THE SENSE AND NONSENSE OF AREWA YOUTHS' 'KADUNA DECLARATION'
While we do not see this clamour for Biafra as an issue over which a single drop of blood should be shed, we at the same time insist that the Igbo be allowed to have their Biafra and for them to vacate our land peacefully so that our dear country Nigeria could finally enjoy peace and stability (Coalition of Northern Youths)
The arrogance of the Northern youths is insufferable. It speaks to virtually everything that other Nigerians are uncomfortable with about the Fulani North, a born-to-rule, hegemonic tendency. It is an assault on the Nigerian Constitution, to the extent that the Constitution does not grant any individual or group the right or the power to determine where any Nigerian may live or work or die or acquire property. All Nigerians are equal before the law (Reuben Abati)
he Igbo peoples' adherence to the May 30, 2017, sit at home call by IPOB to honour the fallen heroes and heroines of the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War opened a canker worm of bitter reality to the present Nigerian Government and those who saw the Nnamdi Kanu/IPOB led agitation for Biafra Independence from Nigeria as a noise making venture that is bound to die a natural death. The intensity and widespread of the adherence to this call sent waves of jittery to the Doubting 'Thomases of our land and beyond that a black mamba has entered the bedroom of a sleeping drunk.
Many people plying the corridors of power in Nigeria and beyond prayed fervently for a flop of the exercise that would have signaled a diminishing status of IPOB in the Nigerian political arena. Their take was that with a 'disgraced' and 'unpopular' IPOB at the helm of affairs of the Biafra agitation for secession from Nigeria, the campaign would sooner or later become a forgone alternative. But they were wrong.
The sit at home honour bestowed on our fallen heroes and heroines of the civil war awoke in Ndigbo the consciousness of the unfinished project of Biafra Restoration. Many thought that the death of Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu drew the curtain on the Biafra project for self determination. Again they were wrong. Though this writer wasn't yet born during that bloody civil war, I, like many people of my generation have come to appreciate the enormous sacrifices made by our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts etc under the leadership of Ojukwu daring the Biafra declaration of independence, for there comes a time in a man's life when his choice of death over life becomes the only guarantee for his continuous existence as a human person. At that point, a real man would prefer to die fighting rather than live in peace under the condition of perpetual massacre and dehumanization. And I think that was the point that led to the declaration of the Independent State of Biafra from Nigeria. A Mortar Bomb Scar on the left shoulder of one of my uncles, Mr. Lazarus Amadi, is a constant reminder to me that the journey to freedom and salvation is really a dangerous and narrow one.
Not long ago, there was an issuance of quit notice by the Northern Youth Coalition in what they called the 'Kaduna Declaration' to the Igbos residing in the northern part of Nigeria to leave the north and relocate to their Biafra homeland. This quit notice according to them will expire come October 1, which coincidentally is the remembrance day of Nigeria's Independence from Britain. Only God knows what will happen from now till then or even after the deadline.
This quit notice has provoked numerous reactions from Ndigbo and beyond in defense of the self determination agitation for Biafra. One of my mentors, the erudite Temple C. Ubochi, writing about this quit notice, called it "a prayer answered". In one of his articles captioned "The Ultimatum That Igbos Should Leave The North Is A Prayer Answered", he observed thus, "The Ultimatum from the Northern Youths to the Igbos living in the northern part of Nigeria, will bring about the completion of the demise of Nigeria, already initiated by Buhari".
Yinka Odumakin, Spokesperson for the pan-Yoruba political organization, Afenifere, said that the Yorubas would not be fooled into joining ranks with the northerners in fighting against the self determination of Ndigbo. To this he asserted thus, "I can boldly speak for the Yoruba nation, that if the north thinks they can declare another war against the Igbos, it would not work. If they see any Yoruba man joining them, then that person must be a mercenary".
A Statement credited to eighteen pan- Yoruba groups, under the umbrella of Oodua Nationalist Coalition (ONAC), reads thus, "It is assured: 'Yoruba people this time will not support any attack on self determination. We shall mobilise the masses and prevent Yoruba people from being used for any attack on the long suffering indigenous peoples of the South East and South South",
A Communiqué issued by the Eastern Mandate Union (EMU) reads as follows "Our resolve and determination for the Independent State of Biafra is unshakeable. Biafra is not a brainwave. It is our vehicle of redemption and freedom from the Nigerian Union that has brought us only misery and grief'.
Delivering further, EMU said that "Biafra represents the movement of people out of oppression into the Promised Land of self actualization. It is a constant reminder to the Nigerian State of its structural defects, which we have on numerous occasions called for its correction to no avail. We support the Biafra agitation".
The main purpose of the write up therefore is to point out the 'goods' and 'bads' of this so called Kaduna Declaration by the Coalition of Northern Youths to Ndigbo living in the northern part of Nigeria. One will be wondering if there is any good derivable from this detestable and inglorious act by these youths of northern enclave. My answer is a resounding yes.
Firstly, I want to submit categorically that it is politically wrong for the Arewa Youths to issue quit notice to anyone or group living in the north. Yes, there is an agitation for independence for the State of Biafra led by IPOB. That doesn't warrant a leave my area order as credited to Arewa Youths. This for me is an immature act and an unnecessary transfer of aggression to Ndigbo resident in the north. This aggression should have best been directed to the 'Cabal' that has refused to accept the glaring truth that the present Nigeria structure is no longer working rather than to the marginalized Ndigbo looking for freedom and redemption.
I will rather be a 'slave' in Biafra with dignity than a 'king' in this present Nigeria of my second class citizenship. Who among the six geo-political regions in Nigeria has lesser number of States and still remain Nigerian? Will any region of the north accept this injustice without a fuss? We were all witnesses to the adrenaline rush and temperamental swing of northern power brokers because of their temporarily loss of power during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Note should be taken that even after the Independence of Biafra from Nigeria, it will still be wrong for the Northern Youths to issue such an order unless as a form of xenophobia which in itself is unfortunate. Even after the Biafra Independence, some Igbo people who may have lost their ancestral roots might decide to retain their Nigerian citizenship.
Some Igbo people like my Home State Governor, 'Alhaji' Rochas Okorocha, and, Joe Igbokwe, who are unrepentantly pro north, might choose to continue with Nigeria and relocate to Katsina. Worthy of note is that not all South Sudanese moved to South Sudan after her independence from Sudan. So issuing a quit notice before and after the Biafran Independence is politically wrong and should be condemned by all people of goodwill.
I have a strong feeling that this quit notice is a well orchestrated plan from wider consultation and involvement in the north with the youths acting only as a front. This my line of thought is made more credible by the statement credited to the President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Mr. Shettima Yerima, who said that, "The Coalition of Northern Groups, after due consultation, came up with a position as regards the disposition of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra. Our position is very clear: we have the intention of helping the Igbo to get the International attention they want so that they can leave Nigeria in peace".
Reuben Abati, in questioning the inaction of Nigerian Security Agencies in bringing to book the peddlers of this 'unconstitutional' quit notice to the Igbos living in the North, alludes to a possible situation of wider collaboration, when he observed in his article "Igbo Haters, The Arewa Ultimatum, And Our Nation Nigeria", thus: "And there would be persons who will legitimately ask: are we confronted with a hand of Jacob and voice of Esau situation? Who is sponsoring the Arewa youths? Who granted them permission to use the platform of Arewa House to spew anti-Igbo hate speech? Who is blocking their arrest by the security agencies?
The worrying question then is why it must be the youths who are at the forefront of this quit notice, only to be seconded by an elder in the person of Ango Abdulahi (Prof). My take is that the main masterminds behind this quit notice are calculating that if there happens to be a bloody onslaught on the Igbos living in the north after the October 1, deadline, they will hide under the cloak of 'it was the handiwork of miscreants youths who don't know the sacrifices we made to keep Nigeria one". These elders will seek to be exonerated from any blame when in actuality are the main brain behind the scheme. But the truth is that we are wiser now, and the 1966 pogrom will NEVER be allowed to repeat without corresponding consequences.
Just as the late Richard Ihemetu, a.k.a. Dick Tiger, was patriotic and man enough to relinquish his boxing title and join the civil war on the side of Biafra, so am I prepared to leave my bases in Johannesburg and Maputo and fight alongside my people, if the need arises. If the literary giant, Christopher Okigbo, could pay the ultimate price, in defense of Biafra, then let it be known, to whoever cares, that I am ready to follow the Chris Okigbo route, with honour and pride, with no regrets, in the quest for the liberation of my people.
My resolution is strengthened by what the late Nelson Mandela said at the Rivonia Trial (1963): "During my life time I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination; I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
When Temple Ubochi opined "that the so called Quit Notice hinges on jealousy and envy", I didn't quite take home his reason for the above assertion until I read the Open Letter of Arewa youths to the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. In it they observed thus, "...the Igbo have gone to extra ordinary lengths to ensure that in their domain in the South East, Northerners and Westerners are as much as possible disenfranchised from owing any businesses whereas in Kano alone, they own not less than 100,000 shops across all the business districts."
It must be noted that the Igbos don't prevent or disenfranchise people from doing business in their area. This Arewa youths' allegation is a lie from the pit of hell. The truth is that the business environment in Nigeria, especially in the South is highly charged and super competitive. And I dare to say that many northerners lack the tact and skill required to compete in that arena. This raw business environment is not same as carrying briefcase in search of government contracts. Those Igbo business men and women the Arewa youths are angry about are people who sacrificed many hours of pleasure to be where they are today. Femi Aribisala was honest enough to admit in his article, "Nigeria Cannot Survive Without The Igbo", that "Even the bitterest adversaries of the Igbo cannot but admit that, as a people, they are very resourceful and ingenious".
These Arewa youths should be ashamed of themselves for complaining about a "defeated" people in a war, who were handed only 20 Pounds for livelihood, but have gone to the extent of dominating the business environment in Kano and many other Northern States, while the "landlords" cry in immature form. In a more civilized society, this Igbo feat would have been celebrated and copied for national replication and implementation, instead of being met with gross antagonism and utter despise. And in my opinion, this is the height of the nonsense of this quit notice.
There is another evil machination I deduced from this Arewa youths' Open Letter to the Acting President. In that Open Letter, there was an intentional import on the part of these Northern Youths to establish a ground of dichotomy between Ndigbo and people of Western Nigeria. I think that this letter tried very hard to make an appeal to the old political strategy of "divide et impera" (divide and conquer). But I must remind the Arewa youths that the Biafra agitation for Independence is not premised against a Yoruba Marginalisation of Ndigbo but against a power-drunk northern enclave, who with the help of Britain believe that they are born to rule.
As a matter of fact, most of the "defenders" of Igbo Cause have been Yoruba people. How can I forget reading from books on the Nigeria\Biafra War that Prof. Wole Soyinka, (a Yoruba Man), was incarcerated for 22 months for being perceived as a Biafran Spy during the war. Was it not a Yoruba army officer, Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (late), who chose to die rather than hand over Aguiyi Ironsi, (an Igbo man and former Military Head of State), to northern army coup plotters? Even Obasanjo, in all his political misgivings, couldn't be said to have been an anti-Igbo President. Can same be said of President Muhammadu Buhari? I think it is high time the northerners faced Ndigbo "cara a cara" (face to face), rather than seeking support from other regions.
One of the positive takes from the Arewa youths' quit notice to Igbos living in the north is the acceptance by the Northern people of the need for a referendum to determine the basis for our continuous existence as One Nigeria. For long, we have hidden under the cloak of One Nigeria, which for me is a kind of make-believe. The truth is that this current Nigeria's structure is a cosmetic entanglement that needs urgent political surgery. In my article, "My Crucial Message To Yahaya Balogun And His Like", as published by Nigeriaworld, I wrote this about referendum in Nigeria, "...but who is that Nigerian President who will be man enough in the manner of the former British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, to invoke this esteemed democratic mechanism in Nigeria?". The answer is none, at least for the time being".
The fear of conducting a referendum in Nigeria stems from the hard reality of a predictable outcome of which the powers that be are not yet ready for. If the sit-at-home call was that massive and successful, it is my best guess that a referendum on the future of Biafra in Nigeria will produce more than 90% vote in favour of a break up. This is the truth that the authorities know and are not yet ready to embrace. The fact is that Ndigbo in general are dissatisfied with the current status quo that places them on the second class tier and are calling for the deconstruction of this myth called One Nigeria. Fr. Pat. Amobi Chukwuma in his piece "The Democratic Report" rightly remarked that "you cannot beat a baby and tell him not to cry. Injustice is the cause of disorder in the society".
Another positive effect of this quit notice is a reminder for Ndigbo to look towards home for investment and development. The truth is that the Igbo man's investment is more secured in the US, London, Canada etc rather than in Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara etc. This may sound very unpatriotic and like a tale of a madman, but this is the bitter truth many people don't want to admit. Investing in an environment where anarchy is consistently prevalent is a dangerous game in self deceit unless one profits from that anarchic environment.
From the time I was an infant till date, it has always been one problem or another between the Igbos living in the North and their host. If it was not the Gideon Akaluka saga, it is the Sharia Law frenzy or some senseless issue that give rise to killings and reprisal killings. I can't recall any year that passed without one Igbo/Moslem brouhaha. In all honesty, this marriage is no longer working. I may not be a Marriage Counselor, but I do know that the "till-death-do-us-part" clause in the marriage rite will hardly be welcoming and binding on the contracting partners if there is an established case of serial adultery or attempted murder on the part of the any of the partners on the other. Our union as a one country is grossly flawed and ineffective and needs a re-examination.
This quit notice catapults me back to the real reason why my late grandfather, years back, warned all his children never to make the core northern region of Nigeria their permanent base of residence. He told them thus, "if you cannot make it in Lagos, then go abroad". And till date, that grandpa injunction is strictly adhered to. Even when my younger brother, Ugochukwu, was on a six months special assignment to Yobe and Adamawa, the family went into over drive in fasting and prayer for his safe return. It took my intervention and persuasion for my parents and uncles to agree for him to go there. One family member offered to pay him a one year salary at once for him not to go for that special assignment in the north, but life is not all about money. Experience also matters. This family member threatened me that if anything happens to Ugo on this special assignment in the north, he would never forgive me for supporting him to go to the north. In my usual character, I told him that he would go and come back unharmed. To the Glory of God, he went and came back unharmed.
I am sure that my family is not alone in this phobia of taking up permanent residence in the northern part of Nigeria. And you will tell me that this is One Nigeria. One may choose to philosophize from Abuja up to the Temple of Athena about One Nigeria, the truth is that the things that divide us far outweigh our elements of unity. And the practical exemplification can be seen in this IPOB agitation for Biafra's Independence and the Arewa Youths' Kaduna Declaration. What my grandfather saw sitting in his "Obi" in Enyiogugu, Aboh Mbaise, I may not see from my numerous visits to the topmost deck of the Carlton Center in Johannesburg, or my overnight romance with philosophical and political textbooks.