Nigerian ex-President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has never been distinguished for being shy or afraid of expressing his thoughts, especially when it comes to Nigeria and its global geopolitics. He could have possibly stepped on some sore toes at some point just because certain individuals or groups disliked what the ex-military and civilian head of state said. That notwithstanding, Obasanjo never stopped finding it progressively cathartic to publicly share his thoughts about the Igbo nationality, one of the largest ethnic constituents of Nigeria which the former president agrees is arguably the most radically globalized, most educated and most successful group in Africa.
According to Obasanjo, the average Yoruba man sees Lagos as his world. The average Hausa man considers Kano city as his world. The average Igbo man, on the other hand, regards the world as his village. Obasanjo points out that this mindset is clearly evidenced in Nigeria’s demography which confirms that Ndigbo are the largest residents in all states of the country, outside their southeast home-base. In fact, many observers are of the opinion that the Igbo are the metaphorical “needle and thread” that has continued to sew a patched Nigerian nation together. Ironically, however, this united-we-stand attitude of Igbo people has, over time, stirred up the envy and resentment of other ethnic nationalities and stakeholders that peddle the fear of “Igbo domination” to checkmate the ascendancy of these hardworking people in the Nigerian experiment.
A spill-over of this resentment can be seen, for example, in the Nigerian authority’s long term sentence of Igbo kidnap kingpin, Evans, as opposed to his Taraba counterpart, Wadume; in the extraordinary rendition of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Igbo separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, from Kenya, and in the divided opinion in Nigeria today about the plight of former senate deputy president, Ike Ekweremadu and his family. Evans, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Ike Ekweremadu are all Igbo.
And so, some Nigerians resent them. They want Ike Ekweremadu punished because, according to them, the government in which he was a senior member did absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Nigerians in all the years they occupied public offices. They forget that the man was actually not in charge, and that he was answerable to the senate president. Some others sympathize with him because they believe his circumstance has become politicized by the Abuja Big Boys and the Security Service who want to play the ‘holier-than-thou’ trump card, even at the international level.
The story is that Mr and Mrs. Ekweremadu had this daughter of theirs who needed an urgent kidney transplant. They approached this young man and asked if he could help. The young man said yes. This is not new in Nigeria where the level of poverty has driven a good number of citizens to sell parts of their organs for money to buy food to eat. In some cases they are known to have used parts of their body for money rituals. Some even give up their lives to money ritualists so that when they die, their wives and children can live on the ritual money they made. In the north, many young girls are given up by their families to be used for suicide bombing missions after their families must have been paid by militants and bandits. They are poor and can be easily manipulated by these power-seeking cliques. As a matter of fact, there are so many such cases of sacrificing self for money in Nigeria and there is no evidence that the practice would stop any time soon. This is the background truth.
Now, they approached this man. They promised him money to support his feeding after the kidney operation. He agreed. As an adult, if he had said he was not interested, no one would have forced him against his will. But he agreed. He gave the Ekweremadus hope for their daughter’s recovery. And any parent can understand this giving of hope and the relief it would have meant for the recipients. On their part, the Ekweremadus must have been prepared to pay any price to save their daughter.
They all then flew into London to conclude the arrangement. But when they got to the London hospital, the young man suddenly changed his mind and said he was no longer interested. In other words, he had given the Ekweremadus great hope in Nigeria. They had paid for his flight ticket to London. And now seeing himself in London, he not only decided to dash the hope of this needy family into irretrievable pieces but actually expected them to clap for him and continue to see him as a friend who wanted to help their family.
Knowing Nigerian youths for who they are, the point was that once the young man saw himself in London, he threw in his towel and decided he was not going back to Nigeria. So many young people want to leave Nigeria because they see no future in that country for themselves. In other words, this young man used the Ekweremadus to come to live in England under the pretext that he would possibly be killed for disappointing the Ekweremadus if he returned to Nigeria, given the powerful political position Ike Ekweremadu held as deputy president of the senate.
To buttress this contention was the fact that the boy initially said he was a minor, which made the case even more poignant for the Ekweremadus. But when his birth certificate was mentioned and he realized he could not be said to be a minor, he changed his story and said he was no longer a minor at the point he was contacted by the Ekweremadus. He was 21. So, he initially lied to the security officers. I think Nigerians should see this intriguing incident the way it is. Urhobo people of Nigeria would say: “when sense pass sense, they say na wayo”
Again, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, recently faulted the discriminatory ruling of a federal high court in Abuja that sentenced kingpin kidnapper Hamisu Bala of Taraba State, otherwise known as Wadume, to only seven years jail term and his brother-in-crime, Anambra-born kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as ‘Evans’ who committed similar crimes to 21 years. The association wondered why Wadume should be jailed for only 7 years while Evans was jailed for 21 years. The rights group demanded that police authority initiate a fresh prosecution against Wadume and his co-conspirators for the murder of some police officers during their operations.
The 21-year conviction of Evans, the Igbo kidnap kingpin, was salutary but when compared with Taraba state’s Wadume’s 7 years jail term, the judgment looked like a mockery of the judiciary and the entire wheel of justice in Nigeria. The association insisted that some sections of the judiciary, by their decisions, appeared to be abetting crimes with arms because while the offences Evans committed attracted far heavier sanctions which it was not particularly opposed to, Wadume, who was arraigned for exactly the same crime of kidnapping with arms got a lighter punishment after years of secrecy shrouding his trial.
Given a situation where the same offences attracted different levels of punishment because of the individuals involved, the association said it was forced to believe that Nigeria’s judiciary had been exposed to ridicule. There was no justification anywhere for the controversial ‘’justice’’ done in the case of Wadume who was said to have killed police officers during some of his operations, it argued.
As a civil rights organization, it said it was fully aware of the public danger of kidnapping and was pleased with the handling of the case of Evans. The organization explained that the expectation of the people of Nigeria was that the judiciary should be dispassionate and no respecter of personalities. It said Justice was supposed to be blindfolded not to reckon with religious or tribal sentiments, but it was unfortunate that certain actions of some judges had removed the blindfold on Justice in Nigeria, serving their kinsmen lighter sentences and their configured foes, grave and unjustifiable jail terms or persistent adjournments and languishing in the dungeons of law enforcement agencies like Nnamdi Kanu and Ekweremadu are doing.
There is no doubt that Nigerian government officials are interested in these matters. From jailing Igbo Evans 21 years for the same offence his Taraba brother-in-crime was jailed for 7 years, to the extraordinary renditioning of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, an Igbo who leads the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) from Kenya and keeping him to languish in jail even when the law courts have set him free, to supporting the plight of the Ekweremadus, another Igbo family, they are no longer satisfied with being dubbed “state actors”. They now want to extend their territorial influence from “state actors” to “international actors”. Trust Nigerians. There is, perhaps, something about the Igbo ethnic nationality in Nigeria that the national government of Nigeria and the Abuja Big Boys need to explain to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and to the world, if the country means well for all of its citizens.