Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Let The Igbo Be!

By Oguwike Nwachuku                                      This year’s activities leading to the 50th anniversary of the January 15, 1966 coup plot believed to have altered the political equation of Nigeria after just six years of independence have come and gone.
But the lessons, like a razor will continue to pierce the heart of every discerning person.
Popularly and erroneously described as Nzeogwu Coup, nay Igbo coup, many commentators have interpreted that putsch the way it suits them, their political allies and interest, 50 years down the road.
The same scenario is playing out in the trial of the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, whose own case is being given another colouration.
Of all the persons accused of eating the yam from Sambo Dasuki’s office as former national security adviser (NSA), Metuh is the only one that has been brought to court in handcuffs and Black Maria and whose bail conditions are ridiculous.
Today’s intervention is not on Metuh, but I think the Igbo are also using their tongue to count their teeth.
This is what Nzeogwu told his compatriots while announcing reasons for the coup: “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 per cent; those that keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian calendar back by their words and deeds.
“Like good soldiers we are not promising anything miraculous or spectacular.
“But what we do promise every law abiding citizen is freedom from fear and all forms of oppression, freedom from general inefficiency and freedom to live and strive in every field of human endeavour, both nationally and internationally.
“We promise that you will no more be ashamed to say that you are a Nigerian ….”

It is not my desire to go into the details of the coup, but it is worrisome that the fears Nzeogwu and his fellow coup plotters raised are even being magnified in more dangerous dimensions by commentators who ought to interpret the situation with responsibility and fairness.
While reading two pieces on the matter last week, one written by Reuben Abati and published in an online portal, and another by one Bolaji Adebiyi published on the front page of THISDAY, I saw through the mischief of the authors who tried to camouflage that the Igbo must have been the architect of Nigeria’s political problems.
Abati wrote: “By the time the coup failed and ended, what was left, fairly or unfairly, was its ethnic colouration and bias. The key plotters except one were all Igbos.
“The people who were targeted in the main theatres of operation: Kaduna, Lagos and Ibadan were all non-Igbos. Only one Igbo life was reportedly lost: Col Arthur Unegbe, and that was because he could not be trusted.
“The received impression is that the coup failed on the platforms of irredentism, its selectiveness and one-sidedness, even if some of the other ranks under Nzeogwu’s command in Kaduna were actually Northerners and other Nigerians.
“Senior officers, like Brigadier Zakari Maimalari and Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, were killed by younger officers who were well-known to them.
“Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa’s body was dumped somewhere along the Lagos-Abeokuta Road. The Premier of the Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello, was killed along with his wife, driver, and security assistant.
“SLA Akintola, Premier of the Western Region was gunned down in his bedroom. Minister of Finance, Festus Okotie-Eboh, also lost his life.
“Others included Col. Ralph Shodeinde, Col Kur Muhammed, Lt Col. Abogo Lagerma, Lt Col. James Pam, PC Yohanna Garkawa, PC Haga Lai, Lance Corporal Musa Nimzo, Sgt. Daramola Oyegoke, PC Akpan Anduka and Ahmed Ben Musa.
“And when it was all over, Nnamdi Azikiwe was conveniently, and most suspiciously, away on a cruise in the Caribbean. An Igbo man, Nwafor Orizu, the acting president, handed over power to another Igbo man, General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi.
“Although a highly qualified officer, Ironsi didn’t stand a chance. He had been instrumental to making the coup fail, and had tried to promote Northern officers after the January coup, but he was, all the same, accused of treating the coup plotters with kid gloves, and of trying to impose Igbo hegemony on Nigeria.
“The January 15 coup brought all extant suspicions to the fore; by May, there were reports of Igbo being killed by Northerners and cries of likely secession by the North.”
What Abati wrote was not different in content and taste from what Bolaji wrote in THISDAY. Even the uninitiated would agree they rose from one desk after writing.
Their interventions were ab initio tailored to bring to the fore the age long plot to demonise and castigate the Igbo as those who introduced ethnic irredentism and political domination into the body polity of Nigeria.
They wanted, on behalf of their masters, to use the articles to warm themselves into the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they wanted to remind to keep the Igbo at bay, or at worse, see the Igbo as those not to be trusted for political relationship.
But contrary to the claim of those who use the 1966 coup to sow ethnic discord for selfish reasons and interest in Nigeria, including some commentators, now take a look at the 14 major participants in the 1966 coup termed Igbo coup:
Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu (Delta Igbo); Major Adewale Ademoyega (Yoruba) author of “Why we struck”; Capt. G. Adeleke (Yoruba); Maj. Emmanuel Ifeajuna (Igbo); Lt. Fola Oyewole (Yoruba) author of “The reluctant rebel”; Lt. R. Egbiko (Esan); Lt. Tijani Katsina(Hausa/Fulani); Lt. O. Olafemiyan (Yoruba); Capt. Gibson Jalo (Bali); Capt. Swanton (Middle Belt); Lt. Hope Harris Eghagha (Urhobo); Lt. Dag Warribor (Ijaw); Second Lt. Saleh Dambo (Hausa) and Second Lt. John Atom Kpera (Tiv).
So, to an unbiased observer, what evidence can one provide to show that the Igbo carried out the coup to exterminate other tribes and take over the country as touted?
While it is easy to sell falsehood, it is difficult to provide facts to buttress wild claims; and that is where the latter day commentators are not only suspect but will leave Nigeria worse than it was even before the intervention of the coupists 50 years ago.
On this page I had talked about Igbophobia as well as the hatred for the Igbo as if some Nigerians took a lesson on how to hate them. Everyday, peoples actions and inactions point to this.
Even when it seems clear to a suckling that murderous lies were crammed up against the Igbo to find reasons to perpetually keep them under hate, why should commentators in this age see that as their beat on which they must deliver by all means?
No one blames them because the Nigerian state and perpetrators of the gruesome genocide have been working hard to prevent proper documentation of the 1966 coup episode for posterity.
It is the greatest disrespect Abati would have for Zik when he said he was conveniently, and most suspiciously, away on a cruise in the Caribbean when the coup was on and that Nwafor Orizu handed over to another Igbo man, General Ironsi so that the Igbo hegemony in Nigeria’s political circle would continue.
And you ask, what happens to the seniority in the army? Could Orizu have handed over to Abati or Adebiyi? When Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu insisted that Ogundipe was the next person to be head of state based on seniority in the army and not Yakubu Gowon, was he pursuing Igbo hegemony?
Let it be known, including to the careless commentators, that the Igbo have come to accept their fate in Nigeria and the only thing they are asking is for them to be left alone to pursue their legitimate means of livelihood.

 *Nwachuku is the editor of TheNiche 

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