December 1994 and June 2016 are two epochs, separated by 22 years, which send an unambiguous and implacable message – the impracticality of the most mouthed of Nigeria’s platitudes.
Dig this: In December 1994, a hysterical crowd forced itself into a Police station in Kano and bundled out a detained Gideon Akaluka, a young Igbo trader and Christian, who had been falsely accused of using pages of the Koran like toilet paper. The mob decapitated Gideon, spiked his severed head and carried it around town like a trophy.
On June 2, 2016, Mrs. Bridget Agbahime (74), an Igbo housewife and Christian, was seized in Kano and lynched – on a false charge of blaspheming Islam. Naturally, there has been the anticipated outrage and uproar from the afflicted camp. It could be treated just like another statistic: an old woman murdered because she was of an unwanted ethnic group, and because she professed a religion that, in the eyes of her killers, automatically made her an infidel.
There are screams for the culprits’ apprehension and punishment. But, that does not address the problem; it merely scratches at the surface of a malignant tumour. Of course, it is natural for some Nigerians to blow hot air in the face of difficult challenges. Still a fundamental clarification is imperative because anyone unaware of the sources of their pummeling stands little chance of activating a defence mechanism.
The crucial point is the politically contrived dispensability of the Igbo life. It started in 1943 in Jos, when the first massacre of Ndigbo took place. There is a documented history to it all, which the volume entitled Massacre of Ndigbo in 1966: Report of the Justice G. C. M. Onyiuke Tribunal [Tollbrook Limited, Ikeja, Lagos], will help to ventilate.
First, some background information. Following the pogrom of 1966, the Supreme Military Council of General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi set up a judicial tribunal of inquiry to investigate the grotesquery. But, days before the tribunal was to start sitting, Ironsi was assassinated and his regime toppled. Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon, who succeeded Ironsi, promised that the tribunal would carry on with its assignment. When this promise was negated, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, had no option but to establish the Onyiuke Tribunal via an instrument called the Tribunal of Inquiry (Atrocities Against Persons of Eastern Nigeria Origin: Perpetuation of Testimony) Edict 1966.
Thanks to Professor Ben Obumselu, the Tribunal’s report got published in book form. It is a 279-page volume worth reading by anyone intent on understanding Nigeria’s general debility. Unless this knowledge is attained and used to equitable advantage, there can be no chance on the front row of addressing the county’s compounded crisis points.
This is from Page 15 of the Onyiuke Tribunal Report: “As far back as 1953 the Eastern community in Kano, capital of Kano Emirate and a famous trade centre, was subjected to ruthless attack by the Northerners. This incident was later to be known as the Kano Riots of 1953. It was so vicious and bloody that the then British administration set up an official inquiry. The principal organizer of this attack was Mallam Inua Wada, the Secretary of the Kano branch of the Northern People’s Congress and later the Federal Minister of Works in the Federal Government of the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.”
Since that Igbo massacre of 1953, there has hardly been any year that spent its 12 months without stories of the gruesome massacre of Ndigbo in one part of Northern Nigeria or another. A central cord tying all the killings that have made Ndigbo the most massacred ethnic group on the African continent is that the perpetrators of the atrocities invariably went scot free, even got praises and promotions for their vile actions.
The climax came in 1966. This is Page 200 of the Onyiuke Report: “In conclusion the Tribunal hereby makes its finding that between 45,000 and 50,000 civilians of former Eastern Nigeria were killed in Northern Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria from 29th May 1966 to December 1967 and although it is not strictly within its terms of reference the Tribunal estimates that not less than 1,627,743 Easterners fled back to Eastern Nigeria as a result of the 1966 pogrom.” The report held Lieutenant-Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina, the Military Governor of Northern Nigeria, northern politicians and traditional rulers primarily responsible for the ethnic cleansing.
To this day, no one was punished for the atrocities; their actions were not even acknowledged as criminal and inhuman. Rather the perpetrators rapidly rode up the rungs of portfolio and importance in the national scheme of things. When the massacres assumed more religious than political dimensions, the doom of Ndigbo, their utter vulnerability inside Nigeria, was sealed. Any husband and wife in Kano or elsewhere in the north could engage in a fisticuff and before anyone knew it, the fight would shift into the streets and end up in the form of the lynching of an Igbo blasphemer! Ndigbo had become a repugnant underclass to be mowed down at the slightest provocation or, indeed, for no provocation at all.
This is pivotal: If you seized an arsonist and imprisoned him, how does it halt the further torching of buildings when they remain in the thousands those already indoctrinated into accepting as gospel truth the fairytale that their existential imperatives and, indeed, their paradise are tied to incendiary activism? It is a whole week since Mrs. Agbahime’s brutal murder. Bear in mind that, even in Saudi Arabia, which is the headquarters of global Islam, no one is ever punished for blasphemy without being put to trial under shari’a, the Islamic canonical law. So, what has the Emir of Kano, the head of Kano Muslims, whose palace is a few kilometres from the scene of the dastardly murder, said on the matter? What has the Sultan of Sokoto, the Sarkin Musulumi or Commander of the Faithful, said? What was the Number One Citizen doing, valorizing wantonness and aspersing its victim?
Tylenol and Paractemol can, of course, knock out searing pain. But none of them, and no other analgesic, can prevent the manifestation or recurrence of a splitting headache or a throbbing earache. This is to reiterate that the call to catch and punish killers means little when the conditions are superlatively conducive for the breeding of more murderers, especially murderers armed with the assurance that their wild excesses can hardly earn them as much as a rap on the wrist.
It was the pogrom of 1966, Africa’s foundational genocide, which led directly to the Nigeria civil war. It is the continued vulnerability of Ndigbo in Nigeria, their mindlessly remorseless marginalization, and the contemptuous disdain with which these injustices are perpetrated that resurrected the renewed clamour for Biafra. The profundity of these times is, however, underscored by the fact that the field of the contemptible underclass has greatly expanded in recent times; it has gone trans-ethnic, which should alarm the professors of the indissolubility of a colonialist contraption hewn out of the granite of changelessly excruciating injustice.
* Iloegbunam, a Lagos-based journalist, sent this piece via email@example.com.