By Ikechukwu Amaechi
MY column last week titled, “Is another war for ‘Biafra’ inevitable?” elicited a lot of responses. Ndigbo are unanimous in their rejection of war. They are also unequivocal in their condemnation of the senseless violence in the Southeast.
But one of the responses stood out in its toxicity. A professional colleague, who is a fervent supporter of President Buhari, wrote: “Ikechukwu Amaechi! Your conclusions are great but based on a faulty premise. Buhari is not Igbo problem. The Igbo that radiate uncritical hate, but insist being repaid by love, are the delusional one. I would have thought that a people who had gone through avoidable catastrophe in the past would be doubly wary. But everyone played the ostrich until that lunatic Nnamdi Kanu is again pushing them to the brink — a hardworking people that have assets, baiting war!
“But my pitch is not really for the Igbo. It’s for my peacocky Yoruba folks tolerating another IPOB Yoruba variant, Sunday Igboho, … who doesn’t even know what the problem is and is insistent on solving it!
“PMB is not the Igbo problem. The Igbo penchant to play the ostrich, when they should promptly act, is it. But I hope good sense would prevail.”
I knew where he was coming from and I decided not to suffer fools gladly.
“Kunle, ordinarily, I don’t respond to comments such as yours. I don’t know what issues you have with Ndigbo. I know left for you, you would wish all of them be killed for whatever reason. You wouldn’t mind another holocaust,” I riposted.
“My friend, the joke is on you and your unreasonable type who see Ndigbo as Nigeria’s problem and want them exterminated.
“But have you asked yourself why Benue, Plateau, Southern Kaduna people are all crying? They also hate Buhari? Soyinka hates Buhari? Ayo Adebanjo hates Buhari? Even the Northern governors that are now crying over banditry hate Buhari? The reasonable Yoruba clamouring for change hate Buhari?
“Ndigbo radiate uncritical hate, insist being repaid with love and they are delusional. Really? I wish you luck. What goes around comes around. Those who helped to massacre Ndigbo in the past are today being massacred. It is called karma. It never fails. When you support evil, you reap bountifully from it.
“But let me tell you something. Ndigbo don’t reckon with your likes. Like them, hate them, they are here to stay. You can stew in your animosity for all they care. Your insult is inconsequential. You can join hands with the likes of your soul mate, Adeyinka Grandson, to masturbate in your evil fantasy, but you are the one hurting, not Ndigbo. So, find a way of dealing with your hate before it consumes you.”
It is surprising that anyone will accuse the Igbo of uncritical hatred against other Nigerians, when in fact they are the cord that binds the disparate tendencies in the country together. In any case, Ndigbo are not seeking to be loved. They are asking for a Nigeria that works for all. How is that a crime? How can a people’s legitimate desire to be treated with fairness and justice in their own country be adjudged hatred?
Suddenly, Northern elders have found their voice. They are pleading with Buhari to let Ndigbo go. Their women are now demonstrating with placards. Their farmers are boycotting Southern markets. Their most celebrated crime buster, DCP Abba Kyari, has been deployed in the Southeast, including assorted military hardware, in a desperate bid to subdue the Igbo.
Yet, while all these deployments were being made, on June 6, no fewer than 27 people were killed when armed herdsmen invaded Odugbeho community in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
In April, more than 100 people were massacred in several communities in Zamfara State. The state government shut down four major markets – Magami Market in Gusau Local Government, Dansadau Market in Maru Local Government, Wanke Market in Gusau Local Government and Dauran Market in Zurmi Local Government – to prevent reprisal attacks by vigilante members.
Northern women did not complain. Northern elders lost their voices. Last Saturday, 11 people were slaughtered in Igangan community in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State by herdsmen. No outrage from the North.
The 136 children abducted by bandits penultimate Sunday from an Islamic school in Tegina town, Niger State are still in captivity. With the exception of a statement issued on May 31 by the presidency, saying that security agents were searching for the missing children, some as young as six years, nothing has been heard from the Federal Government.
Everyone seems to be waiting on the Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, who has become prolific in negotiating ransom, to make his next move. There have been at least six kidnappings of students in the North since December 2020 and more than 800 students and staff have been abducted, with some fatalities.
SB Morgen, a Lagos-based geopolitical research consultancy, said recently that at least $11 million (N5.5 billion at the current exchange rate of N500 to $1) has been paid to kidnappers between January 2016 and March 2020, most of them negotiated by Sheik Gumi.
The most brazen of these evil acts was the abduction of 23 students, including a staff, of Greenfield University in Kaduna State, on April 20. The bandits killed one person during the raid and, in the days after the attack, murdered five of the students. Thereafter, their leader, Sani Jalingo, spoke to the Hausa Service of the Voice of America on May 3, and demanded N100 million and ten motorcycles before the remaining 14 students would be released. The hapless parents ended up paying over N150 million and bought eight motorcycles for the bandits to secure the release of their children on May 29, 40 days after they were abducted.
None of the bandits has been arrested. Gumi, who negotiated the deal, is still walking the streets free. Nobody has invited him to explain what happened. Who does that? Truth be told, the joke is on Buhari because it takes a certain level of shamelessness for a leader under whose watch these atrocities are committed to turn around and threaten fire and brimstone against others.
As Prof Wole Soyinka poignantly noted recently: “When Benue was first massively brought under siege, with the massacre of innocent citizens, the destruction of farms, mass displacement followed by alien occupation, Buhari’s language – both as utterance and as what is known as “body language” – was of a totally different temper. It was diffident, conciliatory, even apologetic.”
Why is the same President ordering his troops to kill youths whose only crime is being Igbo? The argument that the ongoing carnage in the Southeast is a response to the alleged threat posed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, is untenable.
Let’s be clear, any attack on security infrastructure in the Southeast, and, indeed, anywhere else is condemnable and the killing of policemen is a barbaric act that must be punished. But that must be in accordance with the laws of the land. Extra-judicial killings have no place in a constitutional democracy.
And in doing that, the wrong people should not be held vicariously liable for crimes they knew nothing about. Making every Igbo a collateral damage for crimes committed by yet to be ascertained felons is a crime against humanity. Unknown gunmen remain unknown until the government unravels them. But if the Buhari government in its ineptitude fails to do that, venting his spleen on the Igbo is most unfair.
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, who invited the military, has said for the umpteenth time that unknown gunmen are not IPOB activists. Recently, his Chief Press Secretary, Oguwike Nwachuku, issued a statement saying that no fewer than 400 people who carried out recent attacks in Imo have been arrested and charged to court.
“The good thing,” Nwachuku said, “is that over 70 per cent of them are not Igbo.”
When former political adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, was brutally murdered in Owerri, Uzodimma insisted it was political assassination.
Now, there is no love lost between Uzodimma and IPOB. So, he is not saying that because he wants to save their skin. So, why is nobody listening to him? Assuming without conceding that the unknown gunmen are indeed IPOB activists, does that mean that every Igbo youth is a felon that must be gunned down on the street?
Was the Germany-based businessman, Oguchi Unachukwu, killed by an Air Force officer on his way to the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri on May 31 a member of the Eastern Security Network?
The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese lamented in a video recently that he counted 35 corpses of Igbo youths dumped at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Owerri mortuary. Who killed them? For what crime? Are they IPOB members? These premeditated murders in the Southeast must stop.