Fani-Kayode Vs. self-serving Igbo elite

Please tell Gbogungboro (the masked rambler without phone number) that the positive contributions the Igbos made to Lagos becomes obvious even when viewed from the prism of recent superficial events. How does Lagos look like when Igbos goes home for Christmas? Did your banks not collapse when Igbos withdrew their money to go home during the Abiola saga? The man must have studied perverted history at UCL. Be reminded that your Hausa masters are still around the corner, lest you forget. We are not unmindful that you will, as it is your habit, treacherously team up with them against the Igbos’ (08027188222)

I missed this columnist’s piece of August 22 titled ‘Letter to the Igbo nation by a friend’. It was the above reaction which the reader probably expected me to forward to the ‘masked rambler’. That prompted me to search for the said article. The summary: As a people not known to have developed kingdom and cities, very little was known of Igbo history until Professor Adiele Afigbo’s major work which established Igbo had no contact with people outside their immediate neighbourhood; that the Aworis, a Yoruba sub group, established a kingdom in Lagos Peninsular in the 12th century which by the 19th century had become an important trading post for the Europeans; that the British that used force to establish dominance over Lagos in 1851 went ahead in1861 to sign a treaty of cession with a Lagos king and in 1914 made Lagos the capital of Protectorate of Nigeria. The Igbos who, like other Nigerian groups, only started coming to Lagos in the 1920s, Gbogun gboro contended couldn’t have been responsible for turning Lagos from a jungle to a city as averred by Dr Ezeife and that Lagos could not have been no man’s land as claimed by Kalu Uzor Kalu.

I think, Gbogun gboro should have also reminded the two self-serving Igbo leaders that the Yoruba nation itself was, according to P. C. Lloyd, more culturally developed than Europe as at the time of the coming of the Europeans, if we use urbanisation as index of measurement.

It is not as if that alone would have cured the much abused ordinary Igbos of their feeling of persecution complex of God-ordained leaders of Africa persecuted in Nigeria by the Yoruba and Hausa Fulani out of envy as their self serving leaders had repeatedly drummed into their ears. The exploitation of the fears, infirmities and weaknesses of thousands of Igbos who live and face uncertainties in strangers’ land by their more privileged elite have gone on for far too long. This dates back to Zik’s arrival in 1934 when they needed a spokesman while the emerging educated Igbo elite were also scheming for positions in the approaching independent Nigeria.

As it was then, so it is today. Uzor Kalu, Dr Ezeife like Zik, Ozumba Mbadiwe and other self-centred Igbo leaders have only one thing in common- demonising others for the failure of Igbo leadership to mobilise their people for the development of their area. Uzor Kalu’s hypocrisy about fighting the Igbo cause, following confrontation with Lagos State government over failure to pay land charges on his palace in an exclusive haven of the rich in Lagos, is not different from Ozumba Mbadiwe who built a mansion comically christened ‘Palace of the people’ in the midst of his people’s squalor, from the proceeds of federal property he bought in Ijora, Lagos, and sublet back to the Federal Government at a scandalous higher rate. How did an inquiry into the diversion of Eastern State money to ACB, owned by Zik, his children and his friend, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu, promote the cause of poor Igbos?

Ozumba Mbadiwe and self-serving Igbo leaders poisoned the minds of three generation of Igbo over the false claim that Awo and Yoruba betrayed Zik and therefore Igbos, after the parliamentary election into the Western State House of Assembly in 1951. “I witnessed how Awo and Yoruba betrayed Zik in the Western House in 1952’, Chinua Achebe declared. But, what both Igbo celebrated leaders did not state was that at the end of the 1951 parliamentary election, A.M.A. Akinloye led a delegation of those elected on the platform of his Ibadan Peoples Party to Zik. They insisted they would only consider a coalition with NCNC if he gave an undertaking to appoint a prominent Yoruba NCNC member as Premier of the West. Zik, supported by prominent Igbo NCNC members, insisted on becoming the Premier of the West without satisfactorily addressing the misgivings of Akinloye group about how an Igbo man would speak for the Igbos and the Yoruba at the centre while Hausa/Fulani speak for the north.

That we operate a federal arrangement underscores the fact that we are not one. But like the proverbial ostrich, we have paid little attention to the warning of Ahmadu Bello that we must try to understand our differences. We demonise those who say the truth by labelling them tribalists as if it is not the virtues of tribes we set out to celebrate when we adopted federalism as a system of government. We eulogise those who fraudulently claim to be Nigerians first, a strategy to acquire oil blocks, contracts and wield political power in Abuja without representing anyone.

Fani-Kayode’s celebration of the virtues of the Yoruba is the very essence of federalism. That does not make him an Igbo hater. Neither does he become one by stating documented facts; that the January 1966 selective senseless killings of non-Igbo military officers and non-Igbo politicians led to the vengeance coup of July 1966 and the mindless reprisal killings of Igbo military officers; that the Igbo political elite led by Nwafor Orizu, the Acting president, for selfish reasons, instead of swearing in Zana Bukar Dipcharimma as the Acting Prime Minster as provided for by the constitution sided with Ironsi, a commander-in-chief who, after foiling a coup, claimed he could not guarantee the safety of the surviving ministers unless he was given full powers as Head of State. From hindsight, can we not now conclude that Ironsi’s failure only vindicated Ahmadu Bello’s admonition when Ozumba Mbadiwe and others were lobbing for him that Nigeria would regret if he was foisted on the country as Commander-in-Chief?

The problem has always been that the Igbo elite, while eating with 10 fingers hardly take a principled position on any national issue that affects their Igbo people. In 1959, they entered into a coalition with NPC precisely because of what Igbo elite stood to gain. They did the same in 1979. On both occasions when the coalition collapsed, Igbo serving ministers refused to resign their positions as directed by their parties. They were partners-in-crime with Babangida over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Abiola’s victory. They served as lackeys to Abacha’s despicable regime with the Ikemba himself serving as an errand boy for Abacha in Europe. In all these, it was about what was in it for the Igbo elite and not the people. In the current political dispensation, there is no difference between APGA and PDP, with the relative ease with which notable Igbos like Chukwuma Soludo, Dora Akunyili, moved from the latter to the former to contest election.

On the issue of restructuring, the Igbo elite have remained the most ambivalent. Despite the fact that it was former Vice-President Ekwueme that recommended a six-geopolitical zone structure for Nigeria, the dominant tendency in Igbo land prefers the easier path –crumbs from the Federal Government than the more difficult task of mobilising their people towards turning their own territory to Taiwan of Nigeria.

If we don’t understand where we are coming from, we will likely not know where we are going. I think after three generations of falsehood, today’s Igbo youths should search for the truth and raise some critical questions. For instance, would their leaders who schemed out Eyo Ita, a minority Premier of the East have accepted Prince Adeleke Adedoyin or Dr Ibiyinka Olorun-Nimbe the two NCNC members that defeated and refused to step down for Zik in the 1952 National Parliament election, as Premier of the East in 1952? What was the role of the Igbo leaders in the unjust incarceration of Awo whose only sin was his mobilisation of the oppressed minorities for self-actualisation within the greater Nigeria nation? What was the role of the Igbo elite in the dismemberment of the old Western Region while ignoring the demand for self-actualistion of Efiks, Ibibios and Ijaw that constitute about 35 percent of the population of the then East? How come their leaders knew so little about the culture and history of the Yoruba with whom they had lived to have assumed Awo had the power to declare an Oduduwa State?

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