By BABAYOLA M. TOUNGO
With the advent of this political dispensation, which began in May 1999, the north sank deeper into a sea of poverty, illiteracy and joblessness amidst the greed of rapacious, conscienceless ruling class, whose only target is to be at the centre of power irrespective of how the region fared. Ignorance and mediocrity have taken over at the expense of saner minds. Th e north, steeped in history of unity, compromises and leadership sagacity, has turned its back on its past. While the late Sir Ahmadu Bello shone light on the region during the pre and the immediate post-independence period, the region is now so fragmented along ethno-religious lines that the emergence of another Sir Ahmadu Bello may be near impossible.
Our matchless source of power has been our unity, but we have abandoned this in favour of “elite power”. Is it any wonder therefore that the region was brought to its knees in all facets of human endeavour right before its competitors? Th e massacre of northern political and military leaders on the night of January 15, 1966 left a region trying to play catch-up with the rest of the country rudderless. Th e unifi cation decree promulgated by the Ironsi government was specifi cally targeted at the “feudal north”, whatever it may mean. It was meant to curb the perceived overbearing infl uence of the region on the aff airs of the country. But if ‘truth be told’, to paraphrase the name of one of the January 1966 coupists books, the decree was meant to strengthen the hands of the Igbos in all spheres of the country’s polity.
Much as those who want to rewrite the history of the immediate post-independence Nigeria would want the rest of the world to believe that the secession and the subsequent civil war was a consequence of the isolated killing of Igbos in Kano, the north must strive to bring to fore the real version of history and the chronology of historical events that led to the thirty month old needless civil war. Th e Igbos, by their actions on January 15, 1966 and the subsequent triumphal attitude displayed in northern towns ignited the fi re that nearly engulfed them.
Th e starvation theory and the 20 pounds payout by a benevolent federal government to every Igbo person after their surrender can all be traced to the actions of their leaders. We are now reliving this same attitude, which pitted brother against brother. When Nzeagwu and his band of killers murdered northern and western political and military leaders to the total exclusion of those of eastern extraction, the Igbos applauded them and basked in the mistaken glory of dominating the rest of the country. No single Igbo elite condemned this barbarism. When the north woke from its slumber, the cries of “pogrom” rented the air. Killing the political and military leaders of the north wasn’t a crime but “retaliatory” action by northern military offi cers was worth branding a whole region as barbaric. Th e killing of Ironsi was a result of the failure of his government to prosecute those who carried out the massacre of January 15.
To northerners at the time, those massacred by Nzeagwu and company were men of matchless virtue, faith and character. With the emergence of Nnamdi Kanu on the eastern horizon and criminal silence from the Igbo elite, it may appear history is about to repeat itself. An upstart, barely literate wannabe has taken to the airwaves in the last two years hurling insults at the leadership and people of the north with no single condemnation from the Igbo elite. He was rather egged-on by those who should know better.
He is received in government houses and palaces with pomp normally reserved for royalty. Action as is known begets reaction. Getting fed up with the insults from Kanu and the deafening silence from the Igbos, particularly those living in the north, some northern youths came together and issued what they called “quit notice” to Igbos living amidst them.
Th at they should leave the region on or before October 1st, 2017. Th en all hell broke loose. A hitherto pliant government got to action by inviting various groups to Aso Villa for only God knows what. Th e Igbo elites found their voice and those living in the north began running to government houses and palaces to pledge their allegiance to a united Nigeria. Suddenly Kanu doesn’t represent anybody; he is on his own; he is a lunatic. But is that what we see? Come on, please let’s be real. Th e Igbos only now realised how the hospitality of the northerners made it possible for them to have investments worth N4 trillion in the region.
Th ey forgot to tell us the total investments of all northerners living in the east. While the hospitality of the average northerner made it possible for the Igbos to have this quantum of investment in the north, the hostility of the average Igbo man made it impossible for anybody, from any part of the country to live and invest in Igboland. Th e never-ending excuse is ‘marginalisation’. Have the Igbos cared to know how the rest of the country fared under ‘their’ government of Goodluck Jonathan when Pius Anyim and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala held sway?
If my memory serves me right, the Yorubas were not worse than the Igbos now, yet they didn’t threaten the country; the north was turned into a battleground and was perpetually under siege from Yola to Sokoto with all its attendant consequences, yet they bided their time. When the time came (2015 general elections), the north and the west, the two regions ‘marginalised’ by Jonathan and the Igbos, came together and kicked them out of Aso Villa.
Th e folly of those who supported Jonathan massively is now blamed on the rest of the country. Every uncouth language hurled at the rest of the country by any lunatic fringe is fair game. I do not choose to live under a union where the victim is always portrayed as the villain by an uncritical and biased press. If the Biafra advocates, proponents of restructuring and purveyors of such other mundane clichés will have the courage of their convictions, let them come out to call for the dissolution of the union. We can then sit at a round (or even oblong) table to decide along which lines we will go our separate ways. Th e marriage is not worth the insults. Enough is enough. Toungo wrote from