The interview published in the Sunday Sun newspapers of December 13, 2015 of Dr. Junaid Mohammed, convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, rankled in its sweeping generalization about the current agitations by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and segments of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). As I write, before me is Alvan Ewuzie’s mature rejoinder in The Sun of Thursday, Dec. 17th 2015 to Junaid’s tirade. Ewuzie’s thoughtful response to Junaid would have sufficed, as it addressed the highlights of Dr. Junaid’s irreverent remarks but a few more issues arising from the notorious interview need to be elaborated upon.
From his hasty conclusions and uncouth language, Junaid betrays his ignorance of Ndigbo and Nigeria’s political history. For him, Ndigbo are a conquered people who should ‘submit themselves’ to the superior race, as it were. Any action displayed by the agitators is thus adjudged by him as typical of Ndigbo. He says rather in an inductive leap, “Showing an open nepotism in what they do is their stock-in-trade. So people then say, “Look we are not going to have these Igbo people as leaders because their nepotism is absolutely intolerable.”
Our self-appointed convener is not done. He passes a peremptory judgment on the Igbo, threatening to report them to President Buhari to withdraw whatever miserable attention he has paid to them, “So if they continue to be unreasonable in this case insisting on getting some key positions or telling Buhari how to run the government, then he needs to take the right step by confronting them…”
My immediate reaction on reading Junaid was to question his claims to lofty pedigree and education.
Nigeria in the present times has been assailed by different ethnic militias, ranging from the apparently benign ones like the OPC, Egbesu, Niger- Delta militants to the sinister Boko Haram, which activities bode ill for the country. Ironically, each time Junaid mentions Boko Haram, he uses the proper diction in describing it as a terrorist group but conversely, each time he refers to the agitators for Biafra, he generalizes them as Ndigbo, not minding that it is being championed by different socio-cultural groups and personalities. His language is replete with hate-rhetoric, seeing Ndigbo as enemies, indeed mere intruders into the Nigerian polity, not bonafide co-owners of the entity known as Nigerian geographical space. In the course of his reversal of historical account, he even jumbles up facts.
Hear him, “But even before Boko Haram, the miscreants in the South-South had done so too, though they have not quite succeeded but at least they were able to extract through blackmail and through violence certain political concessions from the Jonathan administration. The Jonathan presidency was simply concession to blackmail.” Who will tell our self-appointed Northern leader that the amnesty granted the Niger-Delta militants was not done during President Jonathan’s tenure but President Yar’Adua’s, and was sustained by Jonathan?
In taking that measure, Yar’Adua displayed to the admiration of all that he was a wise, broad-minded leader who was not limited by artificial cleavages in dispensing the so-called ‘dividends of democracy’ to every nook and cranny of the country.
Perhaps that was the same path the Jonathan Presidency wanted to toe when it wooed the leadership of Boko Haram to the negotiation table, all to no avail because it was a faceless group of ruthless maraud- ers. Interestingly, Buhari had ascended the throne, as it were, brandishing the olive branch to the same group in the hope that it would be won over by the inelastic language of peace and reason. And now that concilia- tory move has failed, the government of the day has resorted to the stringent arm-twist- ing tactics in unleashing full fire-power on the Boko Haram apostles.
How Junaid and his co-travellers cannot differentiate between agitators for Biafra and the Boko Haram ‘killers’ defies under- standing, and one is thus at pains to dismiss them as opportunists who for selfish interests want to take Nigeria back to the years of perfidy. Nnamdi Kanu of the Radio Biafra fame and others pressing for more recognition for Ndigbo not only in the present Buhari administration but also in the national political configuration are Civil/Human Rights activists whose activities are allowed by the constitution of the land.
These ones are not faceless and they do not epitomize the Igbo in general, as Ndigbo have their political leaders and representatives occupying various political offices. However, like every citizen they enjoy the inalienable right/freedom to be listened to or heard as long as they are not harbingers of or accessories to violence and treasonable acts. In the case of these pockets of Igbo organizations, their actions never precipitated violence or destruction, as later was seen in some cities in the south-east, until Kanu was arrested and detained even against the bail granted him by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Unlike Boko-Haram, these are activists who have in no way undermined the integrity
of our fatherland but are passionately craving a fair-hearing from the government, not confrontation. Yet the Junaids of the world, in a bitter, belligerent tone are threatening to invoke President Buhari’s ire on the entire Igbo race. Treachery, to paraphrase Shake- speare, thy enterprise would come to naught!
Nigeria, at this sensitive period in its history does not need the gratuitous service of pseudo and sectional leaders like Junaid who instead of playing roles of statesmen are content to play to the gallery as champions of ethnic biases and agenda. A time like this demands genuine intellectuals and patriots like Prof. Wole Soyinka and Bishop Matthew Kukah who speak truth to power in spite of whose ox is gored. Kukah had advised Buhari to ‘do business’ with the Biafran activists rather than succumb to the paltry blackmail of demonizing them. In this regard, Kukah is telling Buhari to convert the multiple talents and enterprise of Ndigbo to the greater political and economic advantage of the nation.
Soyinka, on the other hand by advising the president to engage the Biafran pundits in a dialogue deserves to be listened to having been a major factor in the past Nigerian/ Biafran war of 1967-1970.
There are many other reasonable voices, including the Northern group led by Alhaji Maitama Sule across the nation pleading calm and reasonableness on both sides to resolve the imbroglio. The president should heed this wise counsel, and backtrack on any hasty decision that might deepen the crisis. Thankfully, as I write this piece, the media is awash with the news of Kanu’s unconditional release from detention, an action which spontaneously threw the Igbo into jubilation.
• Dr. Otu writes from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State. (Source: Daily Sun)