By Odimegwu Onwumere
Ndigbo, my people, have been slaughtered in their own land in the Fulani herdsmen incursion of Ukpabi, Nimbo, in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, in the early of hours of April 25, 2016.
Now that ala-Igbo has been taken over by the Fulani herdsmen or is it Fulani militants, one man that came to my mind was Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, a former Governor of Abia State. If he were still a governor, possible ways would have been mapped out to stop the killings of Ndigbo in their own land by the marauders that have no respect or attach a meaning to human life.
I want to talk about Kalu today, whom I had written about in the past before I channeled my energy to other more challenging issues. Kalu would have ended this rofo-rofo if on November 12, 2012, he could offer to negotiate the end of insurgency in the northern part of the country on Federal Government’s (FG) behalf.
Kalu is not like the current crops of governors in the South-East, who only dangle balls in-between their loins, but are weaker than what is known as weaker vessels. In 2013, I wrote that Kalu’s offer came when it was obvious that the chief-nominee of Boko Haram for the dialogue, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, shamed to accept the offer.
However, Kalu gave reasons he offered to be the agent of peace. Through his Special Assistant on Media, Emeka Obasi, Kalu did not blame Buhari, he rather said: “General Buhari took a laudable step by opting out. For one who contested the 2011 presidential election, meeting with Boko Haram may be misconstrued because many believe that the group’s activities heightened after the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
With the killings on March 18, 2013 in Kano through bomb blasts that took over 100 lives and damaged many property, numerous people, especially those from the southern part of the country resident in North, condemned the FG’s lackadaisical approach to Kalu’s earlier benevolent bid.
I wrote then that upon that President Goodluck Jonathan had condemned the bomb blasts and described it as barbaric, these Nigerians, who live in fear in the dreadful northern region, said that the president was just using mere rhetoric, instead of practical approach, such as Kalu’s.
The conviction of many people was that the FG was only boasting that it would not be deterred from what it claimed was its “strong-willed determination to overcome those who do not mean well for the nation,” when it was obvious that it had been stampeded, but only turned to using the media, as its proffered measure of fighting the hyper-terrorists, who were bent on incessant bombings and killings of people and destruction of property.
Following that, it could be deduced that Nigerians were not strongly convinced that President Jonathan could win the war against terrorism in the country, no matter his reassurances to the citizens and foreigners in the country that the Nigerian Government would not relent in its efforts to bring terrorism to a halt in the country.
Someone sent me an e-mail in 2013, in respect to the bombings in the North. He was a university teacher in one of the universities in the northern part of the country, who was from the Igbo extraction and wrote under anonymity, bemoaning his fears that he doubted if the FG could halt the terrorists; but added that if that would be, it might not be in the soon. He cried that they, non-natives in the northern part of the country, could only walk the streets of the North, after embarking on spiritual exercise. He wept that those of us residing outside the North might not be entirely feeling the shock they in the North felt every second.
He wrote: “You guys that live in the homeland cannot appreciate completely what those of us who live among them pass through on a daily basis. What baffles me more is that the authorities have already made up their minds that the only solution is to saturate the airwaves with their messages of condemnation.”
He admonished that the FG should go beyond censuring anytime there was killings in the North to proffering practical solutions to the danger. He stressed that Ndigbo (Kalu’s people), were killed in droves in the North, not like human beings, but like rats and other pests.
“Igbo are being decimated on a daily basis, yet, people who should speak and act pretend as if chickens are being slaughtered. Somebody should be bold enough to tell Nigerians that we have permeated one another so much that there are many other tribes and religious groups in my village. How would they feel if we begin to slaughter their people the way they slaughter ours in their midst?” he asked.
Further, he said that traditional rulers from the Igbo region had not done enough to send message to their counterparts in the North in the language they could possibly understand. He affirmed that it was only Orji Uzor Kalu, who had done this; and that was when he was governor (1999-2007).
“Please, my brother, you should not misunderstand me. I am not a politician. I am not holding brief for any person but I must tell you that if there is any politician we miss now, it is only Orji Uzor Kalu,” he said, and added: “This is the point we shall begin to make as from now. What are our traditional rulers doing? How many of them have spoken out against what we are suffering in this country? Does it imply that these people who were slaughtered in Kano last week did not come from villages and towns with traditional rulers? What stops them from protesting to their counterparts in Northern Nigeria?”
He went down memory lane and told how they in the North now miss Kalu, even when he was not a governor in the North. The university teacher smoldered: “We once had a big problem in Kaduna, some years back, when Kalu was the governor of Abia State. He did not waste time in protesting to the Sultan of Sokoto. Check the records. Since that time, nobody had targeted the Igbo in Kaduna because he was very practical. But today, I can tell you unequivocally that things have fallen apart. Our leaders are relaxing in their comfort zones, because their own children are not directly affected.”
The lecturer pleaded that he was not wrongly transferring his aggression but was of the philosophy that somebody like Kalu whose voice should be heard must speak out, because Ndigbo, residing in the North have turned all the cheeks they have, which the northerners have taken advantage of.
“I just feel that somebody whose voice should be heard must speak out to tell the world that nobody has the monopoly of violence. We must speak, my brother. We have turned all the cheeks we have. Maybe, our leaders expect us to voluntarily turn in our necks this time around. Ndigbo should have their agenda in this country. Every group in this land now has a clear identity. We seem to be the only group that is still groping. We must stand up and go back to the drawing board. When we do that, I believe we must stop being the dumping ground of all the evil in the land.”
Apart from that, Kalu had sought to bring peace in the North on behalf of the government; he had also warned that there should be an end to the monumental killings of Ndigbo. He disclosed this to media men on Tuesday, January 10, 2012. He expressed sadness in particular, over the ceaseless killings of Ndigbo, and southerners in the northern Nigeria.
In strong terms, Kalu said that it was offensive that Ndigbo had come to be besieged whenever there was a discrepancy or crisis of any sort in the North. He was disappointed, and added: “Everyday, Igbo people in the North are being slaughtered in huge numbers and the Federal Government appears clueless, helpless and incapable of coming to the defence of these citizens.”
Kalu had said: “Unfortunately, northern political leaders have made statements and interventions at levels that further question the essence and founding vision of one Nigeria notwithstanding the obnoxious dimension of carrying out such killings in holy places of worship.”
He conversely quoted literary icons, such as (Chinua Achebe (now late), Wole Soyinka and J. P. Clark) in their shared response to the disgustful national calamity thus: “All who possess any iota of influence or authority, who aspire to real leadership must act now to douse the first flickers of ‘responses in kind’, even before they are manifested and become contagious.”
Known as a peacemaker, Kalu did not only talk about the catastrophes, he also submitted advice to Ndigbo and other southerners resident in the North not to rest on their oars to seek to protect their lives and property in the North. He warned that they should not sit down and watch themselves being hacked down by marauders among the northerners.
He said again: “Christians (northern and southern) and all southerners must also refuse to be made scapegoats and must get together to resist these unwarranted attacks. If the attackers get help from outside the country to attack, Christians and southerners should also do the same to defend themselves, if help will not come from within. If we are singled out for attack again, we shall no longer turn the other cheek, but shall demand an eye for an eye.”
Notwithstanding, many Nigerians had scrutinised disappointingly that the elements that originated the civil war of 1967-70 were being experimented. It was a known fact that many Igbo people were killed and mutilated in a pogrom in the North, which was chiefly the cause of the 1967-70 (un)civil war.
These Nigerians are afraid that the country does not experience another war, but added that the war mongers could have been disciplined only if the Federal Government had heeded to Kalu’s offer to negotiate the end of insurgency in the northern part of the country on its behalf.
Today, has the hen not come to the South-East to roost?
• Odimegwu Onwumere is a Rivers State-based poet, writer and consultant and winner, in the digital category, Nordica Media Merits Awards 2016. Tel: +2348057778358. Email: [email protected]