Once again, the Muslim feast of Eid-el-Fitr has come and gone and Nigerian leaders, as usual, used the opportunity to preach the gospel of peace and unity. Nigeria, they insisted, is the handiwork of God.
President Goodluck Jonathan upped the ante when he hosted Muslim leaders who paid him the traditional Sallah homage at Aso Rock by insisting that those predicting the breakup of the country in 2015 would be disappointed. God, in His infinite wisdom, designed the country to be one, the President enthused.
Ennobling sentiments, no doubt! But how sincere are Nigerians, both leaders and followers, in this avowal that Nigeria must remain united?
I ask this question because I am worried. After reading Femi Fani-kayode’s latest article, The bitter truth about the Igbo, an unprovoked attack on the Igbo nation, I couldn’t but conclude that we simply don’t have a country so called. If we claim we do, why are we finding it difficult to accept the fact that a Nigerian citizen has the right to reside in any part of the country?
Ordinarily, one would have dismissed Fani-Kayode’s vituperations as the ranting of a sick mind because no sane person can celebrate the slaughtering of fellow human beings in their thousands as he did in the article.
But he is no ordinary Nigerian. For whatever it is worth, he was a Minister of the Federal Republic. Besides, it is becoming apparent that he is not alone in the genocidal sentiment he is espousing. The anti-Igbo sentiment is becoming an industry in Nigeria.
He is celebrating the ‘slaughtering’ of Ndigbo in the 1960s, a manifestation of a mind consumed by hate.
“On July 29, 1966, General Aguiyi-Ironsi and no less than 300 Igbo army officers reaped the consequences of their action and plot when they were all slaughtered in just one night during the northern officers’ revenge coup,” he wrote.
He did not stop there. “Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon was put in power – and a few weeks later between September 29, 1966 and the middle of October of that same year, approximately 50,000 Igbo civilians were attacked and slaughtered in a series of horrendous pogroms in the north by violent northern mobs,” he ululated. For him, such crimes against humanity were deserved comeuppance.
Fani-Kayode went a step further to literally declare the Igbo persona-non-grata in the South West, brazenly inciting the Yoruba against them.
There is no doubt that he would relish a replay of the savagery of the 1960s because according to him, despite all Ndigbo have been through over the years, the Yoruba are still witnessing the same attitude of “we must control,” “we must own all,” and “we must have all” rearing its ugly head again today.”
With this kind of tendentious anti-Igbo sentiment weaved around a lie from the pit of hell that Ndigbo are the problems of Nigeria, what it takes for pogroms of the 1960s to be re-enacted is a little incentive. And what could be more potent that the lie that Ndigbo are poised to appropriate the heritage of the Yoruba in Lagos?
And what exactly did the Igbo do that so much incensed Fani-Kayode?
He said Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of Abia State, claimed Ndigbo generate “55 per cent of the state (Lagos) revenue,” and therefore have a stake in what happens here. How could this claim be deemed a capital offence whether it is true or not?
Fani-Kayode said he is “a servant of truth,” yet there is no single sentence in that article that can withstand scrutiny.
But that is a matter for another day. Suffice it to say that the Igbo are not the problem of the Yoruba. They are not seeking to take over the patrimony of the Yoruba. Ndigbo are Nigerians and have the constitutional right to live in any part of this country and earn a decent living.
And whatever wealth they have acquired in any part of the country is by dint of hard work.
Contrary to his claim, Ndigbo are not envious of the Yoruba. Why should they be? It is acknowledged globally that they are some of the most industrious people God ever created, which is why they were able to survive the horrendous aftermath of a genocidal war.
I doubt if Fani-Kayode, as a person, has excelled in anything in life more than his Igbo contemporaries. He said the Igbo are “mere traders” unlike the Yoruba who “were (and still are) major industrialists and investors.”
But there is nothing to be ashamed of in being “mere traders.” Ndigbo are proud of being mere traders as long as they are contributing their quota to the development of Nigeria.
In any case, were they mere traders before the civil war? Were they not in the commanding heights in the civil service, academia, industries, security services, name them? They became mere traders when someone not satisfied with orchestrating the death of over a million women and children, using starvation as “legitimate weapon of war” went ahead to ensure that those who survived the genocide were stripped of their hard-earned wealth by giving them a paltry 20 pounds and thereafter nationalising our patrimony to their utter exclusion.
One fact, which even the harshest critics acknowledge, is that Ndigbo are not known for treachery. You can accuse them of being brash, loud and not suffering fools gladly, but they are not sly. Unfortunately, in a country where treachery is a huge industry, integrity has become an anathema and that is why the Fani-Kayodes of this world have become superstars. But he cannot change who the Igbo are, no matter how hard he tries.
And he must learn to leave the Igbo out of his people’s problems.
He may twist history as much as he likes, but Ndigbo did not cause the problems that consumed the First Republic. The “wild-wild West phenomenon and “operation wetie” were neither orchestrated by Ndigbo nor did they betray Obafemi Awolowo.
Ndigbo did not betray MKO Abiola, either. In any case, it was the Igbo that made Abiola’s candidacy in the 1993 Presidential election possible when his people, as usual, rejected him for betraying Awolowo in the Second Republic. Since Fani-Kayode claims to be a student of history, he should know better.
When the chips were down and General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election, it wasn’t the Igbo that took over from him as Chairman of the Interim National Government (ING).
When Babangida summoned traditional rulers to explain to them why he annulled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history, it wasn’t monarchs from the Igbo nation that told Babangida that they had seen reason for the annulment with a promise to go back home to explain to their people.
It wasn’t the Igbo that went to General Sani Abacha to plead that he should stage a coup against the June 12 mandate, thereby throwing Abiola under the bus. It wasn’t Ndigbo that ultimately betrayed Abiola and ensured he died in prison. Fani-Kayode’s kinsmen did.
Yet, when the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was formed as a vehicle to be used in actualising the June 12 mandate, the Ndubuisi Kanus, Ebitu Ukiwes, Ralph Obiohas of this country were in the driver’s seat.
So, what crime did the Igbo commit against the Yoruba?
Ndigbo want to live in peace in their country and pursue their legitimate businesses. Is that a crime?
One thing that Fani-Kayode must appreciate is that Ndigbo cannot be wished away in Nigeria despite his crass irresponsibility.