The Kaduna Declaration and the ‘Igbo question’ – Part2
We have gone through the background to the study, the avalanche of reactions from usual, unusual and emergent quarters (including SKC Ogbonna who asked: did Igbos kill Jesus; and the declaration from the south that an injury to one is an injury to all) and it is time to discuss ‘what next?’. But before then, some South African communities recently issued a 24-hour quit notice on Nigerians (15-16the June). How did government react, given the fact that eviction orders have just become the norm in Nigeria? They just said: it is a lie! Mercifully, the South Africans have withdrawn the notice. Anyway, it will be wrong to believe that the Arewa youths are on their own and that they just emerged from nowhere to audaciously make their infamous, declaration. Our people say that as the mother-goat chews cod, its kids learn and that a child sent on a thieving operation by his father does so recklessly. The youths heard what the elders said in the 1950s and what those that are more diplomatic than Ango Abdulahi say in whispers today; they have observed that in Nigeria, you can do anything with and to Ndi-Igbo and get away with it, including midnight deportation, militarization of Igbo-land, bare-faced murder on flimsy excuses and the like. This is more so if you are from the north. Those who are now saying don’t mind them had done a lot criminalise Ndi-
Igbo, and nurture anti-Igbo sentiments, whether it is through the Lagos declaration or the Akure wars
The similarity between the current and the 1966/67 scenarios is also obvious: advice to remain calm and repeated assurances of government protection. Even those who left the north then were encouraged to return, only for them to be systematically butchered by people who could not distinguish between humans and cows once it comes to butchery! I don’t believe that Ndi-Igbo should be on the run always but our people say that precaution is not an act of cowardice. It is also interesting that in this mater, the FG only issued a statement after El-Rufai had spoken; that El-Rufai has reassured that they were still searching for the invisible youths and that DSS only spoke two weeks after the infamous declaration- giving more than enough time for any group to have wrecked havoc! That shows how serious we are, our sense of urgency in handling security matters, and the extent to which we can trust the government. I agree with Mr Ojukwu that we must be careful. It is also obvious that if those who are audaciously promoting the grazing area bill had also initiated the trading area bill, nobody would have ordered anybody to quit!
However, 2017 is not 1967 and as the VPs recently reminded us, every stone thrown into the market place will hit unintended targets. This is akin to what happens when the shit hits the fan. But the reality is that while it is easy to start any push-push, nobody knows how long it would last, how it would end and what the consequences would be. In any case, he who starts the fight does not always win and the question for a witch doctor boasting of a cure for diarrhea is: where did you keep your anus? In other words, is he immune from diarrhea?
It should also be obvious to all, that what we have now is more than an Igbo question; it is a national question. Whenever people start agitating about equality of access to opportunities and resources, safeguards for the interest of all and especially minority groups, as well as the very intractable and broad issue of social and distributive justice, then, it is a national question. The only issue is that different people ask that troublesome question differently. Some Ndi-Igbo are clamouring for Biafra; some are against and some are indifferent. Other Nigerians are also doing their own clamouring but while some do so in the public space, some operate deftly underground while others are steadily digging deeper, taking more than their fair share and creating ground for more questions. We are all free to do so but justice and equity will lead to peace and this will surely quieten these agitations. Those who are threatening fire and brimstone as if Nigeria were their personal estate should remember that those who make peaceful change impossible make the other alternative inevitable. But whatever the case, the ‘Ariam of Igboariam’ made the vital point that Even if Biafrans go; even if Arewa quit notice stays, even if Oodua goes, even if Nigeria splits into many independent states, if the twin issues of inequality and injustice are not addressed, the problem is not solved.
One reaction to the current quagmire came ‘retroactively’ five years ago ‘it is tragic that Nigeria is still submerged in the morass that Ojukwu identified about 45 years ago. Didn’t Ojukwu warn of these landmines ahead? Were all these issues not already settled at Aburi? …And is that not why we are still suffering today, living in a rickety and decrepit country that can burst at the seams any moment? I tell you, Ojukwu was a prophet, and like most prophets, he had no honour in his own country. But whether we like it or not, there’s no way we won’t return to Aburi… I only hope it will be sooner than later, before Nigeria goes to grief. That was Femi Adesina, a big man in the current government, avowing that he stood ‘on Aburi’ (Daily Sun, 2/3/12). I know that today, he would wish he hadn’t said so!
Surely, we need not go back to Aburi. But I read enough of European history (for my HSC) and we are also living witnesses to the recent events in the same Europe. The truth is that Nigeria, as it is constituted and operated today cannot endure and even if it endures, will always yield suboptimal outcomes. It is a matter of time and whether it would be peaceful or bloody depends on the people involved and their strategies. Those in authority today must act fast to reduce the number of alienated and angry individuals and groups. And the only sure-route to this is equity and justice, which is not difficult to attain. If it is through reconstruction, so be it. When two Nigerians write the same examination, and the person who scored 3 is taken ahead of his friend who scored 120, or when herdsmen deliberately destroy farms, kill the farmers and occupy their land, and go scot-free, then…
By the way, why not grant this referendum request, not just for Biafranists but also for every group that wants out and for the rest to say how they want this country to be run? I assure you as the spirit that I am, that the outcome would be a surprise; a surprise that will be positive or negative. Of course if government runs it like our electoral process, then we know the outcome upfront.
In the days of missionaries, there was this interpreter who would always tell the villagers: what the priest said last Sunday is what he also said today. Two years ago, I argued as follows:
Break up like Sudan, break down like Somalia or move forward in peace based on justice, acknowledging the right of different people to some degrees of autonomy so that rather than being suffocated together, we give breathing space to ourselves? The choice is ours. Dividing Nigeria is not a full proof solution but in the absence of equity and fairness, it may become the only option ( Eni Njoku lecture, University of Lagos 2015). What I said before, is what I am still saying, only updated for recent developments. Unfortunately as Eziekiel declared thousands of years ago nothing shall remain the same again (21:26) after this season of eviction notices, declarations and counter-declarations. And sincerely, I am worried
On 15/6/17 when I started the first part of the treatise, the responsorial Psalm read ‘The lords glory will dwell in our land but only on the condition that justice and peace have embraced; (Ps 85:10&12). On 22/6/17 when I concluded the article, the responsorial read ‘The Lords handiwork is justice and truth.(Ps111:7). I didn’t say so; it has been there from time immemorial. Those who have ears, let them hear!
Muo, PhD, is of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye
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