. May be, you were not in circulation then.
To further put the Igbos in bad light, you said “He (Achebe) claimed that they (the Igbos) were the dominant tribe, led the nation in virtually every sector – politics, education, commerce and the arts”. You agonizingly noted in your pathetic myopia “which included having two vice – chancellors in Yoruba land…”Your list is not exhaustive . At that time, Engr. Francis C.N.Agbasi was the first Nigerian Principal of Yaba College of Technology and Mr. Clement Odunukwe was the Senior Lecturer –in –charge (Principal) of Federal Emergency Science School, Onikan, Lagos. Also, Mr. F.C. Nwokedi, was the first Nigerian Federal Permanent Secretary to be appointed by the colonial masters. When Mr. P. G. Stallard was retiring, Mr. Nwokedi ought to have succeeded him as the first Nigerian Secretary to the Council of Ministers. But because he came from the ‘wrong’ tribe, he was skipped and Mr. S. O. Wey was given the post while Mr. Nwokedi became the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Modesty will not restrain me from expressing my joy, be it of local patriotism because, the last three gentlemen mentioned above, hailed from my home town, Nnewi, and Mr. Nwokedi was from my village, Edoji.
Since these institutions are in Yorubaland, you created the impression that the Yoruba benevolently allowed the Igbos to occupy those posts. You deliberately ignored the fact that they are Federal Government institutions and appointment into those positions followed very rigorous due process. I had described in a previous article how Professor Kenneth O. Dike was unanimously elected the Principal of the University College Ibadan, by the University College Council. It bears repeating for your benefit. The Chairman of the Council, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, went to London, and consulted Sir Charles Morris, Chairman of the Inter ‐ University College Council that found Principals and Vice Chancellors for colonial Universities. Sir. Morris said to Dr. Ibiam, ”Why do you come to us? You have your man there (Prof Kenneth Dike).You are lucky to have a ready – made man on the spot.”
In my second session as an undergraduate at Ibadan University in 1965/66, a Yoruba undergraduate wrote an article in which he said “If this university was situated east of the Niger, one would understand; but to hear people ‘keduing’ about all over the campus in a university founded in Yoruba land is unacceptable.” Kedu is the Igbo word for how do you do.
In that same year, some of us students were hanging around the Faculty of Science premises where Faculty Lecturers were reviewing the sessional results of students. We asked Dr. V.O. Olunloyo, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics who was the first lecturer to come out of the meeting, about the result of Mr ONWUCHEKWA, a final year Mathematics student. He said, second class upper.
We expressed our dismay, for we had expected Onwuchekwa to make a first class in the light of his brilliant records. Dr.Olunloyo remarked, “ You don’t expect Onwuchekwa to make a first class considering the high standard set by Kenku last year.” I am not aware that the record set by Prof Iya Abubakar in Mathematics has been equaled or broken ,yet Kenku made his first class without equaling Abubakar’s record. Instead of saying that Onwuchekwa did not meet the first class bar, he resorted to ethnic politics by comparing Onwuchekwa’s ( an Igbo) result with Kenku’s(a Yoruba) result .
In 1998, Emeritus Professor Chike Obi solved the over 300 years old Mathematics puzzle – FERMAT’S LAST THEOREM, established in 1637 by a French Lawyer/Mathematician, Pierre Fermat. Chike Obi’s paper was accepted for publication and appeared in the USA – based Journal of Algebras, Groups and Geometries, Vol. 15 pp 289 – 299 (1998). Despite the fact that Chike Obi’s paper was published by a renowned and distinguished American Journal, Dr. Olunloyo and one Ogunsola, an actuary, openly disputed without any basis, the validity of Chike Obi’s proof.
To add to these polemics by some Yorubas, Damola Awoyokun accused the Igbos of boastfulness and excessive exhibitionalism, of their strenuous achievements, when it is known that potentials, abilities, competences and the like, are either God – given or acquired. The Igbos have not been known to be boastful for such attributes coming their way.
Achebe simply traced the Igbos’ ‘LONG WALK’ to acquire them, which made Damola furiously uncomfortable.Your mindless determination to tarnish the image of the colossus, Achebe has failed. The following is the view of a Yoruba man, Duro Onabule, on Achebe. “Whatever the bad feelings of his critics, Achebe’s reputation, unlike his contemporaries, is that of a straightforward man. He has never been known to be cowardly, neither does he cringe before nor collaborate with local or international establishment. Achebe’s character is definite as he does not charade in the day only to be settled at night…….
Even if Awolowo was not in the position to effect his belief in starvation as a weapon of war, the fact remains that he (Awolowo) publicly took that position and was widely reported in the media in Nigeria and abroad….Is Chinua Achebe fair to Awolowo in his criticisms? The appropriate preceding question is: was Awolowo fair to himself when he publicly upheld starvation as a legitimate weapon of war, more so during a civil war in which the outside world was disgusted with television visuals of thousands of starving malnourished innocent children? Achebe’s critics on his latest book, especially Yoruba, should objectively read “AWO”, Obafemi Awolowo’s autobiography, in which throughout , there is not a single sentence complimentary to Nnamdi Azikiwe, portrayed as an ethnic jingoist….Yet, Awolowo’s criticism of Azikiwe were never mischievously interpreted as hatred for Igbos. Nobody of Achebe’s status and with terrible experiences of the civil war could be expected to write his recollections without justifiable criticism of starvation as a weapon throughout the war. His critics just have to be realistic rather than being emotional.”
Damola Awoyokun and Odia Ofeimun would want Achebe’s THERE WAS A COUNTRY: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA not only banned but all existing copies of the book burnt. Damola said ”Instead of writing the book as a writer who is Igbo, Achebe wrote the book as an Igbo writer ( I do not see any difference here except that an Igbo writer is one who writes in Igbo language.) …All the places that
should alarm the moral consciousness of any writer, Achebe is either indifferent or dismisses them outright because the victims are not his people. But in every encounter that shows the Igbo being killed or resented by Nigerians, or by the Yoruba in particular, Achebe intensifies the spotlight, deploying stratospheric rhetoric…Furthermore, not only does he take pride in ignoring the findings of common sense, he allocates primetime attention to fact – free rants just because they say his people are the most superior tribe in Nigeria. The book, to say the least, is a masterpiece of propaganda and sycophancy. It is not a writer’s business to be an accomplice to lies.”
Damola is guilty of the same charge for where Biafra or Igbos are the victims, he ignored it totally, as in this case where the American secret files say that “Mohammed the Second Division Commander was reported to have criticized Obasanjo thus: “We told you not to end the war the way you did so as to sort things out, you went on gaddamgaddam and finished it.” Damola ignored the fact that what Murtala Mohammed meant was that Obasanjo did not give him time to apply the FINAL SOLUTION TO THE IGBO PROBLEM! That is, to give him time to wipe out the Igbos from the surface of the earth. Next, I do not think that Damola Awoyokun has the competence, experience or stature to grade Achebe’s literary work.
Odia Ofeimun said” I believe he (Achebe)got it very wrong in that book and therefore, since I believe that we must allow generations coming after us to live by the spacious and opportunistic views that our fathers had, we must contest all the lies, we must ensure that their wrong views of the way the world works get corrected…… Achebe says that Igbo people are individualistic and that was what
helped them to acquire western education, catch up with the Yoruba and then took over all the jobs.
It is a very wrong description of what actually happened. What happened is that before independence, the NPC and the NCNC reached an agreement to run Nigeria together. Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to form a coalition with the AG because the Yoruba were educated and would be competing with the Igbo people for the jobs. Therefore they wanted a coalition.( with the NPC) Because that coalition was a very conservative one, they wanted to go with the Hausa-Fulani, who did not have enough people to take over the jobs that the Europeans were exiting from nor did they have any to deal with the new jobs that would be created by independence. So, the Yoruba leader was jailed and the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside. So, the NCNC, though they have a strong following in the Western Region, arranged for the jobs to be taken over by their primary constitutuencies. That was it.
The above statement constrains me to define a lie and an incorrect statement. One tells a lie when one knows the truth but proceeds deliberately to tell the opposite. An incorrect statement is one that is generally limited by inappropriate or incomplete knowledge. It is not a deliberate act. Ofeimun has deliberately told a bundle of lies. What Achebe said was “ The Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba unhampered by traditional hierarchies. This kind of creature, fearing no God or man, was custom – made to grasp the opportunities; such as they were, of the white man’s dispensation. And the Igbo did so with both hands.
Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head-start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950…. The rise of the Igbo in Nigerian affairs was due to the self-confidence engendered by their open society and their belief that one man is as good as another, that no condition is permanent. It was not due, as non-Igbo
observers imagined, to tribal mutual aid societies. The “Town Union” phenomenon, which has often been written about, was in reality an extension of the Igbo individualistic ethic.” Achebe never said that” the Igbo took over all the jobs.”
Zik decided never to ally with Awolowo after the carpet-crossing incident of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly at Ibadan, which prevented the NCNC from forming the government in spite of the fact that the NCNC was declared the winner of that election or as Achebe would put it “Chief Awolowo ‘stole ‘ the Government from him (ZIK) in broad daylight.” Job opportunity or who would take over from the departing British was never part of the issue at all. During the colonial era and immediately after, the Igbo relied on merit and competence for advancement and securing appointments in the public service .
It is worth mentioning here again, that the first Nigerian to be appointed a Federal Permanent Secretary by the British was Mr. F.C. Nwokedi an Igboman! This achievement of Mr. Nwokedi had nothing to do with the NCNC – NPC COALITION. With such men as Chiefs T.O.S. Benson, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Kolawole Balogun, Adegoke Adelabu and many others of timbre and caliber it was impossible that “the Yoruba who could have looked for jobs were shunted aside.”, because their leader was jailed! By the way, it was a Yoruba judge, Justice Sowemimo who sent Awolowo to jail. It is very surprising that Ofeimun left the stark naked facts and decided to dish out outlandish fiction and lies to the public ;just to ridicule and defame Achebe.On the Twenty Pounds Policy, Damola, you deliberately avoided the main issue .We are saying that all the bank accounts opened in Nigeria by Igbos, but operated in Biafra, were reduced to TWENTY POUNDS no matter the size of the account! We are not complaining about the exchange value of the Biafran currency. As the victor, Nigeria was free to pay twenty pounds or nothing for the Biafran money in spite of the NO VICTOR NO VANQUISHED bogey. Your reference to Zik’s statements condemning Ojukwu, Igbos and Biafra is in bad taste and very poor logic. Zik, having abandoned Biafra and the Igbos in particular, in their darkest hour, had to make himself amenable for pardon by Nigeria! Therefore Zik’s statement on Biafra, were not objective, credible or valid because of the above handicap.
Since the anti-intellectual opium that has made most non-Igbo Nigerians to hold Igbos responsible for the first coup, is still prevalent, I need to bring in Ademoyega again where as part of the FIVE MAJORS’ prescriptions for clearing the Nigerian Augean stable, said, “Tax and trade laws would be such that it would be unnecessary for any individual to accumulate unspent money in local and foreign banks, while millions of Nigerians have little or nothing to survive on. It should be impracticable for a single man to spend two million naira to build himself a personal house, while a very large number of Nigerians in the same community dwell in hovels, and sleep in gutters and under bridges.
The Government would not cater for the interest of a few people, while denying the majority of Nigerians
their rights and privileges as happened with the Obasanjo Government. That Government helped a few Nigerians to make easy millions of naira through oil distributorship, while denying the majority of Nigerians their rights to obtain loans to buy motor cars, on the selfish declaration that “it is not the intention of Government that every Tom, Dick and Harry should own a car”. Such a comment constituted
a most diabolical comment on the good intentions of the January 15 revolutionaries, who removed the evil politicians with the purpose of instituting a corrective and revolutionary military era.
“Educationally, we had agreed that there was only one answer to the mass illiteracy that troubled Nigeria in 1965, namely, mass education – both formal and informal……..Moreover, the people, especially in the North, had been exploited for a long time and had become inured to suffering, blaming their man – inflicted wounds on the will of Allah, whereas Allah was totally opposed to such human wickedness…”
Ademoyega went on to say, “Today, if one were to ask “when did the preparation for the revolution really begin?” the most accurate answer would be, “from 1961”, because the three of us who formed the nucleus of the revolutionary group had met in that year. Although we had not there and then planned a revolution, we had seen eye to eye and we knew that we had a common cause. It was as if he seed was sown at that time and only needed time to germinate, grow and bear fruit” Damola, was it the Igbos that synthesized this climate of patriotic spontaneous disposition to rescue Nigeria from further decay? Ademoyega continued, “But these meetings were between Ifeajuna and me on the one hand and between Nzeogwu and me on the other….Moreover, active efforts were made to get in touch with more officers of the Army so as to ascertain their inclinations and loyalty. These contacts were made most quietly and surreptitiously. A coup d’etat is not a conventional operation of the Army. Preparations for it could not at any time be done in the open or in plain language. Therefore when we discussed with officers, unless an officer showed serious interest, we always sounded casual and the matter was always left unspecified and inconclusive.”
The other aspect of the coup which could not have been handled by Ndigbo is illustrated here by Ademoyega. “The Battle Group Course went on without a hitch in Abeokuta until the first week of December 1965. There were twenty student officers on the Course, all Captains. I indoctrinated and orientated them towards the revolutionary thought – concept. I also held personal interviews with all of them. I took the whole group on an official reconnaissance of all the strategic locations in Lagos and I taught them how important positions could be held or defended in time of war or other military actions.
This was acknowledged as a very successful exercise and student officers were particularly happy that they were being introduced to the practical aspect of their defensive duties. If the coup took place before the course ended, many of the officers would have carried out any duties allotted to them without looking back, and our Lagos operation would have been as successful as the Kaduna operation came to be.”Damola, perhaps, this military exercise was also sponsored by The Igbo State Union.
Before the coup, the whole country was in distress; but the West was the most distressed, with the widespread riot, killings and their leader, Awolowo, in prison. The West was therefore, the tribe in greatest need for a coup to change the Federal Government, and restore their liberty, not the Igbos.
It has become necessary to ask, why has the North always succeeded in first, allying with the East(Azikiwe) to deal with the West and finally with the West(Awolowo) to destroy the East (Igbos)? Zik returned from America with the noble ambition to found a ‘BIG’ One Nigeria, which was not a bad idea.
But the foundation for that size of Nigeria was lacking. The summary of the feasibility report on the One Nigeria Project said – NOT FEASIBLE, NOT VIABLE AND NOT PROFITABLE! Awolowo saw this and wisely decided to concentrate his efforts in working for the Yorubas .Similarly, Sardauna, in answer to a question by a journalist, said, “I am first and foremost a moslem, secondly a Northerner, I am yet to be a Nigerian!” Why Zik could not come to the same conclusion as Awolowo and Sardauna remains a puzzle. My great and near fanatical admiration for Awolowo has been based on this self evident fact that Awolowo served and sacrificed everything he had for his Yoruba people .The Igbos were not that lucky with Zik.
After the Awolowo constitutionally insinuated carpet crossing of 1951 in the Western House of Assembly, at Ibadan, ZIK decided not to ever have anything to do with Awolowo in politics, which was a most imprudent decision. For it is said that in politics, there is no permanent enemy, only permanent interests! Also, Chairman Mao Tse Tung said “There is a time to ally with the enemy, but more
important is to know when to break with the enemy! It is true that the Federal Government of NPC and Zik’s NCNC sent Awolowo to jail, for which he was entitled to be bitter, it is also equally true that the Igbo led NCNC under Dr. M.I. Okpara formed the United Progressive Grand Alliance UPGA, with the Adegbenro led Action Group and other progressives, to oppose the Nigerian National Alliance NNA.
Arising from this alliance , Dr M.I. Okpara(M.I. POWER) informed Akintola that he would be visiting Ibadan. Akintola told him not to come, that he would not be in . Okpara said he would at least sign the Visitors Book in his absence. Okpara visited Ibadan as a show of solidarity to Adegbenro and the Yorubas. Okpara and his team were treated to a very rousing and enthusiastic reception by the students of Ibadan University, which was chaired by Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi. I was an undergraduate at Ibadan University then. During the last election to the Western House of Assembly before the coup, Okpara on behalf of the Igbos, sent Mazi Ukonu of Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service to Ibadan, as a continued show of solidarity with the Yorubas, where he stayed at Awolowo’s house at Oke Ado to announce the correct version of the election results. All these should not have been lost on Awolowo when he decided to support Gowon to crush the Igbos during the war, more especially with his inhuman strategy of ‘STARVATION IS A LEGITIMATE WEAPON OF WAR!’
As regards the fate of the soldiers and politicians arrested in Lagos, the failure of the coup there, threw the revolutionaries into a quandary. Probably, in the ensuing confusion and tension, the arrested politicians and soldiers became a heavy load and were unfortunately shot.
Your recourse to 21,000 pages of American secret files was most unnecessary when you could have benefitted immensely from Major Adewale Ademoyega’s 194 pages book, WHY WE STRUCK .
While you relied entirely on the American secret files which are not only a reported speech, but one doctored to suit some entrenched partisan interest, my own account is based solely on what came out of the horse’s mouth.
Damola, I had expected the same logic and reasoning you displayed in your masterpiece of an article –
EINSTEIN AND THE EXPRESSWAY CHURCHES to be once more evident.
By confronting Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe, Ndigbo and Biafra the way you did , you failed to meet the mark of adequate intellectual depth and strength and exposed your smallness in grappling with such a LABOUR OF HERCULES.
MAZI CHIKE CHIDOLUE , was former Officer, 12 Commando Brigade Biafra Army.
(Times of Israel) There is a widespread belief among Igbos — the third-largest ethnic group in Nigeria — that they are descendants of the tribes of Israel. Many of them are passionately Zionist. Their precise number among the 175 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is not certain, but ranges somewhere between 30 and 35 million.
Their claim to a Jewish lineage and their support for Israel are interesting in and of themselves, but even more fascinating is that during the last 30 years or so there has also been a movement among some Igbos to match their tradition of Jewish descent with the practice of rabbinic Judaism, the learning of Hebrew, and the fostering of connections with Jews abroad.
The wider Jewish world has begun taking notice.
THE HISTORICAL PLIGHT AND PRECARIOUS FUTURE OF IGBO PEOPLE IN NIGERIA: A Speech Delivered By Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Former Governor Of Abia State, Nigeria, and Coordinator of Njiko Igbo, To The British House of Commons On April 18, 2013
Honourable Members of the House, Ladies and Gentlemen,
WHO ARE THE IGBO?
I will not detain you with genealogical or anthropological exercise here. Let it be sufficient for me to just say this about the origins of the Igbo: serious studies based on verifiable evidence indicate that the Igbo have lived in Igboland for almost as long as man has lived on earth.
The archeological finds at Ugwuele in Okigwe provide a meaningful evidence of human activities in the theatre of Igbo civilization more than two hundred and fifty thousand years ago. Evidence of man-made tools like axe, pottery and carved stones dug up at the present day Enugu and Ebonyi states lend credence to the existence of Igbo culture for scores of millennia.
My people are known as the Igbo and our language is Igbo.
Igbo people constitute one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria – what Nigerian historians have come to term the tribal tripod. The other two are the Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani.
The primary Igbo states in Nigeria are Anambra, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, and Enugu (if justice and equity reigned, there should have been 6 or 7, instead of just 5 states). Due to their mobility, the Igbo constitute between 25% - 60% of the population in some other Nigerian States such as Delta, Rivers, Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and Plateau, to mention a few.
Although my people mainly and primarily inhabit the southeastern part of Nigeria, they have, however, spread, like ants in the savannah, to every nook and cranny of Nigeria, Africa and indeed the globe – thriving, building and enriching themselves, their environment and others in all facets of life as they do so.
The veteran American diplomat, Henry Kissinger, hit the nail on the head when he aptly observed that: “The Ibos are the wandering Jews of West Africa... gifted, aggressive, Westernized; at best envied and resented, but mostly despised by the mass of their neighbors in the Federation.” – Henry Kissinger, MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT, Tuesday, January 28, 1969 [Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-5, Documents on Africa, 1969-1972].
IGBO AND THE PROVERBIAL RAINFALL
Permit me at this point to invoke an ancient African idiom which has its roots in Igbo wisdom: onye na amaghi ebe mmiri bidoro mawa ya, agaghi ama ebe o kwusiri (He who does not recognise the point at which the rain began to beat him would not recognise when the rain ceases to fall altogether).
For Igbo people in Nigeria, the rainfall ensued in the early 19th century when the British first explored the Lower Niger (I will put aside, for today’s purposes, the preceding hellfire that was black African slavery and the Igbo’s share of hell in it).
The rain began to beat us from January 1914 when Lord Fredrick Lugard completed the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates into Colonial Nigeria and became its first Governor-General. The Igbo did not have a say as to whether they desired to become a part of such a contraption or not.
The clouds lifted ever so briefly and the Igbo enjoyed a brief sunshine in Nigeria in the decade before and a few years after independence. Having embraced Christianity and western education with enthusiasm, they quickly rose to hold sway in the federal civil service, military, academia, commerce and industry – the Jews of West Africa were on the march, toiling, sweating and swinging upwards, to the envy and hatred of their compatriots.
The Igbo in Nigeria became quickly drenched in that awesome rain by way of separate episodes of pogrom: the Jos massacre in 1945, the Kano massacre in 1953 and the September 29, 1966 massacre in which tens of thousands of Igbo men, women and children were slaughtered. This last event led directly to the civil war of 1967-1970, which in turn resulted in mass starvation and deliberate anti-Igbo genocide.
And the rain has not abated. The bloody rain has continued to beat Igbo people, resulting in organised anti-Igbo massacres in Kano in 1980, Maiduguri in 1982, Yola in 1984, Gombe in 1985, Kaduna in 1986, Bauchi in 1991, Funtua in 1993, Kano in 1994, Damboa in 2000 and the Apo 6 massacre in 2005.
The ongoing nihilistic slaughter of Igbo people by an extremist militant group known as Boko Haram is yet to be documented. But there can be no question that a disproportionate percentage of the thousands of victims, dead or maimed or permanently impoverished, is made up of Igbo people.
The foregoing non-exhaustive examples occurred exclusively in northern Nigeria. They also represent occasions when Igbo people had been massacred by northern Nigerian Muslims who had been provoked not by any direct misconduct by the Igbo but perhaps because the Prophet Mohammed was insulted in Denmark by some European artist or because Allah’s name had been taken in vain in Los Angeles by an American satirist.
There is, therefore, a sense in which by simply being Igbo, Christian and entrepreneurial, the Igboman is adjudged guilty and vengeful punishment is indiscriminately and randomly applied on a recurring basis.
THE COUP THAT CONDEMNED US ALL
On 15 January, 1966, a few young Nigerian army officers led by an Igbo officer, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, carried out Nigeria’s first coup d'état. This resulted in the deaths of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, a prominent northern Nigerian of the Fulani ethnic stock and the Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, also a northern Nigerian Fulani.
Although the coup was foiled primarily by another Igboman, Nigeria’s first Major-General in the Colonial Army, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, nevertheless, the belief prevailed in northern Nigeria that Hausa leaders were singled out for elimination by Igbo people who had a grand design for political dominance.
This situation gave rise to a retaliatory pogrom in which tens of thousands of Igbo people were murdered in northern Nigeria. This led to the mass flight back to the Eastern Region of as many as two million Igbo people.
It is conceded that the execution of the coup in question resulted in unintended consequences. The ethnic composition of the putschists, the ethnic origin of the individuals killed, as well as the eventual assumption of power by Gen. Ironsi, himself an Igboman, created the erroneous impression that the coup was an ethnic-biased putsch organised mostly by Igbo officers in furtherance of Igbo hegemonic agenda.
However, I must insist that the coup was purely a military affair and that the civilian Igbo population knew nothing about it and had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Gen. Ironsi himself was not part of either the planning or the execution of the coup. Once the coup plotters lost control of events, General Ironsi was invited to take office as the military Head of State by the circumstance of his position as the most high-ranking military officer and the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army at that time.
There was neither a grand Igbo civilian conspiracy to overthrow a northern-controlled government nor to impose a unitary system of government, the phantom charges for which the Igbo people have paid and continue to pay a terrible price in Nigeria today.
It must also be noted that there have been several military coups in Nigeria since January 15, 1966 and yet the ethnic kinsmen of the perpetrators of such coups were not subjected to mass slaughter or wanton destruction of their property and places of worship.
But above all, on July 29, 1966, the northern officer corps themselves executed a retaliatory counter-coup in which the Head of State, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, was killed and over 300 military officers and men of Igbo origin were massacred. Why didn’t matters simply end there?
Eventually, the crisis reached its peak in May 1967 with the secession of the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region from Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra was declared and it was headed by the British public school- and Oxford-educated Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegu-Ojukwu.
The secession quickly led to a civil war after talks between former army colleagues, Yakubu Gowon and Ojukwu and the Aburi peace deal collapsed.
The Republic of Biafra lasted only until January 1970 after a campaign of starvation by the Nigerian Army with the support of Egypt, Sudan and the United Kingdom led to a decisive victory for the Nigerian side.
NEGATIVE DISCRIMINATION BY LAW
The Igbo in Nigeria have become the receptacle of anger, hatred, envy and frustration oozing out of their fellow compatriots. But this is on the level of the transactions between private citizens. How about the place of the Igbo in respect of the manner in which public affairs are conducted by the Nigerian federal government and its agencies?
The simple answer is that the rain has continued to beat the Igbo. To demonstrate this, I have composed a narrow but blunt table below:
ZONES NORTH WEST NORTH EAST NORTH CENTRAL SOUTH WEST SOUTH SOUTH SOUTH EAST
STATES 7 6 6 6 6 5
L. GOVT 186 112 115 138 123 95
Fed. Cnst 92 48 49 71 55 43
Sen. 21 18 18 18 18 15
The above table does not represent an opinion or a hypothesis. It represents the blatant reality of the third rate status forced upon the Igbo in the political space in Nigeria.
We, the Igbo have strived but thus far failed to persuade the Nigerian establishment about the hurt and humiliation and deprivation that come with the idea that we as a people are legally condemned to third rate status in our own country, as amply demonstrated by the above table.
The implications of this calculated fraud against my people are so massive and go entirely untold: unequal allocation of resources, unequal voice at the Federal Executive Council, unequal representation at the National Assembly (the gravest of all), unequal juridic participation in the administration of justice in the federation, unequal participation in the federal civil service and adjunct bodies, unequal representation in the armed forces and para-military organisations, unequal representation in the diplomatic corps ensuring incapacity in showcasing the Igbo culture as part of a pan-Nigerian culture in our foreign missions and embassies, fewer primary, secondary and higher education opportunities for our children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
These structural disparities are constitutionally entrenched (please see the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999), thus their grave implications for Ndigbo are beyond the primary questions of inequity and marginalization.
The histories of nations are replete with evidence of existential threat to any group whose marginalization is made a subject matter of constitutional enshrinement.
With unequal voice in the Federal Executive Council, in the National Assembly, on the federal judicial benches and a vast array of other fora in which the Igbo suffer sub-parity representation, the strength of the advocacy of our problems and priorities is thus diminished. Little wonder, then, that the South-East Zone, the area inhabited by the Igbo, still manifests the physical characteristics of a conquered and occupied land, 43 years after the civil war.
Quite apart from the psychological assault it represents for Igbo people, the practical issues of unequal representation and unequal allocation of resources are calculated to retard the development of our region and our people. The massive difference which the resources and human empowerment that we are denied might have made in our society is something that calls not just for a sober reflection but a gritty resolve to bring about their speedy resolution.
The Igbo tenacity, drive and relentless optimism to pursue life’s enduring dreams of family, faith and success and to overcome life's challenges will see them through. But the world must listen to them whenever they cry out. For they have long suffered and endured in silence, as the rain continues to beat them.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, before I give a full introduction of its nature and purpose, another blunt table will demonstrate why Njiko Igbo was brought into existence:
1. NORTH CENTRAL – 17 YEARS 11 MONTHS 20 DAYS
2. NORTH WEST – 13 YEARS 11 MONTHS 10 DAYS
3. SOUTH WEST – 11 YEARS 10 MONTHS 8 DAYS
4. NORTH EAST – 5 YEARS 3 MONTHS 15 DAYS
5. SOUTH SOUTH – 5 YEARS 23 DAYS (by 29/05/15)
6. SOUTH EAST – 6 MONTHS 13 DAYS
MUSLIMS = 28 YEARS, 14 DAYS (as at 2010)
CHRISTIANS = 26 YEARS, 5 MONTHS, 15 DAYS (by 29/05/2015)
A citizen of Igbo extraction has occupied the presidency or premiership or Head of Government of Nigeria for just 6 months and 13 days in the nearly 53 years of Nigerian independence. Again, this is a historical fact and not a conjecture.
The presidency of the Nigerian nation has not eluded the Igbo by accident or by an act of divinity but by human design; and it is through human pressure that we can attain it.
Njiko Igbo is the catalyst and conduit for our collective action. We trust that you recognise, as we do, that power concedes nothing without a demand.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in a paper entitled ‘Ndigbo: An Integral Part of the Nigerian Project,’ says that the aim of the Nigerian project “...is to develop and sustain a nation in which all the constituent parts and citizens are able to pursue their self-fulfilment, and to enjoy as high a quality of life as possible; a nation that would be a source of pride to its citizens, to Africa and to peoples of African descent all over the world.” It is in this spirit that we have, therefore, decided to set up Njiko Igbo (Igbo Unity), which is a movement dedicated to changing the power formula in Nigeria in order to obtain justice and fairness for all Nigerians. As Chief Anyaoku further said, “There are so many Igbo names in the pantheon of our country’s pioneer educationists, professionals in medicine, law, engineering, journalism, and in private business.” So, why then can’t an Igbo man or woman become president of Nigeria?
Njiko Igbo is an organisation dedicated to the struggle for the ascent of a citizen of Igbo extraction to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015.
We are fully committed to the security and peace of our nation, and to the comradeship of a common justice and equality for all Nigerians.
We are neither supportive of nor opposed to any political party or the aspirations of any individual politician. Our primary mission is to enlighten and mobilise the Igbo population, both at home and in the diaspora, to stand firm and united in the pursuit of our collective goal. Our secondary duty is to connect with and persuade the rest of the Nigerian population about the justice of our cause.
Njiko Igbo is waging this struggle precisely because there is an irrefutable evidence of blatant anti-Igbo bias in the manner in which the political architecture of this federation is constructed.
Gross injustice is the ultimate outcome of that deliberate discrimination. And every man or woman possessed of conscience has a duty to take a moral stand against injustice whenever and wherever it is manifest. This expression of conscience forms the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people.
The impulse to demand justice and the instinctive revolt against injustice constitute the most essential ingredients of humanity. If we recognize this philosophical essence of what truly defines our sentient nature, then we must accept that this struggle is not only inevitable but mandatory.
Our strategic operations are two-pronged: (a) an intensive drive to build and foster a united front at home and, (b) an energetic national mobilization campaign to marshal public opinion and secure the solidarity and support of a majority of Nigerians.
Our methods will be conciliatory, unaggressive, solicitous and flexible but without being amenable to the old easy compromises and defensiveness that reinforced prejudicial assumptions about us as a people.
We shall seek to accomplish our mission in a manner and style deferential to elders, respectful of the sensibilities of other tribal groups and faiths, attentive to criticisms and open to disputations.
We are embarked on a big and noble dream borne out of the necessities of our history and the imperatives of justice, equity and fair-play. While our history is a proud, large and significant imprint in Nigeria, the reality of our contemporary existence has been rendered small by the politics of the Nigerian republic. These times call for self-assertion and Igbo people must rise and answer the challenges with one voice.
We are not pursuing the orthodox argument connected with the zoning of the presidency. This is, instead, a struggle for justice and equality of opportunity through the instrumentalities of persuasion, mobilization, projection of a creative vision for a stronger and successful federation.
No one should be in any doubt that the political struggles and strifes raging in this country today, and which will rage for at least another generation, represent the struggles to assert group identity and legitimacy, expressed through the mechanics of politics. Igbo people can ill-afford to take a passive stance in this maelstrom.
Former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Chief Raph Uwechue says of the Igbo, in a paper entitled ‘Igbo are nation builders:’
“To the Nigerian project, the Igbo have given a great deal yesterday, are still doing so today, and have a lot more in store for a much greater tomorrow.”
It is time for the bloody rain to stop. Igbo people are already drenched and soaked to the point of suffocation. It is not only in the best interests of the Igbo but also in the best interests of the Nigerian people for the sun to rise and shine on us all.
Permit me to use this opportunity to appeal to the British government through this distinguished gathering to increase funding for special projects that benefit the underprivileged in Nigeria and Africa in general. The proposed legislation to reduce aid for health, education and infrastructure, amongst others, while committing more funds to war areas such as Mali with the provision of arms and ammunition will be counterproductive both in the immediate and medium term. Nigeria needs increased funding to meet our development challenges, the biggest of which is achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This intervention will bridge the gap between the rich and poor countries, thereby making the world a much better place for all of us and our children.
I thank you for listening.