Cases of banditry that has led to loss of lives have increased in Nigeria to the point that such incidents are almost regarded as not newsworthy. From Adamawa to Zamfara and back through Katsina, banditry seems to be on the rise.
In the past few weeks, 81 people were killed in Gubio and another 60 people killed in Monguno and Nganzai all in Borno state alone. Local and international media as well s other sources attribute these killings to Boko Haram. Within the same period of time, there were also killings in the Nigerian president’s home state of Katsina. These sparked riots and calls for the resignation of both the president and the state governor.
Many commentators say that one of the major reasons for the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70 was the desire of the SouthEastern Nigeria Igbo people to secede and form Nigeria and create a new country, Biafra. The Nigerian state chose to interpret such cessation desires as treason. This led to a civil war that lasted for three years and cost 100,000 military and 3 million civilian lives.
Based on the events that led up to the Biafra war as well as the relations between the Igbo ethnic group and successive Nigerian administrations, Igbos claim to they have been marginalized, particularly by the current president. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the relationship between Igbos and the president is one of thinly veiled, mutual hatred.
I was recently invited to speak at a workshop on Biafra, 50 years later. Five minutes into the event, I experienced was the virtual equivalent of being pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes. I found the situation hilarious.
The workshop illustrated two things that I had always known theoretically – first, among the ranks of IPOBians (my term for those who are currently agitating for the creation of Biafra) are hateful, irrational tribalistic people.
One sure sign of a tribalist is hatred of the “Other” as well as hatred of anything that does not reinforce or validate said hatred. Any utterance or action that does not reinforce or support such person’s hatred and resentment of the “Other” is seen as an attack, which evokes a counter attack (at you) from the tribalist.
The second thing the workshop (or the comment thread) illustrated is that tribalistic people are not rational. They rely mostly on sentiment, not on logic or cold hard facts.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a difference between USING facts for a pre-determined position and RELYING on facts for your entire discourse. Any occurrence that does not reinforce their position is not part of the discourse.
Although it is correct to say that the deplorable treatment of the Igbo ethnic group led to the struggle for Biafra, I have not encountered an IPOB meeting that is self-reflective.
That asks, for instance, about the historical and current weaknesses that led to the failure of the establishment of the Biafran nation in the late 60s. I have also never attended a meeting that presents the threats that could make current aspirations for a predominantly Igbo, self-determining political unit fail.
The forgoing shows that my dear IPOB advocates do not seem to have a plan that I, an Igbo individual could act upon, in the belief or knowledge that my actions are bringing us closer to the ideal of our own country.
So the plan seems to be that the Igbos want their own country, so that they can look out for their own people and prosper at all fronts, without being held back by a dysfunctional, corrupt, tribalistic and inept national (Nigerian) government, that continues to marginalize them.
For the record, no matter how you feel about Igbos in general or IPOB in particular these are legitimate desires. The desire for self-determination is sometimes an offshoot of self improvement. We are duty bound to work towards improving our situation.
I am on the same page with Igbo/IPOB agitations so far.
But whenever I call an Igbo/IPOB person aside and ask him or her what the plan is, they usually delve into a tirade of how the current president (the individual) wants to Islamize the entire country, or/and how “Fulani Herdsmen” are determined to exterminate Nigerians in general and Eastern Nigerians in particular. They usually add that the “Northern rulers” want to finish what they started even before the Biafran war.
Most Igbo people do not hide a latent or manifest hatred of this ephemeral group called “The North” or Hausa-Fulani.
As an aside, both terms are meaningless because they are both too wide to define much – except maybe a general direction of hatred. So they are in reality emotional terms – they only have real form except in the mind of the user.
To illustrate to their audience how Igbos have historically “suffered” in the hands of successive Nigerian governments, IPOBians will point out how successive administrations starve the Igbo region of Nigeria of physical infrastructure and political appointments.
These examples also serve to support the argument that since Igbos are hated by Nigerian “powers that be”, Igbos are justified in their position of hating these powers that be who are also their oppressors.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with hatred… part of my privilege as a person is the capacity to hate. I am entitled to hate all I want.
However, we will all agree that…
Hatred is not a plan!
Apparently some IPOBian insulted the living bazoozle out of Pete Edochie. Edochie’s crime was pointing out that “Biafra” might not be feasible as a country because as demarcated, it is landlocked. Apparently – going by Edochie, his interlocutor, poor guy, thought “land locked” meant “land-mass”.
While the grievances that ground the call for Biafra seems justified, I think that the challenge of Nigeria negatively affects all ethnic groups in the country. I deliberately began this article with the recent killing and looting by bandits in communities in Northern Nigeria – including the President’s home state – Katsina.
In Katsina, there were protests and calls for the resignation of both the president and the state governor. The protesters felt that this was the honorable thing for both of them to do, because to the protesters, they had shown that they are unable to protect the citizens from banditry. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, billboards of the president and governor were burnt.
In the face of these development, IPOB is strangely silent. I expected that – going by the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend – IPOB should become best friends with Katsina Youth Forum who organized the protests and use the momentum to remove President Buhari.
But you see, when you are utterly directionless and planless, you lack the ability to utilize such (or any other) opportunities.
But more importantly, the security challenges in Northern Nigeria reveal that no ethnic group is in a position to claim that “Fulani herdsmen” have come to destroy (or “Islamatize”) them.
The Nigerian herdsmen bandits are “equal opportunity” or “quota system” killers. They will kill and loot from everyone – Muslim, Fulani, Igbo, Hausa, Nupe, whatever – It appears that these bandits would kill Eskimos and Native Americans if they encountered them in the un-policed rural communities in Nigeria.
Nigeria lacks basic infrastructure. We are world famous for power cuts. For the past 50 years, our educational system has been in a deep and worsening crisis – no self-respecting Nigerian aspires for their children to attend tertiary education in Nigeria. Basic WASH – Water Sanitation and Hygene is lacking in Nigeria. And from the foregoing, it seems that bandits are running wild in Nigeria. Most Nigerians – except for the filthy rich – live under these circumstances.
We are all in this sense “marginalized”. Therefore maybe there is no marginalizer. Maybe we simply live in a dysfunctional country. Therefore IPOB is entitled to desire to leave Nigeria. But please do not claim that members of other ethnic groups are living a rich, secure and safe life. Even if we concede that Nigerians – particularly the political leadership are tribalistic, Nigerian socio-political dysfunction is not tribalistic – all ethnic groups are suffering.