by Tony Nwaezeigwe
The 1967-70 Nigeria Civil War, for the Igbo was a battle of historic survival against the forces of national darkness that roamed in the form of periodic unrestrained anti-Igbo riots and massacres, and subsequently the chilling pogrom of 1969.
It was not only a battle for survival but for the upholding of the Igbo man’s dignity, which, as previously feared got swallowed up by the events of the civil war. Those who supported Biafra did so not because of the capability of the Igbo to win the war against the World Powers-supported Federal might but for the case of conscience.
The likes of Presidents Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Voire, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Papa Doc of Haiti and to some extent Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone, Jomo Kenyata of Kenya, William Tolbert of Liberia, and the French Government of the time did so out of conscience against the forces of darkness that ruled Nigeria at that time. This explains why, even at the final defeat of the Igbo they never abandoned their vanquished friends-turned brothers. Today there are sprawling Igbo populations in these countries with many of them not only becoming full citizens of their host countries, but even playing very important Government roles.
As the Igbo would often say, “no land exists without the presence of the lizard”. So it has become customary to say that no battle takes place without the active roles of saboteurs. The Nigeria civil war, like any such war of its kind no doubt witnessed a number of Igbo citizens playing the Vidkun Quisling role against their own people, sabotaging the survivalist sacrificial efforts of their down-trodden people by supporting the Federal troops, prophesying the doomsday for their people’s struggle for survival.
These people not only celebrated the defeat of their own people but shamelessly rushed to seek Federal Government appointments and contracts while those who sacrificed, endured and survived remained in perpetual penury for decades and for life.
Today, Reverend Ejike Mbaka in the event of General Muhammadu Buhari’s victory presents himself as a champion of God’s prophecy, just because he vaingloriously assumed that his words are the words of God verbatim. But there remain certain clear indices to determine if an event is truly the act of God in the manner a visioner or soothsayer presented it. We know that Ejike Mbaka is from Awgu district in Enugu State and it is not disputable that his people of Enugu State overwhelmingly voted for President Goodluck Jonathan. Secondly, Mbaka should let us know if the massive failure of the Jega’s rigging machine miscalled Card-readers was the act of God. Thirdly, let Father Mbaka tell Nigerians how the God he worships approved the fraudulent permission of under-aged children to vote in the northern part of the country.
For we all know that the God of the Roman Catholic Church of which Reverend Father Mbaka belongs is a just God who hates cheating in whatever form it is presented. Unless Reverend Mbaka is telling us that he has another God other than the one Almighty God we all know and acknowledged.Yes, if the victors said the defeat of Biafra was the act of God, the Igbo could not have denied such a statement, just as the on-going victory of the blood-sucking Islamic State in Syria and the Levante (ISIS/ISIL) and their budding children in Nigeria called Boko Haram could also be attributed to the act of God. Those who truly worship God in truth and spirit through any form or medium truly know that God’s ways are hard to fully predict by mortal man.
For whatever it was worth, the massive Igbo support for President Jonathan was a patriotic call to duty. Yes, President Jonathan might not have met the greater part of our expectations from him as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But for the Igbo, he wiped out the ignominious tears of second-fiddlers in Federal Government affairs. For the first time since the end of the Nigeria civil war, the Igbo occupied in one stroke the positions of Secretary of the Government of the Federation, two Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces at the same time – the Army and Navy.
At least the second Niger Bridge is presently under construction. Beyond these, the massive Igbo support for the President was a cementing force that eventually obliterated the political cancer of rivalry and mutual mistrust between the Igbo and their South-South ethnic brothers that began with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Professor Eyo Ita in the 1950s. Today, the contentious State creation agitation by these neighbours of the Igbo from the defunct Igbo-dominated Eastern Region has been resolved with the existing multiplicity of States.
The civil war has come and gone. But could we say that the reason for which the Igbo took up the arms of defence against the Federal Government no longer exists? The Niger Delta militants took up arms against the Federal Government in defence of their rights and have through that experience chiefly identified who their friends and foes are. Have the Igbo actually identified who their friends and foes are in the matrix of present politics?
The historical experience of any people so oppressed like the Igbo, no matter how checkered it might be, fundamentally calls for reflection and in essence a lesson. The emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria most importantly calls for reflection primarily for the Igbo. It is a matter that evidently put the Igbo on the balance of sustained political principle via-a-vis a taciturn principle of progressive opposition or wobbling edifice of political harlotry.
The present balance of political equation beckons on true Igbo patriots to stand firm and hold the bull of politics by its horn of emerging political challenges. The greatest political disaster the Igbo will attract on themselves is for the crop of her political leaders to aimlessly drift to the soon to emerge ruling APC in the name of being afraid to be in opposition. What is most important for the present political terrain is for both the South East and South-South to further cement the political gains of common solidarity for Jonathan by building a strong force of opposition.
What has become customary in the acquisition of political power in Nigeria today, except for the Igbo, is that ethnic generated conflicts often end in Presidential compensation.
President Olusegun Obasanjo reaped from the blood-watering conflict of June 12 presidential election annulment. President Umar Yar’Adua benefited from the dastard incarceration and eventual death of his senior brother in the hands of General Sani Abacha.
President Goodluck Jonathan invariably reaped from the Niger Delta struggles for economic emancipation. And now, can one deny the fact that General Muhammadu Buhari evidently reaped from the on-going Boko Haram insurgency? What did the Igbo reap from the 30-month long civil war? The Igbo had since the end of the civil war engaged in competitive licking of the political ass of most past Federal Governments except in fact that of President Jonathan. Will this be the case with President Muhammadu Buhari?
Dr. Tony Nwaezeigwe is an acting director, Centre for Igbo Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.