To Mazi Okeosisi, my Biafran friend!
What a coincidence! And, what a surprise! Your letter got to me on October 1! That was a pleasant coincidence. Then, you congratulated and prayed for the continued survival Nigeria as one entity. That was a huge surprise and I commend you for the courage. Another huge surprise was the near-absence of some of those strong words that you used in your last reply to my first letter.
I hope Amaka and the children are in good health! And, what of Chinedu? That chap will go places, I tell you. He is sorely missed by his friends in the neighbourhood. The other day, the principal of the school told parents gathered for a PTA meeting that Chinedu’s absence is being felt by the school. In fact, the principal attributed the school’s loss of the state quiz competition to Chinedu’s absence! And, you know what? The school football team is now ranked fifth in the state as there is no reliable defender to replace Chinedu. We all hope it will not be too long before you abandon this agitation and return here. This is your home!
I am happy you tend to agree that that we all have complaints about this country, Nigeria. No exceptions! It does not matter whether the complaint is the type that Boko Haram people are talking about. And, I think it is better, even before I address the issues you raised to remind you that EVERY soul you find in Nigeria has a grouse against the fatherland. It is only when we concede to this that we can begin to sound sensible. Right?
Let’s take a quick look at the recent history of Nigeria! Frankly, it is the south west, more than any other zone, which should complain of marginalization. Forget the eight years Baba Iyabo ruled! You know the south west was home to the candidate who was denied the presidency after winning it neatly. You are right! I am talking about late Chief MKO Abiola and the June 12, 1993 election. What the south west did and why other Nigerians and indeed the whole world supported their stand was that there was NEVER a time the south west threatened to pull out of Nigeria over June 12! Never! Of course, misguided Area Boys made noises to that effect but nobody listened to them.
You also recall that, as recent as during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, there was no way any politician from the south west could have constitutionally ascended the throne in the event of vacancy. Of course, you know the south west did not feature in the top four positions in the government. In fact, the south west did not feature in the top ten in the Goodluck Jonathan government! Check the facts! And, you could not have forgotten that President Goodluck Jonathan literally cleared all the votes in the south west. It was only Osun state that voted for the adopted candidate ( Nuhu Ribadu) of the predominantly ACN party in the south west. The south west did not threaten fire and brimstone!
It is strange, my good friend, that one of the reasons you give for your agitation is that the present leadership in Nigeria ‘is marginalising Ndigbo’ because Igbo people do not hold high positions and are not well represented in the government! Haba! Come on, my friend, but that need not be ground for a fight. I know you know better than this. I think it is about time you sit back and reflect deeply on this agitation against the backdrop of facts on the ground. Yes, there are sound reasons to grumble and people should feel free to grumble. But, do you think it is okay for friends to shed blood in the name of grumbling?
And, let me take you a little back in time, my dear friend! You could not have forgotten that a senior citizen of this great country was elected the second most powerful Nigerian nine years after the end of the civil war! Oh yes! I am referring to HE Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme who ran and won on the NPN ticket with Alhaji Shehu Shagari. That was nine years after the civil war! And this was in the genuine spirit of No victor, No vanquished! I know this fact of history is lost on many of those agitators you now associate with. And I know it is difficult for you to educate some of those boys because you fear they will call you traitor or saboteur!
Now, when Dr. Alex Ekwueme occupied the number two constitutionally-recognised slot, no politician from the south west featured in the top four! You remember the senate president was Dr. Joseph Wayas while the speaker of the House of Representatives was Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke. Yes! Chief Adisa Akinloye (you remember Adisco Champagne?) was NPN chairman. I cannot remember that anybody from the south west complained of being marginalized. None foul-mouthed the fatherland or threatened to tear up the country! Tell me, dear friend! Where, exactly, is this marginalization stuff coming from?
I know you are afraid of being tagged a ‘sabo’. But, the word died more than 46 years ago. As you must have realized by now, the people some choose to call saboteurs are either misunderstood or they are bold to speak the truth which many others find distasteful. Just cast your mind back, think deep and reflect on the number of times you refused to speak the truth or challenge a blatant falsehood because you feared others will start to suspect you of being a saboteur? Time is now for you to free your mind. Don’t be a prisoner to any well-wisher! They do not wish you well! It is time you bought the truth because it is only the truth that can save you!
Please, have a genuine excuse to absent yourself when next somebody invites you to a secret meeting where you will be induced to plan any form of violence. This is because you do not have darkness in you. What you have in you, dear friend, is light; the light of God! What is in you is peace; the peace of God! It is not violence! Free your mind! Shun all forms of violence! Take your mind off all forms of mind-twisting substance! What you need is the spirit of God; not any man-made, mind-bending substance that only injects hate and violence into you.
From this moment, my friend, please have nothing to do with hate and never let anger and violence overwhelm you. Together, we shall restructure Nigeria, our fatherland. We have to do it in peace, through negotiations and as brothers and sisters. We reject violence and we shall not know violence in our individual homes. After all, God is peace! But, first, your mind must begin to return to its natural state of peace!
• Magaji is based in Abuja