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Positive Thoughts And Titbits On The Igbo Question

There is enough landmass and space in Igboland to resettle people and develop estates, markets, industries, agriculture etc. Ndigbo should take a model from Nnewi and Aba experiences and replicate their examples all over Igboland. We must convoke the spirit of entrepreneurship that is inherent in our genes. Our people should soft-pedal in their present excesses in Lagos, Abuja etc. where they have been pouring down their economic resources in developing such places while neglecting their homeland.

Prof Boniface Egboka

The spirits and minds of Nigerian founding fathers and writers of the1999 Constitution had some good intentions for the peoples of Nigeria when they crafted the Sections and wordings of the Constitution. The amended Section 14 (3) of the Constitution stipulates, “the composi­tion of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria, thereby, ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from States or from a few ethnic or other sec­tional groups in that Govern­ment or any of its agencies.”

Subsection 4 makes similar provisions as in subsection 3 to guarantee fairness and equity in governance at both the State and Local Government Coun­cil levels. Unfortunately, these sections of our Constitution have been obeyed more on the breach. Despite the fact that some component parts of this Constitution has major flaws against justice and equity vis-à-vis some ethnic nationalities such as the Igbos, the issues enshrined in terms of Federal Character are not obeyed. Ndigbo are indescribably-neglected by their State and Federal governments in terms of provision of their rights in national services and being accorded due recognition and respects they deserve as a component part of this country.

Sadly-enough many Igbos (leaders and followers) seem to be giving up and falling as cheap preys to our tormentors. One must not give in to an intimidator or an oppressor. Ndigbo are never known to give up since Archaeological times. That is why we have survived in History. The unfortunate 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria brought Ndigbo into Nigeria. Ndigbo should know from where the rain started beating them in order to know where to take cover eventually. They can forgive but never forget. Ndigbo must never allow a stick to be pushed into their eyes for the second time to prevent blindness.

Our forefathers fought politically, commercially and industrially as the best brand of Nigerians to make the country work. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara, Chief Akanu Ibiam, Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike etc. are some of the great Igbos who sacrificed their lives for Nigeria. Our business men and industrialists were all over the country developing businesses and homes selflessly even if away from their communities. Then there arose a nasty political disagreement and disturbance between two Yoruba leaders, Chief Awolowo and Chief Akintola. This resulted in riots and operation wetie where people were killed, houses and property damaged extensively such that governance got stalemated and messed up. A state-of-emergency was declared and a temporary Western Nigeria government was put in place.

Some courageous Yorubas refused to take the militarization of their region lying down as they protested in one way or the other. One intellectual personality seized the famous Western Nigeria Radio Station and broadcasted his angst to the people before he was arrested. The Region was besieged by police and the military. Then a group of young army officers led by some Yoruba and Igbo officers staged the 1966 coup where some important Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba leaders were killed. It is reported that the coupists planned to install one of the well-known Yoruba politicians to replace the Hausa-Fulani Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. The coup failed and an Igbo man, General Aguiyi Ironsi was appointed the Head of State.

It must be known that Gen. Ironsi led a squad of soldiers that foiled the 1966 coup in Lagos while the then Lt. Col. Ojukwu who was commanding a Battalion in Kano resisted Major Nzeogwu in the North; and both are Igbos. Because there were Igbo officers in the coup, one senior Igbo army officer was killed during the coup and an Igbo man became the Head of State, it was described as an Igbo coup even though many Yorubas were involved and the coupists had billed to enthrone a Yoruba man as the Prime Minister if they had succeeded in the ill-fated putsch. Then there was the Decree that created Provinces by Gen. Ironsi governance to get the country more united. The northerners who were seething for revenge against the killing of their leaders misinterpreted the Gen. Ironsi move as plans by the Igbos to permanently takeover the country. Gen. Ironsi and Ndigbo became hated pathologically; and every move of theirs was a suspect up till this day!

There were Araba riots and killings to the level of a genocidal pogrom all over Northern Nigeria except in Borno area. The pogrom and massacres against the then easterners were heartlessly-executed by Muslims, Christians, atheists etc. for which the northerners have shown no remorse till this day. Then, a revenge coup carried out by northern officers and soldiers occurred and Igbos/eastern officers and men in Abeokuta, Lagos garrisons and elsewhere in northern region were shot, murdered and butchered by their military colleagues. There were series of pogroms and the massacre of innocents who were hounded and hunted out all over the north and eliminated wherever found.

There were mass exodus and movements of people and soldiers to their regions of origin. Fear and disunity gripped many people nationwide. There were meetings between the easterners and the rest of Nigeria to find a solution as every nerve was raw. Then there was the Aburi meeting in Ghana chairmanned by General Joseph Ankrah where leaders of Nigeria led by General Gowon and Eastern Nigeria led by General Ojukwu met and deliberated extensively. An Aburi Accord was reached but on return to Nigeria, General Gowon reneged over the agreement and the country condemned to anarchy. In order to ward off further massacres of easterners, Biafra was born. A war broke out, started by Nigeria as Police Action but, later, degenerated into a full-scale three-year war in which millions died from both sides.

Nigerians were shocked that Biafrans could manhandle them in many battles where they suffered severe casualties and loss of men and materials. Britain, Russia, Egypt, the Sahel countries etc. supported Nigeria diplomatically and militarily. The United States sat on the fence and watched Biafrans being massacred and starved to death. Many European merchants of death traded away their military hardware to the belligerents. Nigerians used hunger as a weapon of war resulting in the starving of Biafran children and pregnant women who became ravaged and killed by debilitating kwashiorkor disease. Biafra was recognized by about five countries of Africa as well as Haiti. Many young sickly kwashiorkor-ridden children were air-lifted to safety in Europe through Gabon. After three years of continued bitter fighting, deaths and material losses, General Ojukwu left for Ivory Coast in search of peace leaving the government of Biafra to his second-in-command, the much reverred Maj. General Philip Effiong who surrendered and handed over to General Gowon in Lagos in January 1970.

Some people were relieved that the war was ended to stop further sufferings while some others were angry that the war should not have been ended just like that and that we should have continued the Nigeria-Biafra war to the end. General Gowon seemed to have promised us Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation but his overzealous officials refused to implement them and exposed our people to suffering. Each person from the fallen Biafra who paid in any amount of money be it one million, more or less, into any Nigerian banks was wickedly-paid ONLY TWENTY POUNDS! There was abandoned property mess and the Indigenization decree against our people whereby Igbos were so pauperized such that they could not purchase any property anywhere. People were saddened and wretched. We were earlier given fewer States and Local Governments. We must think afresh today and change our attitudes. Since the end of the war till now, the Igbos have been maltreated, marginalized and killed here and there in Nigeria. There is regular burning of their markets in towns and communities outside Igboland. Ndigbo have continued to complain and protest to no avail.

Ndigbo must come back in their minds and think deeply on how to survive as a people. They must abhor making any changes through violent means since they are yet to survive from the travails of Nigeria-Biafra war. Whatever possible changes that Ndigbo can make, and such changes are obvious, must come through peaceful means that must be well thought out and articulated by themselves. They should deeply-go down the memory lane of what have happened to their lives in Nigeria as summarized above and work out how to peacefully-come out of the complex quagmire of injustice that have been meted out to them all these times. We have Igbo leaders, politicians, intellectuals, business men and women, traditional and religious leaders, virile youths etc. who can use their brains most effectively to work out our survival strategy. We should prioritise our efforts on developing our economic potentials, educational opportunities and our tradition and culture. If we can prioritise and succeed in these three-pronged objectives, Ndigbo shall survive ad eternum.

We have enough socioeconomic resources to carry us through: geographical area that includes lands, waters, minerals, vegetation etc.; viable manpower, intelligent, audacious and courageous human resources; friendly neighbours and boundaries; men and women who can easily-adapt to any situations to move forward in industry, trade, commerce and social life etc. There is enough landmass and space in Igboland to resettle people and develop estates, markets, industries, agriculture etc. Ndigbo should take a model from Nnewi and Aba experiences and replicate their examples all over Igboland. We must convoke the spirit of entrepreneurship that is inherent in our genes. Our people should soft-pedal in their present excesses in Lagos, Abuja etc. where they have been pouring down their economic resources in developing such places while neglecting their homeland.

Our people and State governments should build good primary and Secondary schools as well as good Polytechnics and Universities. There is a great need for the setting up of private Universities in Igboland; individuals, groups and Christian churches should get involved. We must give genuine impetus to develop our tradition and culture for self-survival and to world tourism levels. Our traditional leaders ought to be seriously-involved in this aspect. Even though our politicians can go on with their politicking, we must concentrate 80% of our energies to develop along these main three plumb-lines of socioeconomic survival; we must avoid the unnecessary distractions as now obtaining.

  • Prof Boniface Egboka (PhD) UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: boniegboka@gmail.com
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