Before we knock our heads on a brick wall
I would normally not have wanted to involve myself in this controversy. But I thought it might not be necessary to distance my pen at the same time I am distancing myself from everybody. Our people have a proverb that an old man does not sit idly and watch while a goat commits suicide on its teeters.
I am not suggesting that any Nigerian is committing suicide, but the recent statement credited to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, raises some poignant issues that need to be addressed with the expediency they deserve. The statement, according unconfirmed reports, was directed to Nigerian President Buhari’s wife, Aisha. And it said: “they have been fooling their fellow Nigerians and I am certain Aisha Buhari and her gang will end up in jail.”
The Peace Accord Forum (PAF), a non-governmental organization, immediately rubbished the statement and dusted its sheath in readiness for war with IPOB. In its reaction, the National Coordinator, Ambrose Omorodion not only mocked the statement, but suggested that Nnamdi Kanu was dead and buried and that IPOB knew his grave. In other words, Mazi Kanu was not in essence the one berating Aisha. Someone else in his group might have been doing that.
The coalition of southern and northern Nigerian elites who are bent on forging unity between the south and the north of Nigeria said the delusional mind of “Nnamdi Kanu’s impostor or whoever uses his social media accounts in recent days” seemed to be on over-drive gear. It appealed to “gullible minds” to seek light or remain in IPOB darkness and captivity forever. The organization said the IPOB had made futile attempts to convince the world that their leader, Mazi Kanu, was still alive and because they failed, they resorted to verbal attacks on “anyone and everyone.” The PAF described “the late Nnamdi Kanu” as a common criminal, a proscribed terrorist, a fugitive of law and a coward and said it was cheering that the majority of South-Easterners were not like him or his adherents”. The PAF said they had observed that the busy-bodies that were around Nnamdi Kanu “in his lifetime” got enough peanuts to keep his foolishness alive – that they were probably still being funded anyway. “We officially welcome them to the shouting bout they long started and would like to assure them that in this war of propaganda, IPOB will not win. PAF is now fully in the battle.”
Battle or no battle, it is necessary to put a few things in their right perception. The agitation of IPOB, for which Mazi Kanu has continually been vilified, is for a referendum to be conducted by the federal government. That is the only thing IPOB has been asking from Nigeria ever since. Whether or not Igbo elders would own up that Kanu speaks their minds is a matter of speculation, especially after their threats on the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex cultural organization of the Igbo and Igbo politicians going abroad. But then, no sensible leader would simply brush the opinion of the youths under the carpet. As our people would say: “when a child cries and points towards a direction, either his father or his mother is over there.” So, whether IPOB, is making demands on the federal government to conduct a referendum directly through the vocal politicians of Igbo extract, or through pressure groups like the IPOB, the MASSOB or numerous other agitating groups in Igboland, that certainly is not asking for too much.
All adult Igbo know that if the country breaks up today, their tribe would be the main loser. In other words, the unity of Nigeria means much to Igbo people and they know it individually and collectively. They know that a breakup with Nigeria would not be in their best interest. They know even more than that. They also know that even in the states they have invested their time, money and skills to help develop, the indigenes would find it difficult to let them go, just like that. They made genuine friends in those states. Any of their governors would readily tell you that the Igbo resident in his state are the backbone of his state’s economy. So, why would they be allowed to go anyway?
As a matter of fact, the Igbo are not really worried about sharing the oil money from the East with other Nigerians, contrary to what some northern politicians and business men think. They only feel marginalized because the federal government has consistently failed to put them in their rightful place in the scheme of things in the country since they surrendered to Nigeria in order to put an end to the suffering of Biafran women and children during the civil war. By right, and given their entrepreneurship spirit, they should have been the ones piloting the affairs of the nation with respect to the economy, security and the unity of the country at least. But that is not the case.
No one can reliably deny the fact that there is mutual distrust between northern politicians and their southern counterparts, no matter how they try to hide the truth from the public. And that is not good for the country. Everywhere you go in the south, that tribal suspicion is there. The Igbo and even the Yoruba in practically every nook and cranny of the south generally distrust the northerners. Why? There must be a reason because it will be a travesty of justice to accuse all Hausa across board of dishonesty or whatever makes the south distrust them so passionately.
So, let us not make a mistake about it. Kanu brought the plight of the Igbo to international limelight. That is a great feat for which the Igbo will remain eternally indebted to him. And so, sometimes, the elders of Igboland listen to him, even if they don’t publicly show it.
When we fought the civil war five decades ago, the scenario was different. But 50 years after, nothing seems to have changed. Nigerians who own Nigerian passports are given the impression that they could be aliens in parts of their own country. They cannot travel about freely. They are denied freedom of association as in the case of Leah Sharibu and government is unable to do a thing about that challenge to its democracy. Children born in some states cannot claim legitimacy of their places of birth because their parents were not born there. The very reasons the war was fought more than 50 years ago, the marginalization of some tribes and all of that, are still very much with the country today. Nothing seems to have changed to justify the lessons Nigerians should have learnt from three years of fratricidal war.
Despite all of this, most Nigerians seem to recognize the fact that, should the federal government summon the courage to call for a referendum today, they are likely to vote to remain in a united country of 36 states because of the benefits they would derive from such an arrangement, particularly at the level of the ordinary business cadre.
Why then is the federal government scared about a referendum to authenticate the real desire of a majority of the citizens? Why does the federal government not really want to know whether Nigerians want to still stay together 50 years after the civil war, or whether they prefer to nationalize as tribes? Why are the politicians, especially those from the north, afraid of a plebiscite? If Nigerians want to stay together, as it is likely they would do, then the politicians should be able to work out a meaningful document that would effectively and fairly wield them together.
It is obvious, from the look of things though, that Nigerian politicians have no interest besides their financial gains in building up a Nigerian nation. Part of the reason is because tribal politics pays them better. Otherwise, what would it take for the legislature to enact a law enforcing the compulsory study of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages at all primary schools across the country? In 20 years, there would be no Hausa, no Igbo and no Yoruba as every Nigerian child would not only understand every other child, but more importantly, understand and respect the various customs and traditions of the country. Were Nigerian politicians honest with building a united Nigeria, that is where they should have started from. But they haven’t done so. Why? What is so difficult about that?
Another option would have been to build a United States of Nigeria where each state would have a considerable level of autonomy to raise and control its own economy as is done in America. That would have been a viable option. But like Mazi Kanu said, Nigerian politicians are not serious. And no true Nigerian can be deceived by their antics. If Nigerian legislators had played their part well, there would not have been a need for an IPOB in the first place. But they haven’t. And they don’t even seem to be bothered. Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB have held that the real Buhari died a while ago, and that the man Nigerians have as their President is a cloned Buhari. But that, to my mind, is lame propaganda. Even if the APC can accommodate that level of national fraud for whatever reason, a responsible opposition like the PDP and other opposition parties would certainly not. The President, any president, would go places and meet with dignitaries from other countries. And at some point, someone will burst the bubble. Someone would have come forward to burst the bubble in all these months the allegation has been in the news. But no one has come forward.
Even considering the level of education and exposure Aisha has experienced both in Nigeria and overseas, is it possible that her husband would be dead and a total stranger is forced on her as “husband” and she and her grown-up children will accept this total stranger as father and husband, all in the name of politics? I really don’t think so. And I am sure IPOB leaderships know this much. So, any statements credited to anyone of them should please be properly verified before we start knocking our heads on a brick wall.
Chief Asinugo is a London-based journalist, author of ‘The Presidential Years from Dr. Jonathan to Gen. Buhari [Volumes 1 & 2] and publisher of Imo State Business Link Magazine [Website imostateblm.com]
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