Not that I am appealing to any religious sentiments here and I must also state that I not a pastor or Imam as a lot of Nigerians often say, even before allowing their audience to decide if their personality profile even qualifies them to the domestic animals in their surroundings not to talk of human beings. If your dare say Amen to the above prayer culled from the national anthem, I would beg you to patiently read the remaining article and follow with your heart. I am not making any judgment but you are free to make a conclusion of your own. Also you should not get too academic while reading this article (by throwing our usual analysis and paralysis that are typical of an average Nigerian (I am not excluded in this state of mind, remember we got this from the British) nor ethnocentric about this. I plead that you should throw your heart into this article as a Nigerian demanding redress from the status quo. Maybe if you assume that you just woke up one day and realized that you are a Nigeria and not from any part of the country it would make my work a lot more easier. Alternatively think of yourself cancelling the regular portion in our day-to-day forms demanding State of Origin, Local Government, Language, tribe, etc
First, peace was murdered during the first coup in 1966. Some of the most prominent elder statesmen were killed. It was a general opinion that the northerners felt terrible, the Yorubas were in a 50:50 situation, because Chief Awolowo was in the prison and they never liked Akintola, anyway. The general questions was also how Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo escaped the killing. Chief Awolowo’s case could be explained because he was in the prison then, but they could have killed him if they wanted to, anyway. The rest of the story are debatable and most times your perspectives are determined by which side of the River Niger water you drank from, your stereotypical upbringing and your person.
To appease everyone, someone from the northern region (precisely the Middle-Belt) was made the Head of State in the person of General Yakubu Gowon, a very young and unbiased soldier. Somehow the civil war broke out in the midst of misunderstanding as regards the choice of leadership, previous agreements and a host of other issues that will take another page that my readers cannot afford to devote time to came up eventually and the State of Biafra was declared by the then Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu. What transpired during this period does not need unnecessary eloquence. It suffices to say that it formally institutionalized deep animosity and mistrust between the eastern region on one hand and the rest of the country of the other. In all, the eastern region made its point (it became a strong force and must be accorded its due recognition) but at a very high cost. Lives, trust, families, career, properties, amongst several other were lost in the process. The aftermath of the war re-defined their perspective of the Nigerian nation-state. Generally south east people have developed a thick skin against polity and have focused on the private sector. The successes they have recorded cannot be overlooked. What my readers should praise about them is the ones that have refused to go to school, they can compete with some of us that brandish all the certificates in these world. The ones that went to school like me should not be praised, they have no excuse not to excel, it should come naturally. However, we should not glide over the hawks that have chosen to represent them in politics. They, like their brothers and sisters in the West and the North have represented themselves alone. Lining their pockets thick at the expense of people they claim to represent.
Generally in all the three regions there were victors and losers. The losers were ordinary Nigerians from the regions. The victors are just few political figures. Few of them are still alive as I write. Some that are late still have their children and families benefiting from political offices and appointments that were not based on expertise but the need to maintain the old order (or “settlement” as one of the political parties often says).
Now for the bitter truth, during this political era, most history students would not remember the names of people like Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro (1938-1968) the pioneer of the minority rights activism in Nigeria. Many Nigerians would not know that “Boro”, as he was fondly called was from Oloibiri, the first site that oil was discovered in Nigeria. He was mysteriously killed while fighting for the Federal Government during the civil war in 1968.
The coups of 1975 by Gen Murtala Muhammed ousting Gen Yakubu Gowon was met with the bloody coup by the then Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka and his gang in an attempt to restore the order as it were. Suddenly our dear General Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ as he is fondly called) found himself in a position of power, unprepared. He satisfied the bourgeoning political class and the old power bloc by handing over to the civilians who quickly reestablished the pre-1966 status quo.
In all he, OBJ, made history and left behind monuments that were the works of first republic politicians and the massive infrastructural development embarked upon by Gowon with a lot finalized by the late Murtala and himself. It suffices to say that the leaders of the first republic and the subsequent military Heads of State up to the hand over by OBJ had some genuine interest for nation building which is evidenced in the massive infrastructure embarked upon. They had their challenges, which includes laying the foundation for mistreating minorities and the heroic way we celebrate the three major tribes with impunity. I am sure they never imagined the script they wrote will be recklessly interpreted with much more impunity.
The political actors of the second republic, the military Heads of States, the botched third republic and the fourth republic are not so much different from Nollywood actors. Political offices and the dividends of democracy using the old order were shared openly like my old uncle would share meat for me back in those days. He would haul the whole lump in his mouth, leave tiny piece outside his canine and pull the little piece with his hand while his teeth clenches tight. Minutes after he would not be able to speak because his mouth will be so full, barring his tongue from any activity. If I dare complain, he would just give me heavy knock on the head. My big uncle is like our leaders and the major tribes in Nigeria while little me can be likened to the minority groups. The mannerism of my punishment, in my father house, is like what our leaders and their political bigots do to them.
By: Akeem Akinfenwa