By Sunny Igboanugo
Bia nuru onu anyi ooo,
Nna bia nuru onu anyi ooo, (2X)
O dighi mgbe ike mmadu ga akari ike Chukwu
Onweghi mgbe ike ekwensu ga akari ike Chukwu
Nna bia nuru, onye bi n’Igwe
Bia nuru onu anyi ooo
Eze bia nuru, Olisa bi n’Igwe
Bia nuru onu anyi ooo!
This was one of the numerous Biafran war songs. For those who can remember, this song with which soldiers matched to the war front, was on the lips of even infants while still learning to talk as with the old women with their tattered baskets prowling the bushes in search of wild mushrooms for diner. Sung lustfully in total trust and deep belief in the potency of justice over injustice and power of good over evil, the Biafrans handed their fate over to God.
It simply translates: Hear our voice, O God, our father, hear our voice, it will never happen that the power of man will prevail over the power of God, the power of devil will triumph over the power of God, Father come and hear us, the one who dwells in the Heavenly places come and hear us. Father come and hear us, Creator of the world, come and hear us!
Of course, the natural quip of the ignorant would be: But Biafrans lost the war now! Did they? I had the cause to put this question to the late Ikemba Nnewi, the General of the People’s Army in one of our numerous interactions. I could read pity in his eyes as he stared deeply at me, the way a father would, an efulefu son, before replying. How could Biafrans have lost? The main objective of the war was achieved, even though there was no Biafran state as it were.
How? Having a Biafran state was the secondary objective, in fact, the icing on the cake. The primary objective was to end the annihilation of the Igbo people. Before the time the war broke out fully, the mass killing of Ndigbo, was no longer confined to the North alone. The hostilities were spreading already. In places like Lagos, there were already pockets of discontents, restiveness, harassment, mass arrest on flimsy excuses and even secret killings. Ojukwu, stressed that the Biafran enclave was a line, which, once a fleeing Biafran crossed, he was safe. That was the first objective.
So, had the Igbo not fought, there could have been such mass killings of genocidal proportion that Rwanda would have been a mere riot. Besides, though a Biafran territory was not to be, the indomitable Biafra spirit, left behind still endures till date. There are those who believe that God actually fought on the side of the Igbo, but denied them the territory of Biafra, because He wanted Nigeria to remain intact with the Igbo as a veritable part, as the glue that would hold it together, for a purpose.
If you are still wondering what that purpose is, go and read the recent testimony of General Yakubu Gowon. Yes, the selfsame GOWON – Go On With One Nigeria! That same Gowon that as the Head of State and Commander in Chief, swore that to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. After the slaughter of two million Igbo men and women, children, the old and infirm, some mass-murdered like the Asaba 2,000, others in market places, churches and hospitals, he is now mouthing restructuring.
Hear him speak, five whole decades after: “I believe that a lot of injustice has been done to the Igbos and a constitutional debate on restructuring must address all imbalances and restore hope and confidence. “Nigeria is big enough for all of us and I believe that the Igbo, Middle Belt and the Yoruba are the true Nigerians because if you look round our borders, people came from abroad and are still coming but Ndigbo have always been there, Middle Belt people have always been there, even Yoruba have always been there.
“People who came in yesterday who have a duty of respect are now the ones talking. Going forward, we must create a federal democracy that will respond positively to all the aspirations of our people not about East-West but all about working together in equality, bringing in the youths and the women to build a new Nigeria.”
Is this the same Gowon, who repudiated everything in the Aburi Accord, thus igniting the cataclysmic eruption that engulfed Nigeria for three years, that is now preaching restructuring, 50 years after? Recall that it was this same restructuring that formed the fulcrum of what Ojukwu doggedly campaigned, stood and fought for. If by this singular pronouncement from the same mouth that declared death for the Igbo for asking for the same relief, God has not proved Himself on their side, then it would take the heavens to open up for the doubting Thomases to speak to Him directly.
Because He works in mysterious ways and because His ways are different from man, it may well be that Gowon was allowed to live this long, for him to now be the champion of what he fought against five decades ago. Therein lies the futility of the war against Ndigbo that President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be waging presently. It is a very long journey to nowhere, if it is actually his intention to continue the war by other means as it appears he has devoted his entire presidency to doing. What it simply shows is that the President is neither a student of history nor seized of his environment.
Otherwise, staring him in the face are facts that ought to wise him up that there is something divine, something special in the Igbo that is simply above natural. It is called o natara chi! I pity those who argue on the contrary that the President is not a hater of Ndigbo, when the man himself does not pretend about it.
What are their facts? Is it that he made sure there was not single Igbo in the Supreme Military Council as military Head of State, or the fact that Alex Ekwueme, the Vice President of the government he sacked was locked up in a dingy Kirikiri Prison and Shehu Shagari, a fellow Fulani taken to a palatial building surrounded by all the accoutrements of opulence and easy life; is it that during his tenure as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), under the maximum despot, Sani Abacha, he made sure that the South East was handed the short end of the stick; is it that in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the highest position an Igbo man got is an Organising Secretary, despite having a National Party Chairman collapsing his entire structure into the arrangement; is it excluding the South East from the design of the entire new railway corridors in Nigeria; or now the exclusion of the South East from the $23billion foreign loan, which they would be part of repaying? Which one would you count and leave the other?
I never really believed that $23billion story. In fact, each place I saw the details of project distribution, I simply jumped and passed, ignoring it as fake news, simply because I could not believe or imagine that a human mind would construct such injustice. That was until Friday’s press briefing when it was confirmed by the South East caucus of the National Assembly, led by Ike Ekweremadu. That Senator Rochas Okorocha was even among the body that is saying no, even though he did not look too convincing to me, underscores that Buhari has stretched his hatred for Ndigbo to the point of the popular local saying that the thief has stolen so much that the owner has noticed.
Now, does it mean that Buhari has no advisers that would have cautioned him to beat a retreat from that obvious cul-de-sac? How does he think he would win this war against God? Lest we forget, this same Igbo people withstood the world for three years – US, UK, Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia and other forces who supported the Nigerian effort to subdue them. They also made nonsense of the economic rustication plot after the military offensive failed to achieve its objective. Yes, from taking over their properties under the obnoxious Abandoned Property policy, to the £20 for every Igbo bank owner to the indigenisation policy, the strategy was to kill the Igbo man before they grow. How did that pan out? Those houses forcefully taken away from them are not only firmly back to their original owners, they have built more – millions more. They have built factories, established businesses and companies, developed virgin lands and forests into magnificent estates out of nothing in far-flung places. So, what evidence are people looking for to believe what they see?
In fact, it has become evident that doomed is that community where the Igbo man has not entered, because it will never know development. All these are clear to the goat and the hen. Yet, people still, in their obstinacy, prefer to cut their nose to spite their face. So, why would Buhari think he will succeed where others failed? Who dash monkey banana? How would he do it? Should he not be listening to Gowon’s new song? That the Igbo man remains the bastion of development and growth, should be more than evident and enough for the foolish to be wise. The ex-Head of State, has proven the truism in the saying that the goat is actually sweating, only that hairs on its skin would not allow it to show. Who knows the amount of regret going on in his mind right now, especially after destroying the Aburi Accord?
Of course, the Igbo lawmakers, have stated their case. They have promised that they would pursue it through “constructive engagement,” whatever that means. But you can be sure of the likely result. Where would the numbers come from? From where would they curry the sentiments to reverse what has already been agreed and destined for them? Only in the Senate run by Abubakar Saraki or Yakubu Dogara, would have seen such an outcome. That was why the bill never saw the light of the day under their care. Who would drive it now? Is it Femi Gbajabiamila, a Bola Tinubu lackey, the same Tinubu, that is shamelessly planning to present himself for 2023 presidency without caring a whiff what it means to Ndigbo as a people? Is it Ahmad Lawan who has publicly announced that whatever Buhari presents to him would be granted speedily, because “he means well?” The world can now see why the same Senate President forbade that the line by line contents of the loan proposal be read on the floor of the Senate as a basis for the approval, as vehemently pushed by Enyinnaya Abaribe. It has now become evident what he was hiding.
Chinua Achebe in his The Trouble With Nigeria, said the only project Nigerians would always come together and agree is the marginalisation of Ndigbo. If you think he is alone, hear Muhammed Lamido Sanusi, the just deposed Emir of Kano echo and stress the same argument. “They the Igbo have been defeated in war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public sector appointments and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity.
“The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Igbo out of the scheme of things. In the recent transition when the Igbo solidly supported the PDP in the hope of an Ekwueme presidency, the North and South-West treated this as a Biafra agenda. Every rule set for the primaries, every gentleman´s agreement was set aside to ensure that Obasanjo, not Ekwueme emerged as the candidate. Things went as far as getting the Federal Government to hurriedly gazette a pardon. Now, with this government, the marginalistion of the Igbo is more complete than ever before. The Igbos have taken all these quietly because, they reason, they brought it upon themselves. But the nation is sitting on a time-bomb. “After the First World War, the victors treated Germany with the same contempt Nigeria is treating Igbos. Two decades later, there was a Second World War, far costlier than the first. Germany was again defeated, but this time, they won a more honourable peace,” Sanusi was quoted as saying.
The difference here, is unlike the German example, Ndigbo are not prepared to fight anyone. Not anymore. They never had a Hitler that stoked the war and therefore were not the aggressors. In fact, did they fight in the first place? They merely defended themselves. So, the question of another war to win “a more honourable peace,” does not seem to exist. Why should they fight? They have no chariots or army, just like the Israelites never had to battle against the great forces of Pharaoh. They only have one weapon – the philosophy of egbe bere ugo bere, onye anwuna, ibe ya efuna – Justice to all – live and let live – do unto others as you would want them to do unto you – that injunction direct from God.
That’s all the Igbo have asked for in Nigeria, at least post civil war. That’s why they will never lose. So, what do they need horses and chariots for? All those, amassed by Pharaoh perished in the Red Sea, at the mention of God’s name. Records have it that the Pharaohs became so powerful that they had to hire a counsellor to drum to their ears at intervals – “remember Pharaoh, thou are but human,” lest they played God.
Perhaps, Buhari, might need such a counsellor to similarly caution him in the same way. Right now, there seem to be no wise counsel in Aso Rock Villa. That’s why they are playing God. Pity, no man can play God without the consequences. May God spare him with long life, so that one day he will, like Gowon, bear testimony with his mouth that Ndigbo are people of God. Good luck to him.