Apart from dearth of responsive and exemplary leadership, another major problem facing the nation is her inability to manage its postcolonial tensions. While some other nations that were colonized by European imperial powers in Africa, Asia and elsewhere have gotten over that unfortunate episode in their history and moved on, Nigeria is still riddled with its own postcolonial crisis and foundational contradictions.
Most Nigerians are still agonizing over what has become the ‘mistake of 1914.’ In actual fact, the colonial adventure or misadventure in Nigeria was an accident of history, which some regard as divine intervention or God ordained. Whichever way it is, colonialism has not been good for Nigerians. It has led to unpalatable postcolonial tensions in our country. Because of the mismanagement of our postcolonial heritage, Nigeria (a nation of many ethnic groups) by our leaders, civil and military, we have had coups and counter coups, bloodbaths and a fratricidal civil war that we recently marked its 50th anniversary.
We have, therefore, tested both civilian and military leaderships. Despite the pros and cons of each of them, Nigerians still prefer civilian democratic rule no matter its imperfections to military rule. We have also had pockets of agitations, be it for self-determination, resource control, or militancy against environmental degradation or for other political causes like the Boko Haram insurgency, the country has been able to manage them.
There have been calls for the restructuring of our lopsided federation to the extent that a conference was organized in 2014 where most of the contentious national questions were exhaustively treated and solutions proffered. All efforts to ensure that the recommendations of this far-reaching conference are implemented have been officially rebuffed by the APC federal government.
Not even the persistent calls for restructuring by eminent Nigerians have been heeded by this administration. Many Nigerians still believe that restructuring is the best way to go in the 21st century Nigeria. Those dithering on it do not wish the country well.
Based on this background, the Tuesday quit notice issued by Arewa Youths for the Igbo to leave the North following the recent successful sit-at-home order by the Movement of the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is not only subversive but also a threat to national unity and continued existence of the country as one. The threat violets the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
How does the one-day sit-at-home order issued by MASSOB and IPOB in the East in honour of those who died during the war annoy the Arewa Youths to warrant the quit the north order? The sit-at-home order affected all Nigerians including the Igbo. What is wrong in marking the 50th anniversary of such a carnage visited on a people because of their self-determination quest? There is nothing wrong in interrogating our past in order to shape the present and the future.
Nigeria cannot continue to live as if there was no Biafra. Nigeria should be brave enough to confront its past and reshape its present and the future. Remembering those who died in the war should be a pan-Nigeria event because both sides lost many people to the war. It should be a national affair. Remembering your lost ones, especially in bestial wars of this nature is therapeutic. The prosecution of the war by the federal government of Nigeria and the handling of postwar 3Rs of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation of Gen. Yakubu Gowon put the Igbo in the worst condition ever. The structure of Nigeria since the war and after is made to enslave and marginalize the Igbo. The Igbo have the least number of states and local governments in the country. To enter the so-called unity college, an Igbo child will score far above other Nigerians to make it. Politically, Nigeria has put hurdles that will make a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction almost difficult to achieve.
Fifty years after the commencement of Biafran war, an Igbo has not been elected the president of Nigeria. I can go on and on to recite injustices against the Igbo but space will not permit me to do so. That is why the Igbo have called for restructuring of the present structure of Nigeria. MASSOB and IPOB rhetoric is not far from a restructured Nigeria even though their language is more radical and forceful. Nigeria is not a perfect example of a nation. The Nigerian edifice is still open to amendments and restructuring. Restructuring is a permanent feature of any nation that is progressive and wants to endure. No nation is governed by threats and counter threats.
But if at the end of the day, we see that we cannot manage our colonial heritage as one country together, let us part peacefully as brothers and sisters. And let the parting be in such a way that when we see each other on the street, we will be able to look each other in the face and greet warmly as old pals and not as mortal enemies that will look the other way. We can borrow good examples from other countries that have disintegrated. Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia can serve as good examples. There was Germany. India had experienced it too. There was Senegambia and Sudan.
To my own understanding, disintegration does not amount to taking another person’s property because it is in your territory as some people are threatening to do should we go our separate ways. It does not amount to: ‘We will not see them and they will not see us.’ All the same, the Igbo should not take this threat lightly because it could happen. Therefore, they must be vigilant. The condemnations that greeted the youths’ threat are good. But the Federal Government and security agents must be on their guard to make sure that the threat is not carried out. Government must ensure that the threat does not escalate to national violence. Nigerian elders should also put their mouth in the matter before the looming anarchy sets in.
Goodbye Prof. Ben Obumselu
The remains of the late renowned Nigerian academic and literary critic, Prof. Ben Obumselu, will be laid to rest today in his home town, Oba in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Obumselu had his first degree in English at the University of Ibadan in the 50s before proceeding to the University of Oxford for his doctorate degree in English in the 60s. Later, he taught in various universities in Ibadan, Nsukka, Zambia, Zaire, Birmingham, Botswana, Swaziland and Okigwe.
Undoubtedly, the deceased was regarded as one of the best scholars and literary critics the country has produced and among the best on the continent. He taught many students including Dr. Stanley Macebuh, Prof. Dan Izavbeye, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Prof. Theo Vincent. As an adviser to the late Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Obumselu was among those intellectuals that produced the Ahiara Declaration of 1968, which articulated the manifesto and philosophy of the Biafran Revolution.
He also promoted the Igbo cause and was at a time the Deputy President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
As he takes his final bow today, may the Almighty God grant his gentle soul eternal repose and give the family the fortitude to bear the great loss.