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Ike's Column Opinion

Biafra, Mayrock and Justice

Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant

Henry David Thoreau

If you are feeling that Nigeria environment is looking harsh and discordant, take a critical look at the level of injustice in the country.

Last weekend was the anniversaries of some remarkable dates in our national history as a country with all highlighting the inherent injustices in our clime. May 29, 2020 was the anniversary of three events, the fifth anniversary of coming into power of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; 21 years of the return to democracy in our country in this dispensation and 51 year’s anniversary of the Bruce Mayrock striking incident in New York, United States concerning the Biafra war.

Also last weekend precisely on May 30, 2020, the Biafra Political Movement celebrated the 53 years of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra that culminated in the 30 months brutal civil war. All the anniversaries have a very igniting blot in the country’s political evolution.

Our discourse this week will therefore revolve around issues arising from these events in our socio-political life as a nation.

My historic encounter courtesy of journalism profession with the late Biafra hero Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 2005 make these dates very memorable to me. I had interviewed the Biafra legend for THISDAY newspaper.

We had finished the interview and I was already exiting his home in Enugu when he called me back to underscore some points he earlier made during the interview about injustice against Ndigbo and the need to stem it before it degenerates. Ojukwu said a lot of off record issues for me as an Igbo journalist to take home. The interview was prompted by a repulsive  remarks on him by then President Olusegun Obasanjo on his Presidential ambition as candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA but he defended himself saying he was in the race to continue the fight on injustice against Ndigbo through politics.

‘Tell your publisher, your Newspaper is a very strong voice in this country and he should use it to fight injustice in the land because injustice against Ndigbo is a threat to justice everywhere’. He then urged me as a Journalist to go and study the great fighter for Justice, Martin Luther Jr because Journalists should be at the forefront for justice.

He warned that justice for Ndigbo was necessary and urgent now because  the war weary Igbos were giving way to post-war children who would not understand why they should be second class citizens in their own country.

In order to buttress this point of fighting for justice even if you are not directly affected Ojukwu told me the story of Bruce Mayrock, a 20 year old student of Columbia University, a Jewish American who was angered by the then apparent indifference of the global community to the injustice and suffering of Biafrans to the extent that on May 29, 1969 he set himself ablaze in front of the United Nations Headquarters  in New York in protest. His primary intention was to draw the global attention to the pitiable plight of the Biafra people who were going through gruesome murder and genocide from Nigeria for just asking to be freed from the country. Ojukwu noted that no single action drew the World attention to Biafra case more than that supreme sacrifice from a young man who was not even an African nor Nigerian or an Igbo.

That my interaction with Ojukwu came heavily on me when I read the immortalizing of Bruce Mayrock by the amiable wife of the late Biafra leader Bianca Ojukwu.

Immortalizing Mayrock had remained one of the unfulfilled wishes of Ojukwu before he joined his ancestors in 2011 and the wife reasonably thought it wise to see the project through. This is a highly commendable gesture from Bianca that should be praised by all well-meaning persons of Biafra descent who cherish justice and the huge sacrifice of the young American.

Remembering this massive sacrifice this time is even more striking as the injustice against Ndigbo is not abating in any way.

What President Buhari and his ruling, APC, have done in the last five years is just to bring to the fore what has been going on over the years against Ndigbo.

It’s just like what American Police officer Derek Chauvin did by his wicked action that resulted in the brutal death of the black American George Floyd in Minneapolis in United States that has now set the World talking about white racism against blacks in that country. The underlining hatred against blacks have been there, Chuavin merely brought it to the fore by refusing to hide or pretend over what he detests. This government’s attitude to Ndigbo is akin to the American cop of not holding back their dislike.

It would therefore be unfair to narrow Ndigbo problem in Nigeria to Buhari era, certainly not but when he surrounds himself with Igbophobic characters like Mallam Isa Funtua one cannot expect a quick solution to a lingering problem. When Buhari came to power with his statesmanlike inaugural speech, ‘I belong to nobody’ everybody thought a true elder statesman had arrived only to witness subsequently the most divisive regime in history.

Funtua a former Minister and the President’s man Friday was on a television program recently saying that Ndigbo are not marginalized by this administration and that they should belong if they want something from Nigeria stressing that democracy is about votes. With advisers like Funtua why should Igbos be remembered in appointments and projects including loan projects that will be repaid by all?

But Funtua and people that share in his kind of thoughts need to get some tutorials on what belonging means, in his remotest village where poverty is glaring even with his North being in power in 44 of the 60 years of Nigeria nationhood, he will find Igbo’s touching lives and rendering services, yet he feels they do not belong. Funtua watches as his abandoned kinsmen are ferried to Ndigboland as cargo for survival even with his so called having the power yet he doesn’t see any failure and the need to have paradigm shift in his political thinking.

However, the hope of a better prosperous Nigeria is anchored on the good mind-set of the likes of retired Col Abubukar Umar who recently told President Buhari the brutal truth about his lopsided appointments unlike Funtua whose idea of politics in a plural society is winner take all. Umar has antecedent for truth. Nigeria is not moving forward because of the likes of Funtua who always scheme their way and occupy power corridors, but the hope of greater Nigeria lies heavily on the patriotism of the likes of Col Umar.

The Nigeria/Biafra civil war ended 50 years ago on a no-victor, no-vanquished understanding but all the variables that caused the war to start 53 years ago still lingers. Infact the last five years have been like finishing what was left undone during the war. In all Igbo states security heads, directors of DSS and Police are consistently from one area of the country and of one religion. Not to talk of the military and their python dances. In all segments of the society, deliberate efforts are made to ensure that Ndigbo are treated as vanquished people. But they have in their resilient spirit remained unbowed refusing to leave their destiny in anybody’s hands strongly believing in the views of an American author, Henry David Thoreau that ‘it is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.’

President Buhari was quick to tag the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, a terrorist organization and outlawed it notwithstanding that they had no traces of being in possession of any weaponry but the armed Fulani herdsmen even with their international link and evidential armoury and bloodletting associated with them, continues to be free of the terrorism label.

What Ojukwu told me nearly two decades ago is already materializing today, the Post war children that populate IPOB the platform seeking return to Biafra including their venomous leader Nnamdi Kanu are not harmonizing with their war weary elders who continue to argue that an Igbo in a bigger better Nigeria is more appropriate  than Igbo in a small Biafra.

This argument has however been successfully punctured recently by an Igbo veteran Journalist and a former aide to late Biafra leader, Kanayo Esinulo who said that he would prefer a small Beetle car worth N50m that takes him round wherever he desires to go than have a Mercedes of N200m but sends him to mechanic workshop every day thereby impeding his movements.

The real reason at some points attempts were made to obliterate history teachings in our schools is to erase all these injustices and protect the children of those perpetuating it but Elie Wiesel captured it copiously that “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”

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