Raphael Ede, Enugu
It may interest to know that not every Igbo that wants Biafra excised from Nigeria. There are people who believe that Nigeria belongs to all the different segments of the country, call it ethnic areas or geopolitical areas or zones. What such people want is a united and progressive Nigeria where everybody will be happy and feel a sense of belonging.
To make this a reality, such people hold seminars and workshops and even town hall meetings to educate Ndigbo on the need to stay and make Nigeria great, because to them, there is strength in unity. Although those who are fed up with what is happening in Nigeria may feel that there is no need to stay, this negligible few still believe that the bridge could be mended. Such people are not many but they are not afraid to be called saboteurs because of their stance.
However, on March 17, a non-governmental based in Enugu, Take Back Nigeria Association, (TBNA) took the call for restructuring to another level. They organised a town hall meeting to create awareness and sensitise Ndigbo, especially, the youths that instead of pulling out from Nigeria, they should endeavou.
In short, the group wants Ndigbo to take back Nigeria, which they claimed rightly belongs to them.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting, they called on politicians from Igbo speaking states to forge a common ideology in the call for restructuring of the country.
In the communiqué signed by the Board of Directors of the association, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, Prof. Obasi Igwe, Mr. Joseph Agbo, Mr. Bony Amalu and Mrs. Ngozi Chukwudi, the group stated that the Igbo needed to pursue its aspirations with a common voice.
It stated that the basic problem with Nigeria was the ‘national question’, adding that at a time other nationalities were uniting their peoples, “the Igbo nation needed to do same.
“We join several others in affirming that the basic problem with Nigeria is the national question which can only be peacefully resolved in terms of nationalities. By nationality, we mean people with a common language and more or less common history, traditions and outlook. We appreciate that various nationalities in the country have been uniting their peoples into a coherent bloc, articulating collective interests and seeking a common voice on issues,” it stated. The communiqué stated that the notion that sections of the Igbo nation hated one another was misleading.
“We totally denounce the Igbo groups or affiliates who persevere to disunite the Igbo, encourage the false notion that Igbo only means ‘South East’, or that Igbo sections hate each other and cannot unite. We call on Igbo communities across all political divisions to overcome the past, start acting in unison as Igbo and join others in seeking solutions based on the national question,” it stated.
The communiqué canvassed a return to true federalism based on the four pre-existing 1963 regions or ethnic nationalities with viability-oriented mergers of smaller ones or a rational combination of the two.
“There should also be a just and equitable reform of the military security services of which state police is only one component. Ideological clarity in terms of unequivocal secularity, democratic political order, free enterprise economic system and fundamental human rights must find expression in the constitutions of the units and the whole,” it stated
Addressing the crowd of young Nigerians drawn from the defunct old Eastern region in a theme: “Igbo’s – Primus Inter Pares; Fundamentals of Igbo Political History; And Constitutional Federalism,” the convener of the town hall meeting, Mr. Ifeanyi Okonkwo, berated Ndigbo for behaving like fools and cowards, efulefu, as he called in Igbo language by not asserting their prime position in Nigeria.
He therefore, challenged Ndigbo to rise from their stupor to take back Nigeria, while stressing that Igbo’s, Hausa’s, Yoruba’s and other ethnic groups that make up Nigeria are equal partners in Nigeria project, and like people in a marriage, one should not leave it for their co-wives married to the same man.
“Igbo’s are co-owners of Nigeria. We shall not run away from Nigeria, instead, Nigeria will run away from Ndigbo. You don’t send a woman home because she contacted gonorrhea, instead the disease should be cure for the marriage to continue,” calling on Igbo elders to educate the youth but should not allow them to go astray.
“Let’s put heads together and find out what the problem is and tackle it,” he said, pointing out that while he was schooling in America, he saw Igbo men driving taxis whereas Yorubas and Hausas did not do so and wondered what was wrong with Ndigbo.
To checkmate the activities of the armed Fulani herdsmen since they are causing trouble that could jeopardise the Nigerian unity, recommended that people should desist from eating cow meat, beef and choose pork instead.
One of the speakers at the occasion and co-convener, Evangelist Joseph Agbo of the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, identified the problem in Nigeria as that of who controls the economy and who are the owners.
Agbo pointed out that instead of running away, Ndigbo should gear up to take back Nigeria which he said Ndigbo were the first settlers as history has shown. He said that before 1866, Igbo’s occupied many places in various parts of Nigeria and buttressed it with names some Yoruba cities answer like Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu Ode and even Maiduguri in Northern Nigeria.
“We must take back the territory or else our problem will continue. If we take back the territory, it will be possible for us to do other things.
“I am Igbo Biafra. What is happening in Nigeria like the herdsmen menace did not start today? It is the battle of identity or economic or both. Igbos are the original owners of Nigeria. Igbo’s have invested heavily in Nigeria, how they will leave it for others. We must secure our investment. That was why Igbo’s said no to the quit notice issued by the Northern youth last year,” Agbo said indicating that Nigeria should be one.
Ndigbo have invested trillions of Naira in various parts of Nigeria and would not abandon it for anybody, while Agbo cautioned on the agitation for the restoration of Biafra saying some Igbos behave like stooges in the hands of other Nigerians instead of standing on their feet.
“You cannot have Biafra when they are posting agency people as governors, senators. You don’t become another country by wishing it,” he said.
Prof. Obasi Igwe of the Political Science Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, who is also co-convener, wept that it looked as if it is a punishment for someone to be an Igbo man in Nigeria.
He said that some people are agitating for a separate state from Nigeria because of the perceived marginalization and discrimination against Ndigbo, pointing out that many Ndigbo find it difficult to get a job after graduation not to talk about the suffering they go through to be educated in the first place.
“To be an Igbo man is a punishment. You find it hard to go to school and no job at the end of the day. There is agitation because of discrimination. The people being killed in the North are Igbos,” he said.
Prof. Igwe who is also the National Coordinator of Igbo Civil Society Coalition (ICSC), explained that Ndigbo like other Nigerians are in a marriage and should be treated as such instead of under dogs.
“If somebody wants to leave a marriage, the other one should ask why but not to start killing. Nigerians should persuade us on the reasons to stay in Nigeria,” he said.
Igwe pointed out that Igbos don’t hate any part of Nigeria going by the way they invest heavily in various parts of Nigeria, stressing that the way the country is governed is not working and need urgent restructuring to accommodate the component unites. In the interim, he suggested that the 2019 general elections should be put on hold until Nigeria is restructured.
To achieve this, he suggested that provisional national government should be formed that would set up a sovereign national conference on the way forward. It is believed that the conference would address issues about identity and control of the economy in Nigeria so that people will live peacefully and amicably and stave off both necessary and unnecessary agitations in various parts of Nigeria.