By Ikechukwu Amaechi
One of the most remarkable happenings in the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency is the rate at which Northerners give other Nigerians ultimatums. They dish out quit notices from the North or demand compensation for imaginary crimes. The Armageddon threats have skyrocketed since Buhari’s genocidal threat against Ndigbo on Twitter on June 2 and the backlash against his reference to the Igbos as “a dot in a circle” on Arise Television on June 10.
Most of the incidents for which these ultimatums are given are contrived as anyone can easily decipher. Unfortunately, the majority of those targeted are not discerning enough to know that the spurious narratives are meant to incite them to violence. Last week, the Northern Consensus Movement (NCM) hitched an inglorious ride on the rickety ultimatum wagon threatening genocide against the Igbos.
“We have done it in the past, we will do it again,” Awwal Abdullahi, president of the group, warned gravely, albeit boastfully, at a press conference on June 17. And what was his grouse? Abdullahi said Northerners were the economic heart of Nigeria, a pushback against those he claimed were calling them parasites. Fair enough.
It is incorrect to say that any part of the country contributes absolutely nothing to the commonwealth. But to pivot such assertion on lies, a deliberate attempt to wheedle the unwary, is unacceptable. Abdullahi claimed that the North owns the country’s oil wealth because crude “was discovered and harnessed with Northern Nigeria sweat and money.
“The money of groundnut pyramids and cotton was used to research, discover and build the refineries that some other parts of Nigeria are claiming to be their own personal property.”
It is interesting to note how the story of who owns Nigeria’s crude oil is mutating in the North. At a Northern Leaders Conference in 2014, Usman Bugaje claimed that Nigeria’s crude oil is owned by the North.
“Whatever mileage you get in the sea, according to the United Nations Law of the sea, is a measure of the land mass that you have; that is what gives you the mileage into the sea … and the land mass of this country that gives that long 200 nautical miles or more into the ocean, is because of that 72 per cent of the land mass of this country, which is the North,” Bugaje claimed.
“The investment came from the Nigerian state and the territory belongs to the Nigerian state …. What they claim is offshore oil is actually the oil of the North …. There are no oil producing states.”
But had Abdullahi restricted himself to oil, as incorrect as his claim is, perhaps there would have been no need to comment. He didn’t. Instead, he claimed that “those that got any education from the South South, South West and South East got that from the Northern economy, from our own money, from the Northern sweat.”
So, Northerners are so charitable that they used their hard-earned resources to educate Southerners but not their own indigenes, the vast majority of whom are not educated. Interesting!
I don’t know how old Abdullahi and his co-travellers on this boulevard of delusion are. But they need to be reminded that the Igbo State Union set up schools they exclusively funded in Northern cities such as Jos and Kano in the colonial era. Many Northern leaders acquired their early education in such schools.
It may also interest them to know that the Eastern Region government was the only government in the First Republic and, indeed, in the world in the 1960s that invested 45 per cent of its revenue in education.
As Prof. Tekena Tamuno, historian and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, noted in an article, Igbo are the makers of modern Nigeria: “The East had the highest number of schools; the highest school enrollment; the broadest penetration of medical services; and the best modern road network in West Africa.”
According to Harvard Review, between 1954 and 1964, Eastern Nigeria was not only the “fastest growing economy in the world,” it outpaced China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. What stopped the renaissance was the Civil War and the fact that the South East has remained part of a country where in the 21st century – when other countries are exploring Mars – its leaders are engrossed with cattle routes.
The North has never fed Ndigbo. Not yesterday, not today. And the North will definitely not feed the Igbos tomorrow. But had Abdullahi stopped at this infantile hallucination, this article would still have been unnecessary. He didn’t. Instead, without any shred of evidence, he accused Southerners of genocide against Northerners in the South.
But his narrative was full of contradictions.
In one breath, he lamented “the number of our people that are being killed and property being destroyed in the South South, South West and South East.” And then claimed that “the number of Igbos that are resident in Kano and Kaduna alone are far greater than the number of Northerners that reside in the entire South South, South West and South East.”
He sought compensation for Northerners whose properties have been destroyed in the South. But, contradicting himself, acknowledged that “all our people in the East are either tomato sellers, wheelbarrow pushers, okada riders, suya makers, shoe shiners and finger nail cutters. Those are the Northerners mostly resident in the South South, South West and South East.” This type of Northern folks are in the ranks of the Talakawas, whom the Northerner elite subjugates through illiteracy and are too poor to own property anywhere in the country, North and South.
Abdullahi also contradictorily admitted that “the billions of investments of Yorubas and Igbos in Kaduna and Kano alone is far greater than the investment of the entire Northerners in the South South, South West and South East if we remove BUA and Dangote who are international businessmen.”
Asking himself rhetorically “how much investment do we (Northerners) have in the East,” he provided further insight: “But if you go to Kaduna and Kano and other parts of Nigeria, an Igbo owns a personal house, with C-of-O, he owns a ‘skyrocketed’ building that he is renting out to even Northerners themselves.
“You go to the remotest village, you find him owning a farm of his own, personal farmland. You don’t have any Northerner owning a house in the South South, South West and South East.”
If he knows this much, who then are these Northerners whose lives and properties are being destroyed in the South? What property does a tomato seller, wheelbarrow pusher, okada rider, shoe shiner and fingernail cutter possess that an Igbo will destroy?
Yet Abdullahi thundered: “We are passing this message to the Federal Government, the Eastern and Western state governors that every Northerner that has been killed, every property of every Northerner that has been destroyed, we are saying that the governments of those states that those incidents happened must pay our people.
“You must pay compensation. We will no longer tolerate the killing of our people, we will no longer tolerate the destruction of the properties of our people anymore. If not, we have done it in the past, we will do it again.”
Some Nigerians believe that such fringe groups should be ignored. I disagree. Not when Buhari has joined in reminding Ndigbo how much property they have in the North. Why are Northerners so obsessed with the properties of Ndigbo? Why is Buhari, in his words and actions, endorsing these vile and incendiary rhetoric? Why are security agencies promoting these dangerous narratives?
Some may have forgotten how in April 2016 the Department of State Service (DSS) raised an alarm that it had discovered mass graves of “Hausa-Fulani” residents allegedly abducted and murdered by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Abia State.
“The Service has uncovered the heinous role played by members of … IPOB, in the abduction/kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isuikwuato LGA in Abia State,” the then DSS spokesperson, Tony Opuiyo, told bewildered Nigerians.
“The abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst fifty (50) other shallow graves of unidentified persons,” DSS claimed.
To date, the DSS refused to disclose the identities of the other 45 “victims.” Were they also Fulani herdsmen? They didn’t say. Apparently, they had achieved their goal which was to incite northerners against innocent Igbos living in the North. Why would a government security agency funded with taxpayers’ money play such a dangerous game? The answer, as they say, blows in the wind.
And the pattern has been consistent. Unknown gunmen breached security in Imo State, and even when Governor Hope Uzodimma insists that over 70 per cent of the 400 people arrested were non-Igbo, the police blamed Igbo youths.
Ahmed Gulak was gruesomely murdered in Owerri. Uzodimma cried foul, insisting it was political assassination and urged the police to carry out thorough investigation. Police said there was nothing to investigate, after catching up with the culprits where they were sharing “onions from the North” one hour after the crime was committed.
The alleged assassins, labelled IPOB members, were all killed, and their bodies burnt beyond recognition. Case closed! As I write, no one knows the real identities of those Police claimed killed Gulak. Investigations were concluded even before Gulak was killed. And ultimatums and threats started flying about. Many Northerners believe their own lies. That is, perhaps, the greatest threat Nigeria faces today, because, as Fyodor Dostoevsky, the 19th century Russian author and journalist, once noted: “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” Lack of love explains the carnage all around us.