Between Nigerian Igbos and Biafran Agitators: A Northerner’s Perspective, By Yushau A. Shuaib
As Nigerians, we should deploy common sense through dialogue to resolve the contentious issues of our nationhood. After all the hullabaloo and threats, I am so sure that no one is going anywhere. We should remain united and stop the dirty politics of ethnicity, widely played by sponsored and misguided youth.
The sweet memory of my youth service year in the Igboland of Asaba, Delta State, in the 90s, is what I have continued to relish whenever a discourse on tribalism, sectionalism and the likes are on the front burner in my beloved country, Nigeria. As non-indigenes, especially young Northerners, we were well-received, accommodated and accorded respect and dignity. In fact, we freely walked into the palace of the paramount ruler, the Asagba of Asaba, Professor Chike Edozien for support and guidance whenever the need arose.
Since then, I have had a proper perspective and understanding of the Ndigbo, many of who I have as friends. In this tension-soaked period when various sectional groups are issuing reckless and unguarded threats, it is necessary to further distinguish between a peace-loving Nigerian Igbo from a secessionist Biafran agitator.
The Ndigbo, as I know them, are spread across every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The Igbo generally tends to speak the local dialect and respect the culture of his host community. He believes that every part of Nigeria is a home away from home and adopts it as a place of residence. Experience has shown that if one goes into any community and does not find an Igbo person there, its better to leave that place immediately. Any city without an Igbo person cannot be business-like. On the other hand, a Biafran agitator is not likely to have been exposed to other parts of Nigeria besides Igboland, or might have grown in the diaspora where he only learnt the distorted history of Nigeria through myopic and eccentric points of view. The agitator hates other Nigerians and possibly believes in violent confrontation as the means towards the actualisation of his dream of the Republic of Biafra.
Meanwhile, the successes of Igbo entrepreneurs are more visible outside the shores of Igboland, with their enormous investments in hospitality, housing estates, spare parts assemblage, the sales and manufacturing of automobiles, and industrial concerns, among others, in different regions of the country. However, the business enterprise of a Biafran agitator is usually restricted to ‘Biafra-land’, without a vision of expansion outside the South-Eastern region. The primary activity of an agitator is the constant incitement through hate speeches, the making of empty threats and arrogant posturing. This is not core of the Ndigbo that I know so well.
A true Igbo politician is a bridge builder, who establishes and sustains friendship across the Niger. The likes of the Uzor Kalus of Abia, Rochas Okorochas of Imo, Peter Obis of Anambra, among others, are clear examples of successful Igbo businessmen who have transcended the geographic boundaries of Nigeria in making wise investments in the productive sector, before venturing into politics to support Igboland.
Unfortunately, the Biafran agitator has completely lost touch with the reality of our existence. The secessionist has forgotten that the map of the South-Eastern region of the 60s has completely changed in the new millennium. The Biafran politician fantasises about annexing other resource-endowed territories by drawing in territory belonging to the Ijaw, Urhobo, Kalabari, Ibibio, Ikwere, Efik, Igala, Idoma and Edo into his illusionary map of a Biafran Republic. Some of these ethnic nationalities have, in recent times, come out to dissociate themselves from the so-called Biafra agitation and cartography.
The Nigerian Igbo believes in the oneness and indivisibility of the country; he speaks Nigeria, breathes Nigeria and will never leave Nigeria. An obvious example is the fact that Igbos in Kano populate the vast Sabon Gari District, whose population is more than those of most big cities in the South-East. Apart from occasional sectional skirmishes which may not necessarily be their fault, the Igbos in the North are well loved by Northern leaders, and are even protected by the Arewa youth.
The Nigerian Igbo believes in the oneness and indivisibility of the country; he speaks Nigeria, breathes Nigeria and will never leave Nigeria. An obvious example is the fact that Igbos in Kano populate the vast Sabon Gari District, whose population is more than those of most big cities in the South-East.
The Igbos are allowed to acquire property and establish businesses in every Northern part of the country, but the Biafran sympathisers have continuously denied outsiders the ownership of land for business related activities in the South-East. This glaring discrimination currently creates the disparity of the inequality in business ownership, where an average Northerner can quickly relocate without losing a dime, while the sheer volume of investment of a South-Easterner can never be easily recouped or transferred even in decades.
It is necessary to point out that the modern day Biafran agitators hate Nigeria and Nigerians and keep describing the country as a zoo. The main agitator and supreme leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has not only publicly threatened to wage war against Nigeria in a bloody and violent confrontation but has also described any Christian that attends “a Church with a Yoruba Pastor as an idiot, imbecile and not fit to be a human being and worse than Boko Haram.”
In a series of his video and audio releases that are available online, Nnamdi Kanu engages in unfortunate intimidation and totally misguided statements. It is simply ridiculous! However, rather than condemning and bringing him to order, some respected Igbo leaders, who have built bridges across the length and breadth of this country, celebrate and even stand behind him despite his case of treason in the court.
While the rantings of Biafran agitators had gone on for a while without a reply, sadly it was the equally reckless declaration of the ultimatum issued by the so-called Arewa Youth as a counterbalancing response to the inciting statements, that reawakened the consciousness of Nigerians to the danger of hate campaigns.
While it may be justifiable to unleash a ferocious dog against a neighbour’s untamed mad dog, we should nevertheless tame the fury of the Arewa youth who might also be harbouring the exact mindset of Kanu and his IPOB.
As Nigerians, we should deploy common sense through dialogue to resolve the contentious issues of our nationhood. After all the hullabaloo and threats, I am so sure that no one is going anywhere. We should remain united and stop the dirty politics of ethnicity, widely played by sponsored and misguided youth. The ill-advised agitators from both parties must have read slanted history books, since they were not direct witnesses to the earlier gory history, the encore of which they are calling for.
Yushau A. Shuaib is publisher of PRNigeria; www.YAShuaib.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.