ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
First, a disclaimer! I am not a prophet, either of doom or of progress. I don’t also aspire to be one. So, I am not in any way predicting doom. But a contextual analysis of emerging trends indicates that the next few years would come with some unpleasant realities for the Igbo people. How the events would unfold, I do not know. But like they say, a stitch in time saves nine. What nine represents here, I also do not know.
Just yesterday, someone drew my attention to a scathing comment against the Igbo people, on the social media, attributed to Prof. Wole Soyinka. I was lost in belief. But I went the extra mile of reading actual report of the event at Harvard where Soyinka was alleged to have identified Igbo people as a problematic. The Harvard report was both in contexts, syntax and in grammar, miles away from what was attributed to Soyinka on social media. He may have said it. He may also not have said it. But the fact that his name has been used to continue the abuse of the Igbo people is a pointer to a buildup. Whatever it builds up to will definitely not be positive.
Putting that in context as coming just weeks after the Oba of Lagos made a promise to Igbo people in Lagos, which was averted only by fact of fulfillment of his caveat, strikes a chord. Since Oba of Lagos made that promise, though we laughed over it as one of the blunders of politics, there have not been any apologia, from him, to the people the threat was directed at. Somehow, words not withdrawn, subsist. The effect has been a sustained anti-Igbo campaign on social media, which has turned out to become our own tool for social dismemberment and hate expression. No Nigerian ethnic group has been subjected to hate attacks over social media like the Igbo. If you put this development in context, it comes down to conscientization of the other against the Igbo. Simply put, what has been on over social media is building momentum for a certain kind of action against the Igbo.
Taking that further into governmental circles; one finds that the sustained attack, and hate abuse on Goodluck Jonathan, is premised on the misunderstanding that he is Igbo, not Ijaw and that Igbo people voted for him because he is their brother. In this context, most do not distinguish between Ijaw and Igbo. So, every tribe across the Niger is Igbo. That sustained hate attack has also been extended to all Igbo ministers in his cabinet, especially, the women. You may disagree with me here, but it would be good if you do a rejoinder to this, explaining the continued hate attacks on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani Allison-Madueke, Stella Oduah (even out of office), Arunma Oteh (in and out of SEC). I know of a media aide to a highly placed Nigerian from the north, who went on social media to describe Okonjo-Iweala and Diezani as “jezebels” that “must go to prison”. The media aide did not list any crimes against these women for which they must be put away.
If you look back at Jonathan’s cabinet, you will realize – that is, if you are conscious of your environment – that some ministers had been singled out for hate attacks for the simple fact that they come from, or have affinity to, a particular section of the country. Olusegun Obasanjo heightened this when he listed them as members of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet. The religious, psychological and social contexts we operate as a country is not lost here. So, the fact that these Igbo are in government, and also hold sensitive positions is, in itself, a crime for which they must be punished, and their ethnic tribe annihilated. I won’t be surprised if this continues with the next federal cabinet.
This indicates deep-seated hatred for the Igbo who, sadly, have been refused the right to exist as a separate entity. Today, I read of concerns being raised about Igbo people buying lands and developing places where they reside. Some believe it is a sign of foolishness to buy, sandfill and develop swamps in Lagos while dry lands in the east lie fallow. A lot of persons believe that by settling in their towns, the Igbo actually plan to annex their lands. A friend had expressed surprise, and also called for action, to stop Igbo traders from buying lands in Ile Ife. At the 2014 National Conference, a delegate from Adamawa State, who came on the bill of ‘elder statesman’ told me of his concern, and worry, when the Igbo trader in Yola brings another Igbo as apprentice instead of “integrating with indigene”. He also expressed concern over the fact that Igbo people attend village and town union meetings.
Fact is, the emigrant status of the Igbo exposes him to certain realities one of which is to be a settler. His nature as business person inclines him to settle on property sold to him by an indigene. Overtime, he acquires political rights, guaranteed by the constitution, to seek elective office as had happened in Lagos State. That becomes the offense he commits for which the indigene/settler dichotomy is raised to deal with him. As things now stand in Lagos, with the winning of federal and state assembly seats by Igbo politicians, there is now the tendency, and possibility, for people who see that feat as an abridgment of their rights and powers to exert themselves through genocidal acts. Objective of such acts will be to rein in on the Igbo to the understanding that they either stop contesting elections in Lagos or quit. In essence, there is the possibility of a repeat of the Birom-Hausa/Fulani crisis of Jos, in Lagos. It is a possibility that the Igbo must think through.
For now, we may go on living with the farce of one Nigeria. We all know that all is not well. However, like the Igbo sing in heavenly consolation –o buru n’uwa ju m, eluigwe agaghi aju m- (if the world rejects me, heaven won’t reject me), it may actually be time for the Igbo to begin to think homeward. In the event of a pogrom, the reality of the fact that you also speak the language of your attacker won’t stop him from eliminating you, especially when he is duty bound, and nudged, to do so. Biafra may not be an option. Development of southeast is. For now, the signs are all over. But in all, no one has accused the Igbo of stealing, or annexing lands. The owners sold them. However, the Igbo must put on their thinking cap and also cap their investments outside Igboland as safeguard. Abandoned property reality could repeat itself because as Frederick Nietzsche said, history is circular and would always repeat itself