In the 51 years after the civil war, we have never had it this bad in terms of security. Not even in the height of the militancy in the South and the religious riots in the North did we come this to close or on the brink of a full blown national blood bath. No surprises then, therefore, if for the first time ever I doubt the accuracy of Achebe’s first paragraph in his book; The Trouble with Nigeria:
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of ‘personal example’ which are the hallmarks of true leadership“.
Today, the trouble with Nigeria has gone beyond the failure of leadership and leaders. The trouble with Nigeria now includes the failure of the Nigerian people to stand up to the failure of leadership. I am fairly certain that the late literary icon did not factor in a time like now where citizens rather than be Patriots have become divisive tools in the hands of the enemies of our great nation(politicians) or when we allowed our personal biases act as winds against our collective progress, neither did he envisage that the Nigerian people will one day seek to divide violently the country across ethnic colourations, but here we are today.
These I guess, explains why I had a very long list of titles for this article before settling on this, and the one thing they all had in common was that they informed of the perilous times we currently find ourselves in. Like in football, Nigeria is approaching the point usually referred to as ‘injury time’, with the exception in this case being that, this is not the end of the road for us as a country but hopefully the beginning of something new and better. In truth this is indeed a make or break period for us but I’d like to implore us to look at it rather as a period of rebirth, a second coming or like the Phoenix a time to rise from the ashes of our past shortcomings. With secessionist agitations in the South East and South West of Nigeria, Banditry, Kidnappings, Boko Haram and Killer Herdsmen rampaging all of Northern Nigeria, from the Benue river up to sunny Sahara in Maiduguri. The South South region which is seemingly peaceful on the surface isn’t left out. There’s still a 10pm to 6am curfew in Cross River State, police stations and personnel are being attacked with reckless abandon in Akwa Ibom state, just over a month ago Niger Delta agitators gave the federal government a two weeks ultimatum to constitute the board of the NDDC or face resumed hostilities in the region. Hence, our country is at this moment almost a complete theatre of war.
Fundamentally and above all, what concerns me most is the looming fear of the unknown, precipitating tension, miss information and fake news, lack of mutual trust amongst Nigerians, the fear of domination of one tribe by the other and vice versa that currently characterize our socio-political sphere which bears very striking semblance to the general political atmosphere that immediately preceded Nigeria’s second coup and by extension the civil war. In order to shape our view and take a walk down memory lane I will reproduce extracts from Max Siollun’s book; Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture.
Although the January coup may not have been intended as an Igbo takeover, it inevitably bore the appearance of one. By merely emerging as an Igbo head of state after a coup staged by mostly Igbo soldiers, Aguiyi-Ironsi’s every move (no matter how innocent or well intentioned) was interpreted as a furtherance of an Igbo plot to dominate the country. The overwhelming majority of the January plotters were Igbo, most of their victims were non-Igbo, the Igbo GOC emerged unscathed and became head of state, the Igbo President was conveniently overseas when the coup took place, and the Igbo Premiers of the Eastern and Mid-West Regions were unharmed while the non-Igbo Premiers of other two regions were murdered. These factors coupled with the simple arithmetic of the January coup’s casualties and survivors would inevitably lead even the most neutral observer to the inescapable conclusion that the whole affair was an Igbo inspired plot.
Hence, it is didactic to point out that
the Igbos may have been similarly aggrieved (sic) and paranoid if Northern soldiers had murdered the two most powerful politicians (Doctors Azikiwe and Okpara), and the four most senior army officers (Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, and Lt-Colonels Ime Imo, Hilary Njoku and Emeka Ojukwu), from the Eastern Region.
Consequently, as a counter measure and in response to perceived Igbonization of Nigeria, Northern media began to replay speeches by the Sardauna and Balewa, both of whom were now being recalled with increasing nostalgia and heroism. The hostility and contempt for the politicians who had caused the crisis leading to the coup were suddenly forgotten and their reputations redeemed. The only political conversation worth holding were those regarding the dreaded Igbos. The mental distinction that existed in January between the “rebel” Majors and the “loyal” units of the army headed by Aguiyi-Ironsi disappeared and the roles of Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Majors and all other Igbos military and civilian, were mentally sublimated to create the myth of a gigantic Igbo plot to impose “Igbo hegemony” on the rest of the country. These theories presupposed that every Igbo man, woman and child, whether military or civilian, was an accomplice and shared guilt with the Majors.
Imperatively and lending credence to the position I earlier canvassed about how half truths and miss information helped shape perception on the 1966 coup. Both the soldiers who took part in the july counter coup and the civilians who participated in the subsequent pogrom that further fueled the embers of the civil war were quick to forget that the failure of the coup owed allot to two Igbo men; Gen. Aguyi Ironsi in Lagos who quickly mobilized soldiers to repell the mutinous elements and the lack of cooperation they received from a certain lt.col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu . Who was a battalion commander in Kano. It has further been corroborated by several historical commentators that the majority of Nigerians welcomed the news of the coup with relief and in some cases celebration.
Why we Struck by Adewale Ademoyega
They was a Country by Chinua Achebe
Soldiers of Fortune by Max Siollun.
Flowing from the above, it becomes apparent how the narrative was manipulated to align with the interest of a selfish few who maybe felt gutted by the way they were pushed out of office by the coup. This shouldn’t however be viewed as a support for the bloodshed that took place then.
Conclusively, this is me inviting us all not repeat the mistakes of the past by spreading fear and tension through the publication of fake and or distorted news. Analyse properly every news item you read, pictures you see and messages you forward. Hear both sides before you act.
Use your head. Do not allow your self to be used. Nigeria belongs to all of us.
Belated Happy Democracy day.
God bless Nigeria and everyone else.