50 YEARS AFTER BIAFRA: THEY STILL FEAR THE IGBO
The Igbo ethnic group have remained an unfathomable problem to Nigeria and Nigerians fifty years after what they thought would be the end of Biafra, and the Igbo nation. For three years, they were up in arms against the Igbo, determined to wipe them out of the surface of the earth. Chinua Achebe wrote that the only one thing Nigerians were united was in their hatred of the Igbo.
But this their hatred of the Igbo is psychological, and it did not start today. The people were not comfortable with the dramatic rise of the Igbo so soon on the Nigerian scene. They were jealous or envy of the ingenuity of Igbo people, their can do spirit. They feared that if the Igbo were allowed a foothold in Nigeria, the people could reach the moon or might take over Nigeria and eclipse everybody in the country.
When the Biafran war was declared officially ended fifty years ago, on January 15, 1970, they thought that they had finally nailed the Igbo and believed that the people would never rise again. They designed a policy that would keep the Igbo perpetually on the ground: give every Igbo man twenty pounds out of whatever amount he had in his banks before the war, and let us sell all government companies to ourselves before the Igbo could recover and start competing with us.
Again, let us leave Igboland desolate. We will not repair the infrastructure we destroyed there during the war so that the people would have no place to perch and begin to do anything. In other climes, they would have declared a Marshal Plan, a clearly articulated plan of action to rebuild the monumental damages done in Igboland during the war. But they did not do that.
Furthermore, they seized all houses and property the Igbo left behind during the war, and declared them “abandoned”, so that the Igbo people would be quarrelling with their neighbours, while they also kept them out of government.
These, and many more, were the policies formulated by the Nigerian federal government to welcome back the Igbo to Nigeria at the end of the war. This was after they had systematically sought to liquidate the entire Igbo race during the war, both in the battlefield and in the various places they were hiding through air bombardments and the imposition of economic blockade that would ensure that any surviving Igbo would die of hunger and starvation.
But the Igbo had surmounted all these obstacles and stood firm on the ground. The Igbo are ingenious. They are creative. They are hardworking. They are enterprising. The Igbo spirit is undying, unyielding. They have the Spartan spirit, the spirit of endurance. Put them anywhere, they will survive.
Thus, from nothing, the Igbo began to walk themselves up the ladder. They began to do anything to make ends meet. They would go into any business no matter how menial or infradig, provided it would put food on their table. In no time, they came back in full force, and became a strong force to be reckoned with, to the envy of these other Nigerians.
The Igbo even initiated the healing of their own wounds when they went back to those same places they were chastised, killed and maimed, and which had led to the outbreak of hostilities, and settled there, to begin their usual business of buying and selling. But their efforts were not reciprocated. They were not appreciated. They continued to be hated, and to be despised.
The Igbo do not make enemies with anybody. Rather, they make friends with everybody. But Nigerians do not love them in return. They loathe them, and for no just cause other than that they were making progress. “They hate me without a cause”, says Psalm 69: 4. Still the Igbo are undaunted. They are not tired. They are not dispirited. They continue to maintain their membership of Nigeria.
The Igbo are landlocked because Nigeria does not want to open the seaports in their area. For a people whose main occupation is buying and selling, they want them to be travelling more than 700 kilometres away to access their goods, instead of making seaports in their area functional. They equally made sure that scores of checkpoints were created on the roads leading to Igboland so that the security agencies would be ripping them off, extorting their hard earned money.
For the past five months, they have closed the only airport that links the Igbo to other parts of the country and to the outside world on the pretext that they were repairing the airport. We begin to ask whether airports in other parts of the country were similarly closed when they were doing their repairs.
These are some of the tricks they formulated to continue to keep the Igbo on the ground, to prevent them from getting up, else they will rise and beat everybody in the race.
They have contrived to keep the Igbo at bay, out of the presidential seat. They fear that if the Igbo were given political power, it would make them powerful and unreachable. Better we continue to deal with the mediocre, rather than entrust our nets in the hands of the fisherman who knows how to fish.
When they talk about the 2023 Presidency, they do not put the Igbo in reckoning, because they know that they had already decimated or rendered those in their fold who were making too much noise about Igbo Presidency in 2023, politically irrelevant and impotent. One has been made a political orphan and bombed out of calculation in their political party, while the other one has been sent to prison. So, who else will aim at the cap? Nobody.
But the Igbo are never say die. God has rooted them firmly on the ground like the Rock of Gibraltar. The Igbo cannot be crushed. They are unstoppable, and they cannot be phased out of the surface of the earth.