By Gabriel Ameh
Among the Yoruba and the Igbo, the wise course, today, is realization-reconciliation-peace and solidarity. Yet ancient gladiators are itching to bring back yesterday. It is not just a matter of allowing sleeping dogs to lie. It is a matter of political maturity and wisdom. How should we react to historical facts which are out of alignment with our current aspirations? There are many such facts:
In 1952, Zik won election which would have led to his becoming Leader of Government Business in the Western Region. There were carpet crossings and Zik had to go back to the East where he upset the government of Eyo Ita, causing a decades-long problem, which has only just been laid to rest.
Zik refused Awo’s offer for AG/NCNC alliance with Zik as Prime Minister after the post-independence election (alleging that Awo was making a similar offer to Ahmadu Bello). Only God knows the cost to Nigeria of the outcome.
It was said that Awo had threatened that if the East was forced out or to war, the West would join on the side of the East but did not fulfill the threat (because, it was said, he was not taken into confidence on the declaration of Biafra).
Only 20 pounds was approved by Gowon Government (on assumed advice of Awo) to be paid to Igbo depositors by the banks if even millions are in the deposits.
There was also the mention of starvation as a weapon of war. The indigenization was adopted and implemented when the Igbo were not in any position to meaningfully participate.
When, after the 1962-63 census controversy, the Northern figure finally doubled from 14.5million to 29million, the western press acquiesced when finally (because of Akintola’s defection) the West was dashed 2million, thus increasing the Western figure from its original 8million to 10million, leaving the East with its original 11.5million.
The Southern majority of 19.5million as against North’s 14.5million turned to Northern majority of North 29million, South 21.5million. The same over-turning of census figures which Mr. Arnold Smith said had happened after the colonial census exercise found the South larger than the North.
It is also the fact that the East and West (with Awo leading the West) were in unhealthy rivalry forcing them to operate as parallel lines (and thus becoming parallel slaves) in the Nigerian system.
Another fact, not often mentioned, was that more Igbo landlords, on return from the war, received rent for their property in the West than from any other part of Nigeria.
What do we do when historical facts which are hostile to our current aspirations and proper direction crop up? Those who want to rekindle the fire of ancient disastrous antagonisms should beware. Our youths may not look on with only benign concern. If you are not ashamed of the ugly result you had achieved, you should regret the anguish you had inflicted on generations, and merely note some of the unsavory historical facts.
They were the results of our past folly. There is no sense in going back to them. The unrestrained reactions so far, from both sides, have been unreasonable, unintelligent, thoughtless and unproductive – except of negatives!!! A word is enough for the wise!!!