From Magnus Eze, Enugu
There is a palpable feeling of despondency across the length and breadth of the South East over the people’s condition in the Nigerian federation as presently constituted. Though several people are in sync with the agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and other similar separatist groups for an independent state of Biafra, the apex Igbo sociocultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has been insistent on dialogue that would translate to the restructuring of Nigeria.
To Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the agitation and youth restiveness in the South East of Nigeria is simply a reaction or an effect or the consequences of an orchestrated alienation by the Federal Government over the years.
According to the group, until some of the issues of obvious injustice against the Igbo are seen to be addressed, the chains of catastrophe that threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria may well-nigh be inevitable.
“Ask any Igbo any day, all he wants is a sense of belonging in a country anchored on equity, justice and fairness,” Ohanaeze maintained.
Noting that it is extremely difficult to have peace amidst injustice, President General of Ohanaeze, George Obiozor, recently emphatically declared: “We need not look elsewhere to know that IPOB is simply an exponent of Igbo collective sentiments and predicaments in our tortuous journey and an unquantifiable sacrifice for one Nigeria.”
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, also advanced similar thoughts recently.
In a speech entitled: “If Zik were alive,” delivered at the Second Igbo Nsukka Zik Annual Merit Award 2021 held at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on Wednesday, and with the theme: “Preserving Zik’s legacies for national unity,” Ogbonnia identified the case of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu as the most intricate and complex challenge to the Igbo at present.
Speaking at the event organised by the Igbo Nsukka United Front in honour of the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Ohanaeze spokesman called Kanu a persuasive visionary charismatic leader whose followership was catholic, saying that the agitation for Biafra that he leads has inadvertently become the opium of the Igbo masses.
“Like most visionaries, Kanu has identified the various ills in the Nigerian society and how the Igbo are victimized in the process. He has raised the awareness and consciousness of the Igbo youth that anybody against Kanu is considered either an oppressor or an agent of the oppressors. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has also created a vision with a strongly held assurance of how the new Biafra will look like; an Eldorado of abundance, affluence, communalism, love, joy and happiness. And as in Christian or Islamic religion, the adherents are prepared to deprive themselves the enjoyment the contemporary world provides in an anticipation of the fullness of joy in the life hereafter. As in religion, martyrdom becomes a stronger visa for the benefits thereafter. Therefore, Biafra has inadvertently become the opium of the Igbo masses. It must therefore be appreciated that Nnamdi Kanu has become a phenomenon,” Ogbonnia asserted.
Two leading Igbo groups- the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) and the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), yesterday, gave further insight into why the agitation for an independent state for the Igbo may not die soon.
According to the ADF, the crisis of the Nigerian federation has reached a stage where many Igbo are getting convinced that the only fundamental solution lies in the attainment of sovereignty as an independent republic under the African Union.
Chairman, Media and Publicity Bureau of ADF, Abia Onyike who stated this in a position paper in Enugu, noted that the difference between ADF and apex Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere is that Afenifere advocates restructuring of the Nigerian federation along regional lines but “we believe that only the transformation of the ethnic nationalities into autonomous republics can resolve the crises of the artificial federation.”
ADF said there was the need for Ndigbo to enjoy the maximum benefits of national sovereignty, which the Hausa-Fulani hegemons have blocked since 1960.
Onyike argued that only a sovereign nationhood can permit Igbo civilization to blossom and not to be drawn back because of the unfavourable political relationship between them and their neighbours in the chaotic and crisis-ridden Nigerian federation. He said: “Nigeria is a federation of divided people. The British created Nigeria as an omnibus state to frustrate Igbo advancement in world affairs.
“We live in a generation globally where what is prevalent is the formation of organic states as distinct from empire states. The organic state is one in which the people have a common language and a common culture with minor variations. Examples abound. From 1989 to date, over 25 new countries (states) have emerged from Asia, Europe and Africa.
“In 2007, the UN passed a resolution making it legal and democratic for ethnic nationalities to exercise their rights to self-determination. Igbo nation is a major or mega nationality and has all it takes to stand as an independent republic away from the violence, crises and perpetual uncertainties of Nigeria’s failed and artificial federation.
“The crises of the Nigerian federation can only be resolved through the proper understanding of the facts raised above.”
Also, COSEYL said that the youths in Igbo land would continue to agitate for self-determination unless the Federal Government addressed the lingering marginalisation of the zone.
President General of the group, Goodluck Ibem particularly frowned at the non-inclusion of Igbo in strategic federal appointments.
He catalogued some of the grievances of the Igbo thus: “The Federal Government marginalises the people of South East in various ways and forms. For instance, no South East son or daughter is a Service Chief or a member of the Security Council. The list of how and where Igbo are marginalised by the present government is endless.
“Young Igbo graduates who are eminently qualified to be employed or to occupy some positions of authority in federal government ministries, parastatals and agencies are not employed or given the opportunity to even sit for exams or attend interviews. Round pegs are used in square holes, which has been drawing us back as a country.
“The security agents deployed to the South East zone kill young and vibrant Igbo youth arbitrarily without any provocation whatsoever. The security agents paid with taxpayers’ money intimidate, harass, detain and dehumanize Igbo youths without any reason to do so.
“These mindless harassment and intimidation make youths to want to opt out of the country since they are no longer needed in a country they belong.
“Army, police, Navy and other security roadblocks have become a point where security agents brazenly extort from motorists, tricycle and motorcycle riders. There are uncountable roadblocks on South East roads.
“These roadblocks make life difficult, unbearable and living hell for our youths who make a living through business. The worst aspect of the extortion by security agents in South East is that they kill at will whosoever that fails or refuses to give them bribe and will openly declare before the hearing of everyone that ‘I will kill you and nothing will happen’.
“Sadly, Igbo youths who refused to pay bribes have been extra-judicially killed by these security agents deployed on our roads and those involved have not been prosecuted or brought to justice for crimes against humanity. It is very sad.
“The Federal Government is not building infrastructures in South East the way it is building in other geo-political zones. The Federal Government has built double-gauge rail system in other zones and even to our neighbouring country, Niger Republic but none has been built or even awarded in South East zone. We have been really relegated to the background by this present government.”
He said that Igbo youth are also schemed out in the provision of agricultural incentives and grants to farmers. Ibem added that in the judiciary, the federal government had systematically removed people from South East from the roll of judges so that no Igbo man or woman will emerge as Chief of Justice of Nigeria.
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