How Abati, Adelaja and others fuel the campaign of hatred against Ndigbo

By Jonas Okwara

 Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com,
NigeriaCentral.com

Once more in an unjustified manner, Igbos are being told that the Yorubas are now the new overlords of Nigeria. I thought arrogance of power was a grouse the south west had against the Hausa/Fulani. Today, it appears the temporary "shift of power" to the Yoruba south west had witnessed some other shifts less obvious to many. It is beginning to appear as if the war against injustice was fought to substitute one form of oppression for the insular prejudice of people who do not see any thing good in others except their own.

If any group must be congratulated for the Obasanjo presidency, it should be the Igbos who gave him 85% voter support. However if those who did not vote for the man, namely, his own Yoruba kinfolk, feel the best way to consolidate power is a policy of exclusion and hatred for others, then they must spare Igbos the insult and indignities. Almost in tandem , Igbos were targets of undeserved insults from junior Defence Minister Dupe Adelaja and Obasanjo's self-declared apologist Reuben Abati who also serves as Editorial page editor of the Lagos-based newspaper, The Guardian. Mrs Adelaja derided Igbos who fought in the Nigeria-Biafra war as "traitors" and the Igbos as a nation and people only good at " buying and selling."

The younger Abati who has painstakingly built a career on hatred for Igbos was less charitable in his three &endash; part article in December 2001, titled: Obasanjo, secession and secessionists. One does not have to go far to appreciate the deep, bareface message of dislike from these two fellows . It is however better for us Igbos and Yorubas particularly the Abatis, to know how we started our political journey and got to where we are, otherwise there is the tendency for some Yorubas to think that somehow they have "wrestled power" from the Hausa/Fulani, they can now turn on the Igbos. Again, the point bears repeating that the Yorubas did not vote for Obasanjo, even in his own local district!

There is little doubt that the relationship between Igbos and Yorubas have long suffered from the high tension political rivalry between the larger &endash; than - life personalities of the late Yoruba nationalist Chief Awolowo and Nigeria's first president Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. It is common knowledge that Yoruba ethnic politics denied Dr. Azikiwe a well deserved electoral victory in the Western region in the early 1960s. It is also acknowledged that when the Igbos declared seccession following the pogroms in the sixties, the Yorubas found the lore of economic and political fortunes less resistible and chose instead to coalesce with the north to fight the Igbos, fellow southerners.

The so-called "abandoned property" issue, the policy of 20 British pounds only to Igbo depositors and similar other harsh economic measures designed to punish Igbos were policies inspired by the Yorubas who alone scrambled over all the government &endash; owned companies at a time Igbos were economically weak to participate in the indigenisation exercise championed by the same group led today by Obasanjo!

The seventies and early eighties saw Yorubas at their peak of economic power. Bouyed by high oil sales, Nigeria was awash in petro dollars and the companies the Yorubas had acquired unjustly, were the better for it. There was cash and Yorubas were conspicuous in saying so. It must be told that Yorubas were those who started this decadent sub - culture of spraying cash in Owanbe parties. Of course this was an expression of their new found economic abundance. Given to boisterous displays and merrymaking , Yorubas would always create nightmares for Lagos commuters on weekends by closing streets and dedicating entire weekends to show-and &endash;tell parties. It must also be told that while the celebration was going on , Igbos who have been dispossessed of their real estates and source of livelihood were picking the pieces of their lives , which is why it sounds rather stupid for anyone today to say Igbos are dominating them.

Accustomed to working hard and earning their dues on merit , Igbos who desired a career in the armed forces, the diplomatic corps and various sectors of the economy were checkmated by discriminatory measures that frustrated them. Many of them as a result took to commerce and as usual excelled. Between 1970 and 1999, Yorubas were either the Head of State or the second in command and were contented that the Igbos were never close to what advantages accrued to them.

Problem started in the early eighties when late MKO Abiola reached out to grab the presidential ticket of the NPN and was told that the crown was not for sale. Abiola was a wealthy man who owed his fortunes to his northern connections, the same people who insist they were born to rule and were not prepared to entrust anyone with the power at the center. Four years earlier in 1979, the same message was sounded to chief Awolowo when he was denied the presidency. The import of this political message was made clearer in June 12 1993 , when MKO again reached for the crown and again he was denied it. This time around he was thrown in jail by Gen. Abacha, a tyrant whose thirst for blood was legendary .

Suddenly Yorubas found themselves at the receiving end of oppression metted out by the same coalition partner with whom they fought to end the Igbo desire for their own Republic. The question Reuben Abati should be answering is why the Yorubas would beg the Hausa/Fulani, (their coalition partners during the war) for a share of power when it is clear they both coalesced to bring Biafra to an end in 1970.

Britain, France and the USA have veto powers at the United Nations because they formed the western coalition that defeated Nazi Germany during the second world war. These three countries are equals and enjoy same powers in international affairs, despite the overwhelming military might of the USA.

In the case of the coalition between the Hausa/Fulani and the Yorubas , it is very difficult to ascertain how the Yorubas were elbowed out of the deal inspite of their famed intelligence and brilliance, It seems rather odd that Yorubas who were the think tank in the Gowon administration and major players in subsequent governments , would in 1979 and 1993 be so cheated out of power that they would appear so helpless in the days of Abacha and just do nothing. At what point between 1970 and 1993 did the Yorubas loose out , and why did they allow the Hausa/Fulani to so amass political/military power to the detriment of all other groups.

The answer, I think, lies in the desire of the Yorubas to weaken Igbos at all costs. After the civil war, whereas Yoruba leaders were determined to empower only their people economically, at the exclusion of Igbos, the Hausa/Fulani were smart enough to cultivate and bring the northern minorities in tow, promoting them to various top positions in the army and elsewhere and thus masking their own agenda under a holistic northern goal. The result was that at any time the supreme ruling body sits to take a decision, the representation was heavily tilted to the north. That explains why Generals IBB and Abacha could conspire to remove Commodore Ukiwe when he challenged their unilateral decision on OIC. It also explains why IBB alone could annul the June 12 1993 presidential election and also why Abacha could charge and convict Generals Diya, Adisa, Olarewaju and other Yoruba officer over the alleged mickey &endash; mouse coup d'etat.

General Oladipo Diya, as the number two man was said to have berated Igbo leaders when they sought audience to protest the removal of Air commodore Allison Madueke from the ruling PRC. Gen Diya told them that the civil war was not fought to placate Igbos. The same Diya gave the Eastern Mandate Union 24 hours to explain its positon when it voiced the opposition of the east to the injustice of the day. Several months later when Diya was condemned to die by the same people he sought to please, there were no southern officers of substance to oppose the sentence because he, like several Yorubas before him had shot himself in the foot long ago. The point is, the marginalisation of Igbos has not and will never help Yoruba interest in any way, which brings us to points raised by Mrs Dupe Adelaja and Reuben Abati. I will examine these issues and more in the second part of this piece.
Okwara is a former foreign affairs editor of The Guardian in the 1980s and also served as news editor until 1992. He is Ph.D student in the U.S. where he will contribute editorial commentary to USAfricaonline.com.


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CONTINENTAL AGENDA
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."

These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president. By Al Johnson



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