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Dissecting Titus Okereke’s Our father’s land (2)

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PROFESSOR Titus Okereke

PROFESSOR Titus Okereke

PROFESSOR Okereke makes the point that more could have been done to rehabilitate the Igbo. I believed that Chief Awolowo’s capping of all Igbo account at £20 is unjust and even today, where money could be proved to be theirs should be returned to them. In any ease where did their money go? As for Abandoned Property, I am yet to hear that the houses were undervalued as at the time Major Mark did his work. Many people had been paid twice, three times or four times for the same building. I wrote a little while ago that the people of Rivers State should recall Igbo to teach them how to develop real estate and develop Port Harcourt. The Igbo have to learn one cardinal lesson about Biafra and Abandon Property and the Ikweres. Biafra never, for one moment, considered the fate of the minorities who were not Ibo. The Attorney General of Biafra when Ojukwu declared secession was Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas. He was not consulted, heard the declaration on the radio, protested and was promptly jailed. My mother had lived 25 years in Onitsha. When they started shelling Onitsha–others fled. Where was she supposed to go? She left Onitsha for Abonnema.

I have three uncles here in Lagos living at 30, Adebola Street, Surulere. They had a draughts board and loved to listen to Ukonu and Okoko Ndem every evening as these two humorously took apart Gowon and Jeremiah Awolowo. One day the SSS took three of them and locked them up in Kirikiri. One was a top official at Lagos Town Council; the other was a Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the third was a dental surgeon, a Colonel in the Dental Corp, next to Brig. Da Silva, the commandant. We eventually got them out: their crime listening to subversive Radio Biafra!!!

The Igbo or Northerners should have sent commandos to kill Osadebey, Okpara and Azikiwe. Then some semblance of justice would have been reached. Moreover, the Igbo bicycle repairer or Igbo mechanic in the North was not the person who killed Sardauna or Balewa or Akintola or Okotie Eboh. Why killed them? They were not soldiers. The Northern revenge for the killing of their leaders was unguided and excessive. Chukwuma Nzeogwu and the coup plotters were foolish overbearing unthinking young men just as the northern officers were equally unthinking and foolish. Gowon read “two speeches” in July 1967- one for the breakup of Nigeria and the other for unity- so complete was the confusion.

The last two chapters properly do not belong to this book but I am glad Prof. Okereke wrote them- it shows his breadth and depth of knowledge. One is the prerequisite of a university and seeing that his children would not have the privilege of a good university education in Nigeria, took early retirement, sent his children to school in England and set up a private oil and gas company to pay for their education. In this he was unique- other Nigerians would have stayed in the university become dean or vice chancellor and through office pay for his children’s education in the UK. The other chapter is a worthy U.S. $8 billion waste in Ajaokuta. Prof Okereke has joined us- the lamentors without power.

Let us be clear about one other thing. It is not the job of the army or the police to tell us what to say or not say even if what we want to say is that Biafra should be effected. The army and the police should bring back our Chibok girls; crush Boko Haram before anything else. What I have said above does not mean I support or oppose Biafra. I think Biafra as a concept is exceptional- that is, no one should be killed without due process, all of us should live and move in freedom anywhere in Nigeria, that all in Nigeria should be able to achieve his potent that our country should provide jobs for all qualified and no one should be discriminated against because of his place of origin- all the above is in the constitution which the President, the Judges, the Governors, members of the National and State assemblies swear to uphold. Finally, all are subject to the rule of law: no exceptions. Biafra also means that when a people feel that there rights are trampled upon, they have right to protest even to secede-even this is in the Constitutional Conference Report.

The Ibo are justifiably proud that the first mayor of Enugu, the leader of the Zikist Youth Movement, was a Northerner Altinge. They are also proud that the first two mayors of Port Harcourt- Ihenacho and Nzimiro and their Deputy, Mac Eboh (Anglisized by Stanley to Macebuh) were also Ibo. They regard the Yoruba volte-face after the election in 1952 led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a betrayal of the Ibo. Dr. Olorunnimbe’s refusal to step down for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe is sited as further evidence of Yoruba anti Ibo feelings. All the above, the argument goes, left Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe no choice but to return to the East and there to unseat the Premier, Prof. Eyo Ita, so as to give Ibo some foot hold in Nigeria.

Unfortunately the person dismissed by the Ibo was Prof. Eyo Ita who complained bitterly. He was from the Eastern minority. Why did Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe not stay in the west in 1952 to lead his party as leader of the opposition, especially as four years later, the NCNC beat the A.G in the federal lection. I am yet to hear one Ibo man upbraids Dr. Azikiwe for kicking out Prof. Eyo Ita who disappeared into oblivion when Azikiwe took over in 1954.

Another perceived Ibo grievance was that the 96 per cent of the houses in Port Harcourt owned by Ibo were declared Abandoned Property and that Major Mark deliberately undervalued those houses. It’s one of those charges one can neither prove nor disprove. But the core of Ibo resentment is that as Nigerians, they should be allowed to keep houses anywhere they built them. On a moral and theoretical basis the Ibo were quite right in holding on to this point. But on the basis of political reality can this really be sustained? Port Harcourt was the capital of Rivers State and it could not really subsist with Ibo ownership structure of 96 per cent. That the percentage was so high raises further question. I am told that 76 per cent of the Certificate of Occupancy of land in Abuja belong to the Ibo. Can this be sustained? The figure for Lekki is in the high 70s.

To be continued tomorrow.

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


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