By SKC Ogbonnia
The Nigerian corrupt cabal is exploiting the current Biafran agitation with increasing stridency. The venerable Merriam-Webster, mark you, defines corruption as a “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)” or “something that has been changed from its original form from what is pure or correct.” The confluence of these definitions perfectly rhymes with the pattern where successive Nigerian governments not only breed corruption by way of looting of public treasury but also through gross injustice as well as distortion of national history.
Very glaring, for instance, is that since the new wave of Biafran agitation heightened, instead of exploring lasting ways to resolve the crisis, the Nigerian government is aiming its underhand tactics towards the Igbo people. The most vexing, however, is the extent the government travels to accomplish its objectives. Today, even the Biblical Judas Iscariot would be ennobled as a Saint insofar the Igbo is humbled.
The pawn here is the seemingly unsuspecting Hausa-Fulani ethnic block of the North-West and North-East political zones. This group, which wields the current ruling authority, is well-known to appear tactlessly testy when it comes to any slightest suggestion towards Nigerian disintegration. By consequence, the corrupt hawks from other zones have wasted no time to cash in. Today, any nuanced opposition to the Biafran secession bid or even mere anti-Igbo antics by corrupt politicians prompts an automatic eyes-left from the nation’s anti-corruption agency.
Consider, for a moment, the case of the twin corrosive engines of the Nigerian Senate in its president, Olubukola Saraki, and his dateless deputy, Ikechukwu Ekweremadu. This duo, remember, had hitherto employed Ohaneze Ndigbo youths along with the threat of Biafran secession as a shield to elongate their illegitimate stay at the helm of the upper chamber. Today, they are singing a different tune, grandstanding as the prime apostles of Nigerian unity. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that most of the corrupt charges preferred against them have been mysteriously quashed.
The most brazen is the spectacle of James Ibori and Ifeanyichukwu Okowa. Celebrated not long ago as the first Igbo governor of Delta State, Okowa was installed by Ibori, the fugitive ex-governor, who recently completed a 13-year jail sentence in England but remains officially wanted by Nigerian authorities for all shades of corruption. However, in a grand scheme to vacate Ibori’s case and pretermit the corrupt cabal that has loomed in Delta State throughout the Fourth Republic, Okowa has been doing his portion to appease the powers that be by deepening undue divisions within the Igbo in name of opposition to Biafra. The following verbatim quote from the governor is a partial testament:
“Biafra agitation, we criticize it. Anioma land as it is said, was part of Bendel State; we were part of the Midwest State, we have not been part of the South East. So obviously, we cannot be said to be part of them (Biafra). We may speak a similar language, but we are not part of the South East. We were part of the Mid-West, now we are Deltans.”
In a widely published essay, “The Southeast Igbo Did Not Kill Ahmadu Bello”, I reminded Mr. Okowa and his co-travelers among other things that Chukwuma Nzeogwu, the very Igbo man most closely linked with the death of Ahmadu Bello, an incident commonly blamed for the Biafran war, was actually from the present-day Delta State in the South-South zone—not the South-East. Before my ink could dry, I was greeted with another groundless argument in line with Nigeria’s post-war agenda to marginalize the Igbo nation squarely to its core base of the South-East. To Okowa and his pseudo archeologists, the Delta North Senatorial Zone (Anioma) of the South-South—of all places—must no longer be part of the Igbo nation. Yet, they cannot dare question why and how the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group extends to parts of the entire North or the basis for the rightful claim of the Yoruba of indigenous settlements in the North-Central zone, particularly Kogi and Kwara States.
But it does not take a rocket science to fathom where Okowa’s gonzo theatrics are headed. Ibori, period! Lo and behold, on Sunday, 16th of July 2017 came a disguised toast of a certain Senator Peter Nwaoboshi at Ibusa (Igbo-Uzor). On hand were Dr. Okowa, Dr. Uduaghan, Dr. Saraki, Chief Ekweremadu and the entire Senate camarilla to welcome with pomp and pageantry Chief James Onanefe Ibori—all using the occasion to disclaim Biafra, of course, while claiming the indivisibility of Nigeria. Mission accomplished! It must not come as a surprise when, very soon, all the charges against Ibori are officially dropped.
What you have read above is nothing compared to what you are about to read below.
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. The history of the misrule of Nigeria by Goodluck Ebele “Azikiwe” Jonathan will be incomplete without a special chapter for Wike’s shady role. And if there was any politician who used the defeat of Jonathan to spew the current Biafran crisis into existence, the Igbo governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Nwike, stands alone. Then in fervent fear of a day of reckoning with the anti-corruption agency in a post-Jonathan regime, Wike was roaming the political space inciting the public with all manners of innuendo. Here are his exact words few days before the governorship election of 2015:
"I will lead a war against them (Nigeria) like Ojukwu. Am not joking, I know am on air, and I am warning them now. Any attempt to rob us the way they rob our brother (GEJ) the battle will start from Rivers State. We will remain opposition state like Lagos. In fact, we from the South-South and South-East we remain in PDP. We leave the South-West and North to run APC. That is how they tactically shared the Country. And we will not allow them use our resources to develop their States... I want all South-South and South-East to remember this, that we’ve two Judas. Let me confess to you, we held a meeting before the elections on Saturday, and we said as people from this part of the country, we must stand by our brother.”
I beg your indulgence to carefully go through the above quotation one more time.
As the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, recently confessed, the defeat of Jonathan intensified the clamour for secession. In fact, the current Biafran agitation, initially anchored under the aegis of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Youth Wing, is a byproduct of the party’s gloomy narratives of President Muhammadu Buhari. This explains why leading opposition elements from the South-East and South-South, at the outset, tiptoed around the neo-Biafran movement until they saw a huge opening to cash in. Today, Ezenwo Nwike has become an arrow-head of the Biafran opposition on the spur of the moment. The governor has already swooped into Sokoto, the seat of the caliphate, to curry favour, using a fleeting prank for the unity of the same country he helped to set on fire.
One of Wike’s hosts in the “unity” campaign, however, was no other than the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III. Unlike the likes of Wike, the Sultan did the just by pointing out that the secessionist movements did not come out of the blue. In Abubakar’s words, “A lot of things were done in the past by some people with impunity and nothing was done.” The Sultan appealed that statesmen across Nigeria “should help the country by championing the dialogue." Though the unflappable Sultan apparently did not buy Wike’s gambit, the mere overture is sufficient to appease the gullible anti-corruption agency towards clemency.
Be that as it may, the solution to the Biafran crisis does not have to be complicated. It is all about being able to face the truth. As Sultan Abubakar hinted, it lies in broad dialogue to correct past atrocities. Apart from the obvious imbalance in the current government, a starting point is to quickly uproot the poisonous seeds that were sown by the state during and after the Biafran war that have grown and are today swirling wildly engulfing the entire nation. It ought to table why and how there is lack of general development in the densely populated South-East and South-South zones, for example, lack of reliable seaports and international airports despite the region’s overflowing resources. There is also the need to revisit whatever policy—the lingering war scar—that denatured the Igbo heartland into what is now being ridiculed as the “landlocked” South-East. More essentially, such dialogue must not fail to look within: Now is the time to bring to book the local politicians who connived with contractors to loot development projects in the region, particularly during the regime of Goodluck Jonathan, where the Igbo and their South-South kit and kin held sway.
This bare exposé should in no shape or form be misconstrued as a veiled sentiment for Nigerian dismemberment. None of that! A just and equitable Nigeria remains the most attractive proposition. My point here remains the truth: Nigeria cannot continue to hope to solve a problem by creating bigger problems. Thus, the prevailing pattern where the state attempts to deflate the Biafran agitation by nurturing seeds of discord within the Igbo or balkanizing South-East and South-South into hostile units is not only profoundly corrupt but also does more harm than good. Needless, therefore, to mention that containing the Biafran agitation by embracing corrupt politicians is tantamount to a pyrrhic victory. It is a hallowed equivalence of embracing a Judas as a Muhammad. True.
(Ogbonnia writes from Houston and can be reached through SKCOgbonnia1@aol.com)