By Ikechukwu AMAECHI
I have received a lot of response to my article titled “Is another war for ‘Biafra’ inevitable?” where I argued that President Muhammadu Buhari is baiting Ndigbo for war and that it is unwise to give him a reason for another genocide.
Igbos are genuinely aggrieved but they unanimously reject war. They also unequivocally condemn the senseless violence and avoidable loss of lives in the South-East.
One response stood out in its toxicity. A Yoruba friend, who is also a professional colleague and a fervent supporter of Buhari, fired off almost immediately.
He 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, an idiot 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. I had tolerated his incendiary comments against Ndigbo for too long. This time, 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 that 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 like. 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.”
He scurried away!
It is surprising that anyone can 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. That is not 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 voices. They are pleading with Buhari to let Ndigbo go. Their women are demonstrating with placards. Their farmers are boycotting Southern markets.
Their most celebrated crime buster, Deputy Chief Superintendent of Police, Abba Kyari, has been deployed in the South East; he and his personnel kitted with assorted military hardware; in a desperate bid to subdue the Igbo.
While these deployments were being made, on June 6, no fewer than 27 people were killed when armed Fulani herdsmen invaded Odugbeho in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
In April 2021, more than 100 people were massacred in several communities in Zamfara. The state government shut down four major markets – Magami and Wanke markets in Gusau Local Government, Dansadau market in Maru Local Government and Dauran market in Zurmi Local Government – to prevent reprisals by vigilante members.
There was no outrage from the presidency. Northern women did not complain. Northern elders lost their voices. Last Saturday, 11 people were slaughtered in Igangan in the Ibarapa area of Oyo State by Fulani herdsmen. There was no outrage from the North.
The 136 children abducted by bandits penultimate Sunday from an Islamic school in Tegina, Niger State are still in captivity. Except for a statement issued on May 31 by Aso Rock saying that security agents were searching for the children – some as young as six years – nothing has been heard from Buhari.
Everyone seems to be waiting for Islamic cleric 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 abducted, with some fatalities.
SB Morgen, a geopolitical research consultancy based in Lagos, 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 Gumi, all of them in the North. Aso Rock didn’t mobilise the security assets of the country to hunt down the bandits. The president never vowed to teach them the lessons the U.S. taught al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
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 10 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, waiting for the next deal. Nobody has invited him to explain what happened.
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 relatively peaceful regions.
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 Buhari ordering his troops to kill youths whose only crime is being Igbo? The argument that the ongoing carnage in the South-East is a response to the alleged threat posed by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu is untenable.
Let’s be clear, any attack on security infrastructure in the South East, and, indeed, anywhere else is condemnable and the killing of policemen is a criminal 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 supposedly civilised society under a constitutional democracy.
And in doing that, the wrong people should not be held vicariously liable for a crime they knew nothing about. Making every Igbo a collateral damage for crimes committed by unidentified felons is a crime against humanity. Unknown gunmen remain unknown until the government removes their veil. But if the Buhari government in its ineptitude fails to do that, venting his spleen on innocent Igbo population is most unfair and a crime against humanity.
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, who invited the military, has said repeatedly that unknown gunmen are not IPOB activists. Recently, his Chief Press Secretary, Oguwike Nwachuku, issued a statement that no fewer than 400 people who carried out recent attacks in Imo have been arrested and charged to court.
“The good thing,” Nwachuku stressed, “is that over 70 per cent of them are not Igbo.”
When Ahmed Gulak, former political adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, was brutally murdered in Owerri, Uzodimma insisted it was political assassination.
There is no love lost between Uzodimma and IPOB and 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 businessman Oguchi Unachukwu – who was killed by an Air Force officer on his way to Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri on May 31, 2021 – 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? How can Buhari rationalise the fact that over 90 per cent of Igbo youths brutally gunned down on the streets are neither members of IPOB nor ESN.
Mr. President, these premeditated murders in the South-East must stop. Ndigbo don’t want a war. They only demand justice, fairness and equity in a country where they are equal stakeholders. That is not a crime, not to talk of one deserving of capital punishment.