E O EkeMonday, July 16, 2012



started writing after years of keeping silent because the utterances of some our politicians show evidence of moral bankruptcy, lack of convictions and ignorance of what leadership is all about. I concluded that there is something morally wrong with the average Nigerian politician and leader, especially in terms of their motives for joining politics in the first place. There is absence of debate. No politician takes time to put his case across to the people and the reasons behind his actions. They simply expect Nigerians to believe that they are right because of their degrees, English alphabets before and after their names, religion and ethnic group. I felt it was important to provoke debate about our future, end institutionalised corruption in our country, learn to use evidence to make decisions instead of acting on beliefs, improve understanding and bring another perspective to the national discuss so that we can make the right decisions to enable our country join the community of developed nations. These are some of the reasons reason why I have chosen to express by views in articles instead of simply writing a book.

In the last few months I have written about Biafra as the activities of Boko Haram continues to poison the political climate of Nigeria. In the period, I have received mails that are widely divided on opinions, which gave me insight into the thinking of the people behind the mails and what they may likely do in certain situations. From these mails, I can safely conclude that Nigerians are polarised on their future and there is need for honest and open dialogue or debate on the issues confronting the country. In particular, a few of the groups agitating for Biafra, remain impervious to logic and show a frightening disdain for evidence, especially when it contradicts their position and the reason they give for their position.

Writing about Nigeria has given me insight into the thinking of other ethnic groups. I have noted that the every other ethnic group in Nigeria is fixated on a position informed to a great extent by the statements or position taken by their leaders many years ago. For instance, most Yorubas I discuss with who do not believe in Nigeria, anchor their position on the statement made by Obafemi Awolowo that ‘Nigeria is not a nation ‘. This has become a mantra to them which they regard as a dogma, just as religious people believe in their holy books. They do not look at the many variables which have changed since Obafemi Awolowo made his insightful statement. They have simply accepted that it is correct and are working to ensure that the statement is proved true. They show little interest in nation building, emphasise the cultural differences between the ethnic national and insisting that the future of Nigeria rests only in arrangement which grants further degrees of autonomy to the ethnic nations of Nigeria, instead of focusing on improving the quality of government in Nigeria. They are most vocal in the demand for a sovereign national conference. They literarily ignore what is happening in Nigeria at the federal level, as to them, they are evidence that Obafemi Awolowo was right about Nigeria and Nigeria would never work.

As for the north, they believe the sentiments and prejudices their past leaders expressed about Nigeria and Igbos and have continued to stereotype Igbos in that respect. They see themselves as the leaders of Nigeria, and believe that their religion is the preeminent thing. They believe more in their religion than in Nigeria and wish to make Nigeria in the image of Islam or render it ungovernable. They pay no attention to the Nigerian constitution and have adopted the sharia in a country with a secular constitution. Their contempt for Nigeria is the worst, yet they are the group that have benefited most from Nigeria in terms of controlling its natural resources and appropriating it to a few of their elites.

Of course, with the death of Ojukwu, some Igbos now regard anything he said about Nigeria as gospel truth and therefore anchor their position on them. However, this is not how great nations evolve. Great nations make decisions by evaluating all variables at all times and taking into consideration any changes to improve their insight and conclusions made in the past. Nigeria has a problem of the proportion of apartheid, and the demand for independent nation by any of the ethnic nations at this time, is like any of the ethnic nations of South Africa, asking for their independent nation before the end of apartheid. There is nothing Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello or Odumegwu Ojukwu said about Nigeria, which were correct at the time they were said, that cannot be improved on or reinterpreted; in view of the evolutionary changes that has taken place in Nigeria and within Nigerians: since they were made. Nigerians would have to understand truths in the context that made them true at the time they were said and recognise the changes that have taken place which demand the reinterpretation of what was once true. This is the element that is currently lacking in our politics and religion which is contributing in no small measure to our problem as a nation. We need to accept also that progress requires changes, and changes often demand altering what we once consider to be true. This is what Africans do not do very well. We are good at upholding our traditions, even when they are rooted in ignorance, and xenophobia. We need to address this issue so that we can evolve the ethnically and religiously neutral solutions which our problems demand.

Those who believe that the future of Igbos lies with Biafra have several dysfunctional assumptions that distort their thought process which make them to believe that Biafra is the answer. For instance, many of them talk about liberating Igbos from bondage in Nigeria. When asked if Igbos are slaves in Nigeria, they fail to answer. When asked how they would liberate citizen of a country from the country that accords then citizenship rights and privileges, they become angry and resort to name calling and emotional blackmail. They ascribe problems that have their roots in criminal leadership and corruption in Igbo land to belonging to Nigeria. Problems that are the result of religious and ethnic prejudices are assumed to come from the fact that Igbos are in Nigeria. It has been impossible to bring clarity to their thinking. When they disagree on issues, it becomes personal and you become an enemy because you bring a different perspective to a common problem. This is the state of debate in Igbo land.

Sadly I must conclude that the political, economic and social case for an independent Igbo land has not been made. What has been made very well and clearly is the emotional case. The fact that Igbos are not prepared to accept a country where a group of people will slaughter them at will without consequences , without a sense of outrage from the other ethnic groups and without honest and concerted effort by the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. This should not be the only case for Biafra. I suppose the people of Benue- Plateau region will say the same because of the activities of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram who have unleashed a reign of terror against them. At an emotional level, this is sufficient logical and tenable reason for a people to seek a country of their own. But the question is; does it suffice under the present dispensation?

The problem is that such a course of action would have very serious political, economic and social consequences for Igbos all over Nigeria which has not been thoroughly appraised. Igbos are very ubiquitous in Nigeria. They make up a significant population of Northern and Western Nigeria which can make them an important group during elections in Nigeria. In Igbo land, political development and awareness are very primitive. The political structure is simply basic. There are lack of organisation, no grass root support for the political parties and dislocation between the political leaders and the people which raises very serious issue of legitimacy. Politics remains an economic investment where a group of unscrupulous individuals highjack power through contraptions called political parties and use it to enrich themselves, unleash a reign of terror and intimidation on the people. The average Igbo is really not interested in politics as long as he can make money and go about his business. He has very vague idea about what political parties are for, their responsibilities and how to hold them to account. They are not very concerned that their votes do not decide who wins elections and exercises power over them, as long as they can do their business. They know that elections are rigged in Nigeria and that money and not the law rules. Moreover, the political setup enables the worst of Igbos to emerge as political leaders and this perpetuates a culture of mediocrity, criminality and impunity. No people can build any country on these constructs and succeed no matter their convictions.

To have a viable future, Igbos must sort its politics, realign its structure and dynamics to enable it produce its leaders form amongst its best. Only then will it have any choices of succeeding in whatever course of action it decides to take about its place and relationship with Nigeria as a country. No viable independent nation or region can emerge out of Igbo land as long as people like the Ubas, and the Orjis, continue to gain political power. Power must return to the hands of people like Akanu Ibiam, Ebitu Ukiwe, Kalu Idika Kalu, Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, Michael Okpara, Nnamdi Azikiwe etc. These are the type of people who understand that power is a privilege to do good and act in a manner that would be in the best interest of the majority of the people at all times . They understand the place of honesty, humility, integrity, pragmatism and stratagem in nation building, development and peaceful coexistence. They are the type of people that would rebuild the roads in Aba and establish the economy that would generate jobs, reduce acquisitive crimes and bring about the economic development the region needs.

I have searched for the economic case for an independent Igbo nation and have not seen any evidence that it exists, except in the minds of those who believe in it and the faith in oil. Not that I am against faith, rather in a matter as serious as whether or not a people wants to be part of an existing country; albeit where they feel marginalised: such a case should be a prerequisite before embarking on the journey. Moreover, the last time we believed grasses would fight for us, they did not. They simply absorbed the blood and bodies of three millions of us. In the Nigeria of today, more Igbos earn their living outside Igbo land than live in Igbo land. In the north, west and south Nigeria are significant number of Igbos who are settled and integrated into the cultures. Many of them will never go back to Igbo land because they have no need to. Biafra will upset this harmony further and turn these people into aliens in their own country. East Nigeria is one of the most densely populated part of the world and the population of Igbos is really about two third bigger than the political census of Nigeria states. The evidence would suggest that the population of Igbos is grossly underestimated for understandable reasons.

The way Igbos live, clustering together, would result in immense pressure on the land with outbreaks of intra and inter-tribal and community conflicts. There are currently not enough industries and job generating ventures in Igbo land to provide employment for the people. The economy is still a rogue economy which depends on government corruption. The agriculture sector is decayed from years of neglect and lack of investments. An Igbo nation cannot feed itself. It will still depend on Flulanis for meat, the north for tomatoes, onions, beans and maize. Things would be worse for an independent Igbo nation that exits from Nigeria in an acrimonious manner.

To have a viable independent nation, the current political leadership instead of stealing and embezzling should be investing in the infrastructures and institutions that can sustain an independent nation with the means at their disposal. It is these types of investments in east Nigeria that would convince the rest of Nigeria that we have what it takes to exist as an independent nation and force them to respect our sentiments in order to keep us in Nigeria. This is how high octane politics is played.

Igbos do not have enough educational institutions. I studied medicine in Ife. At the time I did, if you were from outside the Yoruba state, you will have to come in the first ten on the JAMB list to be admitted. The Igbo students in my class all came in the first ten. The other two came via A level. There is no great centre of academic research in Igbo land. The state governments are more interested in having teaching hospitals and institutions named after them instead of making sure that they become centre of learning and academic excellence. We do not seem to understand that it is ideas and knowledge that build nations and not money. Since the end of the civil war, except during the time Sam Mbakwe was governor of old Imo state, no concerted effort has been made by any Igbo state government to take higher institutions in East Nigeria to world standard. What you have is one corrupt government after another using education to play politics and seeking for popularity, Criminals gaining power to pursue the lowest of human instincts and armed robbers and kidnappers turning the region into hell. In a nut shell, the economic case for an independent Igbo nation is yet to be made and it should be made in a robust manner before bringing out the drums of Biafra again.

Socially, Igbo land is in a mess. The rate of murder is one of the highest in the world. There are now More Ngwa people living in American than living in Aba. Many cannot return because it would mean certain death and high rate of unemployment ensures a regular supply of youths to the criminal underworld. The result is the astronomical increase in the rate of armed robbery and kidnapping. Acquisitive crime is out of control in Igbo land and social norms are breaking down. There has been a sustain use of targeted assassination to settle disputes that civilised people would have settled by court case. Daily we hear stories of traditional rulers killed so that the murders can take his place. Igbo land is a dog eat dog environment which can correctly be described as a jungle. Hubris is on rampage in Igbo land and nemesis is not far away. Before any independent Igbo nation can be viable, the social fabrics of the nation must be sorted out otherwise, Biafra will from Frying pan to fire.

From the above and more, it is clear that the case for Biafra has not been made and those who believe in Biafra as the only way for the emancipation of Igbo land must return to the drawing table, while those of us who see a future for Igbos in a united fairer more democratic Nigeria where the values of tolerance, equality justice as fairness and rule of law reign supreme can continue to grabble with the Nigerian monster. To make progress, it would seem to me that the single most strategic step we need to take would be to organise our political setup in such a way and manner to enable the best of us to emerge as leaders and start laying the foundation for our viability as an independent nation when it becomes inevitable through the suicide of Nigeria.

To continue in the emotional rollercoaster of Biafra in this environment in which Igbos have a choice to fight and regain their lost place in Nigeria would to my mind be another monumental mistake of Okonkwo proportion. In things fall apart, Okonkwo’s nemesis was not knowing when to give up an old war and fight a new battle in a changed world. He preferred suicide to change. As Machiavelli said, ‘it takes a fox to find a trap and a lion to frighten a wolf’. I hope Igbos would learn and understand.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.