|Saturday, July 30, 2022|
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
Continued from Part 1
The Nigerian Nobel laureate in literature, Wole Soyinka, in one of his Television interviews, counseled the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State, with regard to the 'Igbo, Biafra Question', in the following words: "Nigeria does not want to confront its history. Nigeria is living in denial … as long as it refuses to confront the wrong it has done to the Igbos" (Wole Soyinka).
he American Jewish Congress (New York, on December 15, 1968), during Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), published a "Memorandum" on the Nigerian reality, which, is the best analysis so far on the subject. The "Memorandum", among other things, states as follows:
The American Jewish Congress (New York, on December 15, 1968), during Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), published a "Memorandum" on the Nigerian reality, which, is the best analysis so far on the subject. The "Memorandum", among other things, states as follows:
"More than fifty years ago, Great Britain artificially carved an area out of West Africa containing hundreds of different groups and arbitrarily unified it, calling it Nigeria. Although the area contained many different groups, three were predominant: the Hausa-Fulani, which formed 65% of the peoples in the northern part of the territory; the Yoruba, which formed about 75% of the population in the southwestern part; and the Igbo, which formed between 60-65% of the population in the southeast."
In the present article, we wish to emphasize once more, that political election or personnel changes, is not the solution to the problem with Nigeria, at least, for the time being. Election or personnel changes as things are today, is not the answer and will never be the answer to the endemic problem of disunity, political instability, lopsided government, insecurity of lives and property, ethnic-hate and religious bigotry, and Islamist Boko Haram, ISIS-ISWAP, and herdsmen terrorism in Nigeria. The problem with Nigeria is more fundamental and therefore, beyond the current issues of 2023 election or personnel changes.
Therefore, in what follows, I wish to employ, although, to certain extent, the analysis of the particularity of the Nigerian reality as contained in the above "Memorandum" of the American Jewish Congress, published in 1968, during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), to advance our argument on the subject of this article. (The "Memorandum", can be accessed, On-line).
The Case for Biafra is Stronger
As I wrote elsewhere in an earlier article, the American Jewish Congress's "Memorandum" on Nigeria-Biafra War, discusses the conflicting value systems of Nigeria's three-major ethnic-groups, Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba, and others. It contains useful information about the intrigues behind Nigeria's founding story, the pre-independence and post-independence conflicts, detailing in particular, the reasons behind the Nigeria-Biafra War - the underpinning historical reality, which gave rise to the present political conflict and instability of the country, and the insecurity of lives and property. The 'Memorandum" was directed by Phil Baum (Director of "Commission on International Affairs" of American Jewish Congress. It has 15 subsections divided into 5 main chapters.
However, our interest is where the Memorandum discussed the topic, titled: "Indigenous Differences among the Peoples of Nigeria." Here the memorandum began by saying that:
"Each of these Nigeria's major ethnic groups (Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba, and others), was so distinctive politically, religiously, culturally, and socially, as to constitute what Europe in most circumstances would be thought of as a separate nation. … The profound differences between them account, in a large sense, for the disintegration of the Nigerian Federation during the past several years."
Furthermore, the Memorandum takes time to explain the differences of traditional governance structures and value systems of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria: "The semi-feudal and Islamic Hausa-Fulani in the North were traditionally ruled by an autocratic, conservative Islamic hierarchy, consisting of some thirty-odd Emirs who, in turn, owed their allegiance to a supreme Sultan. This Sultan was regarded as the source of all political power and religious authority."
With regard to the Yoruba political system in the southwest, the authors of the Memorandum also said that, "like that of the Hausa-Fulani, also consisted of a series of monarchs. The Yoruba monarchs, however, were less autocratic than those in the North, and the political and social system of the Yoruba accordingly allowed for greater upward mobility based on acquired rather than inherited wealth and title."
However, for the authors of the Memorandum, "the Igbo in the southeast, in contrast to the two other groups, lived in some six hundred autonomous, democratically-organized villages. Decisions among the Igbo were made by a general assembly in which every man could participate."
The Memorandum adds that the different systems among these three peoples produced highly divergent sets of customs and values. The Hausa-Fulani commoners, having contact with the political system only through their village head who was designated by the Emir or one of his subordinates, did not view political leaders as amenable to influence. Political decisions were to be obeyed without question. "This highly centralized and authoritarian political system elevated to positions of leadership persons willing to be subservient and loyal to superiors - the same virtues required by Islam for eternal salvation. One of the chief functions of the traditional political system was to maintain the Islamic religion. Hostility to economic and social innovation was therefore deeply rooted."
In contrast to the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo often participated directly in the decisions, which affected their lives. They had a lively awareness of the political system and regarded it as an instrument for achieving their own personal goals. Status was acquired through the ability to arbitrate disputes that might arise in the village, and through acquiring rather than inheriting wealth. With their emphasis upon achievement, individual choice, and democratic decision-making, the challenges of modernization for the Igbos entailed responding to new opportunities in traditional ways.
For the Hausa-Fulani, however, modernization required and still does, a complete change in values and ways of life. The Yoruba were somewhere between the Hausa-Fulani and the Igbos regarding their need for achievement and emphasis upon individual choice. The "Memorandum" goes further to show how these tradition-derived differences were perpetrated and perhaps, even enhanced by the British system of colonial rule in Nigeria. In the North, the British found it convenient to rule indirectly through the Emirs, thus perpetuating rather than changing the indigenous authoritarian political system. As a concomitant of this system, Christian missionaries were excluded from the North, and the area thus remained virtually closed to Western education and influence.
In the South, and particularly in the Yoruba areas, the British were able to establish themselves more firmly and Christian missionaries rapidly introduced Western forms of education. Consequently, the Yoruba were the first group in Nigeria to become significantly, modernized and they provided the first African civil servants, doctors, lawyers, and other technicians and professionals.
Moreover, with an intense desire for economic improvement, thousands of Igbos migrated to other parts of Nigeria in search of work and for trade and commerce. Many went to the Northern areas where their entrepreneurial and technical skills were in particular demand among the traditional and generally uneducated population. There they took up positions as merchants, government civil servants, and clerks in private European companies.
In time, the "Igbos came to occupy in Nigeria a position somewhat analogous to that of the Indians in East Africa or the Jews in Eastern Europe. In the North and to a lesser extent in the West they came to be looked upon as alien outsiders occupying positions in the economy that "rightfully" belonged to tile indigenous inhabitants of the area. They were perceived as aggressive and pushy, and were envied and resented because of the rapidity with which they acquired education and wealth."
In fact, for the authors of the "Memorandum", the political division of Nigeria during the colonial period into three regions - North, West and East - exacerbated the already well-developed economic, political, and social competition among Nigeria's different ethnic groups. For the country was divided in such a way that the North had slightly more population than the other two regions combined. On this basis, the Northern Region was allocated a majority of the seats in the Federal Legislature established by the colonial authorities.
Within each of the three regions, the dominant ethnic groups - the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo respectively - formed political parties that were largely regional and tribal in character:
"During the 1940's and 1950's the Igbo and Yoruba political parties were in the forefront of the fight for independence from Britain. They also wanted an independent Nigeria to be organized into several small states so that the conservative and backward North could not dominate the country. Northern leaders, however, fearful that independence would mean political and economic domination by the more Westernized elites in the South, preferred the perpetuation of British rule. As a condition for accepting independence, they demanded that the country continue to be divided into three regions with the North having a clear majority. Igbo and Yoruba leaders, anxious to obtain an independent country at all cost, accepted the Northern demands."
Nigeria finally achieved independence in October 1960 and appeared, for a while to have a bright political and economic future. When no one party received a majority in the pre-independence elections, a Northern-Eastern coalition was formed which afforded the country political stability. This stability, however, was short-lived.
The Memorandum gave the following as reasons for the short-lived First-Republic: "Within a few years, explosive forces always present covertly, began to surface. Since 1962, Nigeria has been rocked by widespread violence, internal disorder, and now by a savage civil war. This violence reflects, in essence, Northern attempts to maintain control of the country in the face of increasingly intense opposition from the South and particularly the Igbo peoples."
The Memorandum goes further to say, "Within a period of three years - from 1962-1965 - the Northern-dominated Federal Government instigated a split in the Yoruba party which rendered the Action Group virtually ineffective; invalidated a nation-wide census which reportedly showed the two Southern regions to have outstripped the North; and blatantly rigged two elections in order to perpetuate their control of the Western Region which they gained after rendering the Action Group ineffective."
Continuing, the Memorandum says, "The split of the Yoruba-based party was instigated by the North because its leaders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, favored unremitting struggle against the Northern-dominated Government under the banner of 'African "Socialism." He also made strenuous efforts to attract to his party minorities and other disaffected groups in the Northern and Eastern Regions, thus violating the tacit agreement to respect existing spheres of influence Thereafter, the Federal government moved more decisively to consolidate its strength. Claiming to have uncovered a plan for a military coup, the Northern-dominated Federal government arrested Awolowo and sentenced him to ten years in prison."
At any rate, having arbitrarily invalidated the 1962 census, the Northern-dominated Federal government conducted a new census the result of which were predictably favorable to Northern interest. They were announced in early 1964: North, 29.7 million; East 12.3 million; West 10.2 million; Mid-West, 2.5 million (this region was newly created in 1963); and the Federal Territory of Lagos, 675.000.
"The new census in turn was challenged by the Igbos as rigged and inaccurate and shattered the Eastern-Northern coalition which until then had managed to maintain some semblance of political stability in the country." This bitter controversy stimulated a rearrangement of political forces in Nigeria. By 1964, only four years after independence, the country was largely split along North-South, conservative-progressive lines.
The national elections of December 1964, in which these coalitions were to meet for the first time, was, perhaps, the immediate cause of Nigeria's disintegration. Basically, it was alleged that the party representing Southern elements was not allowed to compete in the North and the Northern-controlled Western region. According to one report, '4,000 of its members were arrested including 40 nominees for the Federal Parliaments. The party thereupon demanded a postponement of the elections and a thorough investigation. Prime Minister Balewa, a Northern Muslim, refused. The party then responded with a boycott of the elections and an announcement that it would not recognize any government based upon its results. Consequently, only 20% of the electorate participated in the 1964 vote as opposed to 80% in 1959.'
In effect, a large segment of the people had withdrawn legitimacy from the government. Nigerian unity appeared to have been shattered. Only intensive negotiations between Federal and regional leaders leading to agreement on a "broadly-based" government averted a crisis - however temporarily. The underlying problem of sectionalism, corruption and illegal practices remained.
The following year elections were again rigged, this time in the Western Region. Thousands of illegal ballots were found in the possession of government officials. "Impartial observers widely agreed that the election returns were falsified to give the Northern-controlled party an overwhelming victory, but one completely lacking in credibility." This time widespread violence followed. Prime Minister Balewa, instead of responding to appeals for a new election to be supervised by the army rather than Western Government-appointed officials, ordered the army to restore law and order."
All this implies, according to the authors of the "Memorandum", that the idea of a democratic and united Nigeria had proven to be a myth. "Vast numbers of people were disenchanted with results of independence and the widespread corruption among politicians. Elements among the South, the students, the southern intelligentsia, and the army officer corps were particularly disaffected."
The Enduring Problem
The American Jewish Congress's "Memorandum" on Nigerian reality, confirms all we have been saying all this while. That is, 62 years after the flag independence, and 108 years after the 1914 Amalgamation of Southern and Northern Protectorates of Nigeria by the British, the same problem permeates the political landscape and consciousness of the peoples of Nigeria.
The tribal divisions that remain in Nigeria are so deep that the unity and stability of the country will continue to be elusive! The problem with Nigeria is the country's dangerous diversity, Fulani herdsmen terrorism and lust for power, for domination of other ethnic nationalities in the country. Only a Referendum for Self-determination, can put a stop to all these!
Therefore, it is absurd to continue to think that by every four years' recycling of the same members of the failed, corrupt political and ruling class, under the same faulty foundation, flawed political system and fraudulent constitution, that Nigeria is going to become the Eldorado of our dreams. Only fools will be doing the same thing over, and over again, and would be expecting a different result. The gullible are deceived. Nigeria's unity is a British invention. It is artificial and unrealistic. These facts were also, voiced out by Nigeria's leading political figures, before and immediately after the flag independence of 1960 from Britain.
As we noted in Part 1 of our article, in 1948, in a speech titled, "The Lie Called Nigeria", Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (from Arewa Northern Nigeria ruling Oligarchy, who later became Nigeria's first Prime Minister at Independence in 1960), had this to say about the country's artificial unity:
"Since 1914 the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historical different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite. - Nigerian unity is only a British invention." - (A Statement by Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa in "Legislative Council Debates" (Lagos 1948).
Chief Obafemi Awolowo (founding father of modern Yoruba politics in Western Nigeria), in 1947, also made the following declaration about Nigeria:
Finally, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria's foremost Nationalist and Father of Political Independence, from Eastern Nigeria, and first Ceremonial President of Nigeria at Independence in 1960), had this to say about Nigeria, four years after its political independence:
The above statement accredited to Sir Ahmadu Bello, unfortunately, has been the mindset of the Northern Nigerian ruling-Oligarchy, from time immemorial. It has led to that section of the country reinventing their stranglehold on Nigeria, arrogating to themselves (thanks to the British-backing), the right to rule and govern Nigeria in perpetuity. If they do not achieve it through ballot papers, they would come in through the military coups, or by sponsoring fundamentalist Islamists' groups and herdsmen terrorism in the country. This is the crux of the matter!
We do not want a repeat of the experience of what happened to M.K.O. Abiola in 1993, after the infamous June 12 Election Annulment. In particular, we do not want a repeat of what happened to Aguiyi-Ironsi in 1966! That is, when Aguiyi-Ironsi, was lured in the same way they lured Abiola in 1993 (or are currently, fronting a candidate from the Southeast for the 2023 election), into accepting becoming Nigeria's Head of State (or President) after the January 15, 1966 military muting.
We do not want a repeat of the massacre of over 400, best trained senior Igbo military officers serving in different parts of the country at the time by the Northern and Western Nigerian-British backed military forces. Neither do we want a repeat of another Igbo pogroms, the massacre of over 70,000 Igbos resident in the North, brutally killed by the Northern military officers and ordinary people alike in Northern Nigeria, in May, July and October 1966. Those tragic incidents, culminated in the three years Genocidal Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), in which over 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos were killed by the same British-backed Nigerian Government Federal troops and State policy of starvation and blockade against Biafra. We do not want a repeat of these tragic past, to happen again.
The only thing that can avert the looming danger is not election, nor PVC, or personnel changes. Rather, Referendum for self-determination of the endangered lives of the different indigenous peoples, ethnic-nationalities logged together under colonial fiat by the British in 1914, which they named Nigeria! Referendum for Self-determination is what every right-thinking person in that geographical space called Nigeria should be clamoring for by now! No political election or personnel changes, conducted in Nigeria today that is not referendum for Self-determination is going to stop the Islamists, Boko Haram, ISIS-ISWAP insurgency and Fulani herdsmen terrorism and carnage; or the insecurity and political instability ravaging the country today.
Moreover, no political election or personnel changes in Nigeria today is going to stop the continued butchering and suppression of Igbo people and nation in the country through the usual Nigerian State-sponsored anti-Igbo policies. A stitch in time saves nine!