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By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is a season of acute paranoia and schizophrenia in our dear beloved country. But we must not give up. We have more to gain in an atmosphere of peace and unity and more to lose in a condition of war and lawlessness.
The past few weeks have brought out the bitterness and abject bigotry in some of us. I once read somewhere that “anger beclouds reasoning.” Seriously, nothing could be truer. I’m happy that a few bold and courageous Nigerians have risen up to the occasion in an effort to avert the cataclysmic fall and demise of the great country called Nigeria. Some great writings have since emerged from Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in other African countries. Before I go on, I must pause to salute a great leader, visionary and lover of dialogue and peace. I am talking of none other than Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who has tirelessly engaged Nigerians from all walks of life. Professor Osinbajo just seems to grow in his role as acting President of Nigeria. He exudes the confidence and bearing that has recently been lacking in our leaders. He demonstrates both in his gait and in his words and action the quiet self-assurance of a man who knows his onions and understands his abilities and his weaknesses.
No price is too much to pay for peace, unity and stability and, clearly, the Acting President knows this and is determined that Nigeria must achieve this. The dogged determination in which he has pursued the drive to keep us one nation can only be richly commended and resoundingly applauded. We are seeing a true statesman and leader at work. In a democracy, a good leader must exhaust all peaceful means. Kill and go methods can never work effectively and eventually in cases such as this. It is to his credit that Professor Osinbajo appreciates this and is working to find a solution that will not lead to any bloodshed or even tears or recriminations. We must all rise to support him. Now, I will share a few insightful pieces with you on this page today. I’m happy that the Arewa youths have suppressed some of their anger. Their new strategy is more potent and effective because of the use of powerful satire. On June 19, 2017, the Northern Youths wrote a mail to Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
I reproduce extracts of this letter as follows: “(W)e begin this letter by commending your efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the lingering Igbo-induced crisis that is undoubtedly overheating the polity. We sincerely believe Your Excellency’s good intentions as shown by your prompt and genuine actions towards ensuring peace and stability in holding talks with leaders of the North and the South-East.
- The Igbo of Eastern Nigeria manifested their hatred for Nigeria’s unity barely five years after we gained our independence from the British when on January 15, 1966, their army officers carried out the first-ever mutiny that marked the beginning of a series of crisis which has profoundly altered the course of Nigeria’s history.
- In line with the Igbo plan, General Aguiyi-Ironsi took advantage of the vacuum and ….. appropriated the coup and attempted to consolidate it for his people.
- Army officers of the Northern Region were eventually compelled to execute a counter coup on July 29, 1966 ….. This unfortunately resulted in mob action …… (and) the death of many Igbos.
- And when Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, from the North took over….. the Igbo through Lt. Col. Ojukwu, characteristically refused to recognize Gowon.
- Ojukwu declared the secession of the Igbo people from Nigeria and the formation of the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967 resulting in a civil war that led to the tragic deaths of more than 2 million Nigerians.
- ……The Igbo eventually capitulated and conceded defeat in an unconditional surrender, not an armistice, on January 15, 1970.
- ……(O)ut of the blues, the Igbo have over the last 2 years regrouped and fiercely and openly started discussing Biafra again under Ralph Uwazuruike of the ….. MASSOB.
- This was given greater impetus by a more furious Igbo rogue group called the Indigenous People Of Biafra IPOB under Nnamdi Kanu, …. spreading hate and war messages across the nation ….
- KANU and IPOB ….. continue to preach hatred and war virtually every day, and not for once did any Igbo leader call them to order. Instead, many of the leaders, including the deputy senate president, pay Kanu courtesy calls to prove that he is speaking for the entire Igbo. ……
GROUNDS FOR SUSPICION .
…(W)e strongly believe that the gruesome picture that the Biafran agitation represents is beyond a few people showcasing to Your Excellency that the Igbo will eventually heed the call for peace and desist from their dangerous campaign against Nigeria. We base our concerns on the following grounds.
- Despite the fact that the Igbo have been the most accommodated and tolerated of all the ethnic groups of Nigeria, the renewed …. vile threats and insults on Northern leaders and their people, culture and religions ….. can hardly be addressed through a series of two hours dialogues.
- As if to prove this, barely hours after Your Excellency’s meeting with the South-East leaders, the Biafran Igbo openly disowned the leaders and dissociated themselves from the meeting. …….
- More disturbingly, Kanu has openly claimed that the Biafran agitators have amassed arms in readiness for a war of secession … 4. …. 5. ………..
- ….. 2. ……. (W)e are strongly concerned that nothing short of granting their Biafran dream will suffice.
- …. (I)n their domain in the South East, Northerners and Westerners are as much as possible disenfranchised from owning any businesses whereas in Kano alone, they own not less than 100,000 shops across all the business districts.
- That since the younger generation of Nigerians makes up for more than 60 percent of the nation’s population, it is our hope that they inherit this country in better shape so that they can build a much better future for themselves and their offsprings ……
5. …… (W)hat they say against us is what they truly mean and intend – “Kill everyone in the Zoo” (North). Your Excellency, we cannot afford to discard this as mere mischief as the utterances that caused the terrible Rwandan genocide still resonates in our minds.
We therefore demand that the only enduring solution to this scourge that is being visited on the nation is complete separation of the states presently agitating for Biafra from the Federal Republic of Nigeria through a peaceful political process by:
- Taking steps to facilitate the actualization of the Biafran nation in line with the principle of self- determination as an integral part of contemporary customary international law.
- …… 3. ….
- ….. State parties to these international documents are obliged to uphold the primacy and realization of this right ….
- Aware that the right of self-determination in international law is the legal right for a “people” that allows them to attain a certain degree of autonomy from a sovereign state through a legitimate political process, we strongly demand for a referendum to take place in a politically sane atmosphere where all parties will have a democratic voice over their future and the future of the nation.
- ….. 3. ….
CONCLUSION Your Excellency, we want to reiterate our high respect for your office and acknowledge the efforts you are making to lower tensions. ……. … (W)e do not see this clamour for Biafra as an issue over which a single drop of blood should be shed, we … insist that the Igbo be allowed to have their Biafra and for them to vacate our land peacefully so that our dear country Nigeria could finally enjoy lasting peace and stability.
In response to this sometimes satirical letter from the Arewa Youths, which I fear some people took too seriously, one Igbo commentator appositely stated as follows: The storm is gathering just like it did before the 1966 progrom started ….
- From my limited knowledge of Northerners, especially Muslims, if you taunt Islam in any manner they react promptly but if you offend them politically they bid their time. …. Igbos on the other hand have no political culture.
- …. As soon as Buhari came on stream MASSOB, IPOB, BIM etc suddenly woke up from their slumber. …. To worsen matters radio Biafra was established in London, not to mobilize the Igbos into political consciousness (which they lack) but to seek secession, insult other tribes that have been accommodating igbos and constantly attack the person of the elected President of Nigeria. …. Why are ‘humans’ complaining that they were asked to vacate the zoo to go and inhabit their palaces? Great contradiction.
- Suddenly, IPOB is the only group and Nnamdi Kanu is d only person that loves the igbos. All those that contributed in many ways to rebuild igboland after the civil war have become enemies. …. It’s only in igboland that young men with no track record of achievement seek relevance by rubbishing d persons and achievements of their leaders. …. These maligned leaders were the same people that ensured that Kanu was not left to rot in jail. Or does he think his release was facilitated by d noise of Emma Powerful?
5. IPOB/MASSOB cannot save igbos bcoz you can’t give what you don’t have. The only things they have are propaganda, empty boasts, threats, insults and territorial and political ambition. They lack political foresight, political retrospect, political and economic blue print for igbos ….. His family (Nnamdi Kanu) is safe in London so he can afford to ask others to leave their businesses and return home to nothing.
6. Nnamdi Kanu …. now perceives himself as a demigod and wants to test d will of d federal government. He should be prepared for a very long spell in jail.
7. It is pertinent at this point to remind Kanu/IPOB that at a time Ibrahim Shekarau had Igbos as Special Advisers/Assistants in Kano, Fashola had an Igboman as Commissioner in Lagos, his state, Abia was hounding other igbos out of the Abia state civil service bcoz they were non indigenes what did Kanu do as an Igbo Champion?
….The different leadership groups in the east, …. already know our stand …. which is regional autonomy/true federalism. …. let’s have stable political character by standing and defending that position like other southern groups. Therein lies our respect as a people and that is our position of strength and safety. Igbos cannot be deceived by groups of Okada riders, Barrow pushers, bus conductors etc demonstrating and shouting Biafra, Biafra. Signed I feel that the above letter by this Igbo commentator would serve as a sobering riposte to those warriors in society, who hardly know better and are attracted to the hate campaign of the Nnamdi Kanus of this nation. It is clear that the mainstream Igbos know that their lot is better served in a big unified Nigeria than in a fractional, fratricidal and fractious Igboland, by whatever name it may be called.
The next piece and my final pick encapsulates the real issues so succinctly: “The Ibos want Biafra The North wants Ibo’s exit The Yorubas want Ibo’s exit The Ibos are saying “we have investments in your areas and cannot leave them” And the fight is being cooked. Governors are sharing bailout funds Workers salaries are not paid Ministers and senators are looting The poor Hausa man sleeps under the bridge as Alamajiri The poor Yoruba man sleeps under the bridge as Alaye The poor Ibo man sleeps under the bridge as agbero Do not allow the agitation of an Ibo man who lives in UK or USA for Biafra cause the killing of the Ibo man in Adamawa. The rich hate us that much. The problem in the country is not the agitation of any ethnic group but the unity of the elite and the disunity of the masses. Sad to note; All the Governors love themselves All the past Presidents love themselves All the senators love themselves All the top government officials love themselves All the looters love themselves Why can’t you and I love ourselves? Why cant we combine efforts and fight them? Why do we fight ourselves? Why do we allow them the freedom we don’t have? Remember; a good Nigeria is better than a good Arewa, Oduduwa or Biafra…” I have reproduced salient extracts from these letters to show that the majority of well-meaning Nigerians love this country and its unified whole. Only those who wish to profit for their own selfish ends are beating the drums of war. They will not succeed. The will of the majority always prevails.