What Threat can Igbos pose to Niger-Deltans?

I was discussing with an East African Indian, who has widely travelled across Black Africa about the failure of highly endowed countries like Nigeria earlier today (18th April, 2006) and he opined that our problem is lack of Education. I have no doubt that this is the general notion as can be seen from our craze for paper certificates at all costs, but the reality as I explained to my Indian friend is that those who are educated are actually the problem we have. The views of Grade-One Clark as expressed in his Igbos' quest to annex the Niger-Delta (Vanguard, 18th April, 2006) and those of many others who use their education as a weapon of mass deceits and incitements rather than for better understanding, clearly vindicate my point. Anyone bordered about this should note that despite the number of Universities in Nigeria having risen to well over 70 and a good number of our graduates making waves across the world that we have still to make any meaningful progress as a nation-state. It may also interest us to know that Nigeria appears to have more national newspapers than the UK yet; the lowest selling newspaper in UK probably outsells all the national newspapers in Nigeria combined because our people acquire education as a weapon to fight ancient village battles which their fathers had forgotten about. The real problem of the Black race in general which has manifested in our inability to build any successful society anywhere on this planet is our inability to organise ourselves or for different ethnic groups among us to devise a means of co-existing. And this debilitating factor has not been helped in anyway by the fact that we now have substantial numbers of supposedly enlightened men and women who have chains of degrees under their belts.

Rather than promote greater understanding among local communities most educated black people have been more instrumental in promoting divisions by way of primitive incitements. What education has brought to us is mainly primitive political awareness. Not political awareness in terms of fighting against corruption at all levels, but harnessing remote and irrelevant communal stereotypes and disputes for selfish political gains.

My greatest concern over the above article is not that it is the worst we have heard or read about Ndi Igbo versus their Eastern minorities neighbours. Of course, we all know about the pre-independence fears of domination and the civil war dirty roles of some dubious ones and most recently the very pitiable claims by Elechi Amadi in the Oputa panel about not being an Igbo man despite bearing an Igbo name and the  language. One is however worried here because we reasonably should have past this stage of reasoning. Recent experiences in Nigeria ought to have thought any enlightened person that our general problems of injustice (or marginalisation if you like) and backwardness cannot be attributed to any ethnic group or individuals. Yes, those of us of southern origin who had condemned the northerners as incompetent and corrupt ought to have changed their stance now. A Yoruba man having enjoyed the greatest level of legitimacy known in our history and above all, unprecedented inflow of revenue for about 7years has proved worse in all aspects than any other ruler in Nigeria's history. The fact that Obasanjo's regime with all the revenues flowing from oil as well as those from dubious privatisations has performed most abysmally by all standards can only be disputed by rogues and idiots who judge by what some dubious  local and western media say. Ten folds of all those things we complained about Hausa/Fulani rulers have long been surpassed by Obasanjo. Is it ethnic bigotry, marginalisation of other sections of the country, corruption or brutality/suppressions of opposition?  Are we really a thinking people?

Even if the Obasanjo example cannot be enough to change the twisted view of Mr. Clark that Ndi-Igbo are the greatest threat to his Niger Delta people, may he kindly direct his mind to the affairs of his state government by way of how the unprecedented amount of resources that have accrued to his state since these years of oil boom have been used. If his state governor has been able to distribute state government resources in any way near to equitable and have not dishonestly appropriated over 70% of the resources, the world would have since heard of him as the most honest leader in Black Africa. Whether we want to be reasonable or not, the crucial issue here is that no Igbo man (whether in the pre-independence or during the Biafran struggle has ever maltreated any group in the so-called Niger Delta region as their best governors are doing today. Of course this is not peculiar to the so-called Niger Delta as it is a national disaster. Maybe, I should cite an example with my home state Ebonyi where its governor was popularly elected by the old Abakaliki being the super majority in the new state based on the sentiment that the people had been wickedly marginalised in the past when they shared states with the present Anambra and Enugu states and needed to produce the first governor to correct the situation. Despite the fact that Sam Egwu comes from the super minority of the Abakalikis, he was supported by the generality of the people, but since may 1999 , he has not only been running the state government like his private estate, but has most primitively been striving to convert his minority people into a majority which would dominate the Abakaliki zone forever. This example is clearly relevant here, because it highlights the seeming endless manifestation of ethnic or sectional conflicts among us in whatever administrative structure we find ourselves. It shamefully tends to vindicate the white supremacists views which justified slavery and colonialism on the ground that we are unable to organise ourselves and co-exist peacefully. Sadly enough, we have not been able to prove that we are indeed not inferior race and our elites largely own the blame for their irresponsible leadership.

The key lesson we have refused to learn from our colonial masters is that a human society cannot exist without an effective judicial system. And it is this effective judicial system which is responsible for the greatness of the western societies and not their white skin. It is the existence of an effective judicial system which breeds trust and co-operation among different ethnic groups that make up the various western societies we all glorify today. The United Kingdom has been successfully existing as 4 countries in one without civil war because they operate a transparent system which of course is based on effective judicial system. In the UK, people from Scotland are not borthered about having an English premier because it would not cause them any deprivation. Gordon Brown will probably become the next Premier not because his Scottish kinsmen are agitating to have a shot at no. 10 Downing Street (the seat of government of Britain), but because he is considered competent by the majority of the labour party and the country in general. Despite the fact that England is about 80% of the UK and can actually rule forever, we do not see such tussle to be prime minister. What elites in Nigeria should be pursuing rather than ethnic based presidency is the enthronement of a system of rule of law and respect for human rights.

We all need a Nigeria where it would not matter whether the president is an Igbo man or Ijaw man for the common man in Iboko or Ikot-Ekpene to enjoy equality and fairness in the system. This is not a difficult and unattainable situation if only our elites could shelve selfishness and primitive instincts and pursue wider issues of greater general good. I had in a previous article made the point that building a successful Nigeria will be much easier to attain in peace if our elites could begin to build from the ground. Yes, let all the ethno-political organisations call it Ohaneze, Afenifere, Arewa or whatever the so-called Niger Deltans call their own first of all start that ideal Nigeria from their respective home bases. Key individual opinion leaders like Mr Clark should equally consider eradicating similar acts of injustices and acts of official wickedness which his people dread from the Igbos in his local and state government first before worrying about the federal level. After all, the Niger Deltans, if indeed there is any group like that in Nigeria(I mean that title is as fake as Nigeria) would be a more cohesive and formidable force against their supposed Igbo enemies only if they are united and devoid of grudges among themselves. Unity and progress at the national level will never be attained unless there are united blocks of ethnic and sectional groups. And it will be idiocy for any none Igbo of old Eastern Nigeria to still be thinking in the year 2006 that Igbo people are greater threat to his people  than any other group in Nigeria. The common sense fact is that people who exist in one   geographical location share a destiny and this wisdom was rightly heeded by Gen. Philip Effiong who refused to be bought over against his own people. Nigeria will only survive not even if we pretend to understand ourselves and live in peace today, but only if we devise a method of co-existing,  addressing with effective laws (not suppressing) genuine fears of ethnic or sectional marginalisation and all acts of abuses of  public offices at all levels.


John Iteshi
Bermondsey, London.
18th April, 2006.
(izhiogoagbo@yahoo.com)