1. Since 1999, the South-East had belonged to the ruling political party at the centre—Federal Government which we had overwhelmingly voted for in all past elections, and the party had over 15 unbroken years in power. Most Igbo elites of today (political, socio-cultural, business, and to some extent, clerical), made their fortune and fame during that period. The ruling party lost the presidential election in 2015, and a new coalition party came to power. This category of Igbo elites was angry at the loss of political offices and influence, with the perquisites involved; patronage in contracts and appointments to the boards of Federal Government MDAs, etc. They could not come to terms with the change.
2. Even before the new President was sworn-in, the pro-Biafran IPOB group, which had campaigned for the then ruling party in 2014, had started a vicious campaign of hate, abuses and lies against the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, and his ethnic group, and the North in general. The disgruntled elites kept supporting and fueling the campaign. It didn’t matter that the South-East was visibly getting more infrastructural development in the fewer years of the present Federal Government than it got in the longer period of the past ruling party. All that ruled the day were anger, hate, venting the spleen, pull-down-the-roof mindset.
3. The IPOB pro-Biafran agitation had been an umbrella for sundry youth criminal groups: armed robbers, cultists, ritualists, fraudsters, drifters, etc. Their common uniting factor is anarchist inclination and proclivity for violence, which is justified as a requirement of a “revolution” to first destroy the existing system, and when the “revolution” has succeeded, then you rebuild everything better. The youths were brainwashed on such a diet. The various groups cooperated in sourcing arms and ammunition for the “revolution”, to imbue themselves with greater authority. The disgruntled elites promoted and supported it, as long as it was primarily directed at the Federal Government and its facilities in the South-East. The elites never believed in any Biafran “revolution” though. They knew it wouldn’t happen. The campaign was all provocative rascality, insults and abuses in running hate propaganda and lies, being juiced with doctored and photo-shopped video clips and a steady flow of fake news. And it was all sweet melody as long as it was directed at President Buhari and his government.
4. Sample: There are four (4) military service chiefs, and normally, two come from the North, and two from the South. It is still the same under the present Federal Government. But you could hear every imaginable twisted narrative and lies about marginalisation and sectionalism against the South and the Igbos in particular. Since this 4th Republic started in 1999, Nigeria has had four (4) Presidents, including the present one. Two had come from the South (Obasanjo and Jonathan from South-West and South-South respectively), and two from the North (Yar’ Adua and Buhari, both from North-West). So, out of the six geopolitical zones, three have produced the president and three have not. This is public knowledge.
5. You can hear some highly placed Igbo leaders/opposition politicians shouting loud and clear that only the South-East has not produced a president since 1999 while all other zones have done so, and that this is injustice and inequity against Igbos and that Nigeria cannot survive without justice and equity. That’s like insulting the sensibilities of other members of the Nigerian space, as well as issuing a threat. And those leading this chorus are well educated, very knowledgeable and internationally exposed persons who the less educated and ignorant masses look up to, for facts and guidance. When the base human emotions, the animal-human nature takes over, intellect and enlightenment are relegated. Such brazen lies are told to whip up rash emotions and a victimhood mindset which leads to dishing out insults, abuses and hate speech against some other members of the Nigerian space.
6. You cannot win the free-will votes of Nigerians by such a method. Or do we think we can go to court, obtain an injunction, and then come back to nominate a President that Nigerians must accept without voting, or must vote for, all because “it is our turn”? Meanwhile, some other leaders from other parts of the country have been busy building and mobilising grassroots support from across the zones, with a view to gaining their votes in next year’s presidential election. Are we expecting them to do the cultivation labour and then hand over the harvest to us, because “it is our turn”? Foolish is not Igbo.
7. Some of our loud voices believe so much in Josef Goebbels’ strategy of Big-Lie: Tell the lie boldly and repeatedly, and the masses will believe it to be the truth. Nazi Germany applied it in its drive to exterminate the Jews and “rid Europe of inferior nations” while deceiving the wider world as to the true situation on the ground. But that did not go far before Germany suffered a devastating collapse, and the future generation learnt to say, “never again”. If some of the Igbo leaders of today continue to rely on such a strategy, then we could expect a similar backlash, because this form of dirty politics breeds violent conflict and destruction.
8. The vicious campaign failed to bring down President Buhari’s government, and did not also succeed in intimidating and blackmailing the President to do their dictate. Their game plan did not work out. Contradictions set in, and in a twist, the mad dog trained to attack the enemy, turned against its master breeder, and we are all caught up in a fix, confused about the way out. Some prominent spokesmen would attack the person of the President: that he has been romancing Boko Haram and bandits in the North, releasing them and granting them amnesty, while refusing to release a freedom fighter (Nnamdi Kanu) who has not committed any offence, and that Nigeria will know no peace if he is not released. At the same time, another top leader of the same group would say they are appealing or pleading with the President to release the detainee in order to douse tension in the South-East because it’s all about equity and fairness, and that is the only way for Nigeria to move forward; that the President is the father of the nation and should forgive the detainee as his son. This is not how to seek for “political solution” if they think that’s what they are doing. They are still dishing out insults and threats.
9. What plan has the Igbo leaders laid out to get the armed gangs to renounce violence, surrender their weapons and be rehabilitated in a kind of amnesty programme?
Or are they thinking that the Federal Government should keep quiet and watch armed gangs of non-state actors take over the space and dictate what happens, by using threats and wanton violence? No responsible national government, anywhere in the world, will tolerate that. Threats, blackmail and insults cannot work here. Nor will simpletonic cunning and fox game work. We must take responsibility, with a forthright approach in seeking a solution to the problem, then we could be sure of cooperation and support from the Federal Government, particularly in the area of funding.
10. Those talking of “unconditional release’ of Nnamdi Kanu, from the ongoing terrorism-related court trial, are simply jesting, dancing to the cheap gallery, entertaining and deceiving themselves and the local folks. It shows crass insensitivity and total disregard for serious national-security concerns, as well as insulting the sensibilities of other groups of Nigerian stakeholders. We better wake up and think better.
11. Recall that this group of pro-Biafran agitators were attacking and destroying Federal Government facilities in the South-East, attacking and killing duty policemen and women and their stations burnt, as well as attacking members of other Federal Government security agencies, and killing Igbo leaders and peasants who disagreed with their method. How many of these elders publicly spoke out against that? It was as if some of them were celebrating the feat and blaming the Federal Government for creating the situation. That was before the leader of the group was re-arrested outside the country and brought home to face court trial. Has the group denounced such violence?
12. Now that the monster we created has turned back to attack us, we must take responsibility, with a spirit of forthrightness and atonement, in seeking for r solution to the problem. Empty grandstanding, cunning and fox game, can only drag and worsen the situation. President Buhari will soon complete his tenure of office and another President (most likely from the South-West) will take over, and we could again start attacking him with insults, abuses and hate propaganda, which will lead us nowhere and cannot succeed in intimidating the new person to do our biddings”.
Me sir now the original name of Igbo is foolishness because of hate
•Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen Azubuike Ihejirika (Rtd)