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@war 50 years after the war

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By Yinka Odumakin

TOMORROW marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) but we have remained locked in low-intensity warfare ever since because we are a senseless country. Our last civil war broke out over unresolved nationality question and its most unfortunate that our fault lines are more pronounced in January 2020 than they were in July 1967 when we started killing ourselves like the “enemy tribes” Lord Lugard once called us.

Cerebral fathers from my neck of the wood said from the depth of their wisdom that when a child falls down, he gets up and continues the journey without looking because of lack of reflection. On the other hand, an elderly person who falls down gets up and looks back to see the cause of the trip so he can avoid such as he continues.

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Nigeria remains the child who stumbles and gets up without finding out the cause of the fall and continues to walk on carelessly. The truth of the matter is that there was never a need for a country like Nigeria. It is a perfect example of one disappeared entity Brian Hall called “The Impossible Country” (Yugoslavia).

A country is never borders or infrastructures. It is about unity of goals which has never been available around here. It has always been a perpetual feud between different nationalities in the worst clash of civilizations ever seen around the world.

Anti-colonial struggle

Something happened in 1953. A leading light of anti-colonial struggle and a prominent member of the Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group, AG, Anthony Enahoro had moved a motion that Nigeria should become independent in 1956 at the Federal parliament. That motion should have been unanimously supported by members of parliament if an “impossible country” was not the setting.

Enahoro had said in the preamble to his motion on the floor of the Federal House of Representatives that any proposal short of full political independence for Nigeria “has ceased to be a progressive view because Nigerian nationalism has moved forward from that position”. But in a response that showed the fault lines of Nigerian nationalism in the late colonial era, Sir Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, introduced a dilatory motion substituting the phrasing “as soon as practicable” for the year “1956” proposed by Enahoro.

In an undisguised reference to the superficiality of the “Nigerian nationalism” which Enahoro and his Southern compatriots were lionising, Bello added: “Sixty years ago, there was no Nigeria but merely a collection of communities very different in outlook and mode of life”.

The North threatened to leave Nigeria over the quest for independence by the South. In anticipation that the NPC which had more numbers in the House was going to win the vote, the NCNC and AG members in the House of Representatives walked out. The meeting of the House was adjourned and members of NPC met very unfriendly crowd in Lagos who could not understand why “fellow Nigerians” would be opposed to independence.

They were called all sorts of names before they left for the North. A retaliatory move by Northern leaders after the adjournment on March 31, 1953 self-government motion, came during the tour of the Northern Region by the AG led by Chief S. L. Akintola; it was viewed by Northerners as an invasion of another man’s territory. It was while Akintola and his group were in Kano that a riot broke out. Several people lost their lives while many were wounded. After the crisis, the NPC members issued an “eight-point-programme” to the colonial government to the effect that until their demands were met, they would not return to the House in Lagos. The demands spelt confederacy.

By the time Nigeria became free in 1960, Awolowo, whose party moved the motion for independence in 1953 that was opposed by the North was seated among ex-servicemen at independence dinner and by 1962 was already thrown into jail.

By 1966, events already peaked with the first coup on January 15 led by some junior officers who were dissatisfied with the state of the country. The coup eliminated political leaders mainly from the North and West. The dominant presence of Eastern officers among the leaders of the coup made Northern officers to conclude that the coup was planned against the North and they immediately started to plan a revenge coup which they staged on July 29, 1966.

Diplomatic officials

They codenamed the coup operation “Araba”(Hausa word for let’s divide it). And for 48 hours after the coup there was no government in Nigeria as Northern officers were bent on pulling out of Nigeria. It took efforts of American and British diplomatic officials and the top of bureaucracy to convince them to stay within the country.

They initially said they were going to blow up the Central Bank of Nigeria when they were told that the money that would be used to service their government if they broke away was locked in that place. By the time they agreed to remain in Nigeria they had destroyed the army for ever as rank and file soldiers from the North would no longer take instruction from very senior officers from the South. Brigadier Ogundipe who was the most senior officer in the army had a swift dialogue with his feet. By then the rebellious officers from the North had insisted the most senior among them, Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon would be the new Head of State above his seniors from the South.

Events moved from there until the Republic of Biafra was declared and we fought a war in which millions of lives were wasted.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the “end” of that war, we are frenetically manipulating our fault lines that led to the last civil war; it is the worst exclusive use of power that has never been seen in this country before. Today we have the three arms of government headed by core Northerners, with 15 out of 17 service chiefs in Nigeria from the North. All heads of anything that has to do with money, except the CBN, are from the North: Ministry of Finance, Customs, NPA, FIRS, AMCON, etc. Once any Fowler is taken out now, a Nami must replace him.

There are no more pretenses. It is in-your-face impunity bordering on extreme provocations that makes all look like the immediate pre-1994 days in Rwanda. Can those behind all we are going through step back and ask just one question: where is the coalition that fought the last war?

The honest answer is that it has collapsed for ever. The very reason why nobody should drive the country to another war ever again as it would be decisive and fought on different fronts with different goals.

A negotiated settlement that understands our differences is the best way out. Its other name is federalism.


Re: Godwin Obaseki: My man of the year

Dear Yinka,

THANK you for nominating Governor Obaseki as your man of the year. I also join you to nominate Obaseki as my man of the year 2019 for the reasons you gave and more.

In your well written article, you made the following, among other reasons, for declaring him as the man of the year.

  1. Godfatherism is a form of political corruption in which an influential member of the party climbs to leadership. Permit me to add that it also ensures that loyalty of elected members is to the godfather and not to the people who elected the godson. It also ensures that cash (corruption) is the determinant of election not votes.
  2. You identified the predatory behaviour of godfathers in many states in the country in the last 20 years. (a) You gave the examples of Chris Uba and Chris Ngige; (b) The case of Ladoja and Adedibu where Ladoja had to “surrender to the authority of Adedibu to unseat Lam Adesina in 2003” at the peak of which crisis Adedibu boasted on TV thus: “I asked him (Ladoja) to let us share his security vote and he refused. Now, he knows that I am the major insecurity in the state”.

3.You argued that the godfathers have not relented even when none of them had had it easy all through as political office holders continued to pander to them to get what they want. This shows the qualities of these godfathers;

  1. That Governor Godwin Obaseki who used to be his political boy is now looking eyeball to eyeball and is poised to wrestle him to the ground with sweat all over him. You came to the above conclusion based on Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode in Lagos State.

I am particularly pleased to note that the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shuaibu, was reported to have said “our people have spoken loud and clear that they believe in democracy, they just don’t want to be beneficiaries, they want to be the drivers of the process.” Governor Obaseki himself in the Vanguard of January 3, 2020 said that “my pact with the citizens of the state is to defend their interest and to end godfatherism – which threatens the democratic right of the people.”

For the above reasons, I also “elect” Governor Godwin Obaseki as my Man of the Year 2019. In the hope that vice-chancellors and professors who are to conduct elections this year for office of governors will spare the people of Edo State what happened in Ekiti and Osun with the connivance of the intelligence and security units who do not believe in democracy.

We, the people of Edo State, will resist as the people in Rivers did when attempts were made to make the value of one man, one vote irrelevant so as to promote Sharia. As Governor Obaseki has said, Edo like Rivers State is a Christian state and democracy is preferred for its inclusiveness not totalitarianism of the alternative.

God bless.

Solomon Asemota, SAN 

Benin City .

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