The Igbo have never asked anything of the Nigerian state, that it wants denied to anyone else.
The first Biafran I ever met was “Yellow”. He was my grandfather, Baba’s tenant at Sango in Ibadan. Yellow is probably about as close as anyone can get, without having any hint of albinism in him. He was tall, barrel chested, and without any fat on his huge frame. He brought to life all the descriptions I read in my youth of the bulk of Hercules, and Samson. He became for me, the archetypal Igbo warrior and remains so until this day.
Yellow was my friend. You see, he was a veteran of the Nigerian civil war, I was born during the war, and I met him when I was probably all of 5-6 years old. Yellow had suffered some sort of neurological injury or the other during the war. He had no scar for my youthful eyes to behold, but Yellow would appear to have left part of his brain on the battlefield at Ore, a battle he would sometimes describe to us, his young friends. Perhaps the rarely combed mass on his head concealed some scar, but Yellow had friends that only he could see, and with whom he would argue on some bad days. When they visited, he wasn’t my friend. They thankfully came visiting infrequently.
As I have grown older, and left behind the streets of Ibadan, my childhood home, and upon arriving Okokomaiko at 17 years old, for my first sojourn in LASU, in 1985, I arrived into a neighborhood mostly peopled by Ndigbo, Alaba International Market was just beginning, and until LASU was cited in Oaktown, the market was the biggest concentration of human activities in the corridor. Mine was the second set admitted into the school, and we arrived to meet Ndigbo in situ and integrated into the society.
LASU students shared accommodation with Igbo traders, and hustlers, we loved the ones that we loved, and we fought the ones that we fought, just as we loved and fought ourselves. My Ibadan affinity for Amala was cured by the yellow eba and ogbono of Madam Attraction at Cassidy Bus stop, and bitter-leaf soup, assumed a new meaning. The person was either human or they weren’t. I had no friend that would discriminate against anyone on account of their tribe. Okokomaiko is the burial ground of my youth, and it was here that I began to be curious about Ndigbo, and the question that the Igbo asks of Nigeria.
When I got to Bwari as part of the very first set of the Law School, Ndigbo was already in place, part and parcel of the tapestry of the local community. The Igbo nation, having been shut off from the prebendal public service, became even more entrepreneurial in its outlook, and wherever there is a penny to be made, you must find the Igbo nation represented. For a people as dispersed as the Igbo, chances are that you will find by far more accounts of the evil and wicked ways of the Igbo, but the Igbo is neither worse nor better than any. My oriental brothers are simply human.
The Igbo question is essentially a demand for equitable citizenship. The Igbo have never asked anything of the Nigerian state, that it wants denied to anyone else. The Nigerian civil war was not a war of aggression on the part of the Igbo nation, it was a war forced on it by the manifest inequities of the Nigerian state, and the youthful exuberance of Ojukwu. These are my sincere opinions, and I have devoted more time to justify my considered opinion in my upcoming book.
Fast forward to today’s Nigeria. The Igbo question remains the same as the one that was asked of the Nigerian state at Aburi: a demand for the abolishment of multilayered citizenship structure of Nigeria, and a level playing field for all of the citizens. I seriously doubt that any other Nigerian nationality can honestly argue against these legitimate and fair demands, but the Igbo nation has in contemporary times, failed woefully in articulating its position with clarity, and this is especially so because of the readiness of those that should canvass these positions, to monetize their consciences, coupled with the malevolent actions of the Nigerian state, that silences voices of reason, whilst promoting and amplifying the extremist voices. The only thing being effectively communicated to the other nationalities, is a victim mentality, and Ndigbo is better than that.
One of my “Yanminrin” friends provoked this piece, she quoted Achebe’s timeless anguish, the one about how Nigerians seem to only ever agree on their love for the Igbo, and much as I must disagree with the blatant generalization, it is pretty hard to blithely deny the truth embedded in the quote, in the light of recent history.
Invictus Obi is a Nigerian, and so are the other ones either already arrested, or being sought for arrest by the FBI on their initial list of 77, or 80 Nigerians. A few days later, another list of 23 Nigerians were released by the FBI, and reading the debates online at the release of the lists of Nigerian names, is to marvel at the congenital imbecility of the Nigerian middle class. Na una dey online.
When the real Jagudas go abroad, they are protected by the very people that have rightly arrested the Nigerian scam artists, they roll out red carpets for them, wine and dine them. They bank our stolen commonwealth in the same countries that labels us corrupt. The real Jagudas are tribeless and unmoored to religiosity, the only gods they worship are mammon and self, and their entire purposes, sybaritic and carnal. The Nigerian state has an Igbo question to answer.
And you, the stupid ethic jingoists, ask yourselves, how has Ndigbo stopped your godfathers, governors and thieves, from creating the right conditions for the actualization of the self? Ndigbo must also look in the mirror, for how long are you going to lend yourselves to be the tools of the reactionary forces that have spoken on your behalf, and whose insane voices you have legitimized by your own silence?
I shall conclude by asking a question of the reader: how many Nigerians of the Hausa-Fulani stock, have you ever seen, OUTSIDE NIGERIA, living as illegal emigrants, or taking the demeaning menial jobs, that you will find every other Nigerian, gladly take, OUTSIDE NIGERIA, but the same Nigerian, would rather die, than be seen doing the same, within Nigeria? The answer to the Biafran question, is in the question.
Published 2 September, 2019.