General Buba Marwa is an administrator par excellence from Adamawa State. He was Borno and Lagos State military administrator under the late General Sani Abacha and presently the DG NDLEA. I came close to Marwa the first time when we were at the APC Presidential Campaign Council in which he was a prominent member. When we mounted the stage at Owerri Stadium to campaign for the President, I had the privilege of standing beside him, where he publicly declared that Ndigbo are the true Nigerians. He alluded to the fact that Ndigbo are in every habitable place in Nigeria and wherever they go, they help in developing the area by building their own houses and residing there. They live peaceably with their neighbours.
It is unnatural for a people, who by nature are everywhere in Nigeria, to have any attraction to secession. The history of secession in Nigeria is very clear. Nigeria planned to get their independence by 1954, but the North, fearing the educational and technological advancement of the South vis-a-vis the North, opposed the move for independence and threatened to secede from Nigeria if the independence move succeeds. The West agreed with the possibility of the North not being ready for independence and advised that the South should proceed with independence so as not to be set back by the North. The East, under the leadership of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, insisted that Nigeria is better as one country for the benefit of Africa and the black race. He advised that the South should wait for the North to be ready. This compromise delayed the independence till 1960. This is why Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe is referred to as the Zik of Africa.
By 1966, Nigeria had its first military coup led by a young military officer, who was from Western Nigeria at independence and Midwestern Nigeria by 1966, born in the North with the name Kaduna and of Igbo ancestry with the surname Nzeogwu. A true Nigerian. The coup was foiled by high ranking military officers from Igboland, led by General Aguiyi Ironsi, who took over power as the highest ranking military officer in Nigeria, but unfortunately resulted in the disproportionate killing of great Nigerian citizens from the North and West, erroneously triggering the suspicion that it was carried out to foist Igbo domination over the country. This led to the planning of a revenge counter coup by the North, not to take over power from the Nigerian leaders from the South but to liberate the North from the “domination” of the South. Immediately the counter coup succeeded in killing Aguiyi Ironsi, the Head of State, there was massive killing of all the Igbos in Northern Nigeria in operation “Igbo go” in open declaration of secession intention of the North from Nigeria. The flag of the new Republic was already flying in Jos, the home state of General Yakubu Gowon, who succeeded Ironsi. The Igbos were chased away back to their homeland to form their own country.
It took the intervention of the British to convince the North to have a rethink in this secession bid because they pointed out to them that they will be landlocked and would require permission from the South before they can conduct their international trade. The Western Nigeria also made it clear that if Ndigbo are allowed to go, they will go. Obviously they didn’t want to be in the minority in relation to the overwhelming majority of the North. Faced with the prospect of being landlocked, the North had a change of mind on secession and decided that we must Go On With One Nigeria (GOWON), by which time, the traumatised Igbo people, who have been chased back to their homeland, had become suspicious of remaining in one country with the rest of Nigeria, without a concrete assurance of the protection of their lives and property and ensuring the autonomy of the regions to allow each region develop at its own pace. The love for one Nigeria by Ndigbo still made them commit themselves to dialogue to resolve the differences between the feuding forces. The Aburi conference was scheduled and the terms for a New Nigeria were agreed on. It was the new leaders of Nigeria that came back to Nigeria and back pedalled on the agreements making the Igbos believe that they were no more wanted in Nigeria and forced them to defend themselves from the onslaught of the leaders of Nigeria, which resulted in a three-year civil war that claimed more than one million lives.
It is insightful to know that what the Igbos fought for in the civil war is what most Nigerians are today fighting for in the name of restructuring and increased autonomy for the federating units. The main participants in the war of attrition against the Igbos have long realised their mistakes and some have even apologised to Ndigbo for levying an unjust war against them. General Alani Akinrinade, who rose to the rank of Chief of Army Staff, after the cancellation of June 12, 1993 election, publicly declared that he regretted fighting the Igbos. General Gowon, after returning from exile, undertook a tour of the entire Igboland to apologise to Ndigbo for the war. So, there was no time in history that Igbo leaders ever preferred to secede from Nigeria. No people will sit idly by to watch their people being massacred and do nothing. They must fight to defend themselves, even if they know they may lose the war. In today Igboland, we have our political, socio-cultural, traditional, religious leaders and none of these leaders is talking about secession. It is really laughable that the allegation of some misguided and ignorant people, outside Igboland, that Ndigbo want to secede, is deduced from the voices of separatist movements.
Insecurity has become an issue in all the zones of Nigeria. Terrorism started in the North East of Nigeria by the Boko Haram, initially headed by Mohammed Yusuf and succeeded by Abubakar Shekau. They spoke about establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria, essentially calling for secession from Nigeria. Nigerians have been fighting these terrorists for more than 10 years. They have bombed military barracks, police stations, markets, mosques, churches etc. They have massacred our military officers, soldiers, police officers and other security agencies, emirs and traditional rulers. They have kidnapped, killed and raped many school children and forcefully married the rest. They have decapitated Imams, Pastors, United Nations workers etc. The bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in the North West and North Central are doing essentially the same things. They have extended these vices to the Southern part of Nigeria in what is today known as the activities of killer herdsmen. Yet nobody is attributing their actions to the citizens of North East, North West, North Central or accusing their leaders of complicity in the security challenges there.
Moving a bit to the South West, Sunday Igboho appeared suddenly to openly declare his desire for Oduduwa Republic. He has conducted processions and rallies to achieve his aim. Blood has been shed in the process. He was declared wanted by the Federal Government and the order was resisted by most of the South West elite. He is walking free today in the South West. During the EndSARS protest, some of the members of the police force and other security agencies were executed, roasted and castrated. Police stations were burnt, prisoners freed, buses burnt etc, in Benin and Lagos, yet the Federal Government has not accused the leaders of South West or South South of complicity in the activities of these separatists or arsonists. Meanwhile, these zones have representatives in the headship of the security forces.
In the South East, immediately the activities of IPOB started posing security challenges for the governors of the South East and before even the Federal Government took any action, the governors of the South East proscribed publicly every activity of IPOB in the South East. No governors of any other zone have done that. Nnamdi Kanu fled Nigeria, not because of the threat of the Federal Government, but because of the threat of being decimated by the leaders of the South East. They would have hidden him if they supported him. He operated outside Nigeria, where only the Federal Government has power to do anything to him. IPOB formed Eastern Security Network, purportedly, to fill up the security gap in the South East as the governors were prevaricating in establishing their own security network just because of their apprehension that such move will be used against them as ploy for secession, even when the South West had established Amotekun. ESN has not even lasted for a year and has not operated outside the areas of their separatist agenda. Only the Igbos or someone in Igboland have been affected by the activities of IPOB. The burning of Police stations or killing of members of security agencies, freeing of prisoners etc just came on stream recently as part of the general insecurity plaguing the whole country. These are despicable acts of lawlessness that should be condemned by all right thinking persons, investigated and prosecuted where necessary. But to say, by any stretch of imagination, that it is a sign that South East leaders are in any way complicit, smacks of ignorance and mischief.
The Federal Government should take 100% responsibility for the security challenges in the South East. The FG has the monopoly of the power of the security forces and has a duty to defend the South East. The South East has not had any representative in the headship of any security agency for the six years of Buhari’s government. The governors and the leaders are constrained from establishing a powerful responsive security agency to withstand the heavy weapons used by these separatists to avoid the perception of secession agenda. The South East is landlocked and no weapon can enter the South East without passing through the other zones and being facilitated by the complicity of some highly placed members of the security forces.
It is surprising that the South East and their leaders are clamouring for the Presidency of Nigeria come 2023 and just inclusion in all the spheres of government, including the headship of the security forces in Nigeria, which demands are completely at variance with any intention for secession and are being denied, yet their leaders are being accused of complicity in the activities of separatists whose leaders are not even allowed to operate freely in the South East by the South East leaders. If President Buhari wishes to give the South East what they want, he should give them the Presidency come 2023 and immediately appoint someone from the South East as a security Chief.