In his earlier writings, Femi Fani-Kayode venomously castigated the Igbo. He accused us of excessive greed and unbridled tribalism, and indicted us for virtually everything that ever went wrong in Nigeria. Olusegun Obasanjo, both as a military head of state and a civilian president did not demonstrate any respect for Igbo legitimate aspirations and/or ensure that we got what was equitably ours. Neither of these men is a friend of the Igbo.
Ironically, lately, they are pretending to be solicitous of the Igbo. Fani-Kayode took to ingratiating Nnamdi Kanu and pandering to the forces of neo-Biafranism. And in a recent BBC interview, Olusegun Obasanjo justified Igbo anger against Nigeria by reeling out a litany of reasons why the Igbo should be enraged at Nigeria. This is most insidious because Igbo anger against Nigeria is not, in any way, helping the Igbo. It traps us in a political limbo, where we refuse to enthusiastically accept Nigeria, and instead, cling to an imaginary country, Biafra. Therefore, stoking Igbo rage against Nigerian is extremely dangerous to the Igbo. This is exactly what these two men are doing; the Igbo must be extremely wary of them
Most Igbo are very bitter at Nigeria because they have refused to view the Nigerian reality objectively. For our own good, we need to objectively analysis the Nigerian reality, and put our anger in perspective. No one can, at the same time, be a victor and a loser. After every war, the winner luxuriates in the thrill of victory and the loser suffers the misery of defeat. History has demonstrated that, irrespective of the magnanimity and benevolence of the victor, the loser must bear the brunt of defeat. We find examples of this in the American South, after the American civil war; Germany, after the two World Wars; and South Vietnam, after the triumph of the North Vietnamese. Quite naturally, the Igbo paid the price of not only defeat but unconditional surrender: the seizure of Igbo property as abandoned property, a banking policy that further impoverished us, etc
However, buoyed by the glimmer of hope inherent in the emergent order dictated by Gowon’s no victor, no vanquished policy, we, uncomplainingly, mourned the dead, bind up our wounds, and wiped off the smears of blood and streaks of tears. And with solace found in our faith in God and consolation found in our hard-edged work ethics, bubbling entrepreneurial spirit, irrepressible optimism and love for life; we set out once more to re-establish ourselves. Despite discriminatory practices that blighted the no victor, no vanquished policy, there was still a phoenix-like regeneration of the Igbo in the years following the end of the war. And by 1979, we had also re-established ourselves politically.
However, since after the 2nd Republic, there has been a steady erosion of Igbo political accomplishments. It is now evident that the more time we have, since the end of the civil war, to re-establish ourselves, the more troubled our politics becomes; more politically irrelevant we become; more angry we are at Nigeria; and the more we blame every other Nigerian for hating us and victimizing us and every Nigerian government for marginalizing us. This is because there was an attitudinal shift among the Igbo, especially the Igbo power elite.
After the civil war, the Igbo political elite were dominated by those whose concept of Nigeria and the place of the Igbo in Nigeria were formed before Biafra. Thus, their attitude towards Nigeria was not shaped by the falsehood of the Biafran propaganda. So, although we were at a nadir of powerlessness and helplessness, they approached politics with a positive attitude: confidence, trust and optimism in the Nigerian system. They believed that it works for all Nigerians within the limits of human weaknesses. With that hopeful attitude, they engendered an Igbo re-emergence from the ashes of war. And then, the Igbo were less angry, felt less victimized and hauled less blames at other Nigerians and Nigerian governments.
The present Igbo political elite’s concept of Nigeria and the place of the Igbo in Nigeria were informed and shaped by the falsehood of the Biafran propaganda. The Biafran propaganda taught us that we are a harmlessness and blameless people encircled by a band of evil ethnic groups that not only refused to appreciate our enormous contribution to Nigeria but, in their fervid hatred for us, routinely betrayed us and massacred us, and finally, drove us out of Nigeria. And, as we left and found our own country, Biafra, still driven by their implacable animosity for us, they pursued us to our country to fight us and exterminate us. Therefore, the war was a war of survival that the Igbo must win or face extermination by a Hausa/Fulani led posse of blood-thirsty ethnic groups of Nigerians.
The enduring hold of the Biafran propaganda on Igbo minds makes the Igbo suspicion of other Nigerians. It makes us wallow in self-pity and feel like victims. It is this attitude of suspicion, self-pity and victimhood – and its intrinsic persecution complex – that explains the present problems of the Igbo in Nigerian politics. We feel surrounded by enemies united in a conspiracy to undermine our every progress in every facet of the Nigerian social life. We feel that we are forced by the loss of the civil war to continue to co-exist in one country with groups hell-bent on our destruction. No wonder, we feel persecuted and victimized by other Nigerians and every Nigerian government and its policies.
So, what in the past we saw as challenges to success, we now see as confirmations for the universal hatred against us. Where in the past we saw the need for self-assertion, and even, brinkmanship, or negotiations and horse-trading, we now see the rationale for secession. In Nigerian unity, where we once saw opportunities and benefits, we now see gloom and doom. With such a mindset, why would the Igbo not be extremely angry at Nigeria? This blazing anger against Nigeria is most detriment to us: it subverts our progress, especially, in politics. We need to discipline our emotions, and objectively, deal with our problems in Nigeria. As, we do not, and cannot, have another country, we should wholeheartedly accept Nigeria, wholly assert ourselves and stake claim to all that is legitimately ours; and direct our activism, not towards a daydream country, Biafra, but in demand for all our entitlements in Nigeria.
Fani-Kayode and Obasanjo, by justifying Igbo bitterness against Nigeria are doing the Igbo a monumental disservice. They are reinforcing the Igbo political limbo – a ridiculous, retrogressive indeterminate state – where we reject a real country and grasp for an imaginary one. Our lack of total commitment to Nigeria retards our political strides in politics. And the quest for Biafra will yield us nothing but destruction and death. Therefore, the likes of Obasanjo and Fani-Kayode, in fanning Igbo anger against Nigeria, are nudging the Igbo towards a political suicidal.
Ezukanma wrote from Lagos, Nigeria
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