FEATURE ARTICLE

Nwike OjukwuThursday, September 7, 2017
[email protected]


IGBOPHOBIA, BIAFRAPHOBIA, AND KANUPHOBIA:
THE CHALLENGES OF RE-CONFIGURING COLONIAL MISALIGNMENT

here comes a time when the government of a county draws a line in the sand and anyone who crosses the line will be subjected to the full weight of the law. Anyone who questions the structure of the country, or is otherwise critical of the country's Commander-in -Chief (CIC) threatens the unity of the country and has crossed the line. Nigeria is an exquisite piece of British architecture. I do not think that a government worth anything will stand idly by and watch a masterpiece like Nigeria, which took the Colonial Government great investment in hours and labor to create go up in flames without a fight. When therefore, PMB insisted that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable, he convinced me. In fact, I will be the first to label anyone who disagrees with the president on the point as an enemy of the state and such a person deserves death by hanging.

This is not the time to engage in needless polemics. Nigeria must play fast to catch up with China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries that are performing economic miracles and scientific breakthroughs. However, to join the "major league" of progressive economies, the government must neutralize the troublemakers, including, but not limited to, any ethnic component that would constitute a distraction to the country's determined goals.

Nigeria has had a fair share of instability. No person or group should derail the government's determination to extirpate corruption from the country's lexicon. And anyone who engages in corrupt activities must be summarily dealt with. Consistent with the government's objective and as a law abiding citizen, I volunteer my time and resources to assist in locating and impounding all assets belonging to Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the former oil minister, wherever they might be found. But, under no circumstances should anyone tamper with the oil wells belonging to Rilwanu Lukman's family, the favored oil minister, who served Nigeria with all his strength. I should as well add that anyone who served in the administration of Goodluck Jonathan (GEJ), including all the members of the PDP should be rounded up and locked up in Kuje or Kirikiri prison. In the alternative, the government should send them to the frontlines to fight Boko Haram with their bare hands.

GEJ was a wicked president who introduced corruption in Nigeria. Prior to his administration, the country never had a corrupt government. The administrations of the first Buhari, IBB, Abdulsalami, and OBJ were saintly. None of them was corrupt.

The challenge the government might face is convincing Nigerians that there is a difference between the PDP and the APC apart from the name change. For instance, the same discredited Nigerians currently serving the APC-led government in various capacities were once members of the PDP; they only switched allegiance. Their corrupt inclinations follow them every inch of the way. If I understand Nigeria's politics well, the same individuals are likely going to cross over to another party should APC lose in the coming elections. I have said it before; corruption is a symptom of a structural defect. Any government that gives the impression of fighting corruption, but is unwilling to rejig the institutions that engender corruption is a deceptive government.

Before embarking on the "robust drive" that would cure the country of all developmental hiccups, the troublemakers must be identified and eliminated. The government could use several options to deal with them. First, it could subject the troublemakers to the "Kurds' Treatment." The "Kurds' Treatment" is the systematic process of annihilation the government of Sadam Hussien unleashed on the Kurds in 1988 through military campaigns. It is estimated that he wasted over 50,000 Kurdish rabble-rousers. If the government should inflict such treatment to any recalcitrant group in Nigeria, the issue of ethnocentrism and separatist agitation will never resurrect in Nigeria again. That way the country will secure a lasting "peace" and the process of developing the vital infrastructures and improving the quality of life of the teeming population will run smoothly like the expressway from Abuja to Kaduna.

The greatest threat to the country's development is not Boko Haram that has slaughtered thousands of people, abducted women, and converted them to sex slaves in the northeast and the neighboring countries. The greatest threat to the country's development is not the marauding hordes of Fulani herdsmen who are "licensed" to carry AK 47 and traverse unrestrained through the length and breadth of the country wasting innocent lives, raping young and old women, and destroying peoples' means of livelihood. The greatest threat to the economic development, social cohesion, and complete islamization of the country is the Igbo people of the Southeast. They are the troublemakers. I will suggest placing a tight lid on the Igbo race, sterilizing their men through mandatory vasectomy, and sending their young people to work in the farmlands of Nasarawa and Zamfara states, among other regimentations. Their story would have a glorious ending.

The Igbo are engaged in every conceivable crime the world has ever known. They rubbish the image of country. They are scammers, kidnappers, drug dealers, occultists - just name it. They stoke trouble wherever they are - from Europe to America, from Accra to South Africa. As if their trouble is not enough, this boy, Kanu, has mobilized Igbo youths and is creating security challenges to our police force over Biafra, a country that never was. He was not even born when the Nigerian Armed Forces routed Biafra in 1970. Only insanity would make anyone bring up the Biafra question after nearly fifty years since the armed forces dismantled that ragtag agitation.

The "Kurds' Treatment" is an ingenious idea because the world would most likely look the other way if Africans killed one another. After all, Africans are "savages" and slitting people's throat is in their DNA. When the Hutu cleansed Rwanda of the excesses of the Tutsi, the sky did not come crashing down.

The second option is to continue the status quo, which guarantees isolation of the Igbo nation. I suggest that the second bridge across the River Niger remains a matter of debate until "thine kingdom come." Since the Igbo are into commerce, the roads leading to their areas must remain deplorable. Nigerians must shut their minds to any thought of building a seaport in Onitsha. However, the government must hasten the completion of the Kaduna Inland Dry Port. Whoever suggested the idea deserves a National Merit Award (NMA) because the port will pull the Igbo, like flies, to Kaduna and if you knew the Igbo, they would develop Kaduna state and environ with lightning speed.

In addition, while the government does not back down in insisting that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, it should never be drawn into, let alone engage in the restructuring debate. If the Igbo continue to be disruptive over lack of federal presence in their area, the solution is simple. The government could enlist from among them people in the form and likeness of Mr. Joe Igbokwe; fortify their bank accounts with oil money from the Niger Delta; provide them access to the print and electronic media, and they will insult anyone that raises a finger against the government because they lack integrity and have nothing to lose. Another way is to throw some appointments their way and their elites would grab them like ravenous hyenas.

My only concern with the isolation option is that it could aggravate the already charged political environment. And with the way things are unfolding, even if the government decides to pick up Nnamdi Kanu on some trumped-up charges and use a judge who is sympathetic to the government's position to lock him up, the agitation might be fueled beyond control and the world would turn attention to Nigeria. I would hate that level of publicity. Besides, other ethnic groups could seize the occasion to press for their own sphere of control and that could signal the end of Nigeria, as you and I know it. My guts tell me that the Igbo are together on the Biafra project. I am convinced that some of them who condemn the "divisive rhetoric" of Nnamdi Kanu are mere pretenders. In the inner recesses of their being, they pray and fast for the actualization of the United States of Biafra (USB).

In any event, the country is doing just fine. At least, Governor Rochas Okorocha is doing a great job in the heart of the Igbo nation. He is dealing with his people in a way the federal government could not have contemplated. He can be a veritable ally any day. My guess is that he and his cohorts could be sacrificed on the altar of freedom as the agitation nears inevitable climax. But, I do not really care what happens to him afterwards. We can use him and dump him later. After all, this is a fight to save the soul of the Republic and nothing is off limits.

Another concern that scares the hell out of me is a possible "gang-up" of the former Southern Nigeria against the former Northern Nigeria, minus the Middle Belt. While I do not see that happening soon, everything points to that direction. Currently, the Igbo and Yoruba resent each other bitterly; they will never co-exist. My suggestion is to continue to amplify their imagined and constructed differences. For the South - South, the government should remind them that the Igbo have been after their oil since Nigeria came into being, or more appropriately, tell them that the Igbo have a grand design to dominate the enter region. And if the government runs out of ideas, it could recruit OBJ to hobnob with the people of the South - South and try reinforcing what I just suggested - that the Biafra - Nigeria Civil War was an attempt to control their resources and that the Igbo would stop at nothing to achieve the objective. OBJ would be a useful instrument in this area. Are we good?

The third option, which I do not concede to, is that the government must listen to every constituent part of the country, including the Igbo. Unfortunately, that would mean giving restructuring the country a serious thought. But, that depends on whether the government desires to build a new Nigeria that is inclusive. Restructuring the country has implications. It means acknowledging that the country is not working. It means negotiating with the other side even if I cannot stand their faces or the food they eat. But, does that really matter? Seriously? If indeed Nigerians desire to build a nation that meets the needs of all the constituent parts, the government must step down from the high horse and level down to rub shoulders with every side of the divide.

Nigeria is deeply divided; everyone knows that. The country needs healing and it starts with treating everyone as an equal partner in the process of designing a system that works for all. It starts with recognizing that having differences and preferences enriches a polity. It starts with knowing that it is possible to build a nation from heterogeneous societies and peoples. Nations are built by people who recognize the good in the "other" and encourages the "other" to be the best he or she could be. One can only be a good Nigerian if one were a good Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, Hausa, Ijaw, Igede, or a member of other subgroups in the country.

History is my witness that welding a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic country like Nigeria by force is a sure prescription for ultimate collapse. Every great battle the world has ever fought was concluded at a roundtable. This means that if the roundtable option were adopted earlier on rather than the barrel of gun option, humanity would have resolved much of the conflicts that punctuated the history books. And the sufferings and dislocations of populations and peoples would have been averted. As William O. Douglass, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, observed years ago, "the tense and perilous times in which we live demand an invigorating dialogue." If Nigeria must survive as an enduring "indivisible entity," it must repair to the roundtable option. Every constituent subgroup, all shades of opinion must be invited to the negotiation roundtable. That, in my view, is what the restructuring debate is all about. The current government's Hobson's choice on the restructuring agitation is misconceived. The agitators do not love the country any less or more than those who oppose it.

In addition, history will reward Mr. Buhari if he demonstrates purposeful leadership by making a strong case for a restructured Nigeria and ensuring that it is achieved in his lifetime. He has a chance to immortalize his name in the hearts of Nigerians as the Father of a New Nigeria. If he does not seize the occasion, someone else will because restructuring the country is unavoidable. Nigeria can never go wrong with roundtable negotiation.

Nation building occurs when once heterogeneous societies acknowledge and respect one another's idiosyncrasies and differences. As time progresses, those differences converge into a common history, a common interest, and a common worldview. Nation building is about continually being open to hear the other side's grievances about how the country is ran and making efforts to accommodate and respond to the other side's rights to lead the kind of life he or she values. The present confrontational stance against anyone that supports restructuring the country will last, but for a moment. The final lines of the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is about to be written. We have a choice to convert it to a new chapter. I said elsewhere that President Buhari might be the last president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I hope I am wrong.

IMAGES IN THE NEWS