Igbo vs Northerners: Hate and National Cohesion

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“They shall beat their swords into ploghshares,

And their spears into prunning -hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against Nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore” – The Holy Bible

Map of Nigeria

Polemicist and dialectical logicians tend to agree that sanctimonious rantings, verbal acrobatics, sentimental effusions constitute negative building blocks in the march to nationhood and peace. Hence, the essayist and orator Cicero (106-43 B.C.) posited that “The rabble estimate few things according to their real value, most things according to their prejudices”. This is substantiated by the English playwright William Shakespeare that “A peace is  of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued and neither party loser”.

Nigeria has been befuddled and bedraggled from independence till today by a track record of monumental ineptitude, leadership crisis, psychotic malfeasance, corrupt administration and political visionlessness. In his bid to right these solecisms in his second coming, President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen to be circumspect in making his appointments. His extension of his anti-graft war to 1999 and few appointments made has generated criticisms and fears from some areas, especially amongst the Igbos.

The former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife said that “the Igbos have not been treated fairly in terms of political positions and appointments in the President Buhari’s administration”. This innocuous statement in a democratic ambience drew the ire of second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed.

He said “I don’t believe Buhari or Nigeria owes any Igbo anything. I don’t care what Ezeife  says if they (Igbo) had seceded, there would have been no Nigeria today. As people who acted outside the interest of Nigeria as a country, to expect compensation is a very odd logic. If the Igbos don’t like it, they can attempt secession again. If they do, they must be prepared to live with the consequences- nobody owes them anything and nobody is out to compensate them for anything”.

Also reacting to Junaid Mohammed’s comment and President Buhari’s appointments, Ukor, who is also the President of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) said, “This statement confirms to the International Community that the new administration could march along very divisive path with the support to some persons in the North. That is some people have sworn that equity and justice will not reign in Nigeria. In other words, actions that lead to disenchantment among Nigerians to the extent of making secession an attractive option to certain sections is actually deliberate and encouraged by the North. I am sure the international community has taken note of that. The man does not deserve to be replied. He is consistently working very hard to destroy Nigeria by denigrating, abusing and overtly provoking Nigerians in order to prepare the ground for another civil war. Whether it is a deliberate policy of the North we don’t know, whether he will succeed or not in his quite spirited effort to make sure Nigeria does not survive, nobody knows”.

A brief study of Nigeria political history vis-a-vis the hate and no-love-lost relationship between the Igbos and the North before independence, after independence, during and after the Nigeria Biafra Civil war (1967-1970) will show that it has graduated from cloak in the dagger furtive clandestinity to open know-holds-barred flaunting of hatred, malice, vendetta and vengeful zeitgeist in the political, socio-economic and religious landscape in Nigeria.

The political schisms,  fiery verbalisations, pillaging and massacre that led to the Nigeria/Biafra Civil war is been reenacted. The same pattern and template of recriminations, hyper-propaganda and anarchical entropy set the stage for violent reprisals, the January 15, 1966 coup and subsequently the civil war. It will be recalled that the countdown to the civil war witnessed this type of parochial verbal exchanges between the Igbo and the North this took centre stage in Nigeria. Subsequently, certain writers in Northern Nigeria began to disseminate tendentious and distorted interpretations of the military takeover (notably through the medium of the now New Nigeria Newspaper), which influenced passions amongst Northerners, thereby inciting to launch that massacre of Eastern Nigerians which did, infact, occurred subsequently at the end of May, 1966 .

The vicious campaign of misrepresentation was maintained with studious and monotonous regularity after the pogrom against Easterners in Northern Nigeria in September and October 1966. In pursuit of mutual recrimination the Gowon administration published two leaflets entitled “Government statement on the current Nigerian situation and Nigeria 1966”. In it he gave a graphically vivid picture of what was going on in Northern Nigeria. A point of view which was continuously countered by Eastern intellectuals and politicians even before, during and after the January 15, 1966 coup. Strangely enough, this last document was released a few days after the conclusion of the meeting at Aburi, Ghana, of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria, of which it had been unanimously agreed that all the military leaders should eschew the publication by the respective ministries of information of any more materials that might further aggravate inter-sectional acrimony.

The invidious and inveterate mutual hatred and antagonisms between Easterners and Northerners through inspired hate speeches and media publications, dates back many years before independence. Sporadic out breaks in Northern towns, particularly the Jos riots of 1945, had been occurring in the past but the British Administration barely took them seriously. However, after the ruthless massacre on both sides (Easterners and Northerners) in Kano in May, 1953 the British were constrained to look into the matter by setting up a commission of inquiring on the Kano disturbances.

The Report on the Kano disturbances posited that the remote causes suggested at the time could not by any means be referred specifically to Easterners. The attacks were attributed to the clash of cultures, the disparities in economic and social development between Northerners and Southerners, the occupation of strategic posts in the administrative, technical and commercial sectors of Northern life by Southerners and the leveling impact of Western religion and political ideologies introduced into the North by Southerners.

It is on record that there were series of polemical and aggressive verbal exchanges between Northern Representatives and the Action Group Members during the Lagos Conference. But the fuse that really set off the explosion in May, 1953 was the proposed visit to Kano of an Action Group (AG) delegation led by Mr (afterward Chief) S. L. Akintola, “an Ex-Minister with all the Odium of anti-Northerner Action Group propaganda and the Lagos incidents attached to him”. (The Report on the Kano disturbances, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th May, 1953 (Government Printer, Kaduna, 1953) Paragraph 15, page 4).

The organization and preparation of Northerners for the riots did not suggest to Easterners that they would be the main object of attack incidentally, as they have now done again in 1966, Northerners denied in 1953 that the massacres were ever organized or premeditated. But it is on record that two days before the disturbances began on Thursday, May 14, 1953, Mallam Inua Wada, then Secretary of the Kano Branch of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and later Federal Minister of Works, convened a meeting of the Native Administration sectional heads at the works Department in Kano during which he made “a very ill-advised and provocative speech” against the proposed visit of the Action Group delegation led by Akintola. Inua Wado said inter alia “having abused us in the south these very Southerners have decided to come over to the North to abuse us, but we have determined to retaliate the treatment given us in the South we have therefore organized about 1,000 men ready in the city to meet force with force. We are determined to show to Akintola and his group what we can do in our land when they come the Northern People’s Congress has declared a strive in all Native Administration Offices for Saturday, 16th May, 1953. We shall post sufficient number of men at the entrance of every office and business place we are prepared to face anything that, comes out of this business”

These exhaustive kaleidoscopic quotations from various journals/publications and releases by Easterners, Northerner’s propaganda machineries and the findings and report of the commission on this disturbances of 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th may, 1953 is aimed of showing to Nigerians the historically long and deep streak of hate and acrimony existing between the Northerners and the Easterners especially the Igbos in Nigeria that has given rise to intermittent macabre and bellicose carnages and decimations ultimately leading to the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War.

Although the creation of states and subsequent boundary adjustments in Nigeria has changed the confines and demographics of the East and North, but that beastial rhetoric and verbal aggression (lapsus lingua, lapsus memoriame and lapsus calami) still remains till today. Hence, Igbo and Northern scholars, intellectuals, politicians etc resort to sanguinary mantra and proclivities at the slightest provocation. This historical origin is rooted in the Igbos and the Northerners till today, hence the recourse again and again to the Biafra secessionist’s outrage.

Agreed, we have fought a civil war in Nigeria, but it seems the lessons of the civil war has not sunken into the minds, psyche and brains of the Igbos and the Northerns, Westerners and the Southerners. The aggressive verbal exchanges made by Junaid Mohammed and Uzor, Clark and Ekweme etc over so-called biased, skewed appointments and selective anti-graft war glaringly shows that nobody likes Nigeria as country. We can address the matter without using belligerent swear words, hate and anathemic  expressions that takes us back to our Biafra/Nigeria gloomy death incarnadine historical references and threats of secession and a new civil war.

It is clear from these attitudinal orientation and negative utterances that the countdown to another war is on going in the minds of some Igbos and some Northerners. But can Nigeria and Nigerians survive another civil war as we still remain a mere geographical expression? Our march to Nationhood is yet to commence as we still myopically see     ourselves as Igbos, Hausa/Fulanis, Urhobos, Ijaws, Itsekiris, Edos,Yorubas etc. We all still have a warped and weird view about Nigeria as a Nation and what its unity stands for.

If Nigeria must survive as one sovereign, united and indissoluble Nation the leadership and the followership must change the way we do things avoid verbalizations with disunity connotations and our perception about Nigeria must be reoriented to reflect a patriotic zeitgeist, truth, justice, altruistic commitment and apotheosization of socio-political, economic and constitutional prototypes etc that will concretize and refrigerate the bases of our national oneness, coherence and integration.

Conclusively, the philosopher Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics posited that “the high minded man does not bear grudges, for it is not the mark of a great soul to remember injuries, but to forget them”. Let us put the pains of the civil war behind us and strive towards Nation building. Hence, Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary observed that “man is an animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be”. We must lay down our arms, parochial prejudices, ethnocentric biases, pervasive corruption and perverted cerebral political positions to be what we ought to be as a Nation. We call MASSOB, IGBO YOUTH CONGRESS (IYC), INDIGINEOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA (IPOB), RADIO BIAFRA, AREWA CONSULTATIVE FORUM (ACF), NORTHERN YOUTH CONGRESS (NYC), CONCERNED NORTHERNERS (CN) etc to do implosive surgeonization on the nuts and bolts of making Nigeria Great. The appointment of officials is statutorily obligatory and constitutionally imperative and Buhari is still on it. Let us avoid political rancor’s that will precipitate our national apocalypse. God Bless Nigeria.

Mr.  Bobson Gbinije, a social critc, wrote from Warri, Delta State.




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