The Fragile State of Ndigbo and Unguarded Statements

Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.” – Ken Blanchard

People go to war for different reasons, chief amongst them to address injustices. But whatver the objective is, winning or losing a war could spell misfortune on the social, political or economic life of a people. The negative consequences of wars are quite often felt on both sides of the divide.

As an advocate of exhaustive diplomacy, and one who has read the events leading to the Nigerian civil war, I can, without fear of favor, say that the war shouldn’t have been fought in the first place. Above all, there existed diplomatic openings during the hostilities that offered the Biafran project a dignified exit. An opportunity that would have made the political status of Ndigbo far much better than what it has been since after the war. But,Sadly, that opportunity wasn’t taken.

However, while Ndigbo are trying to recover from this protracted pain, they should be allowed to do just that! Nigeria is a nation in which the status of each ethnic group, though unspoken, is measured in her indigenes’ military attainment. Before now, post-war military officers of Igbo origin seldom moved beyond the rank of a Brigadier or its equivalent in the air force and navy, except with the few exceptions of Ndubuisi Kanu and Alison Madueke who were sort of privileged to be decorated with the rank of Rear Admiral respectively. Generals Ike Nwachukwu and Cyril Iweze were ideologically driven that they chose a different path during the hostilities.

The policy was strictly observed to the extent that Nigeria’s Former CGS, Ebitu Ukiwe, was humiliatingly left with the rank of a Commodore – the army equivalent of a Brigadier – even as he served as the country’s number two citizen, amongst his erstwhile juniors who had risen in ranks above him.

While it is pertinent to point out that some degree of progress have been made in recent years, many would also agree, but cautiously, that profound change is finally coming to Ndigbo. Though, the aggregate of the change vis-à-vis their numerical status as a major block was yet to tally.

Nevertheless, articulating and recognizing the dynamics of post war military and civil politics in Nigeria – gains and losses – would not only help the generality of Ndigbo to engage in constructive criticisms, it would equally aid them to arrive at a convincing public intellection. More so, when it comes to building inter regional and ethnic political bridges.

Pursuant to equity and justice, pressure groups such as MASSOB should tread carefully and follow the political rhythm of the day, even as the list of their demands should constantly be re-appraised.

It is well known that one of MASSOB’s original grievances was the inability of the successive governments to entrust an Igbo with a top security position in the country, namely the office of the IGP and military defense. So, now is the time to re-appraise that aspect of the demand and see if it has been met, by the emergence of two succeeding IGPs of Igbo extraction, namely Mr. Okiro and Onovo. And In addition to that, to equally review that of Mr.Tom Aguiyi Ironsi, who recently served as a substantive defense Minister of Nigeria.

On the other hand, retired Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s latest incendiary remarks at a time Mr. Onovo and Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Paul Dike are occupying sensitive security positions in the land, does not portray a single political gamesmanship for a “leader”, to say the least. This is an era that has seen his own people painstakingly re-emerge in command positions in the armed forces since his days in the Nigerian army, and that of Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi and Col. Hilary Njoku.

Chief Ojukwu’s open condemnation by a large number of his people, for the first time, goes beyond the problem of Anambra politics. The reasons, apparently, were in part due to his failure to read the sign of the times. He, as a learned man, should have known much better about “group cohesion” – a group’s reaction when they are under an external threat, and the group’s reaction when they feel it’s becoming safe outside. He may not have been so condemned, if these comments were made a few years ago. There was again a dearth of tact on his side.

Written by
Ossie Ezeaku
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