The Vindication of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the Biafra Question
Someone forwarded an audio recording to me few days ago which must have been preserved for more than 57 years. It was the voice of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA), the last Premier of the Western Region and the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland
The voice was unmistakable, in his distinctive Ogbomosho accent. The summary of what he said, which I have transcribed from Yoruba to English as best as I could was:
“…. Let us the Yorubas come together. Let the Ibos not ‘disorganize’ us with this election. We must not allow them to use this election to destroy our land, take over our jobs, disturb our trade. They must not be allowed to obstruct our access into the government. People must not see this election as an Akintola or Awolowo issue. Even if you don’t like Akintola…(inaudible)…
They are taking your children’s food; they are pursuing your wives from their stores. This election is for our salvation. It is an election through which your children will become somebody tomorrow. We are closer to the northerners. This is not because we plan to sell you as slaves to them. Even they (the northerners) are not interested in buying slaves. Since people have been saying we want to sell you as slaves to the north, has Lagos not remained at the same location? It has not been moved to Meduguri (Maiduguri); Ibadan has not moved to Bauchi oo. They will be deceiving you that Hausa is not good, meanwhile, they have been seating with the Hausa to share the goodness (mudun-mudun) of this land. When you get to one place, you find “Idechukwu:, when you get to another place, you will find “Nwachuku…..”
Recall that Chief Akintola died in January 1966, which would mean that incidence happened on or before then.
Following the Feb 25, 2023 presidential election, a lot of dust has been raised. This audio must have been dug up to fan the ember of hatred against the Ibo as the Lagos gubernatorial election of March 18, 2023 drew near. Such vitriolic utterances and rhetoric were part of the trigger of the genocidal war against the Ibos between 1966 – 1970. Many are unfamiliar with the bestiality which accompanied that episode. That the Ibo race is still here today is by sheer grit. I urge the readers to get a copy of the book “The Biafra Story”, by Frederick Forsyth, to get a sense of that part of our history.
There appears to be a general sense of satisfaction from most Yoruba about the outcome of the presidential election. I struggle though, to reconcile why the Yoruba Christians, who hitherto joined with Christians from other parts of the country to vehemently denounced and opposed a Muslim/Muslim ticket seem to have acquiesced. Strange enough, it is no longer about who is the best person for the job and the place of religious balance on the tickets.
While still basking in the euphoria of Mahmoud’s announcement, in what local and international observers have variously described as a shambolic ‘heist’ of an election, the temporary illusion of a ‘victory’, possibly obfuscates a realization of the difference between “winning the battle but losing the war”; and that it may yet be, essentially a Pyrrhic Victory.
While the candidate in question, himself has a tainted background bothering on his ancestry, educational institutions, criminal conviction and questionable heath condition, the process that would have thrown him up has also been tainted, burdened with atrocities of unprecedented monumental proportion. Not only is his personality ‘cloaked in a baggage of character deficit’, the process which would have produced him is replete with unimaginable scale of fraud. Imagine the national, regional and international ignominy which will trail the presentation of such credentials to the world.
Given the brazen disregard for the Will of the people with which INEC proclaimed, ‘a winner’, of the presidential election, Nnamdi Kanu must have had a spirit of clairvoyance when he warned that:
“It is only INEC that decides the results of elections in Nigeria, Not your PVC; the sooner you understand that, the better for you. Your PVC is useless”
His statement has turned out to be ‘words on marble’ .
In light of what has unfolded, which by the way, has been our experience over the years, is anyone still in doubt about the need for separate countries for the tribes? Given what has transpired and what may yet follow, the issue of separate Nations for the nationalities must be brought to the fore.
It is a reality we can no longer afford to pretend about. The trio of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) and Professor Banji Akintoye, all of whom have advocated for the creation of separate independent Nations are not eccentric nor delusional. Their calls are borne out of genuine concern about the fragility of Nigeria, the collapse of which could be catastrophic.
In the aftermath of events which unfolded in Lagos during the elections, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed of the Northern Elders Forum asked a very salient question:
“Will Lagos ever be the same again after 2023 elections?”
While the path to separate Nations is being charted, my expectations is that Ibos and other non-Ibos from the South East and Niger Delta must start to reconsider their future investments in Lagos. If the whole world was aghast at the Ukrainian treatment of non-Ukrainians at the evacuations preceding the outbreak of the Russian/Ukrainian war, even for those who were born in Ukraine or lived there for decades, I could not see any difference between that and what happened in Lagos the last few weeks. There is no difference between what we call xenophobia against Nigerians in South Africa and Ghana and what unveiled in Lagos.
With the disenfranchisement of Ibos and other non-Yorubas ethnicities in Lagos at these elections, what other proof is there to show that different countries are lumped together? I am yet to hear or read of any contrary argument for which Nigeria must continue to be a single entity. Whose interest exactly is served when you lock a hyena, lion and a Tiger in a cage, throw a piece of meat in their midst and expect them not to fight for it? Anarchy will be the result and that exactly exemplifies Nigeria.
Each of the presidential aspirants, individually considered qualified by their ethnic groups, would do well to govern their separate countries and Africa will know peace. Tinubu can govern Oduduwa (If he is considered good enough as the president of Nigerian, surely, he must be good enough as the first president of the new Oduduwa Nation), Atiku can preside over the affairs of Arewa and do for that country what he hoped to do for Nigeria, and Peter Obi can run Biafra. It is really that simple!
Pieter Willem Botha, former South African apartheid leader was quoted to have once derisively said “Black People cannot rule themselves because they don’t have the brain and mental capacity to govern a Society”, this is exactly what they meant! Must we wait for a white man to come and seat us down round a table and prescribe a solution to our decades old intractable problem? We can see the solution starring us right in the face but choose to ignore it.
Is it not a shame that with all the acclamation of Nigerians as the most PhDs, Professors, and Doctors all across the world, we cannot organize ourselves and apply the one solution which we can all see? Most countries that have made progress are unified by a commonality of language and culture, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, France, United Kingdom, USA, South Korea, Japan and the list goes on. Must we wait for another ethnically charged conflict to erupt before we do the right thing? We should learn from the experiences of history, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, USSR. We can even see what is currently happening in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians in Donbass region want out of Ukraine! Are we waiting to tow that path? Why can’t we do a round-table discussion, arrive at mutually agreeable terms of disengagement, thereby setting a worthy example for others who might be in similar circumstance to emulate? Because some white men came, found totally different set of people and decided to lump them together, for the white man’s convenience, must we continue to wallow in that pitiable state when we can see it’s detrimental to our collective wellbeing? Must we resign ourselves to the perpetual state of acrimonious co-existence? To think that we would actually kill ourselves for what was not our own creation is puzzling. No wonder Nnamdi Kanu would repeatedly say “Something is wrong with the brain of a black man”?
The Labour Party winning of Lagos in the presidential election has highlighted the concealed gulf between the Yorubas and the Ibos. If Tinubu is cleared as the winner by the courts, no doubt the Ibos will be at his receiving end and it would be worse, given that his Muslim/Muslim vice, Shettima is an avowed enemy of the Ibos. Recall the leaked telephone conversation between him and Ibikunle Amosun a few years ago when Buhari ‘won’ his first term in 2015; how he boasted the Ibos would be treated. Just as he boasted, we all saw how the Ibos have been treated under this administration. My conjecture is that Ibo interests in Lagos and Abuja will be threatened through strategically targeted policies. Whichever way you look at it, humongous cracks, perhaps impossible to mend have been opened.
I had always known that, for the most part, the Ibos and the Yorubas don’t exactly like each other. This is a fact that is difficult to voice out but it’s the truth. I expect to take the flak for this ‘disclosure’ but it’s a price I am willing to pay because it’s the truth. It is a fact hidden behind that ‘glass wall’, which everyone can see through, but no one wants to break it. It is convenient for me to ‘spill that beans’, because I am an outsider. I am neither of the two but have lived and worked closely with the 2 in multiple organizations and locations. As a neutral party, I know what comments I hear from each one about the other.
They do have common interest though. They each seek a working, prosperous nation and I dare say that the egalitarianism which each of them seek will be easier to achieve when they get to their separate countries, Oduduwa and Biafra. That is their only point of convergence. As you would have seen in the conflict between Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, as evident in the words of Chief Akintola, and as has unfolded in the ongoing elections, whatever you thought was harmonious between Yoruba and Ibo was a façade masking the reality of unhealthy competition.
They can each pursue this interest in their separate countries. Cultural, linguistic and tribal homogeneity would promote institutional stability for the separate nations. There are points in life where all forms of pretenses should be jettisoned and people must be pragmatic; I believe that time is now.
Can you imagine the infringement on the rights and liberty of an entire tribe when the Oba of Lagos, a first-class traditional ruler in Yorubaland threatens to flush Ibos down the lagoon if they dare vote against the candidate of his people’s choice!! That was just in 2015. What is more “xenophobic” than that? “MC Oluomo” and his area boys’ gang have just made similar threats and the “Iya Chukudi” video of few days ago is very fresh in our memory. What other pretenses of one country are we still dwelling on?
Nothing captures the sense of uncertainty and frustration of Ndigbo within the Nigerian enterprise than the public declaration by a former federal minister, Frank Nweke (Jnr) when he said:
“Igbos face an existential threat in Nigeria today; and nobody will save us, nobody will help us, if we do not organize ourselves politically, if we do not mobilize, if we do not chart our own political course.
Let this be clear, as for me and my household, I am completely and totally un-apologetically, frankly Obidient, totally, completely and totally…without any apology whatsoever to anybody. So, anybody is at liberty to hold any views he wants to hold, but I for me, I say as for me and my household, political household, personal household, extended household, we are completely and totally Obidient.”
The most pragmatic option for Ibos (as indeed, other ethnic group) is to seek a Nation outside of Nigeria. I cannot see in the horizon such a time when the gang-up against the Ibos by the other 2 major ethnic group will abate. The north considers itself the male factor in the tripod; believes the Ibos to be unduly obstinate and sees the Yorubas as malleable and happy to occupy a subservient role to them. I do not say this to diminish the Yoruba. it is my reading of the Nigerian balance of power over the last 40 years. Consequently, the light of the Yoruba which should ordinarily brightly shine to illuminate the path of progress for Africa has been dimmed.
I dare say, therefore, that the Ibo man has no future in Nigeria and the creators of Nigeria never envisaged the Ibo to take a leadership role. What Nnamdi Kanu, (the one his followers fondly call “Ohamadike”) and IPOB seek is an escape from that slavish state. Can anyone deny the state of anarchy. Can we deny the misery and the desolation in the land? If the answer is NO, then whose interest is a unitary Nigeria serving, which must continue to be sustained?
It is rather unfortunate that once again, the Fulani succeeded in marching the Ibos against the Yorubas which I decried in one of my previous articles, “Southern Nigeria and the Delusion of 2023 Presidency”.
Rather than working together to fashion out an escape route from their enslavement, they have now been pitched against each other. Rather than each Nation of Biafra and Oduduwa nurturing separate cows to provide their citizens with fresh, unadulterated milk, they are both struggling to take a sip of the expired and sour milk from the failed edifice called Nigeria.
I hope the development of the past few weeks would have opened the eyes and minds of those Ibos, who before now were ambivalent about Biafra and thought agitator to be unrealistic lunatics.
The one and only solution that will provide a lasting peace for the Ibo race, and all of the other Nations locked within the ‘jail house’ called Nigeria are separate independent nations. Everyone will agree, like the title of this essay reads, that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been vindicated. Wherever he is now, I am sure he will be reclining on his seat and saying in his mind “I did warn you guys but you did not listen”.
I will round up by re-stating what Julius Malema, a South African politician and Member of Parliament said following the Nigerian 2023 election. He said:
“After watching 2023 Nigeria election, I am still wondering the reason Nigeria is still living together as a country.
Nigerians hate themselves so much but find it difficult to separate peacefully”
Need I say more?
Peter Omonua is an Officer of the Canadian Armed Forces, lives in Ontario, Canada
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org