Fifty years after the bloody sad event, Nigerians are once again being misled into another round, which will be and must be resisted by any means possible. This, it must be clarified, should not provide any joy for real or potential oppressors. In plain language, no intolerable situation will be condoned. In which case, no section of the country will be allowed or allow itself to be misled into willing and particularly unconscious gladiators for another set of gladiators to consolidate their privileged status.
Compared to Nigeria’s population, these privileged ones are very few but operate as a cartel spread across all parts of the country. For them, civil conflicts provide opportunity to “arrive” by callously obtaining huge contracts of supplying arms, ironically, to the enemy, or (the females, more of sex merchants) providing services and information on movement of troops to the enemy. In any war, that is treason.
In another vein, nobody or group will fight any war for another group, as was the case last time. That means any aggrieved group should fight in their fathers’ names. This should serve as notice to all sides, those spoiling for a showdown with the aim of dragging some against others or others who may allow themselves to be used. Or what was the ego-boosting fraud that South West had lost its voice? South West? The zone could only have learnt from past experiences to limit its voice to espousing its cause, while other zones should also pursue their respective interests as they might deem fit. There is no apology for such independence.
Since 1970, South West had had to fight two major self-defining political wars virtually all alone and that is without forgetting nationalists like oil union leader Kokori and countable few like him who suffered tremendously throughout the years of the struggle. The other showdown was on the establishment of the Amotekun security outfit throughout South West zone. Under threats of military clampdown or so-called enforcement of laws, South West was abandoned, not the least by today’s non-northerners now baiting South West against core North, which they now categorise as “their (i.e. those people’s) North.” It is a long time since 1966 and no single person can all alone commit South West into a war, at the end of which only losses and, indeed, regret will be counted.
There was this bait in the conventional and the social media conveying the claim (true or false) of the emergence of the core North as “their north”, very distinct from a cleverly veiled northern Christian/minority, which, (now) conveniently, dissociates itself from “their north.” Whose North? The clear picture is that, possibly, after suffering reverses, the “none of their north” now discover or allege that they do not belong to “their north”. Ruthlessly put, if this “their north” exists, who created it in the first place? According to our colonial masters, “As you lay your bed, so shall you lie on it.”
The bait to South West to regain its voice is everything a dangerous Greek gift, which must be rejected. The South West showdown on the Amotekun security outfit was a good example. Today, northern Christian/minorities groan under insecurity by Boko Haram and other bandits. Which other zone or part of the country supported South West? Where was the voice of northern Christians/minorities? If the Federal Government allowed itself to be misled and declare force purportedly to maintain Nigeria’s territorial integrity on that issue, South West would have been left to defend itself all alone. Otherwise, did northern Christians/minorities take any position on Amotekun? Today, compared to other parts of the country, South West is safer. There is no major feat yet but the mere existence of the outfit and total determination to crush any social/criminal aggression have kept bandits and murderers at bay. Yet, in the midst of the desperation and blackmail to kill Amotekun on the false ground that the outfit was in preparation for Oduduwa Republic, where were today’s self-styled non-northerners, specifically, yesterday’s Christian/northern minorities? They kept quiet, clearly in total agreement to cut South West to size.
How dare these fellows claim they supported South West in times of agony? When, where and how? When, in the First Republic, today’s non-core northern northerners were under political repression landing many of them in jail for membership of United Middle Belt Congress, they found an advocate in a southwesterner, Obafemi Awolowo. On resumption of political activities at the end of the civil war, the same Middle Belt leaders for whose political liberation Awolowo devoted himself suddenly became more northern in everything than core northerners in political opposition to Awolowo and in favour of their new friends/persecutors in the First Republic. For the same Middle Belters to be baiting South West today for a possible showdown with core North?
To rub it home, did core northerners arrest and kill Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi on July 29, 1966, in Ibadan? Those who performed the task were today’s non-northern Christian northerners/minorities. If they felt completely northern in those days, they should feel completely northern any day with pride for their past, present and future, without involving South West. Till today, northern Christian/minorrities have not explained why Fajuyi was subjected to that fate.
Did core North refuse or indeed reject Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe to succeed his General Officer Commanding (equivalent of today’s Commander-in-Chief), General Aguiyi-Ironsi? Certainly not. Ogundipe’s opponents were northern Christians/minorities of today soliciting and cleverly inciting South West against core North
Today’s non-core northern Christians/minorities struck a major point in their propaganda lamentation when they conceded that, when they cried, they expected South West, South East and South South to cry with them and that, indeed, the three zones cried in them. Only the South East zone should offer the lesson on humanity to the non-core north Christian miinorities.
Once upon a time in the political history of this country, southeasterners were in danger of their lives and property among core northerners. Southeasterners, not entirely without dead and wounded casualties, were allowed safe passage from danger in far North, supposedly on their way to safety in their part of the country, except that they had to pass through Middle Belt, routinely presumed sure safety on their way home. That was in 1966. In tens of thousands, they were massacred most brutally by Christian northern minorities in Middle Belt areas of the north of those days, today’s northern Christian minorities. The difference in humanity? On reflection, do today’s northern Christian minorities regret their hostility to the fleeing southeastern refugees in 1966? According to the self-confession of northern Christian minorities, when they cried, as they expected, southeasterners cried with them. However, southeasterners must not fall for any bait of a joint showdown against core North.
The sympathy of southeasterners for today’s northern Christian/minorities in their current setback is an irony. Who arrested and murdered first military Head of State General Aguiyi-Ironsi in Ibadan, in 1966? Certainly not core northerners. As in the case of Colonel Fajuyi, his boss was arrested and killed by northern Christians/minorities. That particular tragedy might even be sourced to the tit-for-tat political assassinations of those days. Who, since then, have been making indiscipline, arrogance and feast of insulting General Ironsi in his grave? Not a single core northerner but mainly northern Christians/minorities leaders. General Ironsi left a family whose feelings should be respected. By the way, a special exception should be made of that most distinguished northern Christian/minority, General Yakubu Gowon, who, since the end of the civil war in 1970, has made genuine reconciliation his sole focus. He should be a lesson for the provocateurs.
If many Nigerians are ignorant of the country’s political history of the past 50 years, how about the cruel murders of southeasterners in the past seven years? Southeasterners agitating for separation from Nigeria were regularly mowed down like chickens in Onitsha and Port Harcourt, the latest being only a week ago in Enugu. Even till now, have today’s non-core northerners cried with southeasterners, if only in appreciation and to reciprocate the sympathy of southeasterners with non-core northern Christians/minorities on their plight?
Much as it is convenient today to incite the South against the core North, were the same northern Christians/minorities not collecting various political goodies as unspecified northerners from the same core northerners? For example, government should publish official list of oil block owners. How many are core northerners compared to northern Christian minorities?
It was always and is still easier to create state and local governments for northern Christians purely as northerners than in the South, serving as tools for sustaining higher number of states and local governments in the North. All the same, such political windfalls are always gladly collected as northerners than even northern Christians or minorities. The same North from which northern Chridtisns/minorities are today dissociating themselves? Only in the past could such political gimmick pass unchallenged. But not today.
Postscript: Basorun MKO Abiola, if alive, would have been 83 last Saturday.
Dr. Obadiah Mailafiya
If the thunderous Mailafiya interview has had any effect on me in any way as a person, it is to strengthen my firm belief in the Nigerian project and the decision that I formed to never allow myself to be confused by any ethnic champion camouflaging as a nationalist.
Two weeks ago, I wrote on these pages how, at a very young age, my grandfather of blessed memory taught me a solid lesson in purity of intention and independent-mindedness. He taught me, as I stated then, to be a man of my conviction and never follow the crowd without any solid reason.
It was never my intention to comment on what some observers have since correctly termed as Obadiahgate, for the reason that virtually everything that should be said has been said by other commentators. My interest, therefore, is to guide us to draw some lessons from the debacle so that we could avoid the same mistakes that this doctor of letters did.
For the benefit of those who are only getting to know of this for the first time, however, here is a summary of what happened about three weeks ago.
Dr. Mailafiya, in a radio interview, levelled some very serious, very weighty allegations, to the effect that a northern governor is the commander of Boko Haram terrorists. In his words: “Let me make some revelations because some of us also have our own intelligence networks. We have met with some of their (Boko Haram) high commanders. One or two who have repented. They have sat down with us, not once, not twice. They told us that one of the northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same thing. They have a sophisticated network.
“During this lockdown, their planes were moving up and down as though there were no lockdown. Moving ammunition, moving logistics, moving money and distributing them to different parts of the country. They are already in the South, in the rain forest of the South, they are everywhere.
“They told us that when they finish these killings, they will move to phase two. The phase two is they will go into urban cities, going from house to house killing prominent people. I can tell you this is the game plan. By 2022, they want to start a civil war in Nigeria.
“Don’t joke with what I am saying. I have a PhD from Oxford University. I am a central banker, we don’t talk nonsense. So, don’t joke with what I am telling you. I have this from the highest possible authority, high possible or high authority, some of the commanders of the killers and Boko Haram.”
Mailafiya was then asked to be specific as to whether the northern governor he was referring to was a former occupant of the office or a current one. He audaciously responded as follows: “No, current, current, current. No they said one of them is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. One of them, and they are not looking for money, they have more than enough money.”
A few days after the interview was aired, the Department of State Services (DSS) invited Mailafiya to shed further light on the matter. The Northern Governors Forum, led by its chairman, Governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Lalong, also insisted that Mailafiya should be made to mention the name of the particular northern governor commanding Boko Haram.
In honoring the summons by the DSS, Mailafiya obviously engaged some youths to protest near the premises of the Plateau State office of the secret police. It was seen by some as his way of intimidating the security personnel. The man was grilled for about six hours and released the same day. Mailafiya then started speaking from both sides of the mouth, forcing the DSS to clarify that he was a liar who profusely begged them to give him a soft landing by forgiving him. But the man carried on grandstanding.
Mailafiya then granted an interview to the British Broadcasting Service (BBC), in which he shockingly said his entire claim was predicated on a rumour he picked in a village market where he went to buy acca.
In a decent society, Mailafiya should at the minimum bury his head in eternal shame and stop fouling the air with his terrible comments. But he chose not to do that. Instead, he released an article earlier this week, in which he showcased himself as a patriot out there to defend his people (whatever that means). He also shockingly suggested that he stood by the false statement he made in the radio interview, even when he earlier admitted to the BBC that it was at best a dangerous rumour. For God’s sake, what sort of human being is this?
Mailafiya had also earlier in the week turned down an invitation by the Nigeria Police Force, which asked him to report to its headquarters in Abuja. Citing intimidation, the man rushed to court to enforce his so-called fundamental human rights. It does not matter to him that the reckless statements he made were very capable of plunging this country into serious conflagration.
There was a time I was looking up to Mailafiya as a hero of sorts, whose word was law, so to speak. I held him in very high esteem, even when, for sometime, his views started veering towards ethnicity and division. I am sure I was not alone. Probably, tens of thousands of other compatriots were also holding him in high esteem, relying on him for guidance.
Now, the people I pity most are those who still believe in this man. Mailafiya, for those who may not know, is among the top 1 per cent most privileged Nigerians, having served at a time as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He is also a directing staff at the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, though there are rumours that he has resigned, owing to this ditch that he dug and threw himself into.
I pity his supporters, those carrying placards in his defense, because, whereas Mailafiya has the means to run to any country of his choice, should a conflagration erupt in this country, most of them are not even sure of the next meal.
All this should serve as a big lesson to every discerning Nigerian to be guided only by our respective consciences in digesting any information relayed by ethnic and religious chauvinists. Our respect for them should be limited only to the extent they do what is right. We should never worship anyone whose desire is putting us in trouble, knowing he can hardly be affected, since he can either secure himself, using his vast resources, or, as indicated earlier, run to another country.
As in the case of Obadiah Mailafiya, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode is a privileged Nigerian who is largely a creation of the Nigerian media. This, of course, is not to strip him of his deep intellect and urban-ness. An African adage has warned us never to play with a tiger, for we could end up in its stomach. And that’s exactly what happened.
Fani-Kayode has for years been disrespectful of countless respectable Nigerians. When he served as an aide to President Olusegun Obasanjo, he applied his sharp tongue to lash at anyone who disagreed with the President. What did the media do? We kept applauding virtually his every move.
Even his so-called tour of some southern states is only relevant because Fani-Kayode has a ready platform in the media to get the required publicity. So afraid are many reporters of Fani-Kayode that when he was busy pouring invectives on the Daily Trust reporter last week in Calabar, they were pitifully apologizing instead of staging a walkout. The man must have started seeing himself as invincible. Though he did his best to strip that reporter of his humanity, Fani-Kayode was still threatening to report the hapless correspondent to his employers in Abuja.
The Nigerian media has come a long way, playing key roles that have seen to democracy being sustained without interruption for over two decades, for the first time in our history. For me, the lesson is for the Nigerian media to go back to the drawing board and reassess its relations with some of the over-hyped personalities in this country. It also means that, going forward, we need to be a lot more careful with the way we lend our strong platforms to personalities, as not all of them will ever value it. Many of them will abandon us or take us for granted when it matters most.
For the Femi Fani-Kayodes of this world, the lesson is that though the media can be your friend for decades, it cannot watch idly-by when you deviate and start attempting to devour it. It is a big lesson for us all.