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May 29 versus May 30 in the history of Nigeria (4)

By Douglas Anele

Therefore, it is reasonable to suspect that the subterranean mutation of Boko Haram into killer herdsmen is probably part of the evolving strategy of entrenching Fulani caliphate colonialism throughout Nigeria. Meanwhile, the fact that President Buhari stated the number of Chibok and Dapchi girls set free by the Islamic sect without saying anything about its hardened fighters released from detention and the huge ransoms paid by government to the insurgents is telling: if he disclosed that, the political mileage he expects from his triumphalist claims about Boko Haram would evaporate. And why was he silent on the continued captivity of Leah Sharibu?

To conclude my analysis of the May 29 speech by President Buhari: any objective observer of the Nigerian situation in the last three years would not award pass mark to the current administration. Buhari spoke like a student who graded his own examination papers and adjudged himself to have done well. If he would for once ignore the sycophants genuflecting around him and listen to those who actually set the questions, namely, millions of Nigerians who voted for him, he would realise that majority of the suffering masses, including the youths he described as “lazy,” are not happy with his government.  So, it would take an extraordinary positive turn of events nationwide from now till February 2019 or massive rigging by the ruling party in the forthcoming elections for his dream of a second term of office to materialise.

The existential condition of the weak, the downtrodden and vulnerable segments of the population is deteriorating especially in the north. What then is the use of northernising key federal appointments and projects when chronic poverty, illiteracy and unemployment among northern youths are increasingly forcing them to move southwards for survival? Or is the migration part of the strategy of Islamic Fulani penetration of southern Nigeria in preparation for complete domination of the country? Whatever might be the case, and despite the shibboleths of Garba Shehu, Orji Uzor Kalu, Lai Mohammed and, lately, Festus Keyamo, ordinary Nigerians have given up hope that this administration will deliver them from premature death arising from hunger, unemployment, preventable diseases, senseless killings by criminals and frustration with life generally.

They are tired of hearing dubious claims that the President has good intentions for the country: good intention alone never solves any problem. Besides, he is running an elitist pachydermatous government alienated from the hardships of ordinary people and which continuously manipulates gullible Nigerians by using doctored data to create the impression that “things are looking up.” For those in my side of the socioeconomic equation, things are looking down: inflation has damaged our income necessitating micro austerity measures in our daily lives. Therefore, if my existential condition as a university Professor is so depressing, what about the unemployed and those earning starvation wages?

On the issue of May 29 versus May 30, it must be pointed out that the declaration of the former as Democracy Day is inappropriate. To begin with, there is no generally accepted definition of “Democracy Day” in the context of Nigerian political history. The mere fact that a retired general handed over power to another retired general and former military head of state after an election tainted by allegations of widespread rigging is not enough to canonise the day he did so as Democracy Day. Since May 29, 1999, democratic governance has not really improved appreciably – in some respects it has become progressively worse.

Moreover, irrespective of how Democracy Day is defined, October 1 or June 12 is more fitting than May 29 for that label: the first one is independence day and also the day Nigeria returned to civilian rule after the terrible Biafran war and thirteen years of uninterrupted military dictatorship; the second, because of the high quality presidential election conducted by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, an election widely considered to be the fairest and freest in Nigeria’s democratic experience. Because of hubris retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar just wanted to be remembered as an important figure in Nigerian history when he made the hyperbolic claim during his handover speech on May 29, 1999, that the day ranked second only to Independence Day in shaping the country’s destiny.

Now, it is a sad reflection of the underdeveloped character of power politics in Nigeria, indeed throughout most of Africa, that peaceful democratic transition is so rare that such event leads to exaggerated jubilation irrespective of serious anomalies in the process. Accordingly, only the emergence of a critical mass of enlightened citizens willing to work steadfastly for the entrenchment of genuine democratic culture and values in governance can bring about real change, which would mark the commencement of democracy properly so-called in Nigeria. Right now, what we have is cash-and-carry primitive democracy characterised by greed, nepotism, bulimic corruption, mediocrity and cluelessness.

What about May 30, does it have any significance in Nigerian history? In my view, that date is very important, most especially for Ndigbo and their immediate neighbours that belonged to the defunct Biafra, for it was on that fateful day in 1967 that the eastern region formally seceded from the rest of Nigeria. Keep in mind that after the Aburi Accord collapsed, tension between the federal military government led by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon and governor of the eastern region, Lt. Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, escalated rapidly to the point that armed conflict seemed inevitable. Thus, in the small hours of May 30, 1967, diplomats and journalists were summoned to the State House in Enugu by Ojukwu to witness his declaration of independence.

The overarching feeling among the Igbo before that announcement was an acute sense of rejection, not of rebellion, as some Igbo haters and historical revisionists claim, and that sentiment persists till today more than forty-eight years after the conflict had ended. Inasmuch as self-centred myopic members of the Igbo elite have been sabotaging the collective interests of Igbo people for ephemeral personal benefit, one must not forget to mention the envy-motivated hatred of the Igbo by the non-Igbo mostly from northern Nigeria, which was the psychological foundation of pogroms against Ndigbo in 1945, 1953 and 1966, and of the brutal civil war. Similarly, despite silly and ineffectual name-calling by a handful of mentally retarded Igbo-hating buharimaniacs, I should point out that the anti-Igbo stance of President Buhari is re-opening old festering psychological wounds of Ndigbo caused by the crushing defeat of 1970.

It is shameful that purported leaders of Ndigbo and other ethnic nationalities that comprised the defunct Biafra all these years did not recognise the existential psycho-spiritual significance of setting aside May 30 as Biafra remembrance day to commemorate the birth of Biafra and honour those who died and suffered for the Biafran cause, precisely the way Israelites have been commemorating the holocaust since the end of World War II. Nigerians who were not part of the defunct eastern region have the luxury of forgetting the Biafran war but not the Igbo and their immediate neighbours who went through hell in the quest for freedom.

The birth of Biafra ranks among the greatest events in Nigerian history, while the horrors of her annihilation are comparable to what the Jews suffered in the hands of Adolf Hitler and his gang of bloodthirsty murderers. Collective amnesia is terrible; it is one of the strongest reasons for the decline of a people because, as the Igbo would say, “those who do not know where the rain started beating them would not know where they took shelter from it.” The unenviable status of Ndigbo in Nigeria today is largely due to non-remembrance of the defining moments in Igbo history and culture.

Therefore, until Ndigbo learn to take their collective interests seriously, until prominent sons and daughters of Igboland understand the necessity of subordinating their petty selfish interests to the more enduring task of rebuilding Igboland, Ndigbo will continue to be marginalised in this deformed Nigerian federation. Unfortunately, many of them are wasting time and energy blaming compatriots from other ethnic groups for the Igbo problem which, no matter how well justified, can never replace the imperatives of self critical examination to begin searching for the black goat before nightfall.

 Concluded.

 

 


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