Not scare mongering
A collection of Arewa youths met in Kaduna the other day and read out a statement wrapped in bile. They asked all Igbos living in the north to leave all the 19 states in the north before October 1, because they are asking for a separate country of their own called Biafra. This statement was called the Kaduna Declaration to give it the earth-shaking importance it deserved.
Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who was the military governor of Eastern Nigeria in the 60s had declared his region the Republic of Biafra but after 30 months of horror-filled war, the Republic came to grief and the secessionists meekly surrendered to the ferocious fire power of the federal forces. This time around the new Biafra youths are not hugging Ak47 riffles or bombs. They are simply engaging in talk shops and stay-at-home strikes and making calls on the United Nations to give them their dream country, Biafra. Anyone who thinks a new country can come out of the womb of such efforts is probably reading the wrong text book on Nigerian politics and governance.
However, the quit order issued to the Igbos by the northern Nigeria youths has lit the fire of anger in many quarters. This raging fire is gathering momentum and galloping towards becoming a conflagration, one that can, if not checked, consume us all in one way or another. This idea of a quit notice, much like a landlord’s Riot Act to his tenant, is a non sequitor of hallucinatory proportions. Happily, this jarring voice of insanity is not allowed to undo all of the work done by patriots and nationalists in years past to sustain the fragile unity of this nation through a patchwork of compromises. Based on the furious reactions of various persons it does appear that the Arewa youths are beginning to revise their script. They now say that they did not threaten the Igbos with violence but were merely advising them to go home within three months and actualise their dream republic.
Various groups including the Northern Governors’ Forum, South East Governors’ Forum, traditional rulers, politicians and ordinary Nigerians have shown their resentful rage over the Arewa youths fatwa and have asked the Igbos to stay where they are. But the messy situation gets messier when a coalition of Niger Delta militants decides to throw its hat into the ring. They are asking the Federal Government to collect all the oil blocks in the Niger Delta allocated to northerners and hand them over to Niger Deltans. This may seem quite an attractive idea to people who wield guns but business is not done quite that way. And the oil business is a technologically daunting affair even if the Niger Deltans have reason to feel shortchanged in this business. While such propaganda may seem attractive there is a lesson to learn from South Africa. During the period of the anti-apartheid crusade the story was that when apartheid is destroyed and the whites driven away, blacks will take over the gold mines and swimming pools of those whites. Nothing like that has happened in the post-apartheid era and there is even today a crisis of unfulfilled expectations in that country.
There is also a noticeable streak of vulnerable arrogance on the part of IPOB. They are asking Igbos in the North to return to the East while various people are trying to pour cold water on the Kaduna flame. If Igbos return to the South East what will the IPOB do for them and their investments in the North? Perhaps it is the arcane logic of the IPOB fellows that if two wrongs do not make a right then try a third one. The IPOB fellows and the Northern Youths are all young. None of them fought in the Biafra war. Most of them were not even born then. All that they know about the war are from stories they read or are told. But they must have seen on television the ravages of war in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and nearer home, in North East Nigeria. They probably think the blood that flows from the bodies of people wounded or killed at the war fronts is red ink used by movie producers to simulate reality. It is not. It is blood of human beings like you and me.
In the revised version of their incendiary remarks, the Northern youths are now saying that they just want the Igbos to leave the North, go back home and work for their dream country. I am asking the Northern youths to exercise a bit of patience and let the Igbos leave when they want and the Northern youths can simply file out at the airport and say a throaty “goodbye” to them. If the Igbos by some fortuitous circumstance get a brand new country called Biafra then the Northern youths can easily acquire a visa to go to the Bend Down Market (BDM) in Ariaria to buy Okrika wake-up or stockfish or shredded jeans. With or without a new country in view we need harmony between us. When neighbours fight each other over boundary disputes they still need harmony between them at the end of the day.
If we are ready to accept that impetuosity as part of the prerogative of youths what do we say about an old man like Professor Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University? He says: “I am behind the youths. This is because the Northern youths have been pushed to the wall; we have been calming them down in any event similar to this. Let me ask these Northern governors; who are they representing? Are they representing spirits, ghosts, or people of the North?” As Vice Chancellor of ABU did Professor Abdullahi learn this old age rabble – rousing from his young students and has sought to carve for himself the image of a young man in an old body. As a former Vice-Chancellor, he ought to act the part of a statesman who ought to be a rallying point for national harmony and cohesion. Instead, his utterances now and in the past seem to portray him as a personification of chaotic disorder, a local irredentist, a man who is ready to throw at any time a monkey wrench in the works. Does he have a vested interest in chaos? The malevolence and bitchiness that is being injected by various groups into the polity can lead to unintended consequences, and it is the responsibility of people like Abdullahi to act the statesman and help to calm down the youths whose eyes are locked in open warfare and whose people are merchandising malevolence.
This country is too fragile for inflammatory remarks. Hate speech is thrown into the system every day by various groups. Such remarks tend to fan the tidal wave of discontent. That is why there seems to be an all-round resentful rage by various groups over various issues of the Nigerian condition. But we must realise that scrambled eggs cannot be unscrambled. If we are interested in building a nation we have to make the concessions necessary because there is no royal road to unity or peace.
What is happening now is because this is a very, very imperfect nation. The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said the other day that there is no perfect nation anywhere. Very true but we are not even making the little effort needed to make our own nation less imperfect. All the calls for a peep into the contents of the 2014 National Conference or into the prospect of restructuring the country for efficiency are being treated dismissively by the Federal Government. The unworkable status of the country is a contributory factor to the current youth restiveness. There are crises in almost every region of the country. Regional groupings are meeting to find ways of solving problems reserved in the constitution for the Federal Government.
My advice to our youths: take it easy. Mind your words and your ways. Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who were in their 30s drove Nigeria into the 1967 civil war. So it can be said that it is youths that brought that war on Nigeria. Now let the youths not put us in a situation that can degenerate into another war or something close to it.
This is not scare-mongering, I assure you.