If Nigeria was a living entity, then May 30th 2017, may be marked by future historians as the day Nigeria, long suffering in coma, officially stopped breathing.Nigeria has not been declared dead officially of course, but there are no vital living signs and essentially we are now in a country-wide political resuscitation (CPR) phase.
May 30thwas the day, the long-suffering Igbos in the South East, and many of their South-Southern neighbors and kindred heeded the joint call by the Independent Peoples of Biafra(IPOB) and the conservative wing of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) for passive resistance by remaining indoors.
Despite unprecedented military cum police harassment urging them to ignore the IPOB/MASSOB call, people remained indoors in a most public and embarrassing vote of no-confidence in the Nigeria State as it is currently constituted and governed.
Apparently frustrated by the overwhelming success of the IPOB/MASSOB agitation and their astute cleverness in denying the Nigerian military and police, unarmed demonstrating Igbo targets to shoot at, Northern youths acting under the umbrella canopy of the Arewa Youths issued a demand ultimatum on all Igbo living in the Northern part of Nigeria to evacuate the North within three months.
The implications of that IPOB/MASSOB action and the counter-action by Northern youths on the prospects of Nigerian resuscitation are many and varied. But it is perhaps worthwhile to devote some space into explaining how and why we got here.
Cries of marginalization by different ethnicities and geopolitical regions in Nigeria is a common and perhaps normal occurrence. After-all even dollar millionaires are never satisfied with what they currently possess. Everyone seems to want that extra buck, that extra car, that extra house etc. But even within this context, there is no denying the fact that the South East geopolitical region of Nigeria, home of the Igbo and hotbed of the current neo-Biafran agitation has been singled out by successive Federal Administrations in Nigeria for systematic economic strangulation and deliberate political marginalization.
This systemic marginalization started albeit subtly, right from the end of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War despite the No Victor, No Vanquished policy of the then Gowon military administration. With the passage of time and with the counter-evidence that instead of remaining impoverished, the enterprising Igbo were advancing into the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy, the marginalization gradually increased in intensity.
One sees evidence of this marginalization in the near absence of Federal Institutions, federal infrastructure and Federal industrial complexes in Igboland. This is not to talk of the relatively minuscule absence of Igbo appointees into crucial Federal government positions.
The main perpetrators of Igbo marginalization of course were mostly the Fulani ruling elite and their Yoruba compatriots. The Fulani remain spiteful of the Igbo because of the actions of a few mostly Igbo military officers who executed the first military coup that wiped out the leading lights of the Fulani political elite despite the subsequent reprisal massacre of tens of thousands of innocent Igbo in a counter-coup.
The Yoruba for their part view the Igbo as their natural competitors for economic dominance in Nigeria and appear to relish any misfortune that would serve as a permanent check on Igbo economic not to talk of political ascendancy.
The Igbo, no spring chickens in mercantile matters and who consider economic competition not just as a struggle but as war by other means proved their readiness to stop at nothing in their quest to achieve material goals. To the consternation of their neighbors, the Igbo adopted the economic counterpart of Machiavellian politicswhere the ends justify the means,by bringing theirnot insignificant entrepreneurial talents to bear on……ehm……. let’s say less-than-salutary economic ventures.
Now right from the onset of Nigerian independence, the erstwhile British colonial masters had not hidden their preference for the docile and laid back Fulani, nor their mistrust for the enterprising, industrious yet ungovernable, argumentative and rebellious Igbo. The Yoruba lay somewhere between the two extremes, respected by the British for their rich culture yet mistrusted by them for their loquacious cleverness.
While the Igbo rashly consider themselves as second to nobody on earth in economic industriousness, their Yoruba compatriots brashly consider their culture as second to none other on earth. Both assertions of course are substantially over-hyped.
From the onset of Nigerian independence, the British many would argue maneuvered to hand over the keys of nationalgovernance to the Fulani elite, who baring a brief interregnum of Igbo rule under General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, who was assassinated during the July 1966 counter-coup, held a stranglehold on Nigerian leadership either directly through the assassinated General Murtala Muhammed, President Shehu Shagari and General Muhammadu Buhari or through malleable proxies such as General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjoup till August 1985.
Those years were the halcyon years of Fulani rule during which Fulani bloodline was the key unstated determinant of who got sensitive positions in Nigeria as well as where sensitive Federal Government projects were sited – often in the core Fulani North and to a lesser extent in the Lagos area. Bloodline then was also the core determinant of who received severe sanctions or who got a mild tap on the wrist for the same offence committed.
All that was to change when General Ibrahim Babangida assumed power in a palace coup after toppling General Muhammadu Buhari on August 27, 1985. Much has been said and written about how the Babangida Administration took economic corruption to a higher level in Nigeria. That is almost indisputable. But in permitting the democratization of corruption in Nigeria, General Babangida wittingly or unwittingly did a great service to the country.
He not only toppled the Buhari Administration using the instrumentality of the so-called Five Fulani Majors and Captains, including the currently detained and hapless Colonel Ibrahim Sambo Dasuki, he also effectively crushed the erstwhile feudally inspired concept of Fulani bloodline being the predominant determinant of who gets what in Nigeria. Henceforth loyalty and pragmatic shrewdness even if outright unethical were to become the major determinants of personal progress in the New Nigeria regardless of where anyone hails from.
Regardless of where one hailed from therefore, to become somebody in Babangida’s Nigeria, you first-of-all had to become a Babangida Boy or become connected to one. This concept of loyalty and connection replacing bloodline as sole determinants of personal fortune, subsisted under the subsequent General Abacha Adminstration where the Abacha Boys held sway. It persisted even during the 3rd Republic.
During the President Obasanjo and President Jonathan regimes, many influential members of their respective kitchen cabinets were not from their own geopolitical zones. For all his warts President Olusegun Obasanjo for instance had Dr. (now Senator) Andy Uba, a bonafide Igbo as a very key member of his kitchen cabinet.AlhajiTankoYakassai who was not in Government was consulted regularly by President Jonathan and was fairly influential. Many non-Ijaws comprising Igbos and Yorubas made their fortunes even if unethically during the Jonathan Administration.
If the influence of Fulani Supremacists in Nigeria suffered a stunning reversal when the General Muhammadu Buhari regime was toppled, they suffered a more crushing judicial blow when sometime in April 2002, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled in favour of the littoral Niger Delta states in a revenue allocation formula case. This judgement now known as the 13% Derivation Allocation Formula which ceded 13% of the revenues accruing from crude oil sales to the individual oil producing states was bitterly received by the northern states particularly the Fulani supremacists and they are still smarting from it up to this day. It also marked the beginning of the uncoupling of the political marriage between the Fulani North and South-South Niger Delta region contrived to jointly hold the Igbo and the Yoruba in check.
Unsurprisingly, bloodline as a basis for personal progress re-emerged mildly in Nigeria during the short-lived Administration of President UmaruYar’Adua, a Fulani himself during which time one frequently heard of the so-called Katsina Cabal determined to hold on to power despite the failing health of the late President Yar’Adua.
The most virulent form of Fulani supremacist ideology re-emerged when General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria’s civilian President in April 2017. Against all repeated advice (from this writer among others) to run an inclusive Administration, President Buhari chose the so-called nuclear option of Fulani Supremacist rule.
Throwing all caution to the winds, the Fulani Supremacists using their well-armed militia – the Fulani Herdsmen, otherwise known as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeding Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) – unleashed unparalleled terror on other Nigerian ethnicities in an expansionist attempt to seize territory. Despite their murderous rampage, the Nigerian military, police and security services turned a blind eye to their repeated violent assaults on national security.
In a perhaps criminal abuse of office, the President Buhari administration repeatedly unleashed the coercive instruments of State on haplesspeaceful Igbos who exercising their inalienable human rights to expression of opinion and preference chose to peacefully demonstrate for Biafran Actualization.
With the repeated brutal massacres of their peacefully demonstrating members, the neo-Biafrans intelligently re-evaluated their strategy and adopted the clever neo-Biafran denial-of-target command phase (or neo-Biafran DOT Com phase) of their independence struggle.
There are strong indications that by refusing to expose themselves to the murderous brutality of the Nigerian State on May 30th 2017, the neo-Biafrans completely out-witted and wrong-footed the Nigerian military, police and security forces anxiously eager to waste innocent Igbo blood.
It was quite pathetic, reading the incoherent comments of the apparently frustrated spokesman of the Nigerian Army thanking God for helping the Nigerian Army to “escape the ambush and plot” prepared for them by peaceful neo-Biafrans. Pray how can people who locked themselves indoors in their individual homes mount or plot an ambush for patrolling Nigerian soldiers, armed to the teeth with substantial air-cover from roving military helicoptersand ready to use overwhelming firepower at the slightest provocation?
In deed on the same day 30th May, 2017 the neo-Biafra DOT Com phase was launched in Nigeria, there were public demonstrations in support of Biafra by neo-Biafrans in multiple locations across the globe. There was no reported incident of a single demonstrating neo-Biafran being shot dead worldwide. Why should Nigeria’s case be different?
The brutality routinely meted out to peacefully demonstrating neo-Biafrans is ungodly and wicked. All Nigerians whether they support Biafra or not should rise in condemnation of the barbarity of the Nigerian State under the Buhari Administration. The Nigerian military, police and security forces have been reduced to mere oppressive tools serving the ethnic interests of Fulani Supremacists.
If Nigeria truly does not want the neo-Biafrans to secede, then the Nigerian state should correctly recognize the current challenge posed to the nation’s integrity by the neo-Biafrans as a contest for the hearts and minds of the Igbos and other ethnicities who identify with Biafra.
It is a contest which the Nigerian State should muster the will, courage and resolve to meet by guaranteeing equality-in-reality and not merely equality-in-verbality of all Nigerians as well as by recognizing the real danger posed to the Nigerian State by Fulani Supremacists.
If Nigeria wants to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the Igbo, the way of showing its serious commitment to Nigerian unity is to match its words with action by adopting the so called 3 – D’s.
Firstly,de-escalation of national tension by releasing all illegally incarcerated individuals including (a) Colonel Sambo Dasuki, (b) the Shiite Sheik Ibrahim ElZakzaky and his acolytes, as well as (c) the remaining neo Biafran activists in detention.
Secondly,deconfliction of the national space by (a) curtailing the activities of the Fulani herdsmen militia (b) encouraging ranching and abolishing the concept of free grazing in other peoples’ lands without their free consent (c) checkmating the subversive activities of Fulani Supremacists who have hijacked the Nigerian State, held it hostage and compelled all of its coercive organs including the military, police and security forces to serve the Fulani Interest rather than the Pan-Nigerian Interest. (d) guaranteeing the true equality and treatment of all Nigerians regardless of ethnic origin. (e) Restructuring the Nigerian nation so that all communities, states and regions live per their means and resources while making their own contributions to the center, and without relying on or fighting over handouts from the Federal Government.
Thirdly, demarginalization of all peripheralized communities and ethnicities in Nigeria starting with the Igbo by (a) rehabilitating the erosion prone Igbo countryside, (b) extending the proposed East-West railway to span from Lagos to Benin-City to Onitsha with a branch from Onitsha to Enugu and another branch from Onitsha to Aba through Owerri. (c) Completing the long proposed Second River Niger Bridge linking Asaba with Onitsha and rehabilitating the Onitsha -Enugu highway as well as the Enugu to Port-Harcourt highway.
Once all the items and issues above are done or seen to be seriously underway, the Federal Government would have successfully undercut the Biafran agitations without firing a single shot.
If on the other hand the Nigerian government honestly believes that the points listed above are beyond its capacity, economic purse or political will, then it is more honorable to peacefully grant the Igbo their wish to break out of Nigeria and go it alone. It bears repeating that Nigeria is not a secret cult where once one is a member, one cannot get out and one is effectively held captive.
Separation does not have to be violent. A peaceful separation where all the terms of separation including referenda are agreed upon on the negotiating table shall not be the end of the world for either Nigeria and the Igbo. Indeed on this score and should Nigeria fail to reform but rather if it continues to double down as a hostage nation of Fulani Supremacists, the neo-Biafrans would be well advised to maintain absolute discipline and persist in their peaceful and non-violent approach to fulfilling their dreams which has served them so well so far.
No sane man would want his offspring and progeny to remain as perpetual slaves in their own country with a glass ceiling to their potential achievement regardless of individual talent or personal effort.
The neo-Biafrans should desist from provocative actions that only present them as sitting targets for the undisciplined, trigger happy coercive agents of the Nigerian State. Provocatively waving Biafran flags, or wearing Biafran vests and gallivanting from town to town,while within their individual human rights cannot achieve by itself the Biafra of their dreams. Even if or when it does bring about Biafra, those who choose this approach,except forheroes actively seeking martyrdom, run the risk of not being alive to witness it.
Given the current level of frustration among the coercive agents of the state for not being able to decimate more Igbos, the neo-Biafrans are well advised to maintain their clever, pacifist neo-Biafran DOT Com approach if they insist on going down the path of secession.
Those who lump the IPOB/MASSOB peaceful call for a sit-at-home protest with the terroristic and threatening call by the Northern Youths for the Igbo to evacuate the North are making a serious mistake. IPOB/MASSOB exercised their inalienable rights to free expression by issuing an advisory to those who sympathize with their cause to sit at home on May 30th 2017. They did not force the Igbo or any other non-Igbo Nigerian citizen resident in the South East and environs to comply. They are not criminally liable for the actions of people who heeded their call by staying at home.
Arresting them for making their sit-at-home call is tantamount to the ever-absent ranch owner who on a rare visit to his ranch made a call to his cattle herd but they failed to listen to him. When the hired help however made a similar call, the entire herd of cattle rose immediately and followed him out of the pen. The hired help deserves praise and not condemnation for effectively discharging his duties.
Or it is like the hard-working professional woman who hires a nanny to take care of her baby. On getting home after a long trip away from home she is amazed that her own child tearfully refuses her attempts to carry her but eagerly welcomes the hired nanny’s embrace. The hired nanny deserves praise and not condemnation for a job well done.
The Northern youths on the other hand issued a time-based threat to Nigerian citizens of Igbo extraction to evacuate their legitimate places of abode inside the Nigerian territorial space within three months and before October 1st 2017.
In most countries, it is an offence to threaten anyone but it is a right to peacefully demonstrate or to air one’s views in a peaceful manner no matter how outlandish those views might be, provided one does not harm or threaten to harm other people. It would be surprising if the Nigerian legal codex is radically different.
If Nigeria selectively applies its own laws not per individual culpability but per individual bloodline, then I do not have cause before God to condemn the Igbo for wanting to break out of such a lawlessly partial country like Nigeria.
For the Igbo resident in the core North excluding the Middle Belt areas and Southern Kaduna region whose youths have dissociated themselves from the call by the Arewa Youths, for all Igbo to self-repatriate, whether to heed that call or to rely on the Nigerian police and security forces for protection is a personal decision which they must prayerfully make.
As they make that weighty decision and noting the penchant for spilling innocent, particularly Igbo blood in the core Northern part of Nigeria for the flimsiestof reasons, I recommend to them the words of the American rapper J. Cole quoting and paraphrasing former US President George W Bush in a rather rude hit track.
“In Texas or Tennessee, they have a saying…..
……….Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, can’t put the blame on you.”
- J.Cole, “No Role Modelz.”
May our Lord Jesus Christ protect all innocent lambs from blood thirsty wolves. Amen.