By Osa Amadi
Nigeria has danced to the tip of the cliff, and with few more drunken steps forward, will fall off and crash down thousands of kilometres below. How, when, and where did she begin her dance of shame that brought her to the precipice? And what can she do to retrace her steps back to safety? These are the issues addressed by Michael Owhoko in his book titled: Nigeria on the precipice: Issues, options and Solutions…
For the author, the January 1966 military coup which sacked the federal system and ushered in the unitary system of government is the watershed, the “origin of Nigeria’s endless dilemma” (p.27), even though the lie and bloated thesis of a peaceful country ruptured by January 1966 military coup has since been ripped apart and its putrid entrails long devoured by vultures. Nigeria was ab initio, programmed by colonial Britain in such a way that “its compliant friends in Northern Nigeria would win power, dominate the country and serve British interest after independence” (see C. Achebe, 2012, p. 50, 271).
Those who choose to venture into telling of history must approach it with its inalienable attribute of sacred accuracy. One of the major reasons Nigeria has irretrievably danced to the brink and now, cannot escape the fall of Humpty Dumpty is the penchant her people have for telling themselves lies and falsifying history. The lie that the 1966 coup was an Igbo coup was cooked and peddled by the same people who pushed the country to the point the author identifies as the precipice.
Whoever still gorges in the sadistic pleasure of peddling or believing the lie that the January 1966 coup was an Igbo coup will certainly need to drink this anti-venom ‘encapsuled’ in the words of Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State: “It has been said that it was an Igbo coup… I don’t believe it. Awolowo and I were in prison… We were well briefed on what was going on. It was unfortunate that during the execution of the coup, some Igbo leaders were left out but they were not deliberately left out. Some of those who were assigned to take care of Ironsi failed…But Nzeogwu himself was definitely committed. For example, I know that part of Nzeogwu’s plan was to release those of us serving sentence for treasonable felony from prison.”
Moreover, deflecting the thesis of the peace of a peaceful country ruptured by the January 1966 coup, Professor Wole Soyinka reveals that “the Army’s intervention was accepted gratefully because it anticipated the other army intervention planned by the mafia-feudalist alliance to take place two days later. I had spent the last few nights before January 15,” Soyinka says, “in shifting hiding places because I had the warning of the scorched-earth programme for the West, a clean sweep of dissident intellectuals and trade unionists and even a few judges that had failed to toe the political line….” (See Emma Okocha’s Blood on the Niger, p. 221-223).
It was unfortunate, however, that some young Igbo military officers who lacked the maturity to discern where they stood with those who hated their people merely for their prosperity, played into the hands of their enemies. As at 1965 when Sir Ahmadu Bello gave this interview to a British journalist, the January 1966 coup, peddled as the sin of the Igbos and why they are hated, had not taken place:
British Journalist: One thing I’ve noticed while I’ve been here is that Northerners seem to have this obsession (of hatred) for the Igbos. Could you perhaps explain that to me?
Sir Ahmadu Bello: Well, the Igbos are more or less the type of people whose desire are mainly to dominate everybody. If they go to a village, a town, they want to monopolise everything in that area. If you put them in a labour camp as a labourer, within a year, they will try to emerge as headman of that camp and so on. In the past, our people were not alive to their responsibilities because you can see, from our Northernisation policy, that in 1952 when I came here, there were only 10 Northerners in our Civil Service here. Now that the Civil Service is Northernised, all important posts are held by Northerners.
British Journalist: Is this policy of filling all key posts in the North solely with Northerners and not with (any) Southern Nigerian a permanent or temporary one?
Ahmadu Bello: In actual fact, what it is, is a Northerner first. If we can’t get a Northerner, then we take an expatriate like you on contract…. This is going to be permanent, I should say, as far as I can foresee…
The narrator: What the Sardauna said was true. The Easterners at the time were the most progressive Nigerians. They were in top positions all across government. And (now) with Ironsi, an Easterner in power, the Northerners fear that the Easterners would dominate Nigeria forever. (From Real Story of Nigeria, an Actualize Production, a Jide Olanrewaju film, 2007).
The author of Nigeria on the precipice…, however, is on point when he observed in his introduction that “…peace and progress have eluded the country over the years. Ironically, everybody appears to be aware of this problem in the country, yet nobody is ready to openly challenge this monster by supporting measures that will promote truth, objectivity and transparency.” The leaders of Nigeria, he says, “pretend not to know the truth, preferring to carry on as if all is well despite the ominous signs of corporate illness.”
Those the author identifies as “veiled power brokers” conspire and frustrate every attempt to restructure the country. “What then is the future of Nigeria if we as a people do not have hope for the corporate existence of the country as one indivisible entity?
“Unless we urgently act courageously to come together and discuss in frank terms the basis of our political union and how we will live together, we may as well prepare for the eventual separation.”
Consistent in his theory of a country on the precipice, Mike recognises that “time is (no longer) on our side, and (that) the earlier we all resolve to move forward with a common purpose as a nation, (i.e. for those who still believe they have a country) the better for us. Otherwise, we risk disintegration someday, either through peaceful or forceful means.”
Suffice it to say that the British welded at least three countries together in 1914, not for the interests of the welded countries, but for the selfish interests of the British who wanted and did install a puppet Prime Minister whose strings they could pull whenever they wished for the political and economic benefits of Britain. Now, the bubble has burst. The chickens have come home to roost.
Chapter two of the book traces the historical (and constitutional) development of Nigeria, highlighting the convictions of the leaders of the ‘three welded countries’, especially Chief Obafemi Awolowo (who described Nigeria as a no nation, a mere geographical expression…with forces of its own disintegration handed to us by Britain) and Sir Ahmadu Bello who exclaimed: “The mistake of 1914 has come to light and I should go no further.” Only Zik had warned against the dangers of ethnicism and nepotism. “Zik…had tried to project a national personality figure devoid of ethnic bias for his region, the Eastern Region,” writes the author.
Tribalism, ethnicism and lack of faith in the newly born Nigeria were rife and more or less the definitive characters of leaders of Northern and Western regions, at least, until OIL was discovered in the then Eastern Region, and then, the song of ONE INDIVISIBLE NIGERIA was hurriedly composed, recorded, released and sung by North-West leaders.
Ken Saro Wiwa and his people who were part of Eastern Nigeria, not only by geography, but also fairly well by culture and language, and whose soil harboured much of the oil, suddenly remembered that they had no affinity whatsoever with Igbos. Many of them offered themselves as tools for the decimation and deprivations of Igbos during the Civil War, which Olanrewaju, in his documentary, said “was not only about tribal intolerance…but also about oil.” – the Northern Region, the Western Region, the British, the Americans, the Russians, virtually the entire world, and those closest to Igbos – Saro Wiwa and his people – joined hands to hang the Igbos, to once and for all, rid the world of Josephs and their dreams of the moon and stars bowing down to them.
After hanging the Igbos, Saro Wiwa and his people were also hanged and have continued to be hanged till this day for the same oil.
Now, Saro Wiwa’s kith and kin (like the author) are crying out and saying: ‘look, before oil, there were palm oil, groundnut and cocoa in the East, North and West respectively, and 50 per cent derivation revenue was paid to each region for its resource. For these mafias, “there was nothing wrong with the process until providence raised oil and gas resources in the Niger- Delta…and suddenly, this arrangement was altered to the detriment of the Niger-Delta Region…and the derivation per cent accruing to the host regions of natural resources was reduced to 0 (zero) per cent.” However, with (armed) struggles, the vampires had conceded 13 per cent to Ken Saro Wiwa’s brothers.
But that’s the way of Vampires – having been drunk for more than fifty years with the blood of innocent people, their eyes have become red and bloodshot, their fangs and claws have continued to grow. After they are done with devouring their enemies, they will turn to their friends, and finally, to members of their own families and fellow revolutionaries – like Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Nevertheless, Michael Owhoko, the author of this book, and those who still believe they have a country, believe there is a solution – a hard solution:
“…a referendum should be activated to resolve the country’s contending political issues. Let the people decide which way they want to go – unitary system, true federalism, confirmation, or break-up – because the failed unitary system is no longer an option.”
I know what you are already thinking, but don’t even go there because Mike Owhoko believes that “when people say the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable,” “for me,” he says, “it is a statement of arrogance because it makes mockery of history. Go find out what led to countries that have broken into smaller, independent states, and why.”
With this book, Mike Owhoko has served the people of Nigeria, but more importantly, his people of Niger Delta. It’s a must-read by anyone who still believes he or she has a country called NIGERIA.
M. H. Owhoko. (2017) Nigeria on the precipice: issues, options, and solutions. Lessons for emerging heterogeneous democratic societies. iUniverse: Bloomington