Why anti-Igbo song can precipitate another massacre

Why Anti-Igbo Song Can Precipitate Another Massacre

By Azuka Onwuka

Nigerian map

There has been subtle and direct rationalisation of the anti-Igbo song spreading in the North in Hausa language, which has demonised the Igbo and said they are the problems of Nigeria. The usual rationalisation is that the “manner” of the agitations for the secession of Biafra from Nigeria by the Indigenous People of Biafra and the verbal attacks from the leader of the group, Mr Nnamdi Kanu, fuelled the anti-Igbo song, and that the Igbo deserve whatever they get because they were warned when the agitations for Biafra started.

Such rationalisation comes from people with a morbid sense of humanity, people who silently pray and wish for the massacre of Igbo. It was the same rationalisation that led to the massacre of Igbo in Northern Nigeria between 1966 and 1967, which eventually culminated in the secession of the Eastern Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra and the 30-month Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970. The rationalisation then was that a coup that was planned and executed by soldiers was an “Igbo coup,” and that Igbo in the North deserved to be dealt with because of the assassination of the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

 

Fifty years after, many of the children of those who directly carried out that ethnic cleansing as well as those who watched without condemning the act still engage in the justification that “Igbo started it” or that “Igbo got what they asked for.” There is a persistent narrative that ensures that anytime that sad part of our history is discussed that the “Igbo” collectively get the blame for the action of some soldiers, even when some of the soldiers that participated in that first coup were from other ethnic groups.

 

It does not even matter that the soldiers did not consult the Igbo before carrying out their coup, neither does it matter that the countercoup of July 1966 by the Northern soldiers eliminated the Head of State, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and other Igbo officers and returned the North back to power. And having seized power and killed some 122 Igbo officers across the barracks, the Northern soldiers were expected to have been assuaged to end the bloodletting. But they did not stop.

 

There have been arguments that even though the 1976 coup was purely executed by soldiers from the Middle-Belt, involving the assassination of the Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, it was seen appropriately as a military coup. Middle-Belt civilians were not massacred. It was not even tagged “Middle-Belt coup.” Rather it is called the Dimka Coup till this day. In the same vein, even though the 1990 coup was executed by mainly soldiers from the Middle-Belt and South-South, with Major Gideon Orkar, Col Tony Nyiam, and Chief Great Ogboru as the arrowheads, the civilians of the Middle-Belt and South-South were not attacked or killed. Also the coup has never been tagged “Middle-Belt-cum-South-South coup.”

 

However, long before the 1966 coup, there have been ethno-religious killings in the North with the targets being Igbo, Southerners and Christians. The first in recorded history was in Jos in 1945 over perceived domination of Southerners, especially in jobs. The second was in 1953 in Kano when the Action Group planned a tour of Kano after the booing of the Northern legislators in Lagos over their rejection of the motion moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro for the independence of Nigeria in 1956. Igbo being the largest ethnic group residing outside their ethnic group were always the major casualties in these riots.

 

There have also been other riots. In fact, before the rise of the Boko Haram, there was always an ethno-religious bloody riot in one part of the North or the other virtually every year. If those riots were blamed on one thing or the other, whom does one blame for the 2006 riots that happened in the North over the cartoons made by Kurt Westergaard in Denmark, or the Miss World riots in 2002 or the visit of German preacher, Reinhard Bonnke, to Kano in 1991 for a revival? What about the attacks on villages and towns in the Middle-Belt and South by the so-called herdsmen? Were they caused by Igbo or by Nnamdi Kanu too? What was done to punish perpetrators? Nothing.

 

Beyond the justification that “Igbo caused the killings visited upon them,” the truth is that there has not been a serious interrogation of the persistent ethno-religious killings that occur in the North in the past seven decades. What is fuelling these killings? How can they be stopped?

Some blame Islam for it. But Northern Nigeria is not more Islamic than Saudi Arabia or Iran or Senegal. These riots in which people of other religion and ethnicity are frequently attacked are not commonplace in such countries. So there should more to it than Islam.

Other people have blamed it on the existence of over 10 million out-of-school children and youths called almajiri. This is a factor, but different commissions of enquiry set up over some of the riots showed that there were adults who organised them. For example, a commission of enquiry reported that the 1953 riot had Mallam Inua Wada of the Northern People’s Congress as its mastermind. The street children may only be used as tools.

Furthermore, if the street children called almajiri are the cause of all the riots in the North, what effort has been made by the North to discontinue the almajiri system or take the children out of the street? Since nothing concrete has been done in this regard, it can be concluded that the North does not see the almajiri as a negative issue to the North.

There are those who believe that the North is “peculiar” and all effort should be made not to “provoke” the North. When a bloody riot occurs in the North, most Nigerians do not blame the North but the victims of the riots for “residing in the North.” Do those who think like this know that their view inadvertently aligns with the position of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB that the North and South of Nigeria are completely different and should not live together? If not, why should someone who preaches “one indivisible Nigeria” blame a Nigerian for residing in any part of his or her country? That is a huge contradiction.

There is no justification for threatening compatriots who live in any part of the country. There is no justification to ask them to leave any part of the nation. Relocation is not the same thing as secession. If the nation can no longer live in peace without frequent bloodshed, it should be partitioned peacefully, so that the different parts can live their lives in peace.

 

Nnamdi Kanu made caustic comments on Radio Biafra before his arrest in 2015. It is reprehensible to attack people’s ethnic group or religion. But Kanu was charged to court for treason and detained for close to two years. He is out on bail, but the case is still in court. So he is facing the music for his words and actions.

The anti-Igbo song and sentiments growing in the North are therefore condemnable. Kanu is not synonymous with Igbo. Kanu is Kanu, Igbo are Igbo. No person should hide under Kanu to plan another massacre of the Igbo or Southerner. Those who nurse such plans should know that they are making the work of the secessionists easier.

Thankfully some men of conscience in the North like former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, have spoken against the anti-Igbo song in unambiguous terms. Other Northern leaders should also condemn the song and the anti-Igbo sentiments. Like Edmund Burke said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

 

One Comment

  1. Chinenye August 21, 2017 Reply

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