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THE PLIGHT OF THE IGBOS IN TODAY'S NIGERIA  

Erasmus Uche Ikedilo
 Published October 8th, 2008

The degree of marginalisation of the Igbos in particular and perhaps a few other south minority tribes has now risen to such a crucial point that president Yar'Adua's immediate intervention is the only panacea that could stop a potential explosion of the situation. Mr. President, I am writing and directing this article to you and for your consumption on my assumption that you do not still appreciate the seriousness and gravity of this problem despite the outrage of legislators from the southeast zone and later followed by the Peter Obi led Southeast zone governors visit to Aso rock for the same purpose. We Igbos in the diaspora (USA) now join our brothers and sisters at home in appealing to you Mr. President to redress this issue before it endangers your peaceful administration.

Nigeria is enjoying relative peace today because Yorubas enjoy much more than their fair share of the national cake at the detriment of their southeast counterparts. Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo carefully flooded all positions vis-a-vis heads of government ministries and parastatals, military chiefs,advisers/special advisers, and heads of foreign missions etc. with his kinsmen. And this administration is now attempting to strike a balance between the Obasanjo Overwhelmingly Yoruba appointees and it?s own choices from the northern states. Although the appointment of Paul Dike(Delta Igbo maybe) as the chief of defence staff, retention of Prof Chukwuma Soludo as central bank governor and a handful other meritorious appointments of Igbo sons/daughters are very much appreciated, they still do not in anyway compensate for the huge gap created by Chief Obasanjo?s display of wicked tribalism in the distribution of amenities and appointments.. In order to quickly appreciate this obvious injustice and most unfair exclusion of an indispensable major tribe, igbo from important national menu, Mr President, just devote one day to watching a full bulletin of NTA news international or/and News nationwide, and at the end of it you?ll be full of appologies to a people whose illustrious son and first president of Nigeria Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe whose wisdom, unrelenting struggle, vision and compromise with compatriots and other regional leaders enhanced the independence of our great nation without bloodshed. At that early period of our nationhood, Dr Azikiwe had the wherewithal to entrust the country?s assets and resources into the tight grips of his people the Igbos but he did not because of his belief in democracy, rule of law, one Nigeria and above all equality of all Nigerians. The other two leaders Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello the saduana of Sokoto on the other hand were strong advocates of tribalism and regionalism respectively. Why then must the Igbos be so humiliated having sacrificed their opportunity of playing a first fiddle through Zik's unprecedented compromise and accomodation for other ethnic groups..

Any attempt to answer this question with the Easterners? declaration of independence and secession from Nigeria that triggered a war, will fail for the following reasons. (1) Why are other ethnic groups that were part of the Biafran experiment such as the Efiks/Ibibios, Kalabaris,Ijaws,Ogonis in short the other four non Igbo states of former Eastern Nigeria not faced with the same music if they are Igbos patners in crime. (2) One may recall for the benefits of those whose memories are either too short or are failing and for those who were either not born or toddlers in the sixties, that the remote cause of that war. is traceable back to Chief Awolowo?s treasonable abortive coup attempt with his fellow Yoruba members of Action Group party (AG) to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of the then prime minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. When the rule of law applied and Chief Awolowo and his collaborators were dumped into jail, intra-party struggles for party leadership started amongst AG leaders in the West who were not in jail because they were not party to the coup plot. The then Premier of the West and new leader of the party Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola soon disagreed with Chief Awolowo who still wanted to control the party from within the confines of the jailroom. AG now split into two with Awolowo?s supporters led by Alhaji Dauda S. Adegbenro. Akintola led his faction to form the Nigerian National Democratic Party(NNDP). From that point Yorubas in general split between Ijebu/Ogun block and Osun/Oyo block. Uncontrolled violence,both day and night arson and murder of politicians and innocent men and women became the order of the day in Western Nigeria. These two warring political parties AG and NNDP went into alliances with the two parties in coalition that formed the federal government. While the NNDP allied with the senior patner of the coalition, Nothern Peoples Congress, NPC to come up with Nigeria National Alliance(NNA), AG allied with the junior patner of the coalition National Convention of Nigerian Citizens NCNC to form United Progressive Grand Alliance(UPGA). It was the continued escalation of this anarchious situation in the west and the unwillingness and inability of the federal government to intervene because of vested interests of the coalition patners that attracted Major C.K. Nzeogwu-led first military coup which by virtue of his respect and regards for seniority in the command and strong persuation/appeal by Col Nwawo, his mentor and military role model major Nzeogwu still reluctantly surrendered power/governance to the most senior officer of the armed forces Major General J T U Aguiyi-Ironsi who turned around to arrest the young major. Though the change to military rule immediately quelled all violence in the west, it on the other hand commenced nocturnal/secret meetings and conspiracy in the north where it was generally believed that it was an Igbo coup. Northern leaders, military and civilians alike in addition to carrying out a mutiny in the armed forces perpetrated pogrom on Igbo civilians resident in the north in retaliation to what they tagged ?Igbo coup? because major Nzeogwu was Igbo from delta state. Reacting to this horrible experience, eastern region under military governor Lt Col Ojukwu announced the independence and secession of the East as republic of Biafra. Shortly after the then Nigeria military head of state Lt Col Yakubu Gowon assaulted Biafra. That was the start of the thirty months war. Therefore Mr president, Chief Awolowo and the Yorubas who enjoy most of this country?s goodies today have always being the bane of this nation?s progress. Whereas they monopolize all positions big and small in the entire west/Yoruba area, they still compete quite favourably for top positions in Federal govt-owned companies, institutions,corporate firms etc. located in otherstates of Nigeria including Abuja.There are no good federal roads, no industries and federal institutions in the southeast states are the least equipped and mostly headed by Yorubas. Why should Yorubas and Hausas/Northerners and not Niger-deltans and oil-producing states indigenes be appointed chief executives in the oil industry/sector of our country. Any leader who is blind or slow at recognizing the dangers inherent in the marginalisation of a section of his country is doomed for catastrophic end. Dr Babatunde Ehonsi of the Ford foundation,USA said it all during his NTA ?One on One? programme with Bayo Adewusi

If gunmen in two tiny states of Rivers and Bayelsa are capable of harassing and destabilizing things to a point of concern, what if more areas of the nation open up another theatre of national unrest? While addressing the Niger-Delta problem, give serious attention to this big omission in your seven point agenda. Gen. Yakubu Gowon who fought the war that keeps Nigeria one today was not crazy when at the end of that bloody war he instead of isolating the Biafrans put in place the 3Rs programmes of Reintegration,Rehabilitation and Reconstruction having declared the result of the war as No Victor, No Vanquished. He even in response to a military governor?s request to know why he Gowon funded the East Central State(Igbo State) more than his own state that equally suffered devastations of war said that Nigeria can not do without the Igbos and that was why he fought so hard to get them back into Nigeria. God bless Yakubu Gowon.

Having said this much from the diaspora to support the earlier protests by our concerned governors, legislators from the five states and caution by the Biafran leader himself Chief Emeka Ojukwu,Mr President Yar?Adua it is high time you addressed this problem so that your administration will enjoy the goodwill of all. Sir, now that the ball is in your court,endeavour to play it in a manner that will attract the loudest ovation from all not some of your spectators. If we agree that time waits for nobody and remember that Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe wisely reminded Mr Ukpabi Asika that No condition is permanent in life, then now is the time to use your good offices to put smiles on all and not some Nigerians. A word is enough for the wise and God bless Nigeria.
 


Erasmus Uche Ikedilo
Maryland, USA

   


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