• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Did Zik betray the Igbos?


It’s pertinent to address matters of concern amongst the Igbos, especially at a time when Nigeria has found herself at a crossroads. Still,it would be superfluous to deliberate on the issue of betrayal of the person of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe by his own people. Over the years, there has been a split amongst the Igbos over Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s hero posture. Many still denigrate and regard Zik as an impostor,an enemy, or a deceived political juggernaut. Historians have written so many things in defence and condemnation of Zik. Zik lived and died as a patriotic and egalitarian Nigerian leader. Twenty-eight years after the death of the statesman, many still trouble themselves, cause havoc, bring mistrust, and confuse fellow tribesmen about the achievements of Zik, especially for the Igbos.

Read also: How Nigeria walked into a disastrous independence and why Azikiwe never became prime minister

In the first place, the arguments over the heroic position of Zik came as a result of the rift and crisis between Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (4 November 1933–26 November 2011) and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (16 November 1904–11 May 1996). Both of them have many aspirations, goals, and objectives in common, despite their searing differences. Both of them became the first presidents of the country they believed in. Both of them were born in Zungeru, in northern Nigeria. Both of them studied at Lincoln universities, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Oxford. Nonetheless, the sharp differences between Emeka Ojukwu and Zik have been warping our perception and gnawing at many souls.

The Ahiara Declaration of June 1, 1969, in which, amongst other principles of the Biafran revolution, General Ojukwu decreed that there would only be one man and one house in the land of Biafra, Initially, the conspiracy started when, after several mediations, Zik travelled to Lagos in 1968. As Yakubu Gowon was informed by the press concerning the arrival of Zik in Lagos, he willy-nilly accepted Zik together with his son in the Dodan barracks, and they had other deliberations. Zik was not privileged to have a wealthy father like Sir Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was a director in more than eighteen companies. Unfortunately, Sir Louis had all his investments in Lagos and other parts of the country but none in the eastern region.

With the rejection of the Aburi-style confederation in Lagos and the massacre of the Igbos in Northern Nigeria, the Governor of the Eastern Region, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared the sovereignty and independence of Biafra in 1967. This singular act had turned Ojukwu into the greatest hero for the Igbos. Do we need to compare Ojukwu and Zik? The Republic, in her discourse on Ojukwu as a controversial leader of the short-lived Republic of Biafra, stated that before Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died in 2011, he had assumed four personalities: a hero, a villain, a rebel, and even a ‘one Nigerianist’.

Read also: The 1951 elections: How Awolowo forced Azikiwe out of western Nigeria

Driven by envy, jealousy, and lovelessness, many easterners are led to scrutinise the foremost nationalist, pan-Africanist, in his quest for national unity and commitment to the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as a frivolity. Zik had identified Awolowo as the initiator of tribalism in Nigerian politics. Kaduna Nzeogwu also identified the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, as a tribalistic leader who, through nepotism, destroyed the discipline and orderliness in the army. Those who have taken the comparison of Zik with anybody did not recall that before the first military coup in 1966, we had the Igbos coming first in every public institution in Nigeria during the first republic. Very soon, they would compare Dr. Alex Ekwueme, whom Ojukwu had creamed as being older than him, but he is taller. Some of the men celebrated today, like Ojike Mbonu, were one of the many sent to Lincoln by Zik. It’s unarguable that there’s no one more Igbo than Zik, who had no investment in any other part of the country except in the east.

It’s a surprise to learn that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe betrayed the Igbos. To use us to change the world, God changes our assignments. Zik transitioned from a poor black boy in America to a nationalist who made preparations for Nigeria’s independence. All of us should be more concerned about a nation trying to tax itself to prosperity. We all desire a country where every citizen can survive, thrive, exist, and flourish. The new tax regime aimed solely at the struggles of Igbo traders. Obafemi Awolowo did the same as a finance minister and dumped the proceeds into the defunct Soviet Union.

Nigeria has found herself in the greatest moral and political crisis since its independence in 1960. She clutches gradually towards a revolution. Some media are more propaganda than truth. Our children are being taught that Nigeria is a scam, that tribal theories of bigotry and nepotism are more idealistic, and that Nigeria’s laws, institutions, values, and traditions are mere walkovers and must be destroyed. It’s said that you can’t purify water by painting the pump, but political leaders in Nigeria would do virtually anything. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of a transformation strategy. Change brings fear, insecurity, sorrow, and stress. But Nigerians do not want the change advocated by the APC.

Obiotika Wilfred Toochukwu; St. Anthony’s Catholic Comprehensive Institute, Agulu.