Why is 4-year old Onyedika Orji carrying a placard against killings in Nigeria?

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper and NigeriaCentral.com


Unusually and unfortunately, there are some misguided Igbos for whom, even, the killings in Kaduna will not arouse them from their slumber and bed of excuses. For such a handful of spaghetti-spine characters, they will run for cover when they read the comments by the leader of the defunct Peoples' Republic of Biafra Ikemba Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in NewsWatch magazine of March 20, 2000, regarding the killings of his fellow Igbos. Specifically, where he says that "If the price of nationhood is regular bloodletting, let us not be a nation." Such frank comments by Ikemba (like others I've heard him say in my well over 30 hours of interviews with him at different times, different years) should not be interpreted to mean a sign-post for dismembering Nigeria. It is not a manifesto for confederation. Essentially, since the Ikemba is one of a few Africans who says it exactly how he sees it, I believe his comments reflect a realistic, bold and justiceable interpretation of the raw and painful twists and turns of Nigeria's geopolitics and history. The Igbo will rather die in dignity than be footstool to any oppressive or unjust man, agency or government. These points, and much more are made in my forthcoming book which reflects on the lessons learned and unlearned, and the historiography of that 1967-1970 war between Nigerians and southeastern Nigerians. It is titled Biafra: History Without Mercy. Let me add, humbly, that the much hassled but robustly resilient Igbo nation of almost 30 million people never yields to any form of state or privately sponsored bigotry and brutality. No; not the Igbo wu Igbo. No! Those who have ears let 'em hear!

It was a sunny, beautiful noontime at the downtown area of the the 4th largest city in the U.S. As the clock struck 11:00am, they began to gather. Around 5 minutes to 12 noon, the numbers grew. On that Monday , March 12, 2000, some Igbos in the U.S. were gathering to demonstrate in front of the city council Hall of Houston. Their mission, according to organizers of the event, sought to call the attention of the international community to the killings of their folks and destruction of properties in the Northern Nigeria city of Kaduna.

Many of those who converged carried placards which, among other things, read "Houstonians are against Ethnic cleansing of Igbos in Nigeria", "Mayor Lee Brown, our families are dying in Nigeria." A reference to the critical comments the literature Nobel laureate made that Nigeria's president Obasanjo should have taken some decisive actions when churches were burned in Ilorin (Kwara State), which happened almost 2 months before the Kaduna Sharia crisis. One of the demonstrators in Houston was chanting "President Obasanjo, why did you take so Long to act? Obasanjo fails to speak out firmly on the killing of Igbos and and Christians."

Earlier on Saturday March 11, another group of demonstrators took their case to the Southwest Hilton Hotel premises where Nigeria's Atlanta based consul Mr. Keshi was attending the inauguration of the president of the Nigerian Foundation (Houston) Godwin Oji. The demonstrators did not disrupt any of the proceedings. But Igbo Peoples' Congress president, Engr. Chi Onwuchekwe told Mr. Keshi that "Igbos and their friends all over the world are aggrieved by the killings of their kith and kin in Kaduna, and an obvious failure on the part of the government of President Obasanjo to act decisively to secure lives and properties." Keshi addressed the group, and promised the government of Nigeria will look into the issues and their grievances. At the Southwest Hilton demonstration, one of those who joined in the chant for justice and protection of Igbo lives, Mazi Eni Kanu of Kanuco Technology Corporation, informed USAfrica that "we can no longer continue to fold our hands while our people are killed at whim. It is not proper."

On his part, a former Biafran war officer and community leader Dr. Lucius Akuchie informed USAfrica The Newspaper and NigeriaCentral.com that "we're here to send a simple message: enough is enough. How long will the killing of Igbos continue? We'll no longer allow it to happen. Not anymore." Not too far from him, a placard carried a familiar warning to those killing their folks and the new civilian government: "Be warned; Igbos will Act Again!" One of the women who participated Mrs. Chioma Orji held her very active and demonstrating four-year old son (Onyedika) told USAfricaonline.com that Saturday that she was worried because "eight members of my extended family are in Kaduna. We're not sure of their safety. But we'll not take kindly to any further violence against our people."onyedika orji.usafrica  pix© chido 2000

Onyedika who made history on Saturday March 11, 2000, as the youngest African in the U.S. to carry a placard held up one which yearned "Stop killing my uncles and aunties." The little boy's very visible effort did not go down well with some of the new officials of the Nigeria Foundation who demanded that "the parents of the kid take him, or the police will take over." Two members of the Harris County Police Department were watching the unfolding events, and were at the premises, at the inviting of the Houston Nigerian Foundation. From Akwa-Ibom State (a non-Igbo state) Ifiok-Augusta Utuk Ekong who also serves as President of the American Resource Center for African Culture and Technology (ARCFAC) joined the demonstration to protest the killing of Igbos, Uyo people and other southerner in Kaduna.

Also, from Rivers, Dr. Okendu, a computer services businessman in Houston, made his way into the demonstration, and held up a placard which proclaimed "Igbo Kwenu: The Republic of Biafra beckons." On the the events in far away Kaduna, Chief Sabi Vince Nweke, another businessman and community leader told USAfrica The Newspaper that "one of the most painful parts of the killing of Igbos in Kaduna is that a swift action by the government could have saved so many lives."

On that issue, international businessman and healthcare exec, Dr. Mike Ezigboh Umeorah told USAfricaonline.com that "the other danger is that the present government seems to have forgotten that it was the failure to protect all Nigerians, especially Igbos from ethnic and religious violence which fueled the 1967-70 civil war." Isi Ichie Aloy Obiechina, chairman of the board of the Houston Igbo Peoples' Congress cautioned that "allowing these acts of violence to continue will weaken our faith in the ability of the government to ensure our safety."

Chuma Anaduaka told USAfricaonline.com that "the international community should not overlook the atrocities being committed against the Igbos in Nigeria."

Dr. Chris Chinwe Ulasi, who teaches at the Texas Southern University noted that the new civilian government in Nigeria will be making a terrible misjudgment of the resolve of the Igbos if they look the other way while Igbos and Christians are killed. We want peace for all people. But our people have suffered for too long."

Mazi Ogbonnaya Nnadozie, an architect and member of the influential Nzuko Umu Aro added that "the time to keep talking about fairness to all is long gone. It's only the deeds of the government and other Nigerians that will rebuild our peoples' faith in the law and order structure of the country. We've had enough." The demonstration in the downtown attracted the attention of the Houston Mayor Pro Tem who sent two members of his staff to make note of the issues at stake. The number of demonstrators at the Hilton on Saturday, and subsequently on Monday at the Houston city Hall premises were far fewer that the dominant, majority number of Igbos who live in Houston.

In some sense, that fact also reflected the self-defeating and indifference of some holier-than-thou Igbos who are more "one-Nigerian" (translation: they love Nigeria more than their fundamental, practical interests) than members of other ethnic and religious groups in the country of 110 million. Remarkably, some of those who did not attend any of the rallies held regarding their kith and kin inside Nigeria blame the Igbo Peoples' Congress for "inadequate publicity" of the event.

Whatever the value of such arguments, the fact is, unusually and unfortunately, there are some misguided Igbos for whom, even, the killings in Kaduna will not arouse them from their slumber and bed of excuses. I returned a few days ago, mid March from Washington D.C., after participating in the the Voice of America-WorldNet satellite broadcast across African countries, including Nigeria, to analyze those boiling issues regarding the Sharia, ethnic and religious killings in Nigeria.

For such a handful of spaghetti-spine characters, they will run for cover when they read the comments by the leader of the defunct Peoples' Republic of Biafra Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in NewsWatch magazine of March 20, 2000 on the killings of his fellow Igbos, specifically, that "If the price of nationhood is regular bloodletting, let us not be a nation." Such frank comments by Ikemba (like others I've heard him say in my well over 30 hours of interviews with him at different times, different years) should not be interpreted to mean a sign-post for dismembering Nigeria. It is not a manifesto for confederation.

Essentially, since the Ikemba is one of a few Africans who says it exactly how he sees it, I believe his comments reflect a realistic, bold and justiceable interpretation of the raw and painful twists and turns of Nigeria's geopolitics and history. The Igbo will rather die in dignity than be the footstool for any oppressive or unjust man, agency or government. These points, and much more are made in my forthcoming book which reflects on the lessons learned and unlearned, and the historiography of that 1967-1970 war between Nigerians and southeastern Nigerians. It is titled Biafra: History Without Mercy (see excerpts from the book's prologue on the Internet at www.usafricaonline.com/chidobiafra999.html

Finally, may I conclude by drawing from the wisdom of one of my ancestral sages, the foremost intellectual of Nigerian, indeed African origin to ever serve as President of modern Republic (he was Nigeria's first ceremonial president). That sage, the late Dr. the Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe, once had cause to caution those who seemed and acted like they were drunken by temporary authority to note that the words on a mammy wagon which read "No condition is permanent" is a useful guide in life.

Accordingly, let me add, humbly, that the much hassled but robustly resilient Igbo nation of almost 30 million people never yields to any form of state or privately sponsored bigotry and brutality. No; not the Igbo wu Igbo. No! Those who have ears let 'em hear! Or else....
-Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of the Houston-based USAfricaonline.com, USAfrica The Newspaper, The Black Business Journal, BBJonline.com, and NigeriaCentral.com, is the recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997. He covered U.S president Bill Clinton's visit to parts of Africa, March-April 2, 1998, and currently serves on Houston Mayor Lee Brown's international business advisory board (Africa). He previously served on the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria, and contributes editorial columns to The Mail & Guardian of South Africa, Houston Chronicle and other newspapers. (March 20, 2000)

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