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Dissecting Titus Okereke’s Our father’s land (3)

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PROFESSOR Titus Okereke

PROFESSOR Titus Okereke

Continued from yesterday

THE unstated argument in all this is that Igbo entrepreneurial strength was stopped and suppressed by the Civil War: that if there had been no Civil War, there is no telling what Igbo achievement could be and therefore Nigerian achievement would have been. But what would the Gwaris of Abuja, the Elegushis and Onirus of Lagos say, 40 years down the road when they have no land to sell.

Both sides of the civil war- the Igbo and the Northerners behaved appallingly badly during the civil war. Sympathizers or even non-combatants caught in the wrong place at the wrong time paid with their lives. Murtala Mohammed, who most people thought was from Kano, has now metamorphosed to come from Edo, whose central bank he looted and was reputed to have shot many young men in Asaba.

As at to-day politics in Nigeria is more dynamic. We are more alike than we care to admit. We should pursue politics of reconciliation not one of so-called perceived injustice. It is after all over 40 years ago. Perceived sense of injustice must cease, must not be further fanned, especially among a people so richly endowed as the Igbo. The development of Nigeria today is not going on in the Igbo heartland: the Igbo need the market and opportunities of the whole of Nigeria to progress and fulfill their potential. The Northerners too must come down a perch or two. They alone did not save Nigeria. They too need Nigeria to prosper and grow. They were not born to rule.

A newly wed couple moves next door and that night the neighbours hear an almighty row between the newly weds. The neighbourhood gossip and her friends predict that the marriage will not last. The quarreling couple continues to shake the neighbourhood nightly, but they do not part: instead they produce five children but the quarrels continue. Maybe this is how Nigeria is: doom is predicted everyday: we are described as intrinsically unstable but we precariously continue to remain in Nigeria. I do not, despite all our daily criticism, see anyone wanting to break up Nigeria.

Religious differences, yes; tribal discrimination are plenty; prophets of doom inundate the news and airwaves, but we still march on. Perhaps we are more alike than we like to admit. Perhaps more progress had been made on the road of equity than we are willing to admit. The apparent failures- tribalism, corruption, abandoned property and injustice- these have all been internalised and we have developed ways to cope with them and to deal with them gradually if not at a fell swoop.

When old men tell us how good the old days were- was it really good for everybody or good for the few Okerekes, Tomoris, and Coles who survive a harrowing childhood? If 30 of us were in the primary school, how many millions did not go? Do we remember the names of those who failed along the way? Moreover, we are different peoples. – 560 different ethnic groups. The imperatives of federalism enforce on us the need to respect our differences and that we will progress at different rates. What federalism does not allow is the monopoly of power, real or imagined, by any one set of peoples. The reality of this was the recognition of six political zones. But the people still have to believe in this reality and work towards its success.

This reality is what the book, inadvertently, is about. An Aro man from Ajalli grew up in Delta, lived in Lagos, taught in Ibadan, Nsukka and Benin cannot speak Ibo but whose friends are nearly all-non Igbos. A man married to an Ijaw woman from Bonny who speaks some bastardised Igbo.

Concluded

Dr. (Ambassador) Cole (OFR) presented this as review of the book Our Father’s Land, written by Titus Okereke.


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