By Joe Igbokwe
Few days ago a friend, Patriot and a committed Nigerian,Emmanuel Majebi reminded me of the tragedy of looking the way and keeping quiet by men who should know better in times of crisis. He reminded me of the calamity that will befall a society or nation when real men choose to be neutral in times of great moral crisis. He reminded me that evil triumph in every society when good and thinking men do nothing. Hear Emmanuel: “The story is usually told of how Years after the devastation of Germany in WW2 … There was a meeting of German Egg Heads … And the question was how did it come to past that a nation that produced Great Thinkers like Friederich Niettzshe.. Karl Max …Albert Einstein….Bruno Bauer. Friederich Engels… Etc ..etc…get seized and goaded into ultimate destruction by a loony like Hitler… Who was not even originally German but Austrian!!!! The thinkers came up with the conclusion that complacency and indifference until it became too late … Was the main cause!!!!”
A.J.P Taylor captured it succinctly when the German war machines crumbled in 1945 when he said: “The real problem of German history is why so few of the educated recognized Hitler as the embodiment of evil” The blame was put squarely on the inability of the German political class and the elite to rise up to the challenges of Hitler and his collaborators. The consequences of their inability to call a spade a spade resulted in the death of 20 million people and the massive destruction of property worth several billions of dollars. The rest is now history!
Before 2015 and after the 2015 general elections I had a running battle with the some Igbo writers and opinion builders both at home and abroad on the choice of words they throw to the public space. I reminded them those of them living outside Nigeria that they creating millions of enemies for our people living and doing businesses outside Igbo Land. I was abused as a sell out, a saboteur, and betrayer. Nnamdi Kanu’s Radio Biafra was there and is still there as I write this spewing and spreading hate, ethnic bigotry and primordial tendencies with reckless abandon. I did not see Ohaneze, Ndigbo Lagos, Aka Ikenga and other Igbo political class rising up to say enough is enough. The brigandage continued unabated until the Arewa Youths of the North responded in their way few weeks back and hell was let loose. Yes, the Arewa Youths flouted the Nigerian Constitution by asking Igbo to quit their territory. Yes,the Arewa youths took laws into the hands. Yes, the Arewa Youths response was reckless and totally unacceptable but has anybody taken mental notice of the abuse and uncensored choice of words used on the person of the President and Northern Nigerians by some Igbo at home and abroad? Why did our leaders keep quiet in the face of these provocative statements and abuse? Why did they not care about others in Nigeria? Why did it not bother them? Why was Nnamdi Kanu not called to order? Did they address any press conference calling for seizure of hate speeches and abuse of others who are different from us?
The same Igbo leaders who could not speak when elders are supposed to speak were the ones visiting Nnamdi Kanu in prison taking pictures with him. Now what signals are we sending to other Nigerians who are not Igbo? Can you see what I am seeing? Can you add two and two to get four? Can you see that Arewa Youths ran away with the thinking that those who are abusing and cursing them got endorsement from Igbo leaders? The evil spirits visited in the night and the Child died in the morning and you are still waiting for the proof of what happened. What the Arewa youths did is to practice what political scientists call balance of terror, balance of abuse, balance of hate, balance of ethnic bigotry and balance of primordial sentiments.
It was when the Arewa Youths reacted the way they did that Igbo suddenly remembered that they have investments worth trillions of Naira outside Igbo land. It was then that former Governor Kwankwaso reminded Igbo that they are occupying the size of South East in the North. It was then that it dawned on Igbo and other Nigerians that we need one another. It was then that we started looking into the Our Constitution. It was then that Igbo leaders started speaking out. It was then that they realized that hate speech can cause war because war starts by hot exchange of words. It was then that it dawned on Igbo that while it is easy for Northerners to quickly vacate the South East it may not be too easy for Igbo to move their physical assets out of the North. It is impossible. It was then that we realized that nobody has a monopoly hate language.
We are gradually witnessing what happened in Biafra from 1967 to 1970 when Patriots and genuine Igbo leaders who offered alternative views to Ojukwu then were branded as saboteurs and tied to the stake and gunned down. Zik, C C Onoh and Professor Enegere of the University of Nigeria Nsukka confirmed this to me. God forbid. We are in the age of ideas and the age of learning. May the voices of the uneducated, unlettered, and the uncivilized in Igbo land not swallow the voices of reason, hope, truth and life. Before the declaration of Biafra on 30th of May 1967 at the then Eastern House of Assembly all the bonafide leaders in Igbo land were seated. More than 80% of the people in that hallowed Chamber rose up for Biafra and it came to pass. Now if we want Biafra again 50 years after everything must be debated, Mark my words. Let us call for the debate and let the intelligentsia and those who can add two and two together to get four go to speak for Igbo land. A lot is at stake in Nigeria, and I do not want Igbo to lose again.
I agree 100% that Igbo have suffered systemic, organized, structured and official marginalization in Nigeria but let us go into constructive and civilized engagement to redress the imbalance. For us to do this we need to play better politics by working with other Nigerians. I have a reason why Igbo should see Nigeria as their Country. There is no other country in the world where Igbo language is spoken. Yoruba have three million of their kinsmen and women in Benin Republic. The language spreads to Liberia, and even up to West Indies. The Hausa- Fulani have their kinsmen and women in Mali, Niger, and even up to Saudi Arabia etc. If there is serious crisis in Nigeria they can move. Igbo have no outlet anywhere in the world. You cannot plant and another will come and harvest. You cannot build and another will come and occupy.
Now what is the way forward? Igbo should stop persecution complex, marginalization complex,defeatism syndrome , leadership complex, and what Prof Ozodi Osuji will call selfish sense of superiority, and paranoid grandiosity. We can do better than this. Nnamdi Kanu’ Biafra project will not fly in the 21st Century. Igbo must see Nigeria as their own where they have invested trillions to build. We are all Nigerians. Given my experiences in Nigeria and Igbo land we may not be able to live as one in one Country. I am a living a living witness of what happened when Enugu was carved out of the old Anambra State. I am a living witness how Ebonyi State always join the North when issues concerning South East are put to votes at the National Assembly . I am a living witness when former Governor Orji of Abia State sacked all civil servants from Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu from the State civil service. Catholic Diocese of Ahiara Mbaise cannot accept the man is from Anambra State as their Bishop. An Anambra man Mr Cletus Ibeto who bought the Nkalagu Cement Factory cannot start operation because the bigots feels and an Anambra man cannot buy and own Nkalagu Cement Factory. This is the country the small boy Nnamdi wants me to be part of. Let common sense prevail even though I know commonsense is not common. Case Rested!
Joe Igbokwe writes from Lagos