By Ikechukwu Amaechi
ONE of the most remarkable happenings in the Muhammadu Buhari presidency is the rate at which sundry Northern groups are giving other Nigerians ultimatums. They are either dishing out quit notice or demanding compensation for imaginary crimes. In the wake of the president’s recent genocidal threat on Ndigbo and the backlash against his dot in a circle rhetoric, the Armageddon threats have quadrupled.
Many of the incidents for which these ultimatums are given are contrived as any discerning Nigerian can easily decipher. Unfortunately, the target audience of such spurious narratives are not discerning and the idea is to incite them to violence.
Last week, the Northern Consensus Movement, NCM, hitched an inglorious ride on the rickety ultimatum wagon threatening genocide.
“We have done it in the past, we will do it again,” Awwal Abdullahi, president of the group, intoned gravely, albeit boastfully, at a press conference on Thursday, June 17.
And what was his grouse? Abdullahi said Northerners were the economic heart of Nigeria, an apparent pushback to those he claimed were calling them parasites. Fair enough.
It will be incorrect to say that any part of the country contributes absolutely nothing to the commonwealth.
But to pivot such assertion on lies, a deliberate attempt to wheedle the unwary, is unacceptable.
Abdullahi claimed that the North owns the country’s oil wealth because crude “was discovered and harnessed with Northern Nigeria sweat and money”. “The money of groundnut pyramids and cotton was used to research, discover and build the refineries that some other parts of Nigeria are claiming to be their personal property,” he said. It is interesting to note how the story of who owns Nigeria’s oil is mutating in the North.
At a Northern Leaders Conference in 2014, Dr. Usman Bugaje claimed that Nigeria’s crude oil is actually owned by the North.
“Whatever mileage you get in the sea, according to the United Nations Law of the sea, is a measure of the land mass that you have; that is what gives you the mileage into the sea … and the land mass of this country that gives that long 200 nautical miles or more into the ocean, is because of that 72 per cent of the land mass of this country, which is the North,” Bugaje claimed.
“The investment came from the Nigerian state and the territory belongs to the Nigerian state …. What they claim is offshore oil is actually the oil of the North …. There are no oil producing states.”
But had Abdullahi restricted himself to the issue of oil, as incorrect as his claim is, perhaps, there would have been no need to comment. He didn’t. Instead, he claimed further that “those that got any education from the South-South, Southwest and Southeast got that from the Northern economy, from our own money, from the Northern sweat.” So, Northerners are so charitable that they used their hard-earned resources to educate Southerners but not their own. Interesting!
I don’t know how old Abdullahi and his co-travellers on this boulevard of delusion are. But they need to be reminded that the Igbo State Union set up schools which they exclusively funded in Northern cities such as Jos and Kano in the colonial era. Many Northern leaders acquired their early education in such schools.
It may also interest them to know that the Eastern Region government was the only government in the First Republic and, indeed, in the world that invested 45 per cent of its revenues in education.
As Prof. Tekena Tamuno, historian and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, noted in an article, Igbo are the makers of modern Nigeria: “The East had the highest number of schools; the highest school enrollment; the broadest penetration of medical services; and the best modern road network in West Africa.”
Indeed, according to the Harvard Review, between 1954 and 1964, Eastern Nigeria was not only the “fastest growing economy in the world”, it outpaced countries like China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. What stopped the renaissance was the civil war and the fact that Southeast has remained part of a country where in the 21st century when other countries are exploring the Mars, its leaders are engrossed with cattle routes.
Truth be told, the North has never fed Ndigbo. Neither yesterday, nor today. And definitely not tomorrow. But had Abdullahi stopped at this infantile hallucination, this article would still have been unnecessary.
He didn’t. Instead, without any shred of evidence, he accused Southerners of genocide against Northerners in the South.
But his narrative was full of contradictions. In one breath, he lamented “the number of our people that are being killed and property being destroyed in the South-South, Southwest and Southeast.” Yet, in another breath, he claimed that “the number of Igbos that are resident in Kano and Kaduna alone are far greater than the number of Northerners that reside in the entire South-South, Southwest and Southeast.”
He sought compensation for Northerners whose properties have been destroyed in the South, yet, he acknowledged that “all our people in the East are either tomato sellers, wheelbarrow pushers, okada riders, suya makers, shoe shiners and finger nail cutters. Those are the northerners mostly resident in the South-South, Southwest and Southeast.”
He also admitted that “the billions of investment of Yorubas and Igbos in Kaduna and Kano alone is far greater than the investment of the entire northerners in the South-South, Southwest and Southeast if we remove BUA and Dangote who are international businessmen.”
Asking rhetorically, how much investment do we (Northerners) have in the East, he provided further insight: “But if you go to Kaduna and Kano and other parts of Nigeria, an Igbo owns a personal house, with C-of-O; he owns a “skyrocketed” building that he is renting out to even Northerners themselves. You go to the remotest village, you find him owning a farm of his own, personal farmland. You don’t have any Northerner owning a house in the South-South, Southwest and Southeast.”
If he knows this much, who then are these Northerners whose lives are being destroyed in the South? What property does a tomato seller, wheelbarrow pusher, okada rider, shoe shiner and finger nail cutter possess that an Igbo will waste his time destroying?
Then Abdullahi thundered: “We are passing this message to the Federal Government, the Eastern and Western state governors that every Northerner that has been killed, every property of every Northerner that has been destroyed, we are saying that the governments of those states that those incidents happened must pay our people. You must pay compensation. We will no longer tolerate the killing of our people, we will no longer tolerate the destruction of the properties of our people anymore. If not, we have done it in the past, we will do it again.”
Some Nigerians believe that such fringe groups should be ignored. I disagree. Not when President Buhari has joined in reminding Ndigbo how much property they have in the North. Why are northerners so obsessed with the properties of Ndigbo? Why is the government tacitly endorsing these vile and incendiary rhetoric? Why are security agencies promoting these dangerous narratives? Some may have forgotten how in April 2016, the Department of State Service, DSS, raised an alarm that it had discovered mass graves of “Hausa-Fulani” residents allegedly abducted and murdered by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, in Abia State.
“The Service has uncovered the heinous role played by members of … IPOB, in the abduction/kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely: Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isuikwuato LGA in Abia State,” the then DSS spokesperson, Tony Opuiyo, told bewildered Nigerians.
“The abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst fifty (50) other shallow graves of unidentified persons,” DSS claimed.
Till date, DSS refused to disclose the identities of the other 45 “victims”. Were they also Fulani herdsmen? They didn’t say. Apparently, they had achieved their goal which was to incite Northerners against innocent Igbos living in the North. Why would a government security agency funded with tax payers’ money play such dangerous games? They answer, as they say, blows in the wind.
But that pattern has been consistent. Unknown gunmen breached the security in Imo State and even when Governor Hope Uzodimma insists that over 70 per cent of the 400 people arrested were non-Igbos, the Police blamed Igbo youths.
Ahmed Gulak was gruesomely murdered in Owerri. Uzodimma cried foul, insisting it was political assassination and urged the police to carry out thorough investigation. Police said there was nothing to investigate, having caught up with the culprits where they were sharing “onions from the North” barely one hour after the crime was committed. The alleged assassins, who were labelled IPOB members were all killed and their bodies burnt beyond recognition. Case closed! Investigations were concluded even before Gulak was killed.
Many Northerners believe their own lies. That is, perhaps, the greatest threat Nigeria faces today because as Fyodor Dostoevsky, the 19th century Russian author and journalist, once noted: “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” That explains the carnage all around us.