President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan recently doled out N5.7 billion to Northern states and Akwa Ibom. He said that the money, though coming belatedly, was to cushion the effects of the 2011 election violence on those states affected in the region.
However, such uncommon presidential largesse is commendable. It shows that Mr President is after all human, that he cares and loves his people. The 2011 election violence was ferocious and spontaneous, perforating the thick fog of fear in the North with bayonet and killing over 500 innocent Nigerians most of whom were National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members posted to serve their fatherland in the zone. Innocent Nigerians, who were mostly traders of the Igbo tribe, professionals, artisans—who had migrated to the zone to make a living—were killed in the maddening inferno. At the end of it, properties worth billions of naira were destroyed and many rendered homeless and hopeless.
I recount the experience of a Youth Corps member from my village who was posted to Maiduguri. She almost lost her life, escaping by the skin of her teeth. The rampaging youths were ransacking everywhere looking for corps members most of whom were used by The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as electoral officers. They were seen as enemies of the North—those who manipulated the election to turn the tide against their favoured candidate—General Muhammad Buhari.
When she sensed that her life was in danger, she ran to seek refuge in the church. But no sooner had she ran to the church than she realized that the church could not save her, it was not a hallowed ground to the rampaging youths clutching daggers, guns and other dangerous weapons. Then, as if it was a flash of inspiration, a voice from nowhere told her to disguise herself as a Muslim. She ran to her landlady who graciously gave her her hijab and khimar that draped from the top to her waist.
Later, a hole was made through the ceiling and she was whisked into the roof. When the agents of death came they scoured and rummaged the whole compound but could not find any nyamiri. By the time the federal government and some states sent buses to rescue them, the damage had already been done. Corpses littered everywhere and many buildings belonging to Igbos were already up in smokes. So it is reassuring that after two years of this unpleasant and horrendous experience the president wants us to relive it by doling out N5.7 billion to condole the affected states.
But I have issues with his uncharacteristic benevolence. Who are going to benefit from this dole out? Is there any documentation or something like census showing the number of victims of this electoral genocide borne out of hate? For the dead, how do we contact their relatives and ensure that the money from Aso Rock gets to them and not to the wrong people? What of those properties destroyed? Will they be rebuilt or is compensation going to be paid and to whom? How do we resettle those displaced by this mayhem, who, up till now may not have been able to recover from the shock of losing their means of livelihood?
This, I must say, is where Ohaneze Ndigbo comes in. Majority of the victims of the 2011 electoral violence were Igbos in the north living and serving their nation as youth corps members or working as traders or business men and women with an infinite trust in our oneness. They were caught in the field of battle in the course of seeking their daily bread.
What is Ohaneze doing to ensure that these people are not left behind? What is Ohaneze doing to see that the interest of Igbos in the North and elsewhere are protected against such unwarranted attacks as we inch day by day into another election year in 2015, which, from the signs in my palm, portends more horrible things to come? Does Ohaneze have a list of Igbos affected by the violence? It is imperative they have this. It is true the N5.7 billion was given to the North, but it was not a Father Christmas hamper from the president to rehabilitate the North but all those that were affected directly by the violence in the North. They may or may not be Northerners, but they suffered irreparable damages arising from it.
Last month, Ohaneze through its president Chief Enwo Gary Igariwey led a delegation of its executives and some prominent Igbo elders to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero to commiserate with him over the fatal attack by Boko Haram that took the lives of four of his bodyguards. The visit coincided with the bomb blast that shattered two Kano luxury buses loaded to the hilt bound for Lagos. They pleaded for peace in the North to allow Igbos trade and said that Ohaneze supported any measure by the federal government to end the insurgency.
Bullshit! Yes, we want peace in the North and other parts of the country but not at any cost. A Chinese proverb goes, “if you want peace prepare for war”. Ohaneze should not sell itself so cheap to the point of kowtowing before clay-footed principalities. By doing so it compromises the rich image, history and antecedents of Ndigbo who gave Nigeria independence on a platter of gold without firing a shot.
I do not here intend to denigrate Gary’s attempt to bring peace to the beleaguered North by not preaching violence or tit for tat, but I think Ohaneze should have spoken with smoking guns and bravado against this contrived heist by elites in the zone to rob us of peace in the region. Yes we need peace, but saying that we need it to enable us trade is nonsense. Igbos have been in this business of trading from cradle but have achieved nothing other than trading away their manhood.
I recollect the statement Obasanjo made as president in 2007 when he was commissioning Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s cement factory at Obajana. After praising Dangote for his industry and foresight, he told him that he came personally to commission it because “you are not like other traders”. No one needed to be told that this was a veiled reference to Igbos whose stock in trade is trading.
We need to change our orientation and Ohaneze should be at the forefront of this. True, we have prospered through the art of trading, we have rebuilt our homes and enterprise destroyed during the civil war and erected mansions in every hamlet across Nigeria, but as Albert Einstein would say, “it is not everything that counts that can be counted”.
Igbos should be at the forefront of the politics of Nigeria. They should rise from their trading posts and lead the vanguard for the dawn of a new nation. The North is angry because the South has taken over the leadership of the country which they erroneously see as their birthright. That is the genesis of Boko Haram, they will harangue all of us into submission to trade away our patrimony. They are what they are today because of politics. The West is today the intellectual and economic capital of Nigeria because they have mastered the art of Nigerian politics. The Niger Delta or South-South which is the hub of Nigeria’s oil mineral have learnt that it’s only when they bark that the goodies can come trickling in. And so they bark, but Ndigbo is busy hawking wares along the streets of Nigeria!
It is however regrettable that, because of our docility and bad leadership, Igbos have been caught missing in action. The voice of the people that once echoed across the oceans and reverberated upon the rooftops is now muffled. Completely silent!
Ndigbo!, bilie nu n’ura!