It has come to a point where I weep daily for my beloved Ndigbo. I weep not because of the tales of marginalization that has become a singsong, chanted incessantly by just about any lay about that wants to blame others for their woes.
The source of my lamentation is the culture of hatred that my people have not only embraced to their bosom but have now persisted in infecting the upcoming generations with. We have become a people that perceive issues only through the haze of bitterness that often becloud reasoning and potentially render us as losers when the closing bell sounds.
Nothing demonstrates this obstinate journey to self-destruction like the passionate reactions that have trailed the demolition of Ekeukwu Market in Owerri, Imo state. Photos of the lifeless body of ten-year-old Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, felled by a bullet from yet to be identified persons, became the poster image for the damage being done to the younger generations being indoctrinated to place themselves in harm’s way to satisfy the sentimental obsessions of the older ones.
There are reports that two other people were killed in the crisis that trailed the boy’s death.
It took some balancing act for security agencies to ensure that things did not snowball into the kind of breakdown of law and order that some perverted pundits have been hoping for to declare a second civil war.
Imo state government said it decided on demolishing the market to ease the heavy traffic it attracts on a daily basis but traders were stuck on maintaining the market for historical reasons, which is not a bad idea since they suggested that a mall replaces it.
One wonders if they would have been more receptive to demolishing the market if the governor was someone other than Rochas Okorocha, who is daily vilified as a Hausa/Fulani stooge.
If the traders had suggested the construction of a modern mall in place of the market would it not be mandatory that the old structure is brought down before the new one is erected?
The confrontation that led to Master Ibeanusi’s death attests to a deeper trouble that must be immediately addressed.
Ndigbo has become obsessed with playing the victim even in instances when they are the aggressors. The sad incidence also depicts the extreme extend our people are willing to go to for the sake of perpetuating the impression of victimization as clearly seen in how they immediately resorted to blaming the military for the death even when there has been no conclusive autopsy, forensic or ballistic report to base such claims on.
Imo state government cleared the air that soldiers did not kill anyone in Owerri during the demolition but that has proven to only make people more strident in maligning the military institution.
This raises the alternate view of the need to profoundly probe and decide if more than Ekeukwu Market was at stake to have warranted the coordinated mudslinging of the military. Sadly, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. Some miscreants are hell-bent on dragging the Igbo nation into a “war of blame” in which our hands will be soiled with the blood of our own brothers.
Apparently, such people are out looking for just anything to trigger their ground zero, a provocation to draw the military into joining issues with them on one hand and a rallying cause to recruit more persons for their separatist agenda on the other hand.
Thankfully, the military rose above the challenge of those trying to drag the Nigerian Army in the mud so that they would have the opportunity of accusing it of heinous crimes against humanity.
These miscreants, who in no way represent the rest of us, have phobia for the military but they have refused to obey the laws. When the state government decided to demolish the market to ease traffic flow the logical thing would have been to relocate to the new site provided for them as opposed to continuing the newfound tradition of disobedience, which in this case translated into deploying kids to brave the path of bulldozers in the name of evacuating wares when there was adequate time given for that.
In the aftermath of the unfortunate incident, in addition to the Imo State Government absolving it of any involvement in the shooting, the military has categorically distanced itself from causing any death.
With that denial comes the possibility that there are those who would do anything to give troops bad name to hang the military hence the question did someone else shot Somtochukwu Ibeanusi knowing fully well that the military would be the automatic fall guy?
Why was the crime scene immediately disturbed before the proper procedures of securing evidence for investigations were done? Was resistance to demolition in anyway connected previous insinuations that some people stockpiled firearms in their shops in pursuit of the defunct Biafra that our fathers needlessly died for?
One must also question why pro-separatists jumped on the wagon to milk the Owerri incident to the last drop of its propaganda values. There are video clips making the round of the aftermath of the crisis with people having to lift up their hands to pass by troops that are keeping the peace.
These footages have become tools in the hands of the unscrupulous who interpreted them as the military clamping down on Igbo people; it would have been nice for such people also share videos from other crisis points in Nigeria and see if people were treated any differently – people that must pass through a flashpoint are required to prove that they not belligerent.
If the kind of comments posted online by brainwashed Ndigbo youths is anything to go by, what happened at Ekeukwu is not isolated but is a pointer to how other routine state government activities would be hijacked in the hope that they could be used to launch an open war between separatists and the state.
The military must therefore save us another round of insurgency. It should ride on the directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to work with the Police and Department of State Services (DSS) to conduct house to house search to mop up the cache of arms that separatists are reportedly basing their confidence upon.
Today, it is a ten-year-old caught in the crossfire provoked by headstrong adults, I shiver to imagine the list of those that would potentially be caught in the crossfire of what those baiting the military have in mind.
Ekeukwu market should be for us a metaphor for the larger culture of provoking other ethnic groups believing we are covered by their inability to respond to our vexatious disposition towards them. We must not extend such treatment to any of the military services for we will imperil ourselves in so doing. There should be a limit to how much hatred we teach to the younger generations and certainly we should draw a red line as to placing minors in harm’s way. The vocal minority that have made constant abuse of others a normal thing must learn that they place the majority of Ndigbo and their sources of livelihood in danger.
What we are doing amounts to guaranteed self-destruction and our only option is to reverse the trend. But where we, Ndigbo, persist on voluntarily decimating ourselves perhaps we would do well not to blame others for our woes.
By Charles Ibekwe
Ibekwe, a pro-democracy activist and strategist sent in this piece from Abakpa, Enugu.