We must renegotiate the basis of our co-existence
But for the involvement of some elders from both sides, one would have dismissed the ultimatum given the Igbo in the north by some northern youths to quit (the north) on or before October 1, 2017, and the response by an Igbo group that they would only leave if the north could return their N43trillion investments in the region, as ranting of some ants. They have never seen war and are therefore beating the drums of war. The northern groups that issued the ultimatum said they did so because of the shut-down of major towns in the south eastern part of the country on May 30 by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and their sponsors, which denied other people in the region from pursuing their livelihood.
Such a threat is not new. The point though is; it is not only the east that is marginalised (to use our cliché here). Virtually all sections feel they are marginalised; all regions, including even the north that many of us see as over-pampered. But if the southeast or any other region has decided to go, there is little or nothing individuals can do about it. That is a job for the government. While not necessarily supporting the northern youths, I think all they did was put a deadine to the threat by what Igbo elders see as Igbo youths’ threat to leave Nigeria. This is what to expect when there is a dearth of good elders in a place.
For me, whoever wants to go can do so without offending the sensibilities of others. The Igbo have this impression that no one likes them in the country. It was obvious the southeast had been uncomfortable since the exit of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2015. In both the Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan years, the Igbo occupied some of what we term juicy cabinet positions. There were no secession threats then. Barely two years after losing some of these portfolios, some of their youths suddenly remembered Biafra.
I agree that our size is something that we should flaunt as a nation because of its immense possibilities. But this should not be a do-or-die affair, especially if successive governments are not ready to face the reality of letting us renegotiate the basis of our continued co-existence. I personally do not care about who wants to pull out or pull in. I do not think there is any part of this country that is not blessed; the problem is that many of the leaders have thrown away their thinking caps. If the military had not tampered with our federal arrangement, we probably would have been better for it because every part of the country would have continued to develop at its own pace.
But the point is; there is no way the Igbo can continue to claim that they developed every other section of the country without incurring the wrath of other Nigerians, because nothing can be more fallacious. That could be a major cause of their problem. Before now, the refrain had been, “we developed Lagos”. Now, we are being told that the Igbo developed the north. Or, how else does one interpret the statement that the Igbo would not leave the north until the northerners paid N43trillion that they (Ndigbo) invested there? How come it is only the Igbo that are able to move freely all over the country to develop other areas? How come they find it more convenient to develop other places even when the southeast itself is in dire need of investment and development? No one would think that with the accusations of selective hatred that the Igbo levelled against the other parts of Nigeria after the civil war in 1970, they would still go ahead to be ‘developing’ other places, to the detriment of their own largely undeveloped region. Has it not occurred to the southeast that something must be responsible for the ease with which they can thrive in other places and others cannot do same in Igboland? Has it not occurred to them that it is the large hearts of others that has made it possible for them to assimilate the Igbo, and vice versa? If many Igbo can follow the money to any part of the country and there a few people from other regions in Igboland, then there is a problem.
Fortunately, I have friends from the southeast who do not share the views of these ‘youths’. The new face of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, even went to the ridiculous extent of saying that the Igbo who worship in Pentecostal churches with Yoruba men as pastors are idiots, fools, imbeciles and worse than Boko Haram! Certainly, a good number of my friends from the east do not share this ‘I before others’ mentality that Nigerians, rightly or wrongly, perceive the Igbo have. Or that when you give the Igbo man an inch; he wants to claim a mile! It is the Igbo that want to have ‘Ezes’ (kings) in other parts of the country, with all the paraphernalia of an ‘Eze’ as obtains in the southeast. How many Obas and Emirs do we have in the southeast?
I remember the other time when the Babatunde Fashola administration banned ‘okada’ from some 475 of the over 9,200 roads in Lagos, many of those who criticised the policy happened to be from states where ‘okada’ was completely banned. I had issues understanding those of them from the southeast whose state governments did not restrict but actually banned ‘okada’ and they did not complain back home, now raising issues that the Lagos State government could not have restricted ‘okada’ the way it did. Naturally, I asked: how else could Lagos State have done it? Somehow, some of them just felt no, Lagos is different, and I was wondering what made Lagos different. Or what was it that should have made Lagos different in the contest they were using the word. If many other state governments had been responsible, Lagos would not have been this overpopulated because it is lack of opportunities in most other parts of the country that is largely responsible for the migration to the ‘city’.
Please permit me to cite this other example. I was in one of the new development areas in Lagos about three months ago and was astonished when I saw the mansions that are springing up there. Upon enquiries, I was told many of them belong to southeasterners. When I asked if those building there were aware that the place was under acquisition, the answer I got was astonishing. They said they knew but that by the time the government woke up (so it is sleeping now) to find the mansions there, it would be left with no choice but to ask them to pay some money for ratification, or something!
So, when the government eventually ‘wakes up from its slumber’ and, instead of asking for money for ratification, it brings in the bulldozers, they will start complaining that government is destroying mansions belonging to southeasterners. For how long are we going to live with this kind of cheap blackmail? Since when has ignorance become an excuse in law? And, to think that those breaking the law in this case are even aware of what they are doing? Are we saying people can just build houses in the southeast or any part of the country without first finding out the status of the land, or without getting the relevant government papers? Ha! If that happens, even in a ‘no man’s land’, it is only a matter of time for that place to become a huge jungle.
All said, I blame no one but successive governments in the country that have been glossing over the real issues agitating the minds of many Nigerians about the need to revisit the basis of our union. The point has been made over and again that unless this is done, we will keep having the kind of schisms that we are having. The Muhammadu Buhari administration must do something in this regard before it is too late.
Fatai Atere Way
When this campaign on the need to lighten the darkness of people at Fatai Atere Way (Ladipo) up to Ojekunle Street (Papa Ajao), Lagos, started in April, it was not meant to last this long. It was just to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to the need to fix the street lights in these areas, in line with the state government’s dream in its Light Up Lagos initiative. Some progress has been noted on Ojekunle Street. But Fatai Atere Way is still in total darkness. Some of the lights came on for a few days but darkness has returned there. At least this was the situation as at Friday when this material was turned in for publication. This is hoping the Lagos State Electricity Board would complete the repair job it has started.
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