For Years, Nigerian Problems Defy Solutions
By Chukwuemerie Anyene
From secession to restructuring, from revolution to protest against brutality, atrocity, extra-judicial killing, rape, extortion, humiliation, illegal detention, injustice and high-handedness. The deviation from normal and changing from moral to immoral standards are caused by greed.
The Former Secretary to the Anambra State Government (SSG), Osaeloka Obaze recounts that “Today we have great inequality in Nigeria. Increasingly, there is a wide chasm in emoluments and benefits between elected officials and employees in the public and organized public sectors.
Such dichotomies are unacceptable, and are best understood in the context of the lingering strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).”
“As the ASUU strike lingers, our leaders are manifestly indifferent. And we pretend we have a nation. We seem to forget that when the government and ASUU are at an impasse; it is the Nigerian youth and students that suffer. As enriching as the era of information technology and artificial intelligence is, we live in an era of viral false narratives. We live in an era of the bifurcation of trust,” he said.
The complex and composite nature of Nigerian problems have facets like nepotism, embezzlement of public resources, diversion of public fund, and all forms of societal inducement to influence and make somebody change from the societal standard.
However, only financial and moral discipline can set the society free. In other words, the society will begin to follow laid down rules as the standard. In deciphering Nigeria’s challenges, you need not add or subtract from those remarks. Without any apologies, it is what it is! What is written; is written! There you have it.
As Achebe said on the second occasion of his rejecting Nigeria’s National Award, “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone changed. That status quo remains. And it’s on that somber and indignant note that I end these remarks. My task is done. I have flagged the pertinent reminder to those who care about Nigeria.
We need no messages from the wilderness, the dead, or the heavens to remind us of our bane. Let the wise heed the counsel of the wise,” he said.
Probing further is the increase in the prices of goods, fuel hike, and outrageous estimated electricity tariff.
The reality of the present day Nigeria changed as a result of deliberate political action which did create big political units where there were small scattered ones before. Nigeria has hundreds of autonomous communities ranging in size from the Hausa in the north to the vast independent and autonomous village entities in the east.
There are areas of Nigeria where colonialism divided up a single ethnic group among two or even three powers. It did bring together many people that had hitherto gone their several ways. Colonialism gave them language with which to talk to one another. Though it fails to give them a song, it at least gave them a tongue for sighing.
“Ironically, these are not realities foisted or framed as ideological struggles in the days of Socrates, Marx and Kant, but those framed by politics of convenience and political tribalism. Read the latter to mean national polarization triggered by those within the corridors of power and their cohorts. He (Achebe) correctly predicted a military coup.
Though that happenstance was an inexplicable coincidence, he almost got himself into trouble with Nigerian authorities. In two other instances, 2004 and 2011, he rejected high national awards in protestation of the squalid “bankrupt and lawless fiefdom” Nigeria had become.
The revolutionists with focus are not divided along tribal, religious and political lines even with hundreds of languages and culture. Ethnic rivalry and tribal sentiments affect Nigerian existence.
According to Obaze, “We live in an era where tribalism is no longer a corollary of race and ethnicity. Tribalism is now political. This disposition is egregiously dangerous, since it obfuscates the desirable distinction between secular religion and civil rights; as well as the separation of church and state.
The revolutionists of #EndSARS protest really sent a very strong message to the world and it is left for Nigerian Government to do the right thing to avert a repeat of this kind of protest. If not for anything, it taught a bitter lesson that keeping university students out of school and leaving the youths unemployed are security threats to the nation.
A #EndSARS protest was a mirror into the warped and tortured soul of our nation. It unearthed the deep-seated discontent and the grave dangers posed by indifference, levity and neglect.
Today our leaders and our youths live on a parallel universe. That reality is as disconcerting as it is dangerous.
“As I once opined in another forum, “An unseemly, near invisible strand loops together all the dissembling pressures and fissures confronting us. While the strain may seem not so concerted, that gale force is cascading with turbulent convergent speed.
“No one can tell the breaking point or moment when the tornado will touch ground, but the ominous signs and dark clouds are all-too evident. Nigeria today, is an unravelling nation.”
“Against this worrying backdrop, what do Nigerian elders and leaders tell our youths? We call them lazy! And do you know what? We speak of hoodlums as if those perceptibly wretched youths were aliens. We should speak of them for who they truly are — Nigerian hoodlums,” Obaze stated.
Nigerian leaders should know that they have an image to protect while her security agencies should show high level of discipline and professionalism in the discharge of their duty.
The revolution, which brought the first republic to an end, in the form of the deadliest coup, was another event that changed the cause of the history of Nigeria in the 20th century forever. The coup brought the first military head of state to power.
Following a counter-coup, massacre, pogrom or genocide, many easterners resident in the north were killed. There was mass return of easterners from north to their states of origin. Gowon toppled the government of the first military head of state. Killing of easterners resident in the North started again.
There was dismissal of all civil servants from Eastern Nigeria on their failure to return to Lagos. There was rehabilitation day in the East. The meeting of all military leaders of Nigeria was held at Aburi, Ghana. The death of the first military head of state was officially announced. His remains were flown to Umuahia for burial in his home town, Ibeku in Abia State.
The attempts to suppress and erase every sign of the conflict in the public mind, and revise the cause of the Biafran conflict in the historical records seemed like an attempt to decree memory into oblivion as though talking about it would subvert the very basis of Nigeria.
“Presently, several critical factors inherent in the strength of government and good governance are being eroded. Civil or ordered liberties are not being respected. Their cumulative absence or incremental diminutions are usually troubling signals of dysfunctionalism in governance or the incipience of even more egregious challenges.
“Let there be no doubt whatsoever, that factors for validating strength of government remain largely unchanged and include; performance legitimacy, competence, integrity, upholding law and order as well as the responsibility to protect citizens’ rights and accommodation of the opposition and tolerance of constructive criticisms and even dissent,” Obaza expressed.
Perhaps it would have. But military decrees are futile when it comes to reflective and sentient men: you cannot inflict pain away when you continue to inflict pain. Igbo had felt themselves very maltreated in post-war Nigeria; they felt that they had borne the heaviest burden of injustice in a contemporary Nigerian nation built on the primitive whims of rent-seeking elite, who had profited on the triumphalist project of silencing and marginalizing the catalytic Igbo, and who had sustained themselves by a divide-and-conquer program.
By projecting the image of the Igbo as the problem of Nigeria, the true problems of Nigeria which are poverty, ignorance, disease and corruption none of which the Igbo had caused.
The unalterable positioning of the Igbo into a national enemy who was not only despised, but had also for decades, denied South-East their right of producing the next president in a country, which their fathers helped in large part to establish.
The mischaracterisation of the Igbo should be blamed on those who had no knowledge of Igbo people. Igbo are republicans who like the truthful, bold and the courageous, no matter where you come from.
Igbo is a nation in itself, dispersed and linked across the nation. Igbo are the glue holding Nigeria together. Igbo are the only group of people in modern Nigeria who had mobilised and fought a war, and therefore had a civilian even if aged, population with field combat experience that could mobilise, train, and deploy logistically and technically.
Igbo had also fought a sustained anti-colonial resistance by means, sometimes of subtle subversion with the mightiest imperial power in the 20th century, and starting with global diaspora network late in the 18th century, just like the writings of Olauda Equiano had laid the grounds for a modern West African political consciousness.
The north accepted the indirect rule system, the west partly accepted it, but in the east, it was a total failure and marred by the Aba Women Riot of 1929. The indirect rule system was the idea of levying the indigenous people through an imposed warrant chief, on behalf of the white man. In 1914, the northern and the southern protectorates were amalgamated.
Nigeria as a nation state has a total area of 923,770km2 and lies between latitude 4 degree and 14 degree north of equator, and Longitude 3 degree and 14 degree east of the Greenwich meridian. She is bounded on the west by the Republic of Benin, on the north by Niger Republic, on the east by Republic of Cameroon, and the south by the Atlantic Ocean (Coastline).
Again, Nigeria is bounded on the north-east by Lake Chad. River Niger and Benue are the two prominent rivers in Nigeria which meet at Lokoja in the present day, Confluence State, Kogi. It was in the River Niger at new Bussa in 1805 that Mongo Park died.
The movement of the vast generation of contemporary Igbo deprived of opportunities and a means of livelihood, discriminated against and isolated by sustained policies, and rendered marginal and hopeless led to the Nigerian/Biafran War.
The nation, at that time of civil war, had two flags; one for Nigeria and one for Biafra. The Eastern Region together with her continental shelf and territorial waters was declared independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.
The civil war had only initiated a new face of war that was soon to engage in destruction with sophisticated ammunition and destructive technological weapons. There was a country at the time the Eastern Region seceded from Nigeria. Biafra became a Republic for three years. Biafra was named after a seaport in Port Harcourt city, Okrika.
The average elevation of Okrika was 452 meters. It lied on the north of Bonny River and on Okrika Island, 35 miles (56 km) upstream from Bight of Biafra.
As Biafra was declared a Republic and became a country, a civil war broke out. It was a war of survival.The Biafran war was the most devastating war that was known up till now in Nigeria. It kept the country in hostile conflict from 1967 1970. The Nigerian/Biafran War was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was locked up in arms.
The war was on in every breast. The rebels burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating. The bands were playing, the bunch firecrackers hissing and spluttering. The young volunteers also marched down the mid avenue in uniforms. Roof were covered with green leaves. Others sew it like clothes to avoid keep away the enemies. The soldiers adopted different postures towards the war.
Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Igbo in Delta, Igbo in Ikwerre of Rivers and Igbanke of Edo, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Edo, Delta, Niger and many other languages which informed their tribes were part of the Eastern Region.
Biafran war was a war of survival, independence and greatness. The Bight of Biafra is in Port Harcourt. Coal is at Enugu while oil is at Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Delta and other Eastern States (south-east and south-south). In Rivers State, there was a town called Obi Igbo meaning the heart of Igbo.
The Anioma people lived in Rivers and Delta. English names like Delta, Rivers and Port Harcourt came into existence when the white man came. Many Europeans construed the history of Europe as paradigmatic for the rest of the world. Other cultures were identified as having reached a stage that Europe itself had already passed: primitive hunting-gatherer, farming, early civilisation, feudalism and modern liberal-capitalism.
Only Europe was considered to have reached the last stage. Meanwhile, there was the partitioning of Africa among Britain, France and Portugal. Colonialism ended with the slave trade after the American War of Independence of 1776. The economic interest shifted to natural resources.
Sunday, with it’s origin in Easter, is considered the holy day because it is the day Jesus Christ rose from death. Christianity stopped the killing of twins, evil forest and ostracism; but the western culture equally passed through this stage.
When all peaceful moves failed and following several other occurrences, civil war broke out in Nigeria. The world leading powers and nations were on the Nigerian side against Biafra.
The armed forces and the executive council were set up in Biafra. University of Nigeria was changed to University of Biafra, Nsukka through a decree. Biafran hour was her time of radio broadcast.
Nigeria troops entered Ogoja.
Christopher Okigbo, a war-poet, died in the battle field at Enugu. The war-poets who wanted the war in the beginning marched gaily to the battle field, singing songs of patriotism, heroism and glory but the horror of fighting in the trenches between Biafra and Nigeria made these patriotic poets to adopt a peaceful posture towards the war.
The horrible experience of these war-poets left them with the feeling of fear, horror, disillusionment and insecurity. The rebels captured Ore in mid-west. Ifeajuna was tried by the Biafran special tribunal, later convicted and hanged. More than one thousand rebels were reportedly killed by the vandals at Asaba.
Onitsha was invaded by the vandals. Two representatives were sent by Pope John Paul II for peace mission in Nigeria. Biafran currency was introduced during the war. About twenty thousand (20,000) vandals were attacked at Abagana with heavy casualties.
The vandals rearmed, bombarded Port Harcourt and headed to Cross River and the rebels fled the one connecting road to other countries, never to come back again. Bende and Uzuakoli fell to the vandals. The vandals entered Umuahia.
According to Jon Stallworthy, “There is no area of human experience that had generated a wider range of powerful feelings than war: hope and fear, exhilaration and humiliation; hatred not only for the enemies but also for generals, politicians, war-profiteers; love for fellow soldiers, for women and children left behind, for country often and cause occasionally.” The civil war came as a result of the terrible, dehumanising, traumatic and brutalising experiences the crises passed the stage of conflict to violence that later led to a full blown war. It was a time of offensive.
The rebels use of ambush at Abagana and the massive attack at Asaba failed to produce the break though each side desired. And a sense of permanent stalement suggested that this living hell could go on forever. Although the vandals successfully resisted these attacks, they would not have been able later to re-enter the Eastern part and defeat the rebels on their own: for this operation which began with landing in Biafraland, Cameroon participation was all important.
They rearmed and embarked on an aggressive foreign policy which sought to starve the rebels to submission. Although the mercenary assisted them, they lost substantial part of their oil rich territory and a greater portion of their national wealth.
The death and sufferings of soldiers; violence, oppression and destruction of property had made the vandals and the rebels to adopt a peaceful posture even, but over three million lives were lost. The war kept them locked up in constant brutal hostility for three years. The war front was established between Biafra and Nigeria, with both sides dug-in and making repeated, costly, and general attempts to advance.
The rebels use of ambush at the battle at Abagana and the massive attack at Asaba failed to produce a break though each side desired. Desolate war-scarred landscapes with blasted trees and mud everywhere, forests half-filled with water and infested with rats; miles of protective barbed wire stung out requiring to be cut by individual volunteers crawling through machines gun fire to reach it before any advance could begin long-continued massive bombardments by artillery.
And a sense of permanent statement suggested to the soldiers involved that this living hell could go on forever. All these experiences were kept away from people at home as they were lied to and were only told the news about glories, progress and victory in various war fronts.
So, they didn’t want this living hell to go on forever. The spirit of nationalism, patriotism, heroism, and bravery witnessed in the beginning of the war in 1967 had by 1970 died away and there was need for ceasefire.
The attitude of the soldiers from the beginning till after the war was not the same. Some were patriotic, others, shortly after, saw the war as something horrible and became disillusioned with the war, yet another saw the war as pitiable. The death of soldiers in the field was no longer honourable.
There were those that wanted the war, those that were disinterested in the war and those that never wanted the war. There was ceasefire. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Gowon were invited at Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Committees meeting in Niamey. Addis Ababa peace talks began.
Ojukwu handed over to his second, Phillip Effiong and headed to Ivory Coast for a peace talk. The two sides were fed up with ethnic bickering, hatred, rivalry, anger, bitterness and rancour.
The war caused a total depravity to women as their husbands were detached from them. Most of the soldiers that fought during the war lost their lives. The major cause of the secession was genocide, massacre, pogrom, injustice marginalisation, nepotism, tribalism, ethnic bickering, rivalry, anger, bitterness and rancour; and lack of confidence in government.
Federal character replaced meritocracy. “While government seeks to rein in the social media, it overlooks its own limitations arising from doublespeak, preferential and discriminating policies and lack of transparency in managing the nation’s natural resources.
We should interrogate rigorously, why Oil – a liquid mineral found in Bayelsa is deemed commonwealth and subject to 13% derivation; but Gold- a solid mineral found in Zamfara is considered State asset, and not subject to 13% derivation. “If the truth be told, the so-called Nigerian hoodlums are a fitting metaphor for bad governance that has disenfranchised Nigerians and their posterity,” Obaze said.
It took Nigeria the external help of Britain, Cameroon and most countries of the world to re-annex Biafra to Nigeria. Gowon sought the help of Cameroon, but it did cost her a substantial part of her oil rich territory of Bakassi Peninsular. The land was signed away to Cameroon. It was a deal reached by the two countries because of the help that Cameroon gave to the Nigeria during the civil war. The conflict began in 1994 over the oil-rich 1000-square land.
In 1913, there was a colonial agreement between German colonial masters who were overseeing Northern Cameroon and the British who were running the Southern Cameroon. It was agreed that Britain should hand over its territory to Germans, and this included Bakassi.
Cameroon did not allow war foodstuffs to filtrate through Cameroon to Biafra in Eastern Nigeria.
By the agreement, Nigeria was alleged to have agreed with President Ahidjo to extend the delimitation of the maritime boundary between the two countries from point 12 to point G on the British Admiralty Chart No. 3433, which was attached to Maroua.
Biafra existed for three years between 1967-1970 with its currency (Biafran pounds), Flag, National Anthem All Hail Biafra, Consultative Assembly, Armed Forces, universities and other public institutions; under the leadership of the Biafran warlord. As the war ended, Nigeria lost Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
Bakassi issue had been lingering since the era after the civil war until the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at Hague.
The then military head of state had signed the Maroua Declaration with the then Cameroonian president. Another meeting was held in Kano in 1974 at which Nigeria succeeded in marginally shifting the boundary to the east of Ngoh/Coker line, but had not conceded the presence of Cameroon oil rigs in the Calabar channel.
South-East was the most devastated before, during and after the war. The rehabilitation policy was not implemented in that territory.