Biafra and the North: In Defence of Igbo Leaders


Solomon Obele

“Behind crisis anywhere in the world is injustice. The solution to that crisis is justice”- Maitama Sule

During a congratulatory visit by late Alhaji Maitama Sule to the then President-Elect, Mohammadu Buhari, on 10th May 2015, he pleaded with him in the above words to be President of all Nigerians.

Sule said: ‘‘What has recently happened to Nigeria is an act of God. Nobody expected that the elections would be peaceful. Nobody expected that the elections would not lead to the disintegration of the country.

He continued: “Behind crisis anywhere in the world is injustice. The solution to that crisis is justice. The world itself can never be governed by force; never by fear. Even, never by power. In the end, what governs is the mind. What conquers is the spirit. And the weapons of the mind that conquers the spirit are justice and fair play. Don’t compromise justice with anything.
“Mr. President, I know you will not discriminate against any part of Nigeria, but I am only asking you to do justice to all the parts of Nigeria. Justice will bring about peace. Do justice to us. Do justice to them. Do justice to everybody”

President Buhari had the opportunity to reunite this country and be our own Nelson Mandela after a highly divisive election. But when in July 2015 the President Emeritus of The Fund for Peace, Dr. Pauline Baker, asked him at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington DC how he would ensure security, amnesty, peace, and inclusive development in the Niger Delta, he responded: “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, that gave me 97 percent (of votes) cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me five percent”.

Thus began Buhari’s undiluted, primitively discriminatory, and vendetta-driven leadership that has left the country more divided then ever. But when confronted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on the issue of lopsided appointments, he said: “If I select people whom I know quite well in my political party, the people I have confidence in and I can trust them with any post, will that amount to anything wrong?” Pray, why did he aspire four times to lead a people he did not trust?

The Niger Delta Avengers soon responded by the bombing of oil facilities, which brought oil production to an all time low and nearly crippled Buhari’s administration. The Avengers’ message was probably this: Get resources from your preferred 97 percent to fund the 97 percent.

These retrospections were necessitated by the recent penchant of some Arewa Youth and elders, such as Prof. Ango Abdullahi and Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, to blame Igbo leaders for the Nnamdi Kanu’s separatist agitations. They justified the quit notice and derogatory/hate languages by the Arewa Youth on the Igbos on what they deemed the failure by Igbo leaders to call Kanu to order and their visits to the IPOB leader in prison.

But, at what point did some Igbo leaders start visiting Kanu in prison? Was it before or after Buhari told the world he would not release him, contrary to court orders? What did the northern elders say when Buhari became the prosecutor and jury in one? Besides, could the visits not have been part of the efforts to broker some truce between Kanu and FG? Have they quickly forgotten that it was Buhari’s obstinate, continued detention of Kanu that transformed the young man from a nobody to a cult figure among millions of Igbos, who felt unloved by Buhari regime? Has the Biafra Day sit-at-home ever seen a total compliance as the last one before Buhari’s regime?

Why blame Chief Ike Ekweremadu and South East Senators for helping to perfect Kanu’s bail and granting him audience thereafter? The northern elders and FG should be grateful to the Senators for helping them to solve a problem it created by an unlawful detention resulting in restiveness in the East. No doubt, the audience granted Kanu must have given him some elderly advice on his bail conditions. Whether he takes it is another issue.

Meanwhile, except by a stroke of providence, which saw Ekweremadu return as Deputy Senate President, the South East has no reasonable office in the present administration, from the Presidency to the legislature, and judiciary. Not even the two House Members from Imo were considered for any principal office like Majority Whip.

No Igbo man was given any meaningful ministerial portfolio. Former Chairman of one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, was appointed Minister of Science and Technology, while Chief Chris Ngige, an experienced doctor, former governor and Senator was appointed Minister of Labour (Aluta). What did Ango Abdullahi and Yakassai say?

The Army, Air Force, Police, Immigration, Customs, National Security Adviser, Directorate of State Security, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and virtually all the security apparatchik are in the hands of the Muslim North, while the Igbos are totally excluded from the security table. Where were the northern elders?

Mr. Calistus Obi was removed as Acting Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) four days after he was appointed and was replaced with Alhaji Haruna Baba Jauro. Former DG of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba, a high flying performer, was humiliated out of office after ingeneously raising N34 billion for the Digital Switch Over. Mallam Mobibbo Kawu was appointed. Also, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu was removed as DG of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) midway, even though she raised the pension assets from N2.9 to N6.5 trillion in less than three years. To add salt to injury, Aliyu Dikko from North West and later Funsho Doherty from South West were nominated as her replacement in clear breach of Section 21 (2) of the Pension Act 2014, which provides that “In the event of a vacancy (for the chairman, DG or other members of board), the President shall appoint a replacement from the geo-political zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure.” What did northern elders say?

The Igbos took to the streets in the face of Kanu’s ill-advised arrest/continued detention and the administration’s 97 percent/5 percent apartheid policy. The Amnesty International alleged that at least 150 unarmed pro-Biafra activists were killed in cold blood by FG’s security agents between August 2015 and August 2016 alone. It based its allegation on an analysis of 87 videos, 122 photographs, and 146 eyewitness testimonies relating to demonstrations and other gatherings in that period ( What did the northern elders say?

Mrs. Bridget Agbahime was killed in cold blood in Kano. Rather than see that justice was done, the suspected killers were freed by the Kano Magistrate Court on the claim by the State’s Attorney-General that they had no case to answer. What did the northern elders say?

Armed herdsmen have been pillaging southern Nigeria and the middle belt, unleashing death, terror, rape, and destruction. Yet, a government that sends fighter jets and the army after cattle rustlers, treats the carnages with ominous silence and kid gloves. We have not heard Ango Abdullahi and Yakassai tell Buhari that southerners’ lives are more valuable than Fulani cows.

Meanwhile, self-determination is a guaranteed right by the United Nations and no justification for the Igbo quit notice. Last year, Buhari assured a visiting delegation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR (Western Sahara) of Nigeria’s support for their self-determination push to be independent from Morocco.

Inasmuch as I do not support seccession, the northern elders and youth should stop badmouthing our elders. Igbo leaders have nothing to be sorry about. Instead, Igbos deserve apologies for the mistreatments we have continued to suffer in Nigeria and for the perennial loss of their lives and properties in the north despite being forced back into Nigeria vide a war which consumed over three million Igbos, most of them women and children, who died from malnutrition and bombing of civilian targets.

––Obele lives in Abakaliki