"Obasanjo, secession and the secessionists": A response to Reuben Abati's Igbophobia
By JOSH ARINZE
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com
You know who I am, so I'll cut out the niceties and go straight to the point. I tend to stick to civility, however controversial the issue. But since small minds have trouble understanding the language of enlightened discourse, I will make an exception and try to speak to you in a language you can understand.
I'm aware that The (Lagos) Guardian has been on the Web for a while. I follow events in Nigeria very closely, but I don't usually read your column. There are two reasons for that. One: the few articles of yours I've read in the past were rather heavy on polemics, and offered very little by way of clear-headed analysis. Two: your prose is quite pedestrian, although I'm sure your friends and relatives wouldn't tell you that.
Pardon me for hurting your feelings, Reuben, but you're not exactly the 1960s generation's equivalent of Ray Ekpu or Dan Agbese. And with so many excellent works to read and so little time, I pay very little attention to second-rate columnists.
However, on December 23, I got an e-mail about a write-up of yours that appeared in that day's edition of The Guardian. If you were craving attention with that hatchet job you put together, you sure found it, boy. Congratulations.
Well, at first I thought the stuff that appeared on December 23, 2001 was the second of a two-part piece, so I sought out and read the first one too, which ran on December 16. Then just as I was preparing a response, the third part of your thesis appeared on December 30.
You said that was the concluding part, but who knows; maybe you're already at work on Parts 4, 5 and 6. We'll see.
Anyway here, in a nutshell, is what I think of your series, "Obasanjo, secession and the secessionists": it's a pathetic piece of hack writing, brimming with bigotry and hate. You have my permission to print that out in bold letters, and use it as a blurb in selling your expertise in demagoguery to the world. You can also mention that I'm saving the entire write-up, so I can use it in seminars here in the United States as examples of how not to write.
It's ridiculous enough that the whole article is loaded with errors of fact from top to bottom. (I will come to those shortly.) But what places it beyond the realm of common sense &endash; to say nothing of redemption &endash; is that it's infected with ugly old bigotry and Igbophobia. The stink is too repulsive.
In 1996/97, when you were at the University of Maryland at College Park, doing the same Humphrey Fellowship I did the year before, we met and talked a number of times. Although you managed to keep the worst features of your anti-Igbo sentiments in check, you came across as rather conniving and narrow-minded.
That didn't surprise me at all. I lived in Ibadan for one year, and in Lagos for almost 11, and got to know lots and lots of people like you &endash; laughable pseudo-intellectuals who thought they were the most brilliant literary minds since Christopher Okigbo. You have a right to be as blind to reason as you wish, Reuben, but only up to a point. As I hope you know, your rights stop where someone else's begins.
What I find shocking is not that you harbor such venom against the Igbo. As my people say, any offspring of a viper is bound to be slithery and poisonous. To dislike the Igbo is one thing: in Nigeria, that's a malady more common than malaria. But to use your column to distort history and wage a campaign of hatred against the Igbo &endash; that's a different ball game altogether. It's a thin line, Reuben, and you've crossed it. It's not the first time you've done that. As the Igbo would say, the thief has taken too much for the owner not to notice.
Many of your fellow Oduduwa and Arewa hack writers have been peddling animosity against the Igbo for decades. Quite a number of them made lucrative their careers out of it, and ran their course even before you were born. Trying to destroy the Igbo with words and weapons is nothing new in Nigeria. So much energy has been wasted on that effort, it's no wonder Nigeria remains what many of us hate to admit it is: a backward country, a giant embarrassment to the black race.
What makes your case of Igbophobia a special one is that you actually want to be considered a respectable journalist, a voice for a supposedly serious-minded newspaper. You've held a fellowship named for Hubert Humphrey, a man who devoted much of his career to promoting understanding across ethnic and racial lines, and across international borders. I assume you would like to retain the respect of other Humphrey Fellows around the world.
A conscientious journalist would not destroy his reputation by championing ethnic hatred. I assume you recognize the implication of what you're doing. You're an educated man. At least you hold degrees that say you are. Maybe you feel comfortable enough in your position to believe you can get away with anything (after all, your employers recently promoted you from deputy chairman to the chairman of Guardian's editorial). Or maybe you lack the skills to express your opinions without resorting to bigotry. Or, worse, maybe you're deliberately trying to provoke yet another pogrom against the Igbo.
Whatever the problem is, Reuben, I'd like to remind you that using the media to propagate hate can cause unspeakable tragedy; and contrived tragedy can boomerang on its instigators. In Germany under Hitler, Jews were demonized in the media, as a prelude to an all-out effort to destroy them (I want to think you've read about that). Less than eight years ago, in Rwanda, hate radio was used to prepare grounds for and sustain the momentum of genocide against Tutsis. You know the rest of that story.
In Nigeria, the pogroms that have been inflicted on the Igbo were always preceded and backed up by hate speech on radio, in newspapers and in mosques. And I'm not just talking about the pogroms of 1966 and after, but also the several that happened before that, including the ones Jos in 1945 and Kano in 1953. Obviously, you're very familiar with that story as well &endash; your article mentioned Jos in 1945 and Kano in 1953, and made repeated and gloating references to "taking off the heads of Ibos."
The errors, deliberate distortions and hate-infested remarks in your series are legion. I will focus only on the most egregious ones, pointing them out in the order in which they appear, from the first part of your write-up to the third. In each instance, I will quote you directly, then offer my comments.
Here we go:
1. "On January 15, 1966, the first coup codenamed "Operation Damisa" (Operation Leopard) was enacted under the leadership of six majors and a captain - six of whom were Ibos. Only one Major was Yoruba - Ademoyega Ademulegun, author of Why We Struck."
It's not Ademoyega Ademulegun; it's Wale Ademoyega. Ademulegun was the surname of one of the officers who died in that coup. Maybe you've never met Wale Ademoyega. Maybe you've never even tried to interview him. If you had, you would have gotten his name right. I and Segun Adeleke, one of my colleagues in Quality magazine at the time, interviewed Wale Ademoyega in 1988 or 1989. Just so you know, among other key points Ademoyega made in that interview, he said it's a fraud to interpret the coup of January 15, 1966 as an Igbo conspiracy.
It was a nationalist coup, he said, motivated by idealism and a desire to tackle corruption and end the anarchy and mindless violence that was raging in the then Western Region. That's your home area.
I'm sure you know all about "Operation Wetie," in which supporters of Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola began burning one another alive in 1962. As you know, by 1965, the Western Region had become ungovernable, and the Tafawa Balewa government was not interested in doing anything about that. It was the coup of January 15, 1966 that ended the bloodshed. That coup saved your butt and those of your kinsmen. If that coup had not happened, your sinister godfather Obafemi Awolowo could have rotted away in a jailhouse. Just a thought.
2. "...the coup was popular in Southern Nigeria, whose press offended the North eternally by declaring in one notable headline- "Bribe? E Done Die O, Chop-Chop-E No Dey" (Morning Post, Jan. 27, 1966), but the problem was that the Jan. 1966 revolution, more than the 1964 carpet-crossing in the Western House, had ethnicised Nigerian politics forever and irretrievably."
To begin with, the original carpet crossing in Nigerian political history, in which Obafemi Awolowo, Adisa Akinloye and others double-crossed Nnamdi Azikiwe and the NCNC (robbing them of the victory they had won in elections for the Western House of Assembly) happened in the early 1950s; probably as early as 1951 or 1952. That betrayal was what "ethnicised" Nigerian politics, to borrow your clumsy expression. Of course, there may have been another carpet crossing in 1964; it was a common tradition in those years, especially in the Western Region.
Besides, it's intellectually fraudulent to say the January 1966 coup did more than the carpet crossings &endash;whether of 1964 or earlier &endash; to introduce ethnic rivalry into Nigerian politics. The politics of ethnic bigotry had been firmly in place for many years before that coup happened; and Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were its most notorious champions. As everyone knows, Awolowo remained an unreformed ethnic bigot until he died in 1987. That's why he never quite managed to win more than a few hundred votes outside of Yoruba land. Chinua Achebe made that point after your godfather's death. Hack writers in the Lagos-Ibadan press rained abuses on Achebe, and the Lagos state government banned his books from its schools. But that did not budge the rock-solid point Achebe was making. Everyone who knows Nigeria knows what Awolowo stood for. He nurtured and propagated a rabid animosity toward the Igbo, and passed it on to his underlings: the Lateef Jakandes, the Bola Iges, the Adekunles Ajasins, the Bisi Onabanjos. Awolowo's legacy still pollutes the minds of people like you.
3. "The coupists were mainly Ibos, they killed mainly Northern officers and no single Igbo man (except perhaps, Lt. Col. A. G. Unegbe, the Ibo Quarter-master General who was killed because he refused to surrender the keys to the armoury)."
Read that sentence again, Reuben, and maybe you will grasp how idiotic and self-contradictory it is. In the same breath, you say the "coupists" (by the way, there's no such word in the English dictionary) "killed mainly Northern officers and no single Igbo man", and then you add "except perhaps, Lt. Col. A. G. Unegbe, the Ibo Quarter-master General " Yes, Arthur (that's what the "A" stands for) Unegbe was Igbo, and he was killed too. So how can you say "no single Igbo man" was killed? And why the "perhaps"? Is that supposed to mean you're not sure he was killed? Or maybe you're not sure of his gender; for if Arthur Unegbe was a woman, then you would be correct in your claim that "no single Igbo man" was killed. On second thoughts, you may be on to something interesting here, Reuben. Unegbe was indeed a married man, so maybe the word "single" in your remark was a reference to marital status. Who knows?
As for the reason why Arthur Unegbe was killed in the January 1966 coup, there is more than one opinion. Not everyone believes it was because he refused to hand over the keys to the armory. By the way, the last time I checked, a quartermaster general was supposed to be an officer in charge of non-lethal supplies for troops; stuff like uniforms and food. Or did you somehow discover that these non-lethal subsistence supplies for the Nigerian army of 1966 were stored inside armories? Maybe you know something here that the rest of us don't. But I would suggest you do your homework before you write. That's called research, in the language of grown-ups. Some of the people involved in the 1966 coup are still alive. Why not go and interview them and see what they have to say? That way, you won't end up embarrassing yourself and misinforming your readers.
4. "Even Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Ibo, then President, was conveniently away in Britain. The revolution was therefore interpreted by the North, as an Igbo conspiracy."
Obviously, you're convinced that Nnamdi Azikiwe was part of the coup, or was, at least, given advance notice. Maybe in your next article, you will provide evidence to prove your allegation. I'm looking forward to the day you'll reveal it.
When you say, "the revolution was therefore interpreted by the North, as an Igbo conspiracy," I wonder whom you think you're kidding. Forget about how the north interpreted it in 1966; you, Reuben Abati, are interpreting it as an Igbo conspiracy, here and now, in 2001/2002. And you're doing everything you can to sell that falsehood to people who don't know better. Nice try.
5. "About the same time, another Igbo man, Chinua Achebe wrote a novel, A Man of the People in which he predicted a military coup. Indeed, as at 1966, fifty percent of the officer rank of the Nigerian Army was Ibo. It was therefore so easy and plausible to speak of an Ibo conspiracy."
So it wasn't just Azikiwe who got a detailed briefing from Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his compatriots about their coup plan? Holy Moses! I had no idea Chinua Achebe was in on it too. Thanks for the revelation. Come to think of it: that sounds just like what coup plotters would do &endash; reveal their plans to a novelist who held a key position in Radio Nigeria! Reminds me of the days when Sani Abacha and his goons were putting journalists in jail, accusing them of taking part in coup plots. Wonders &endash; and foolishness &endash; will never end.
I wish there was a nicer way to say it, but you really are a laughable moron, Reuben. Wait, maybe there's a nicer way. To paraphrase a long-ago playwright from England: Thou art in a parlous state, Reuben.
Anyone who has ever produced a 700-word newspaper article, to say nothing of a novel, knows the time and effort that goes into writing. I have read A Man of the People. I have no idea how many months Chinua Achebe spent writing it, but I can't imagine even a master like Achebe spending less than an entire year on that book. And I won't bother guessing the length of time that must have passed between when he finished the book and when it was published. The January 1966 coup did not coincide with the writing of A Man of the People; it coincided with its publication. The fact that the book came out about the same time as the coup itself was testimony to Achebe's keen observation of the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Nigeria. The way things were going in Nigeria in 1964 and 1965, you didn't have to be Jesus Christ to see that something was going to give, sooner or later. The stupidity of your conclusion that it was "plausible to speak of an Ibo conspiracy" speaks for itself.
6. "The North was particularly scared because it was, as now, the most backward region in the country....Under a unitary government, the North would have had no chance at all. Understandably, by May 29, riots had broken out in the North, notably in Kano, Kaduna and Zaria."
"Understandably." That word speaks volumes. It reveals your true belief: that the pogrom unleashed against the Igbo was justifiable. That doesn't surprise me; yours is a culture in which political disputes are often 'settled' with cowardly acts of random violence. The very day the second part of your article appeared, this fact was again clearly demonstrated when Bola Ige was killed Ibadan, just days after a prominent legislator was bludgeoned to death in Osun state. I won't be surprised if, within the next year, you come up with the 'revelation' that Bola Ige was killed by "an Ibo conspiracy." Remember when Ondo state became a killing field in 1983, over a disputed governorship election? Remember what happened to Olaiya Fagbamigbe and hundreds of others in Akure and beyond during the second half of 1983? As the Bible says, "By their fruits, you shall know them."
I have a history lesson for you, Reuben: The massacres inflicted on the Igbo in 1966 were not riots. They were acts of ethnic cleansing, thoroughly planned, and meticulously executed. They were not the first; and there have been others since. And Yorubas have participated in some of these pogroms (see the next point, number 7).
7. "The Northerners targeted Ibos, killing hundreds of them....It was not the first time that the Hausa-Fulani would kill Ibos. They had earlier done so in Jos in 1945 and in Kano in 1953. Now, in 1966, they did not want to be part of a Nigeria that was dominated by Ibos at all levels, with one of them as Head of State and Commander-in-chief."
It wasn't "hundreds" of Igbos; it was tens of thousands. And although much of the pogrom of 1966 happened in the north, it wasn't just northerners who massacred Igbos. Yorubas did too &endash; in Lagos and Ibadan, in Ilesha and Abeokuta, in Ogbomosho, Ijebu-Ode, Akure, and elsewhere, probably in your home village as well.
When you say, in reference to northerners killing the Igbo, that "they had earlier done so in Jos in 1945 and in Kano in 1953," how come you forgot to mention why they were doing so, even when the British were still ruling Nigeria? Remember, you claim that the pogrom of 1966 was "understandable"; that northerners were committing mass murder because they were angry about the 1966 coup, and were trying to reverse an Igbo conspiracy to dominate Nigeria? So, why were they killing the Igbo as far back as 1945 and 1953? Were they trying to help the British colonial authorities fight off an Igbo coup/conspiracy in 1945 and 1953?
And if, in 1966, Nigeria was "dominated by Ibos at all levels", what were Yorubas doing? And how about the other ethnic groups in Nigeria? Were they leaving the fight against so-called Igbo domination to the northerners only, or joining the murderous gangs?
8. "The North had every reason to be angry. There was drought. Life was difficult for the average northerner. The Sardauna was the father-figure of the north; with his murder, Northerners were left without a political leader. Even now, leadership in the North is in a state of drift; the average Northerner wishes that the Sardauna were still alive, and he holds the average Ibo man responsible for his absence."
This is the cardinal fallacy you're trying to burn into the minds of your readers. That's why you keep repeating it. What you're doing here, Reuben, is shameless hate mongering, a blame-the-Igbo hatchet job. It's an old art form, perfected over millennia by charlatans, who sow hate against people they suspect they cannot measure up against. You reap what you sow.
You may think you have done a great job of masking your odious agenda with copious verbiage. But your message is clear: you're going the extra mile to whip up even deeper anti-Igbo sentiment among your readers, especially the Islamic fanatics in northern Nigeria. That's why you keep coming back to this falsehood. If this is what passes for analysis in your style of journalism, I have to wonder about the judgment of those who made you chairman of the editorial board of the so-called "flagship of the Nigerian press."
9. "Besides, the Ibos were somewhat arrogant....
Northerners and their Emirs wanted Decree 34 abrogated and the Majors of the 1966 coup punished, but Ironsi, now increasingly an Ibo man, was unwilling to reverse himself; instead he sought to strengthen his control over the nation."
There you go again. Calling the Igbo "arrogant" is a desperate libel, born of blind hate. Obviously, you're incapable of rising above that fetid swamp. When you say Ironsi was "increasingly an Ibo man," you make it sound as if being an Igbo is a malignancy, and Ironsi's case was reaching a terminal stage. Once again, I quote the Bible: "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
10. "Meanwhile, Northern officers within the army felt a need to defend their own people. On July 29, 1966, they struck while Ironsi was still on a tour of the federation. It was a revenge coup, led by Northern soldiers and targeted at Ibo officers and civilians."
So these northern officers were "defending their own people" by killing innocent civilians. Obviously, in your view, that qualifies for gallantry. Civilized, conscientious people call that mass murder.
11. "The key casualties were Ibos, even if the coup did not quite succeed in the East to which Lt. Col Odimegwu Ojukwu, the highest-ranking Ibo officer had fled....The ordinary Northerner wanted to get out of Nigeria, away from the Ibos. Northern officers and other ranks had stopped taking orders from non-Hausa-Fulanis, the reason why Brigadier Ogundipe, then No 2 man in the army had to flee."
Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu did not flee to the East to escape the July 1966 coup. He was already in the East, as governor, a position to which Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi had appointed him. You try to make an excuse for Brigadier Ogundipe, by telling us he "had to flee." Who knows &endash; maybe the reason he had to flee" was because he too was trying, like the northerners, to "get out of Nigeria, away from the Ibos." Or maybe he fled because he came from a long line of plain old cowards, who die many times before their deaths.
12. "... by February 1966, yet another Nigerian, Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ogoni student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka had felt so troubled by the failures of the six-year old Nigerian state, that he unilaterally declared the creation of a "Republic of the Niger Delta" by which he sought to mobilize the people of the present Rivers and Bayelsa states to secede from Nigeria."
Isaac Adaka Boro was not Ogoni; he was Ijaw.
13. "On May 30, 1967, the Ibos, under the leadership of Col. Odimegwu Ojukwu declared the creation of the Republic of Biafra, which meant that the Eastern region of Nigeria had chosen to go its own way. The same day, the Nigerian government, under Yakubu Gowon, announced the creation of 12 states out of the four regions: it was a well calculated move meant to move the minorities who had always sought states of their own, behind the Federal Government."
Abati, probably, is not aware of the responsibility, writing a newspaper column does not begin and end with peddling crude prejudices. A huge part of the job is getting the facts right. You need to learn to read extensively about your topics, to do constant, extensive research. If you had done even basic research, you would have known this: Gowon created the 12 states on May 27, 1967 and Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra three days later &endash; on May 30, 1967.
14. "There is substantial literature on the whys and wheretofores of the civil war, and it may not be necessary to rehash that which is already familiar here. Except to restate that one, the slaughter of Ibos by the Hausa-Fulanis and the general hatred of Ibos all over the country was one major causative factor. It was as if nobody wanted the Ibos anymore inside Nigeria."
If there was indeed a "general hatred of Ibos all over" Nigeria, it was because ethnic bigots like you have always been eager to stoke it, because they hated the Igbo work ethic. Demagogues like Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, and many of their counterparts in other parts of the country did everything they could to convince their followers that all their problems and frustrations could be blamed on the Igbo. It's an age-old fraud. It's been used against the Jews for thousands of years. But the Jews are still around, and always will be. The Igbo are still around, and always will be.
This can bear a repeat: If all the energy that has been wasted all these years on plotting endless Igbo-containment strategies had been devoted to nation-building, Nigeria would not be the basket case it is today.
Think about this for one moment, if you can: If indeed "nobody wanted the Ibos anymore inside Nigeria," what moral right did the rest of Nigeria have to try to force the Igbo to stay in the country that didn't want them? None. If it is true that nobody wanted the Igbo in Nigeria, it means Yakubu Gowon and his fellow war criminals had no business attacking Biafra in the first place. That in itself would be enough to nullify the hateful propaganda you are pushing in this column.
15. "After the civil war, and with power in the hands of the North and its allies, one of the first things that the Northern power elite did was to make sure that the Ibos would never again be in a position where they would be able to talk of secession again. They were kept out of every sensitive position in government and consigned to the role of second fiddle. The North was not willing to share its advantages with its enemy."
"The North and its allies." Who were those allies? Remember Obafemi Awolowo and his infamous statement that "starvation is a legitimate weapon of war."? Remember Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle's boast about leading his murderous troops into Biafra and shooting everyone and everything, "even the things that don't move"? Oh, maybe you've never heard of that. Remember your own gloating reference to how Obasanjo "made his career by helping to finish off the Ibos."? (See number 18).
Remember how your granddaddy Awolowo used his position as vice president of the federal executive council and Gowon's minister of finance to craft a policy designed to keep the Igbo in perpetual penury? Remember the rule Awolowo and Gowon imposed after the war, that all Biafrans, no matter how much money they had before the war, would get only 20 pounds worth of Nigerian currency? Guess what, as mean-spirited as that policy was, it was a smokescreen for an even more sinister plan: millions of Igbos got absolutely nothing. The majority did not get up to 10 pounds, let alone 20. My own father got 10 shillings. And this was after he had gone out at sunrise every single day for nearly two weeks, standing all day in endless lines under the hot sun in the handful of places where the money exchange was supposed to be taking place!
You see, I can understand why people like you still can't get over the fact that the Igbo have not vanished from the face of the earth. The evils visited on Biafrans were done, not just by northerners but also by Yorubas, along with a whole bunch of other Nigerians. In other words, the evils were done by hate-mongers like you.
16. "If other ethnic groups are envious of Ibos in 1966, they are even more so now in 2001."
Replace the first "are" with "were" and you'd get the grammar right; as in "If other ethnic groups were envious of Ibos in 1966..." But lousy grammar aside, you might actually be on to something here, with your use of the word "envious." Could envy be the real root cause of the Igbophobia so endemic in Nigeria? Is it the root cause of your animosity? That's something to think about.
17. "The Hausa-Fulani have also instructively not stopped taking off the heads of Ibos in the North. They do so periodically, even symbolically, I guess, to remind Ibos that the cycle of hate has not yet been closed."
That just makes you so happy&emdash;the thought of your Hausa-Fulani cousins "taking off the heads of Ibos in the North," doesn't it? Of course, you'd never admit that your own people, the Yorubas of the West, did quite a bit of the massacres too. Given the chance, people like you will do even more. That's why you're using your newspaper column to keep the cycle of hate alive and well.
18. "But can the Ibos secede again? I don't think so.
The point is they are not in a position to do so. Under Obasanjo, let them forget it. When the man referred to Ojukwu and co as madmen, he was not joking. He made his career by helping to finish off the Ibos."
And he's continued his career by sending his undisciplined soldier-murderers to massacre villagers in Benue state, and to slaughter all the men and burn all the houses in Odi, in Rivers state. As Shakespeare said, "the evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Long after he's gone, Obasanjo will be remembered for presiding over war crimes against Biafrans and for sending troops to massacres innocent citizens: in a so-called democracy.
Since that buffoon is obviously your hero, you might want to tell him the bitter truth one of these days: that even if he never makes it to a U.N. tribunal to answer charges for his war crimes and human rights violations, there is an even higher authority he will ultimately face&emdash;God himself, in whom he claims to believe.
19. "If MASSOB, which like Ojukwu has been talking about secession gets too serious tomorrow, Obasanjo would not hesitate to take off some Ibo heads to prove a point."
There you go again.
20. "In 1967, secession was presented to the Ibo man as a necessity. In 2001, the situation is different. Ibos have not done anything since 1967 to make it possible for them to have another Biafra. Within Nigeria, they are even more vulnerable than they were in 1966. They are still economic refugees inside the country and the bulk of their investment is outside Ibo land. They have been busy going into other people's territories, they have not quite allowed other ethnic groups to enter Ibo land."
When a young man and an Obasanjo mouthpiece like you writes that the Igbo "have been busy going into other people's territories, they have not quite allowed other ethnic groups to enter Ibo land," I just can't help feeling sorry for you. You're probably beyond help. When was the last time you tried to enter Igbo land, be it just to visit or to live there, and have anyone prevent you from doing so? Have you ever tried to buy a house or rent a shop in Igbo land and been turned down? When you peddle such hateful falsehood, you not only demean yourself; you demean the newspaper you work for, even the schools that trained you.
You did your undergraduate studies at the University of Calabar, located in what used to be part of Eastern Region/Biafra. But I wouldn't be surprised if you've never set foot in Enugu or Owerri, Aba or Umuahia, Nsukka or Onitsha or Abakaliki. I met lots of people like you while I was at the University of Lagos, and while serving in Ibadan as a member of the National Youth Service Corps. People who would do anything humanly possible to avoid spending one year outside their ethnic home region while in the Youth Corps, a program that is supposed to promote cross-cultural understanding among the people of Nigeria.
It is that kind of narrow-minded outlook that produces a young man with arts-related degrees who cannot analyze issues above the level of an illiterate bus conductor at Ajegunle. Even if nothing else was wrong with this column of yours, this remark alone puts you in the same class as Joseph Goebbels. You know who that bastard was, right? I'll withhold that information, to encourage you to do a little research. Research is that same task which you have shown a near absolute inability to do with the baseless and non-factual lies and distortions evidenced in your continuing assault on the Igbos.
21. "Such that any time, there is a threat to the Ibo man, the only way he can secure his safety is to flee to his homeland. Anything can happen to him on the way home. And if he flees, his property as happened in 1967, will be taken over by other ethnic groups."
There you go again.
22. "Before Ibos can talk of secession, they have to develop the East into a viable economic region that can accommodate its own people."
Thanks for the advice.
23. "Since the civil war ended, the Ibo man has done well for himself no doubt, he has effectivelyre-integrated himself into Nigeria in a physical sense. After all, Ibos now sell land in Lagos and Kaduna, and they are in charge of commerce, "4-1-9" and "international trade."
And what are Yorubas in charge of? The narcotics trade? Who are the originators of the 4-1-9?
24. "The biggest disease in Ibo land is money."
And what is the biggest disease in Yoruba land? Treachery? Sorcery? Bigotry? You must have forgotten to reveal that one to us. We are waiting.
25. "By the time they declared the civil war, [Ibos] had been pushed to a point that they felt they just needed to do something, anything at all."
The Igbo never declared a civil war; the declaration made on May 30, 1967 was for the Republic of Biafra. War began when the Nigerian army attacked Biafra on July 6, 1967. Biafra had no choice but to fight in self-defense. (Refer to number 14).
26. "The Hausa-Fulani agenda against the Ibos has continued in an uninterrupted fashion since the war, but the irony is that in the field of Nigerian politics, the Ibo man continues to make the silly choice that the Hausa-Fulani is his best friend. And it is this lack of political wisdom that is partly responsible for the continued marginalisation of Ibos."
Make that "the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba agenda against the Ibo." And when you say "the Ibo man continues to make the silly choice that the Hausa-Fulani is his best friend," you deliver yet another blatant insult against my people. May God forgive you, for you know not what you're doing.
27. "President Obasanjo has tackled the problems of fuel supply, communications and privatization, but his big headache is that just when he is trying to address one problem, another just shows up, and usually, it is a bigger problem. For example, when he started boasting that "he dey kampe, some hoodlums took him too seriously, went to his Ota farm, stole a jeep and killed one of the drivers. When he stared talking about national unity, some characters in the North decided to introduce the Sharia, and succeeded in heating up the system. When he started advertising his credentials as a progressive liberal who is willing to give Nigerian women their due, the Sharia people again decided to pass a death sentence on an innocent woman called Safiya. When Obasanjo started waxing eloquent about national security, the unseen enemy went to the home of his most prominent Minister, Bola Ige and killed him. When the man began to show real seriousness about his government's anti-corruption campaign, we started hearing reports about widespread corruption in high places. The President, like the rest of us, must be wondering what the trouble with the country is: the alienation in the land."
In your view, Obasanjo can do no wrong, can he? Well, the next time you go to Abuja to collect payment for your services, please tell him there's one 'arrogant' "Omo Ibo" called Josh Arinze who said he should look in the mirror whenever he finds himself wondering what the trouble with Nigeria is. Please don't forget. Thanks.
May I offer you a friendly suggestion, Reuben? Do journalism a favor: Get out of it. Journalism is for enlightened, knowledgeable people, not for village idiots. Take off your mask and go work for Olusegun Obasanjo. I'm sure the man will enjoy having you as one of his spokesmen&emdash;you have a lot in common.
You sound, repeatedly, like you're trying hard to persuade the man to make you his minister of (mis)information. Listen to this, from the first part of your series: "Since President Obasanjo cannot take mud, and would like to throw it back immediately, then needs someone who can throw mud for him, and carry the can if there is wahala, so that the President can look good all the time... The way Baba Iyabo carries himself, he in fact looks like one of these days, he is going to give one of his critics either a knock on the head or a kick in the groin."
You know what? For a guy like your hero Obasanjo, kicking a critic in the groin would be no big deal. He has done far worse (see number 18 above). But that, of course, does not dissuade you from rooting and flacking for him.
Remember you noted with gusto that the Igbo had a dull Christmas in 1966? I do not wish such a Christmas on anyone, and that includes Yorubas. The Igbo are not raised to hate. That's why I'm proud to be one.
For that same reason, I will close with one more Igbo saying: "A
bird without a strong skull should never go wood-pecking." You can
train yourself to keep your anti-Igbo venom in check, Reuben, or you
can keep fanning the flames of hate. The choice is yours. We'll wait
and see what choice you make.
Arinze, a former editorial and news staff in some of Nigeria's leading media houses, received the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow in Journalism, University of Maryland (1995-1996). He is a contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper. This commentary for USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper is copyrighted and archiving on any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with a written approval by USAfricaonline.com Founder January 3, 2001. Readers reaction will be published, based on space, timeliness and USAfrica editorial standards.
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