Ndigbo, Buhari and the new war

June 1, 2021

Nigeria is worse than the Monkeys of Argentina. We fought a needless 30-month civil war. We killed almost three million people from both sides of the divide. We ended the war with a “No victor, No vanquished” cliché. Yet, 54 years after the war started and 51 after it ended, we are about to repeat history. “I’m repulsed by such premeditated and gruesome murder of Gulak by evil people who are determined to undermine the peace, unity and territorial integrity of our country.”

This is how General Buhari reacted to the murder on Sunday of Ahmad Gulak, former Special Adviser, Political, to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Gulak, from Adamawa State, was murdered in Owerri, Imo State. His murder, despicable at it was and is; and condemnable here and hereafter, is seen by our president as a threat to Nigeria’s “peace, unity and territorial integrity”. Buhari is not the only one seeing Gulak’s murder in that manner.

Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State is on the same page with the president. Hear him: “This cowardly act is calculated to instigate…Northerners, against the Igbo living outside the South East”. Between Buhari and Akeredolu, Gulak’s murder is against Nigeria’s unity. That is the level of reasoning we get at the very top echelon of the nation’s leadership. The other killings by bandits, herdsmen, Boko Haram, kidnappers and other felons are possibly carried out as unifying factors for Nigeria.

My secondary school principal, Chief Animashahun Agidigbi, had a penchant for the allegory of the Monkeys of the Pampas of Argentina. He studied History in the university. He would come at the tail end of the assemblies to remind us of his last instructions and directives. His closing cue: “you are like the Monkeys of the Pampas of Argentina. You have learnt nothing; and have forgotten nothing”. Chief Agidigbi must have had Nigeria in mind while telling us the fable of those forgetful monkeys. Every event that led to the 1967 to 1970 civil war is staring us menacingly in the face. But like the four legged beings of Argentina, we have not learnt a single lesson from that ugly, but avoidable incident.

We are taking the same route of ethnic jingoism of the late 60s and we are replicating every despicable behaviour that led us to war, even in a more vicious manner, in the year of the Lord, 2021! Of all the killings that have taken place, especially between 2015 and now, the only one in Buhari’s reckoning, which threatens the unity of the country, is that of his kinsman. For the first time, in responding to bloodletting, General Buhari spoke like a true leader. He warned that the perpetrators would not go scot-free. He promised to “deploy all resources” to bring them to justice. That is how a leader should react.

How I wish that Buhari demonstrated this kind of candour in the past. But it is also gratifying that the president can or has for once, shown that he is genuinely ‘pained’. It doesn’t matter if he is because someone from his clan is involved. Nigerians are already used to the idea that the retired General knows only one race out of the over 350 ethnic groups that make up the country. We have since learnt to carry our burden with equanimity. I was not surprised when IPOB immediately issued a statement that it was not involved in the murder of Gulak. Emma Powerful, spokesman for the group said the murder was a “professional assassination”, the type that is beyond IPOB. “We do not know anything about his movement, talk more of him being in Imo State”, Powerful emphasised. IPOB in essence, is saying: “don’t give our dog a bad name in order to hang it”. You expect that kind of a reaction when you have leaders who reason the way Buhari and Akeredolu did in this instance.

The present crop of leaders, especially the man who sits atop our collective destiny, General Muhammadu Buhari, behaves as if he was a toddler when the Nigeria-Biafra war was fought. The unfortunate truth is that the Daura-born General fired several shots during that war. Sadly and most pathetic is that the Commander-in-Chief has forgotten how we got to that very juncture in our history as a nation. Fifty one years after we all collectively said nobody lost the war and nobody won the war, we still treat the Ndigbo like a conquered and subdued people. Little wonder that the noise from the South-East has been like the Biblical interrogation of the children of Israel. Like the Israelites of Rehoboam’s generation, the Igbo people are asking: “What portion do we have in Nigeria? We have no inheritance in the son of amalgamation. To your tents, oh Ndigbo.” And they are justified, eternally too. The loudest noise for self determination by the Ndigbo and the efforts they are putting in place to ensure the same, are perfect and in order. The balance of fairness, equity, inclusiveness and justice has never been in their favour ever since the civil war ended in 1970. The Nigerian nation, especially the Northern oligarchy headed by General Buhari, has more than anything, demonstrated that the Ndigbo are not wanted here! But Buhari alone is not the guilty party here. The political leadership of the Igbo race and its adultery with the crumbs from those who have imposed themselves as their modern day masters are as guilty as the Buhari Presidency.

If indeed the Igbo people are not a conquered race, ask, why has Nigeria found it difficult to integrate them into the mainstream of our system?. Check out the present security apparatus in the country, and tell me any Igbo man occupying any space in the command structure. From the Police to the Army, Navy to Air Force; DSS to  the Custom Service; Immigration to the Correctional Service, has Nigeria found an Igbo man worthy of any position?. What about paramilitary organisations? Do we, as a nation, find any Igbo worthy of appointment? How do you treat people like that and ask that they remain calm? While violent agitation stands condemnable in all ramifications, all the elements which promote such agitation are just as guilty as the perpetrators, if not more guilty. That a people fought a war in the first instance is not a crime. All races engaged in wars in the bid to entrench themselves within their political millieu!

Even in Nigeria today, all other ethnic groups are fighting one psychological war or the other for the survival of their identities. It should not be difficult for General Buhari and his Fulani  promoters of own hegemony to know, realise and note, that the other ethnic groups are up in arms against their oppressive and clannish tendencies.

The Igbo people, and nay, every other race in Nigeria today, will continue to threaten the “unity, peace and territorial integrity” of the country as long as General Buhari continues to act as if he was elected president of a single clan. The other day, the president called a somewhat security summit for the Igbo people without a single Igbo man in attendance.

How Buhari and his inner court believe that they can shave a man’s head in his absence remains the 9th wonder of the world. The situation in the South-East is a problem that requires the collective efforts of the people in the zone.

That said, the political leadership of the South-East zone also shares a greater part of the blame. The tendencies of any average Igbo politician to pander to the dictates of the core North is one of the factors affecting the region. An example that really comes to mind in that direction is the threat by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State that whoever refused to open his or her shop in obedience to the sit-at-home order issued by IPOB for all Ndigbo to observe yesterday, would forfeit such shop.

The group (IPOB) remains the very conscience of the events that led to the killings of over two million civilians and almost a million soldiers in a war that has not brought any profit to the Federation. So, IPOB, in its wisdom, sets aside a day to commemorate the very history that led to the Nigeria-Biafra war. On May 30th of every month, being the day that the Yakubu Gowon military junta declared a full blown war on Biafra, IPOB beatifies the date as a commemorative day. It declares such as a day of no movement, no trading, no activity, in honour of those who perished in that avoidable war. Unfortunately, it is the same group that Umahi threatened with seizure of their sources of livelihoods. Though he later beat a hasty retreat, the mere fact that he could utter such a threat speaks volume of the unity of purpose in that zone. Beyond the threat, Umahi also ordered a shoot-at-sight.

He said it was stupid of any security man to hold a gun and allow hoodlums to kill him. I agree with him. But if I were Umahi, given the current situation of things, I would not ask that security men should shoot indiscriminately, the way he did. What IPOB and all other  self-determination groups need is not barrel and bullet. There is already a huge fire on the mountain. It is capable of turning to a conflagration that can consume all of us. Those calling for national dialogue, true federalism, justice, equity and fairness, are not in the “stupid” categorisation of Umahi. If some people think they want to preserve the country by attacking and ostracising a vital segment, the Ndigbo, they will be making a big mistake. The indices of the 1967-1970 are different now because, that time, it was the entire country versus the Ndigbo. But today, it is the entire country versus the Fulani. The Fulani should be wise enough that the new war is going to be their own to lose. In my place, nobody wants to fight the Ndigbo.


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