The atmosphere in the South East part of Nigeria, populated by the Igbo, is not looking good at all. Apart from the issues of general insecurity, misapplied governance style and general poverty foisted on the people, the quest for self-determination is assuming a frightening dimension, especially with the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu, two weeks ago in Germany, by persons of Igbo extraction. That assault has triggered something everybody is worried about: the phenomenon of “We against Them”. The young ones are beginning to see their leaders as belonging to a different class, a group of those either supporting the status quo or taking solace in conspiratorial passivity. So they increasingly believe the group should be dealt with most severely.
This development is crucial and that is why I dealt with it last week and I am breaking a rule I made for myself to discuss this matter the second time consecutively. I am one of those who believe that Igbo problems and challenges should not be subject of discussion in public fora such as television and radio stations, newspaper and other such other public-oriented gatherings not organized by leaders from the zone. My position stems from the knowledge that great people don’t discuss serious issues about themselves and their plans in the “Market Place.” They discuss in-house and then let their actions show their resolve to achieve an objective. To some extent, the northerners are the best in this, followed to a lesser extent by people from the South West. I decided to talk on this matter the second time and to handle it on the periphery because the trend poses great danger to Ndigbo and their aspirations.
Inside the incident in Germany are seeds that can blow up the entire area, cause bloodshed on a very high magnitude and leave a division that can distract from the main issues. Igbo leaders are already afraid and if you can take a cue from the crowd that welcomed Ekweremadu on his return to Enugu last week, it would be clear that in due time everyone that feels threatened may resort to forming private defense system. I also read last week from an editor of Igbo extraction that he has been under barrage of threats for offering opinion on the state of the people of South-East. I have also been under severe threats since last week when I wrote to condemn the attack on Ekweremadu. One Kenneth Ekeke and another caller from 080801425224 have been in the forefront of it all. Before this time, President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo and the governors have been victims of constant threats.
The earlier Ndigbo understand the danger in this approach the better it would be for everyone. Sages have said that a house divided against itself would fall. And recently a friend while joking with me said a lizard will never enter a wall except it finds a crack. We have enough examples to show Ndigbo that when a struggle turns against the intended beneficiaries, the struggle is lost and the people suffer the more. The war for Republic of Biafra, given what happened to Ndigbo, genocide and others, was a good cause, but it failed and collapsed miserably not because there were not enough weapons, leadership was not able or that there was no resolve on the part of the people. All these were there in good measure. It failed when the leadership began to quarrel among themselves.
When General Emeka Ojukwu, the Biafran Head of State and such personalities like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Akanu Ibiam and Michael Okpara worked cooperatively, the agitation gained momentum and on the diplomatic scene the cause of Ndigbo began to win world recognition with many countries recognizing the State of Biafra; but when they began to fight among themselves every gain made was eroded and from that point the Biafran cause began to experience a downward trend until it finally extinguished. Some could say this history is over 50 years ago; for such people we have a more recent example from the Ogoni struggle. It began as a struggle against their marginalization and environmental degradation by the oil companies and snowballed into a fight for political enhancement.
Not long after a contest over tactics ensued and soon graduated into another kind of fight, with one side being termed The Vultures. The Vultures were the establishment people and many of them were benefactors to those pursuing them; Chief Edward Kobani, for instance, trained Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was the leader of the other group. There were threats and counter threats, and as a reporter in the state at the time I could clearly perceive that in a matter of days the tiny bond that held them together would cut, and that was after I had interviewed the key players on both sides. I was the last reporter to have spoken to them. Two days after, the bubble burst and all the establishment fellows were killed while holding a meeting in a part of Ogoni land, after a crowd of youths stormed the venue. What began as a joke later took the lives of the leaders of the opposing camp including Ken Saro-Wiwa. Today, the Ogoni struggle has lost verve and key men killed.
History is always there to teach and to instruct. Events in nature would always reoccur but those who know the lessons of history are able to avoid the parts that can cause trouble and pain. It is true that injustice is sustained by force and manipulation but it is not true that it is only by force that a terrible system could be changed. It can be brought down by sustained non-violent strategies. The vanguard for agitation of self-determination for Ndigbo registered a landmark victory when they gave Ndigbo “Stay At Home Order.” For the first time since after the civil war those who thought Igbo had no leaders and don’t obey instructions were shocked to their marrow. The siege against Nnamdi Kanu and his group grew intense after that, because it sounded a strong message to those holding the Igbo down.
Martin Luther King has offered us some useful lessons and I quote: “The method of non-violent resistance is effective in that it has a way of disarming the opponent, exposes his moral defenses, weakens his morale and works on his conscience. It makes the individual secure moral ends through moral means. Some say ends justify means; lying, deceit and violence are justifiable means to effect change. In real sense means represents the ideal in the making and end in the process. So in the end destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends, because the end is pre-existence in the means. Non-violence does not require a people to abandon their discontent. Discontent is always sound and healthy. Non-violence saves it from degenerating into morbid bitterness and hatred. Hate is always tragic. As a race we must work passionately and unrelentingly for first class citizenship but we must never use second class methods to gain it, for if we do, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness and chief legacy to the future will be endless reign of meaningless chaos.”