Ndigbo, the storm gathers…

Odumegwu Ojukwu

By Igbonekwu Ogazimora

In 1995, Chief MCK Ajuluchukwu, the founding secretary of the Zikist Movement, formed 1944, told me a small story. He flew into exile with Ojukwu at the end of the war and soon left for Germany where he lived until 1974. One day, he got a strange letter. Chief Obafemi Awolowo had sent him his two latest books. In subsequent communications, he pressured him to return home. He told him of his fears that he would be harassed or even killed. Awo got back to him and guaranteed his safety. But something was not registering. Of the letters sent to him from Nigeria, only one bore a Nigerian postal stamp. Others bore West German Stamp. But he kept calm. On arrival at the International Airport, he was received by Chief Lateef Jakande. The next day, he went through Lagos. His house at Yaba had been classified as an Abandoned Property and held in the care of the Federal government alongside the vast estate of his kinsman, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, father of General Emeka Ojukwu and others.
“Nothing was left for me to stay in Lagos. I had no money to pay rents, so I left for Nnewi,” he said. “At Nnewi, there was nothing to keep me busy and sane, so I formed a local dance group, and we started practising in my family compound.”
The secret police appeared to have watched closely. As he found out later, the head of the Special Branch, MD Yusuf, who was later to become the IG of Police, analysed his activities and concluded that the dance practices were disguised training of fighters.
One afternoon, he observed three gleaming cars as they pulled up in front of his house in the village. Mahmoud Attah, who later headed the police, led some well-polished men in. He came smiling, bearing a pot (two gallons) of palm wine. They bantered, and the policeman wanted to know why he chose to live in the village. He told them bluntly that he had nowhere and no job to keep him in Lagos. They drank and dispersed.
Two weeks later, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim arrived in Nnewi and demanded that he follow him to Lagos. “MCK,” Waziri intoned, “these people are unsettled that you are living in the Village. ..Ojukwu’s village for that matter. They do not think you actually mean a dance group with these young men and women. Take this money and settle in a hotel in Lagos for one month. Before it is exhausted, there will be a job and accommodation for you wherever you chose to live in Lagos.”
He smiled, and asked: “what if I do not want to go?”
The wealthy Alhaji was shocked. “Please, let us go. These soldiers are deadly. They can even kill you for nothing.” He further said, “they had been looking for you as other kinsmen of Ojukwu who are capable of doing something. They arranged the contact made in Germany. Your return has saved a lot of costs for them. Let us go.”
He stood his ground. Then, pressures mounted from all corners. He relented and left for Lagos and started on a series of meaningless jobs, even if financially rewarding.
Fast forward to 1992, when Ojukwu met journalists in his Enugu home. He was enraged. “…it looks to me like these people in government don’t ever go to bed without first lifting the pilows and possibly the bedspreads to be sure that Ojukwu is not hiding somewhere in there.” His eyes flashed in several directions.
This was despite his being chummy with the then Military government. But, was it not Ojukwu? An Igbo man? You can trust to embrace a lion if you ever trust one, they must have thought.
Again, fast forward to October 2021. Femi Adesina, my friend and highly respected colleague, has made central his theme of justifying actions of the Federal government on the Igbo. “They hate Buhari and they hate any person hating Buhari.” Hmmmmm. Hate? Well, does he love Ndigbo?
Of course, he merits his added portfolio of a chaperone of Igbo linkages with the big man. He is truly a friend of the people. The path he has taken has been trodden. To be relevant in Nigeria, you must demonise Ndigbo. To evidence his brilliance and show he is at work, respected SAN, Malami, has devised the way. “IPOB,” nay Ndigbo (do not forget that the big man said they are all IPOB – the dot in a circle), “burnt the palace of the Oba of Lagos, public buses, etc.” It must have escaped him to add that they kidnapped the Dapchi and Chibok Girls. He also forgot that they have been the firing power of Boko Haram. And we all know that they are the reasons army generals steal the money meant for weapons, causing soldiers to go to battlefronts with a catapult, against insurgents armed with sophisticated weapons.
Well, it has always been there, and as arrogant oligarchs, owners of Nigeria never bothered to stop and ask why they must always look over their shoulders in relating with Ndigbo, a people they call their fellow countrymen. A people they killed millions of human beings to keep in Nigeria.
Oligarchs are usually arrogant. And always stay on top because they invest a lot in holding power. Nigerian power oligarchs have mastered a strategy, which has been working since the British taught them how to do it effortlessly.
Divide and Rule, DAR.
That has been how they achieved the bid game of deception. It was done in 1959, repeated in 1964, used in 1967, always applied whenever the need arises. And they have just picked it. That is rather than addressing any of the problems bedevilling Nigeria.
But more importantly, I do not even see the sense in holding any person close if you have to look over your shoulders to be sure he is not following with a dagger.
Ndigbo, never take anything for granted. The person who got your son and blood brother to deny you as Peter denied Christ, can get the next friend to put otapiapia in your food.
If you check it, that is about the only card available to this government. The Yoruba who they have targeted to spring from an imaginary circle are sophisticated people. The Middle Belt has seen that it will never be different from the old use-and-dump.
Those of you who have the ears of IPOB should tell them that this issue is not a matter of punishing the poor Igbo man or woman who lives on a mere N200.00 a day as they are further pauperised with a series of sit-at-home. Mark my word, it will not make any impact. Indeed, it will backfire. That is if you really understand the Igbo. Ndigbo are not Indians.
No length of sit-at-home in the South East will affect the Federal Government. A government that happily goes to bed when no strategic Federal Road is functional in the South East will also go to sleep when people die of hunger and lack of care. Since this rainy season started, over 100 trucks have fallen, goods went to waste, and persons even killed, between Onitsha and Enugu, along with the so-called Expressways. Nobody gave a damn. Not even to fill huge craters.
There are no meaningful federal services to be disrupted by any sit-at-home in the SE.
In an exchange I had with one of the Facebook strikers of IPOB yesterday, he tried to equate the sit-at-home with the Gandhi boycotts and withdrawal of service to force independence of India.
I was shocked that was the driving philosophy.
I told him that nothing could be dumber than such comparison. Indians, then, were running services gainful to the British political, social, economic and commercial establishments, and withdrawal of those services by native Indians was a blow well delivered. That was why it worked.
Now, where are the services the SE is rendering the FG? None!
Past FG strategic planners had thought about this ahead and deliberately blighted the region. They knew what they were doing when they refused to site strategic industrial and economic concerns in the region.
But there are other ways of impressing strong points. It is not for me to say.
Those you are up against, are old in the game, which does not mean that there cannot be ways around if necessary pressures are to be mounted.
Sit-at-home as repeated and enforced by some elements appears to me to be targeting soft targets, which is now almost verging on cowardice.
Ndigbo, except a collaborative few, are not the reason the Igbo are reduced low in Nigeria
I am only asking that you put on your thinking cap!

*Igbonekwu Oagazimora, journalist and lawyer, writes from Enugu