This column was unavoidably absent for a brief vacation in the previous fortnight. As we are back, I extend my greetings to my Muslim brothers and sisters on the Islamic celebration just gone bye. I had a good time in the home of Ahmad, my friend who gave me a good taste of Sallah.
Today’s work is the concluding part in this series. Having explored this issue in sundry ways, it is only natural that I take a little space to look at the human side of our story by saying few things about an ethnic nationality that was almost annihilated in Nigeria’s journey to nationhood
The January 1966 coup was organized by military officers from all the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.
There was an equitable balance of officers from all the ethnic groups in Nigeria military service before the reprisal coup of July, 1966. One history book recorded the names of the Igbo military officers who lost their lives in that coup. Many of the officers, whether they participated or not in the January coup, were taken unawares and murdered in Ikeja Military Cantonment in full view of their wives, children and family members by people we can still identify today who are still alive parading as ‘statesmen’ who if they are not retired and sitting on the huge wealth they have made from Nigerian crude oil, are still occupying political and public offices in Nigeria.
Just recently during the 54th memorial of that sad day in the history of Nigeria at Ibadan, the dastardly killing of a patriotic son of Nigeria, Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, the military Governor of western union region of Nigeria who was murdered gruesomely in cold blood and dumped in a shallow grave with his guest, the military Head of State General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi was re-visited.
A gallant solider, detribalized Nigerian, and a forthright man, Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi represented the unique breed of Nigerian soldiers who either participated in the January, 1966 coup or were called by their military colleagues to give a new direction to Nigeria. But the tribal sentiments of their sell-out colleagues who reversed the hands of the clock on that fateful July 29, 1966, did not allow the new direction to materialize.
The pogrom on military officers of Igbo ethnic nationality, especially the Ikeja massacre is a big blow that the Igbos have not recovered from. This gap still exists in the disproportionate number of Igbos with other ethnic nationalities in military service, especially as some families disallow their sons or wards from joining the Nigerian military for fear of the unknown.
It was especially bad for the Igbos that the civil war which enlisted the military services of a great number of the Igbo intelligentsia on the Biafran side destroyed many of them.
Looking at the history of the Igbo ethnic nationality in the last fifty years which I am very conversant with, I marvel at the resilience and survival of a unique people in the face of great man-made odds. I am not saying this because I am Igbo. I am saying this because I have gone through the pages of history and seen several races around the world rendered extinct by the forces they were unable to contend with.
The depletion of the Biafran forces as a result of the massacre of Biafran soldiers were so massive that the Biafran authorities started conscription of men between their late teenage ages and early twenties to be drafted to the war front after a brief period of military training which in most cases did not last up to ninety days.
My cousin, Naboth Obiora and other relations used to hide in ‘Ohia Uma’ (Uma forest) at the back of our great grand ancestor’s compound to keep away from the government conscripting agents.
I remember as boys, it was our duty to take food to them in their hide-out or tell them when it was safe for them to come back home. Naboth was afraid to join the Biafran army after the death of Patrick Onyeizugbo, his bossom friend and my childhood mentor, who voluntarily joined the Biafran army like many other Biafran men had done when the war started.
After extensive research on the activities of American Jews, Steven Silbiger in his book, “The Jewish Phenomenon” discussed the resistance, the resilience, the persistence and the perseverance of the Jews which he identified in what he calls the seven keys to their enduring wealth.
The book, “The Jewish Phenomenon: Seven Keys to The Enduring Wealth of a People” recognizes seven characteristics shared amongst three ethnic nationalities (or races) including the Igbos of Nigeria, with the Jews around the world for their prosperity and enduring wealth.
It is simply a miracle that a people so incapacitated, destroyed and almost forgotten in Nigeria by oppressive forces who fear competition, has become the most sought-after ethnic nationality in the ladder of visible economic interests in Nigeria. It is a sure statement of fact that you must get support of an Igbo man to get it right in all matters concerning trade, commerce, industries, and other strategic investments. I enjoin the subsequent Igbo sons and daughters to maintain this pace with whatever legal means they have to use as the baton is consecutively transferred from one generation to the next.
In contrast to their snuffing out the dreams of many families by cutting short the lives of their pillars, the officers who were involved in the July 1966 mutiny were to become Generals in the Nigerian Military and now retired with stupendous wealth secured through the blood and sweat of Nigerians. But the true legacy which their skewed craft and the volumes of falsehood which their sponsored biographies cannot conceal is the fact that the conception of the Chukwuma Kaduna-led military putsch was patriotic and excellent. It would have long solved the problem of nationhood for Nigeria. What was wrong with that coup was the execution of the coup as a result of the misdirected influence on the young officers by some of the targets of the coup and the oligarchs who made sure that the patriotic officers, being so young as to comprehend the dangerous brainwashing on them, were separated along ethnic, tribal, religious and language lines.
The Psalmist says in psalm 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do” Nigeria is neither responding to any social or economic theorems aimed at resuscitating her, nor getting on well in any form because of a faulty foundation. All development efforts in Nigeria are like treating the symptoms of a disease without actually tracing the causes and nipping them in the bud. This is because an ethnic nationality that is not specially endowed with the management of human and material resources as a result of some cultural inhibitions find it easy as well as fight to perpetuate this faulty foundation because it feasts on it.
The ‘motion without movement’, (courtesy of the Nobel laurate Professor Wole Soyinka), marry-go-round summary of the history of Nigeria right from the beginning, is loaded with the botched attempts by the other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to fix the country.
In the light of this background, it was possible that the June 12 1993 election result was annulled by forces beyond the then military President in Nigeria’s first and only diarchy, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. These forces may have been exerted by some oligarchs of an ethnic nationality in Nigeria military who did not feel that the winner of the election could be trusted enough.
Nigerians may find out one day that IBB, a good-hearted man and loyal friend as have been asserted by his friends and colleagues, may have actually been threatened with dire consequences to his life and boxed-in against his will, into annulling an election won by his friend. History will reveal these things if they did happen.
While struggling to explain out his reasons for annulling the June 12 1993 presidential election in what I paradoxically called “Political Engineering” speech addressing Nigerians through the joint session of the National Assembly on August 17, 1993 during the turbulent days of June 12 annulment, IBB, a Muslim who tactically, without the knowledge of his Christian deputy from South Eastern part of Nigeria, smuggled Nigeria, a secular country, into an exclusive club of Islamic nations called the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries), reminded Nigerians what many of them already knew… that the man whose election victory he annulled, was his friend.
With Jamiu Abiola’s revelation and a possible OIC connection, Nigerians can now see the passion both of them shared together as friends.
Their passion was a dangerous one for Nigeria. It is inappropriate for Nigeria as a secular country to subscribe to the membership of a strictly religious organization, be it Christian or Islam.
Nigeria should owe no obligations, whatsoever to a religious group anywhere in the world. Let me discuss only one out of many disadvantages for subscribing to the membership of a strictly religious group. Besides, whatever advantages that may be obtained in a religious group can also be gotten from non-religious organizations many of which abound around the world.
There was uneasy calm in some religious quarters in Nigeria when the country risked losing her membership of OIC because previous governments may have overlooked or forgotten to meet Nigeria’s obligations to the organization.
This issue was so heavily regarded in certain religious quarters that it became a silent, yet mortal force to influence the presidential elections in Nigeria. It was quietly broadcast to the worshippers by some Imams in Nigerian Mosques.
The fear not to lose the OIC membership could be responsible for the do-or-die statement credited to one of the presidential contenders that the “baboons and the monkeys will soak in blood” if his political party did not win the presidential election. But for the soothing and healing response and balm to the hearts of worried Nigerians in respect of a prediction of national doom by somebody working hard to rule over them, some people were already packing their luggages to sneak away from the country.
The security situation was so bad and possible inter-tribal and inter-religious skirmishes so obvious that somebody in that political party living in the same area with me threatened us with fire and brimstone if their candidate did not win that election. Well, I warned him that nobody has exclusive right over violence and that it would be impossible for him to imagine the response he will get if ever they lifted their fingers against us. Both the monkeys and the baboons were really prepared for a showdown, and I doubt whether we would not have said like the renowned playwright, Professor Chinua Achebe that ‘There was a country…’
God came to everybody’s rescue, we and them! The presidential candidate of the opposite political party quickly assured Nigerians that his political ambition was not worth a drop of the blood of any Nigerian. Historically, that statement by former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, backed up with his concession of power to his opponent, is the most patriotic statement that has ever proceeded from an incumbent African Head of state..
Quickly think about what would have happened if Nigeria was not blessed with the person of former President Jonathan. Nigeria would have been gone by now and, maybe, many of us with it!
Any country that does not thrive on and is not sustained with the principles of love, freedom, justice and equity drives itself sooner or later to extinction because brute force as a factor in the perpetuation of any ideal as shown in the actions of those who believe that they have conquered Nigeria and Nigerians, is unnatural, not sustainable, therefore, destined to fail.
Nigeria has thrived very long on the tenets of hatred, oppression, injustice and inequity wherefore it is only natural that the weakened centre may cave-in one day.
August 6th, 2020.
Global Upfront Newspapers