Igbo have no reason to distrust Yoruba, the most decent Ethnic Group in Nigeria
By .Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa
In October 1966 my late father Lawrence Obi Nwankwo Nwaezeigwe escaped the pogrom by the whiskers in the Northern city of Bauchi. Many of his relations and Igbo ethnic compatriots were not so lucky. In 1991, my Mother’s only brother Mr. Vincent Onyeachonam—a Brave and Brilliant Biafran Soldier during the Nigerian Civil War then working with Blackwood Hodge Nigeria Limited escaped the anti-Igbo Kano riots by the act of Providence, only to die in a ghastly motor accident shortly after along Warri-Sapele Highway. This is just my own side of the gory story of the Nigeria experience. Thousands of my Igbo compatriots have their own sides of the story to tell. And as things are moving in Nigeria today with the dominance of the present band of crass and self-centred Southeast Igbo political leadership, more Igbo people will have similar stories to tell in the future.
My father had after the May anti-unification riots against the Igbo in the Northern Region or Group of Provinces as General Aguiyi-Ironsi chose to call it, relocated us temporarily to Jos at the home of his Uncle—Mr. Adudu, since Jos was relatively friendly to the Igbo at that stage of the crisis. From Jos we were finally sent back to our hometown Ibusa. Back in Bauchi, while resuming his duty with the then Italian Construction giant—Stalin Astaldi as a Store-Keeper with caution like every other Igbo man then, he made several attempts to convey his property back home; but no Hausa-Fulani transporter was willing to transport them even to Jos from where he could have accessed another transportation to the South. His long frustration was eventually brought to an end by the outbreak of the Pogrom in October.
On that fateful day in October 1966, my father was alerted in his office by one of his Igbo colleagues who came panting, informing him that the people had started killing the Igbo. He immediately left his office and rushed back home where he took some money, put few belongings in his portfolio and left the house without knowing where he was going. As soon as he entered the streets, he was confronted by a Policeman who ordered him to open his portfolio for him to examine the contents.
My father knew that the tactic was for the Policemen to accost Igbo people, pretend to be interrogating them, and thereafter give sign to the mob which would then emerge and descend on their victims. So he pretended to be opening his portfolio while watching the Policeman with the corner of one eye. As soon as the Policeman thought he was fully concentrated on the business of opening his portfolio and beckoned on the mob, my father left everything and took to his heels with the mob pursuing him with murderous intensity. He managed to outwit the irate mob by miraculously jumping over the Public Works Department (PWD) fence, an incredible feat which left his assailants mopping with awe and panting with anger. He subsequently found himself in the hyena-infested jungle caves of the wild Bauchi Hills.
Two days after his sojourn in the forest caves he met his fleeing kinsman from Okpanam in the same Cave. With that he thus had a companion in suffering. They had pulled-off their shirts and were bare-footed. There was no food except Mbembe (Wild Blackberry) which they could only gather and eat during the night, since during the day they hid themselves in the caves like wild animals do and which they changed quite often for security purposes.
At a stage, his Okpanam kinsman who was much older than him in age became so hungry that my father was forced to follow him to the direction of the sound of a mortar to beg for food. When they got there they met a Fulani woman pounding dawadawa (Guinea corn) and before they could conclude their request for food the woman immediately raised alarm. Both men fled back into their cave haven as their assailants emerged, pursuing them deep inside the cave. My father informed me that even after the fruitless search one of them insisted on staying back in the cave and continued to search for them. But as providence would have it, they were concealed by the perpetual darkness of the cave. In the night they relocated to another cave where after two days his Okpanam kinsman resolved he was no longer going to bear the hunger and suffering, left my father and moved back to the city. My father never saw him again.
After one week of loneliness in the caves my father again felt he was no longer willing to continue with the sufferings and decided to go back to the city even if it meant being killed this time. He waited until it was getting to midnight and then left his cave residence. When he got to the outskirts of the city, he discovered that some children were still keeping-wake around a burn-fire and so he tactfully retreated to a nearby bush. Around 2 am he resurfaced, found every place dead quiet and proceeded into the city with cautious steps. His port of call was the residence of his Yoruba friend and co-worker. The fact is that his friend was not expecting him at any point in time since the news of his death had spread all over Bauchi city.
So when he knocked on the door of his Yoruba friend and identified himself as Lawrence Nwankwo Nwaezeigwe his friend had every sense of belief that his late Igbo friend had visited him from the land of the dead. So he refused to open the door informing him that the Lawrence he knew was dead. After several fruitless attempts to convince his friend that he was not dead, he decided to sleep on the table outside the house.
Early in the morning when his friend opened his door, he saw my father dozing on the table outside. He shouted, Lawrence so you are alive! Immediately he took my father inside the house and informed him he was doing it at the risk of his life because the order was that anybody found hiding any Igbo should be killed as well. He however informed my father that already some survivors were being gathered at the Police Station for safety and that he would do all he could to safely take him them.
My father took his bath and was provided breakfast. He was thereafter concealed at the back-seat of his friend’s car covered as a Muslim woman and driven to Bauchi Police Station, where he joined the throng of Igbo people including the wounded. His cousin Mr. Mgbede of Achalla-Ibusa who was married to a daughter of Ashibuogwu my maternal Grandmother’s relation at Umuosowe, Umuodafe Quarters, Ibusa, was not so lucky. He was blockaded in his car while fleeing from Bauchi, dragged out and hacked to death. It was from the Police Station that they were eventually airlifted to Enugu, from where my father found his way back home westward across the Niger.
I remember the moment he arrived at home the kind of tumultuous celebration that followed in our village. We had rushed back to our village with my mother from Umuosowe village where we were temporarily staying with her mother—my maternal Grandmother—Adaozele. On getting to our village, we met my father bare-bodied, bare-bodied with swollen-feet, and torn pair of trousers in the midst of excited crowd of our family members and villagers. As the celebration was going on, his mother—my paternal Grandmother—Mgboma got hold of a live hen which had been chased and caught for that occasion, smashed it dead on my father’s feet, and forced her tired breast into my father’s mouth to suck—exclaiming: “nwam a natagoo”, “nwam a natagoo” (My son is finally back). My father’s case was not an isolated scene in my town. Many families were in similar mood of jubilation as much as many others were in the mood of sorrow, having either heard of the death of their kinsmen or no news about their whereabouts.
My father was not alone in this stream of Yoruba magnanimity towards their Igbo Southern kinsmen. In one of my previous articles on this subject matter I was rudely informed by a deluded man from Awka that I did not do my research properly and that I should go and read Major Ademoyega’s book when I made reference to Col. Adekunle Fajuyi’s sacrifice of his life in defence of General Aguiyi-Ironsi. I did not have time to remind him that at that moment in question Major Ademoyega was convalescing in Warri Prisons after his boxing bout with Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna in Calabar Prisons over Ifeajuna’s sabotage of the noble objectives of the January 15, 1966 Coup. Strikingly enough, Mrs. Aguiyi-Ironsi during her last ninety-year birthday celebration informed us that his first son who accompanied his father to the ill-fated tour narrated how Fajuyi was resisting the arrest of Aguiyi-Ironsi and subsequently elected to be taken along with him.
Brigadier-General Benjamin Adekunle—Black Scorpion was nearly killed by Murtala Mohammed for providing safe-passage for his besieged Igbo compatriots during the July 29, 1966 counter-coup. He was later relieved his post as Commander of 3rd Marine Commandos because of his unilateral withdrawal from Owerri Sector to save Biafra’s lifeline in which he was accused of deliberately leading Federal troops into vantage positions of the Biafran troops. The then Col. Olusegun Obasanjo assisted by Major Bajowa prevented the Igbo from being massacred at Ibadan by Hausa-Fulani elements who were subsequently quarantined for that reason.
The then Acting Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan after the exit of Prof; Kenneth Dike, Prof. J. F. Ade-Ajayi paid all the Igbo Staff of the University four-month-salary advance to enable them go back home when Governor Adebayo ordered the whole Igbo in Western Region to go back to the East after the bomb explosion at the Nigerian Tobacco Company, Ibadan. Chief Obafemi Awolowo later cancelled the expulsion order and ordered both Major Mobolaji Johnson of Lagos State and Col Adebayo of the Western State to protect every Igbo in their territory; yet it was the same Chief Obafemi Awolowo that was continuously vilified as the goddess of Igbo failure in the Civil War just because he refused to be bought into Col Odumegwu Ojukwu’s bogus imperial ambition in the name of fighting for the Igbo.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo instituted the policy of mass hunger against the Igbo they would always shamelessly say. But the question is where in the history of warfare did the feeding of an enemy become a part of war strategy? Were the Igbo themselves not feeding on the flesh of the enemy-Federal troops that crossed their way? The Igbo say: “A bojaba akwa agadi nwanyi, a ga-abochaputa ife n’ime ya” (If we decide to probe deeply into an old woman’s cloth, something messy will definitely be discovered).
For the Igbo any group that did not buy into Col Ojukwu’s inordinate imperial presumptuousness even if opposed to the pogrom of the Igbo was the cause of Biafra’s failure. It has always remained the culture of blame allocation instead of sober reflections over their mistakes in the past—the case of the Yoruba did this against us, the Ijaw and Efik-Ibibio abandoned us, or the Hausa, Fulani and Middle Belt killed Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi and our people. What did the Igbo do to all these groups before their actions? Or does it mean the Igbo have been all the while in Nigeria’s history Angelic in their dispositions to other ethnic groups? Who do you blame for the invasion of a throng of fowls in your compound: the man who brought the termite-infested fire-woods into your compound or the fire-wood itself?
I once asked Chief Anomneze from Orlu in Imo State who was a one-time Patron of Igbo-Speaking Community in Lagos State how he was able to reclaim his large Estate in Ikate, Surulere, Lagos after the Civil War. He informed me that when he was fleeing to the East in the wake of the 1966 Pogrom, he handed over the buildings with their papers to his Yoruba friend; and after the civil war, his friend handed him back the houses with the papers and all the accruing rents collected during the period of his absence, with which he began life anew. Which Igbo can even do such to his fellow Igbo kinsman?
One fact is obvious! The Yoruba are more humane than any other ethnic group in Nigeria and ethnically united as much as they are historically conscious of themselves more than their often boastful Igbo counterpart. E. W. Bovil in his narration of Hugh Clapperton and Richard Lander’s journey through Yorubaland from Badagry in search of the Niger in 1825 described the Yoruba as: “a kindly hospitable people who gathered in thousands to welcome them at each of their stopping places.” From the mouth of Hugh Clapperton himself: “They were a mild and kind people, kind to their wives and children and to one another, and the government, though absolute, is conducted with the greatest mildness.” You can’t speak of Southeast Igboland in the same regard during the same period. Clapperton and Richard Lander with all their escorts should have within a moment of their appearance in the first Igbo village found their body-parts distributed in different soup-pots of their perceived hosts as rare delicacies. So humanitarianism ran through the historical blood vein of every Yoruba man, not by the impartation of European colonialism as is the case with the Igbo. It is therefore an incontrovertible fact that every act of a Yoruba man is founded on the fulcrum of historical construction of his primordial definition of Yoruba personality and not by the act of his association with either the Igbo or any other ethnic group in Nigeria.
This can be explained by the large number of seasoned and celebrated professional historians among the Yoruba who continue even after their retirements from active academic service to oil the wheel of their historical consciousness with nationalistic fervor. Indeed, looking at the first and second generations of Nigerian historians, apart from Kenneth Dike, J. C. Anene, Adiele Afigbo, F. K. Ekechi, Chinweizu, and John Asiegbu, no other class of Igbo historians can match the opulent intellectual harvests of successive Yoruba professional historians of the same class whose scholarly carriage and artistic intellectual craftsmanship have preserved the knowledge of history as a veritable weapon of political mobilization and ethnic consciousness among their people. These are the likes of Samuel Johnson, Saburi Biobaku, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, E. A. Ayandele, S. A. Akintoye, J. A. Atanda, A. B. Aderibigbe, R. A. Adeleye, B. O. Oloruntimehin, Patrick Cole, Bolanle Awe, I. A. Akinjogbin, and Anthony Asiwaju.
The extent of Yoruba pride in the subject of their history is noted by the fact that the Department of History at the University of Ibadan alone has produced five Vice Chancellors of the University, while the Department of History at the University of Lagos has produced two Vice Chancellors of the University. But to the Igbo of Southeast everything about their past is either Akuko-Iro (Folk-tale) or I go-Alusi (Idol Worship as they call it). This has given rise to successive generations of toothless band of decrepit political leadership surrounded by multitudes of insane sentimentally-driven moronic and lame-duck followership that only see their future political survival in Nigeria through the nose of primitive acquisition and accumulation of vainglorious wealth. The question is how far has this vainglorious pursuit of wealth provided the Igbo the path to collective national security, stronger political bargaining power, and pride of place in the collective definition of Nigeria’s nationality question?
There is no denial of the fact that right from the beginning of modern Nigeria the Yoruba have been far ahead of the Igbo in matters of intellectual development and historical assertiveness which have led to their tremendous advancement in ethnic consciousness, profound spiritual maturity and institutional cultural nationalism. And these three forces of political mobilization made the Yoruba to rely heavily on mentorship as the vehicle of recruitment into political and academic leadership against Igbo cliental approach. In other words while the Yoruba see politics as a framework of commonwealth interest, to the Igbo it is a matter of buying and selling, a case of cash and carry in their habitual commercial mentality.
One can clearly see the varying results of these two approaches from the enduring legacy of Awoism compared to Zikism. In other words, while Awoism depicts a political framework guided by a pragmatic ideology that looks inwards in which the leadership pulls his subordinates along as he rises; Zikism depicts a political framework which is lacking in a definitive ideology, and mainly characterized by a leadership that uses its followers as foot-stools for political ascendency. A major consequence of the first pattern is that an Awoist never crashes politically without supporting comrades to his rescue at the eleventh hour. Whereas a Zikist crashes and that often heralds the end of his political adventure, career, and influence.
Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for over four years but he could not influence the simple promotion of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife who later became the Governor of his State, from Director to Permanent Secretary for three consecutive years after the latter was due for promotion and his subordinates were being promoted Permanent Secretaries over and above him. Whenever he met his Vice President kinsman from the same Aguata Local Government Area then to request his assistance over the matter of his stagnation, Dr. Ekwueme’s response was usually “nwa nnaa a wotarom ife ndi ugwu n’eme?” (My brother I don’t understand what these Hausa-Fulani people are doing).
It took an ordinary Hausa-Fulani contractor who was often assisted by Dr. Ezeife to expedite actions on his contract file to break the jinx which a Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of Igbo extraction could not do. One day this Northerner entered Dr. Ezeife’s office and ask him, “Peter, what is happening to you? All your mates and even juniors have become Permanent Secretaries but you’re still a Director.” Dr. Ezeife replied him and said: “My brother I don’t know oh.” The man then said he would help him and immediately gave his name to those that mattered in authority and consequently Dr. Ezeife was promoted to Permanent Secretary not long after.
This is the characteristic clay-footed giantism and lame-duck political carriage of the average Southeast Igbo political leader today who will often desire to drag the politically principled, mentally balanced, ideologically focused and intrepid South-South Igbo political leaders and their energetic people into their whirlpool of political servility and dysfunctional ethnic consciousness. This is kind of people that want us to support them become President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the kind of people that would first seek the permission of the Sultan of Sokoto before he appoints his brother to a responsible position.
The point of fact is that neither my father nor other victims of the 1966 pogrom, including subsequent victims of latter-day Hausa-Fulani victims, as well as the trending murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen, suffered this act of decimation because one Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu— a West Niger Igbo from Okpanam in Delta State led the coup of January 15, 1966 or because he killed Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sarduana of Sokoto in the process. For if that be the basis of judgment, what then should have been the reason for singling out the Igbo to be massacred in both the Jos riots of 1945 and Kano riots of 1953 when they were by every sense of judgment never the reason for the riots?
Major Kaduna Nzeogwu was explicit on the question of the ethnic dimension of the January 15, 1966 coup when he stated:
“In the North no! In the South, yes! We were five in number, and initially we knew quite clearly what we wanted to do. We had a short list of people who were either undesirable for the future progress of the country or who by their positions at the time had to be sacrificed for peace and stability. Tribal considerations were completely out of our minds at this stage. But we had a set-back in the execution. Both of us in the North did our best. But the other three who were stationed in the South failed because of incompetence and misguided considerations in the eleventh hour. … The Mid-West was never a big problem. But in the East, our major target, nothing practically was done. He and the others let us down.”
Or could it equally be said that it was Major Nzeogwu that promulgated the Unification Decree of May 1966 which heralded the pogrom of the Igbo that year? But the gullible and historically ignorant Igbo of the Southeast will always point at Major Nzeogwu—that noble man of valour as the cause of their political woes without going down memory-lane to understand the sequence of events in the country before and after the January 15, 1966 coup.
One fact remains steadily in my mind. If I find myself in the trenches tomorrow fighting, with my fellow Igbo kinsman from the Southeast shooting from behind, I will always look back every moment I hear the sound of his gun-shot to ascertain when he “mistakenly” points his gun at me. But this is not the case with my Yoruba, Edo, Ijaw, Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri and even Middle Belt kinsmen. Because I fully know like we West Niger Igbo do, that when these people set out for a collective objective they pursue it to its logical conclusion.
When Major Nzeogwu set out to plan and execute his 1966 coup he did not express any atom of equivocation. The same instance applies to Major Gideon Orkar, Col. Tony Nyam, and Chief Great Ogboru. These are men history will always enjoin us to emulate and celebrate and not those whose perpetual inclination to politics is founded on how to accumulate filthy wealth which their children will not even be able to manage after their death at the cost of the collective future of their ethnic group; those whose ancestors collapsed like pack of words before the invading British Colonial Forces as did Sokoto Caliphate before the troops of Lord Lugard in 1903.
The West Niger Igbo collectively resolved to resist the British invaders and our ancestors—the Bearers of the celebrated Anti-British Ekumeku Resistant Movement did it in a style and way which no other Igbo sub-group across the Niger can boast of. We came into the Nigerian Civil War as willing but circumstantial mercenaries for our besieged kinsmen and we equally distinguished ourselves as the best and trusted field commanders and troops of the Biafran Armed Forces.
Even after the Col Ojukwu had spilled the milk of trust between us and our Edo neighbours through the ill-fated Biafran invasion of Midwest in August 1967 and our people were abandoned to their fate as they did the Ikwerre, Etche and other Igbo of the present Rivers State, which resulted to retaliatory massacre of our people, our gallant kinsmen returned again in April 1968 for the second Biafran invasion of the Midwest and stayed put digging it out with the Federal troops until they heard of the surrender of the Southeast Biafran forces.
The likes of Captain Onwuenweoyi Uwaechue a.k.a Oliewunaji—a brave and undaunted Biafran commander from Umuodafe Quarters, Ibusa, assisted by another brave Biafran officer of Ibusa origin Lt. Anikamgbolu Okolichi from Ogbeowele Ibusa led the Biafran Army Company of mainly Ibusa origin to make Ibusa unsettled for the 70 Battalion of the Federal Troops stationed there till the end of the Civil War. Indeed Ibusa elders had to send emissaries to the bush to inform them that the war had ended and begged them to drop their arms and stop fighting.
If the Igbo are ever claimed to have dominated the officer corps of the Nigerian army before the Civil War, it was indeed the West Niger Igbo. My town—Ibusa alone had three Colonels—Okwechime, Igboba, and Nwajei, and Majors Emelifeonwu and Okonkwo who became Ojukwu’s Administrator of the ill-fated Republic of Benin, among other subaltern officers and other ranks.
We had Nwawo, Keshi, Morah, Ochei, Okonweze, Nzefili, and Trimingham all Colonels of the Nigerian Army, including Major Chukwurah before the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War. All these fine men of valour lost their pride of place in the Nigerian Army just because some group of Igbo people from the Southeast felt that an Nzeogwu from Midwest should not be allowed to be a hero in Nigeria. Name the number of the whole Colonels in the entire Southeast at the time and see if they equaled ours by proportion of population. Even in Okpanam where Major Nzeogwu came from, he was not alone; Major Asoya who distinguished himself as a brilliant Biafran Commander equally comes from there. We need not speak of Col. J.O.G. Achuzia—the most celebrated of all Biafran Commanders who abandoned his lucrative command position as a mercenary with the Lebanese Christian Militia to sacrifice all for the liberation of our kinsmen east of the Niger.
Even in recent times the West Niger Igbo even though suppressed on account of being Igbo are still there to prove their martial prowess. Brigadier-General Cyril Iweze from Ishiagu remained the most celebrated ECOMOG Field-Commander of the Nigerian Forces in Liberia. Obi (Col) Emmanuel Nzekwue a.k.a “Animal-Power” from Ibusa remained until his uneventful retirement from the Army, the best and highest Paratroop-Jumper in Africa. I need not mention that Admiral Dele Ezeoba from Ibusa not long ago left the Nigeria Navy as Chief of Naval Staff.
Nobody who knows me at the University of Nigeria will ever qualify me as a coward right from my undergraduate days till present. More than any of my contemporaries, and I stand to be disputed, I have risked my life and sacrificed my time and energy severally through positive actions just to promote equity, justice, and fair-play among the Igbo as an ethnic nation, as well as for the celebrated dignity of University of Nigeria, Nsukka as a foremost international higher institution of learning in Igboland where sub-ethnic bigotry has remained an endemic social virus among the Igbo of Southeast.
Under General Sani Abacha-imposed Prof. G. D. Gomwalk administration of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I was arrested and detained by the DSS at Nsukka, handed over to the Police who detained me for three months at Cell-One State CID Enugu, and subsequently charged to court. I was suspended five times, charged to court five times, and discharged and acquitted five times by the court of competent jurisdiction not for armed robbery, not for 419, not for rape, not for murder, or any other crime, but for defending the Igbo right for justice and equity in Nigeria. I was subsequently dismissed from the same University on account of this not by Prof Gomwalk but a fellow Igboof the Southeast Prof Ginigeme Mbanefoh. Or could the people of Ibusa—the Isu Mba Ogu define me as a coward even before assuming the title of Odogwu of Ibusa. They know that I am one of the symbols of “Charity begins at home.”
When Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was recklessly rampaging on the Igbo abusing every class of Igbo leadership, including vilifying Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu—nee Chief C. C. Onoh no Igbo journalist, politician, or intellectual was bold enough to confront him. It was the same me— a non-core Igbo that some core-Igbo leaders called to put Femi Fani-Kayode in his proper place, which I did with every patriotic diligence, and which not only stopped him from vilifying the Igbo personality but eventually tilted him towards being an Igbo supporter. The records are there online.
So let no Igbo group in the Southeast think the West Niger Igbo are begging for their protection. Rather they should be begging us for their protection. And this is what some of us have been doing by associating ourselves with our Southeast kinsmen and not the vice versa. Indeed, safe for the timely intervention of the Southeast Igbo women manifested by the Aba Women Riot of 1929, the Southeast should not have been liberated from the shackles of British Colonial Indirect Rule System christened “Warrant Chief System” as explained by my noble academic mentor Prof. Adiele Eberechukwu Afigbo of Blessed Memory from Ihube.
When the Yoruba decided on Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) they pursued it to its logical conclusion. When they decided on Amotekun they did not look for external counseling. When the Ijo and other Niger Delta groups resolved to seek redress through militancy they pursued it to its logical conclusion. But when the so-called core-Igbo of the Southeast attempted to emulate these people they were cowered into submission by Sokoto Caliphate. I don’t know the amount of extra-allocation of money or extra development projects from the Federal Government against those States that chose to do the needful for their people that followed this blatant and reckless act of quisling by Southeast Governors against the future of their people.
That the Igbo of Southeast are brave is an obvious truism; but this is so far as it goes with money-making. But when it comes to risking their lives on selfless patriotic thoroughfare for the liberation of their people: Forget it! They will always remind themselves of their primitive accumulations in the banks and vainglorious plots of land and estates they acquired. This explains why they often see every activist with the mindset of being a beggar or jobless. But this is not the case with the Yoruba who celebrate activists more than their politicians and even traditional rulers.
The average Igbo from Aguleri is willing and ready to donate millions of naira to purchase arms and ammunitions to fight and kill his kinsmen in the neighbouring Umuleri over a piece of land that would not cost one tenth of that amount. Yet when it comes to the collective defence of their Igboland, they vanish like mist in the air. And some of them want us—South-South Igbo to be proud of them as one common Igbo family. This can’t be possible. Are the Ikwerre, Etche, and their allied Igbo kinsmen of Rivers State cowards? Just look at Governor Nyesom Nwike of Rivers State and judge.
I decided to dedicated this piece to Bishop (Prof) Funmilayo Adesanya-Davis—a quintessential Yoruba Amazon from Kwara State because like the case of Mr. Bayo Adewoye from Ondo State she proved to me that, just as Herbert Macaulay—a Yoruba provided the political spring-board for the rise of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe into political stardom, the Igbo will never make any headway in their collective journey for political liberation from the shackles of Fulani Feudal Colonialism without the ladder of Yoruba support. I decided to initiate my legal action against President Muhammadu Buhari over his Islamization policy in 2016 after rigorous consultations with a cross-section of Igbo and Yoruba leaders who gave me go-ahead. But when it came to financing of the legal project my Igbo patrons recoiled into their selfish shells.
I remember Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi kanu—one of the rare Igbo patriots that are hard to find, sending me to Enugu to meet one Engineer Okoye—son of Chief F. G.N. Okoye from Anambra State who was then the Chairman of Southeast Economic Council to help me discreetly mobilize financial support for the legal action. Not only did Engineer Okoye refuse his support for my action, but when I informed him I was going to my kinsman in Enugu—Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of the Anglican Communion for assistance, he immediately telephoned to warn Bishop Chukwuma not to put his hands in my legal action. So by the time I arrived at the Bishop’s Court, he already knew my mission at that moment, having known me before then, and emphatically refused to put his hands in it.
My next port of call was a Yoruba man of Delta State origin who after listening to me simply said: “Well Tony if you are really serious about the battle, I will provide you with initial support.” He asked if I had a lawyer already and I said yes. He then called his Personal Assistant, a Yoruba, and gave him a note. He later instructed his Secretary to buy me food while sitting in his office. Within thirty minutes his Personal Assistant returned with a fat brown envelope and handed it over to him. He then called me and said Tony, this is 1.5 million naira. Use it and start off the case and keep me in touch in case of any further assistance. I moved to Enugu and consulted some Igbo leaders about my plan to file the case at the Federal High Court Enugu, but they advised me not to because their Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi would not permit such action against the Federal Government. Thereafter I decided to move to my Home-State Delta where my Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa will be too busy pursuing the welfare of his people to obstruct the defence of the collective interest of the Nigerian Christians by one of his citizens.
Getting to Asaba, I took the money and called one of my supposed Southeast Igbo kinsmen from Isu in Imo State called Kelechi Nnadi who is a lawyer in Asaba and discussed with him about the matter and gave him five hundred thousand naira legal fee advance, two hundred thousand naira for filing costs, and later another two hundred thousand naira as addition to his legal fee. The same Kelechi Nnadi sold me out after he was promised Senior Advocate of Nigeria ‘(SAN) by Federal authorities and consequently invited the DSS to pick me up first at his office, and when that failed, he attempted again at the Federal High Court, Asaba. It took the miraculous appearance of an astute and well-known Edo legal luminary Pa Solomon Asemota SAN, to emerge at the scene and elected to take up the case at no cost before I was able to recover temporarily from the shock of Kelechi Nnadi-inspired DSS onslaught and my subsequent escape from Nigeria. My experience in this instance is legion which cannot all be recounted here.
It was in the midst of this Kelechi Nnadi-inspired DSS onslaught that I received a telephone call from Bishop (Prof) Funmilayo Adesanya-Davis who was then a Professor at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) but later became the Presidential Candidate of Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA) during the last Presidential election, inviting me to address Congregation of Christian leaders at Port Harcourt. I drove straight from Nsukka to Port Harcourt and addressed the group acquainting them of my legal action and the general trend of Islamization in Nigeria from my professional point of view as a historian of both Nigerian and Middle East Conflicts. They subsequently elected to offer me their support, gave some money for fueling, and linked me up to some Christian lawyers who subsequently joined Pa Solomon Asemota SAN in my legal team. It was also within this space of time that Prof Ben Nwabueze, SAN informed Pa Solomon Asemota SAN that he was joining the legal team, thereby assuming professional supremacy as Senior to Pa Asemota before my eventual escape.
When in the course of my present travail Bishop Funmi Adesanya-Davis learnt I was still alive and convalescing in Ghana, she quickly linked up with me and directed me to the benevolent Ghanaian Dr. Phillip Gbonsong who later became the cemen fondu of my escape from Ghana. Not only that she was solely instrumental to the award of honorary Doctor of Divinity and Professorial Chair to me by a United States of America University while still in the jungle of survival. She has since been in constant touch with me with her noble assistance.
So let those gullible Southeast Igbo dunderheads not believe that with all these gory experiences and knowledge of their Igbo saboteur syndrome one will be proud identifying with them as one common Igbo family. Indeed suffice it to state that the Igbo nation are of two types—those who are “Core” Igbo Saboteurs, and those who are “Peripheral” Igbo saboteurs, if we choose to define the whole Igbo nation as saboteurs. But in reality not all Igbo are saboteurs. The South-South Igbo are not, as the buttocks of the chicken will soon be exposed the more by the wind of time. I could remember what Prof Adiele Afigbo said to me when I visited him in his country-home at Ihube in May 1999 after my dismissal from the University of Nsukka, by Prof Ginigeme Mbanefoh for no offence than the defence of Igbo cause at the University. The same Mbanefoh saw me several times before his death after I was recalled nine years later by the benevolent Venerable (Prof) Chinedu Nebo, and could only utter one type of word repeatedly: “Tony kedu?” (Tony how are you?), and I would always respond: “Odi mma” (It is fine).
Prof Afigbo was then Director, Centre for Igbo Studies, Abia State University, Uturu, the same Centre I later became the pioneer Director at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. When he saw me, he exclaimed: “Nwankwo, your dismissal from University of Nigeria is like the death of Nzeogwu.” I responded by telling him sir, Nzeogwu was killed, but nobody can kill me, except when God decides to take me. And of course God wants me to continue talking and fighting for the collective interest of my people hence the reason for my being alive today in spite of all the schemes of the enemies. Reason why Igbos can never be President in Nigeria. In fact, Yorubas cannot and should not get out of Nigeria to form another Country with Igbos.
Tony Nwazeigwe is former Head, Nigerian
Institute of African Studies/Dept of History& International Studies
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
E-mail: [email protected]