Some concerned agencies of government, including the National Orientation Agency and the Ministry of Interior have been reacting very feebly to the hate speeches and hate song from the North directed at the Igbo.
Their reactions miss the point in a very basic way. They have been talking in general terms. The interventions from the two agencies of government give the impression that the North and the Igbo are trading words; that they are hurling abuses at each other or returning insult for insult.
But that is not the way it is. The aggression has been one-sided. The North is attacking the Igbo without a corresponding response from the Igbo. Those who want to condemn what is going on should do so in clear terms. They should take the blame to the doorstep of the aggressor without mincing words. But that is not being done. And that is part of the problem. The authorities are engaging in the passivity of a coward. They are evading the issue. They have not been able to call the spade by its proper name.
The fact of the matter is that the North has been on the offensive through and through. In June, the Arewa youths freely denigrated the Igbo. They exhibited so much hate and resentment for the Igbo. They described the Igbo as stubborn, acrimonious, ungrateful, unruly and uncultured. They also packaged the Igbo as a people with insatiable criminal obsessions. The denunciation was complete with intolerable invectives. When they were done with the verbal assault, they gave the Igbo an October 1 deadline to leave the North. So far, there is no record of any response from the Igbo. Of course, no responsible person should expect the Igbo to respond to such banality. It would be cheap to descend to guttersnipes on account of the irresponsible outburst from the so-called Arewa youths.
Even though right-thinking persons do not expect the Igbo to join issues with the misguided youths of the North, the Igbo seem to be more pre-occupied with the safety of their life and property in the North. Since it has become customary for certain elements in the north to routinely visit the Igbo with an orgy of blood, the Igbo are looking beyond the verbal aggression from their northern traducers. They are smelling danger and they are saying so. The Igbo in the North are also worried about their investments in there. Some of them cannot imagine a life without their hard-earned property. In the face of this harsh reality, some Igbo, particularly those resident in the North, are imagining that they can change the discourse. They have approached some northern governors in the hope that the quit order would be relaxed. In the face of these overtures, the leader of the Arewa youths is feeling somewhat triumphant. He said his group is considering a review of the October 1 quit order on account of this.
However, while these fence-mending efforts are going on, a hateful song calling for genocide against the Igbo wafted out of the North. In the song, the Igbo are called bastards. They are said to be a curse to Nigeria and that they have ruined the country. The message of the hate song is a mass action against the Igbo. At the moment, the song has become a creed in the North. It is being played and rehearsed in homes and public places. The aim is to etch Igbophobism in the minds of all northerners, young and old. It is these hateful speeches and songs that government and its agencies are papering over. Rather than direct their attention to the sources of these odious lyrics, they are side-tracking the issue.
However, anybody who knows the way Nigeria is would hardly be surprised. Everything about this country is inequitable. Whereas the North can get away with blue murder, other segments of Nigeria do not enjoy such liberty. That is why the sins of a section of the country are being made to look like everyone else’s sins. Hypocrisy can never uplift a country. It can only ruin it. That is the unfortunate path Nigerian authorities are treading.
In all of this, there is no response of any sort from the Igbo. What seems to bother the people, as earlier stated, is their property. The hate speeches and hate songs can go on in so far as the safety of their property (not even their lives) is guaranteed. That is how blind material wealth can make a people. South East Governors Forum and Ohanaeze leadership are equally as blind. The governors at their latest meeting in Enugu, which was attended by Ohanaeze leadership, assured the Igbo living in the North that their life and property were safe. Really? Such assurances seem to have conveniently ignored all the threats of bloodletting issuing forth from the North.
Part of the problem here is that the stage has been seized by those who do not have the capacity or temperament for the big issue. This matter, strictly speaking, is between the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Arewa youths. The Arewa youths are up in arms against IPOB. They are infuriated by the audaciousness and effrontery of the Biafran agitators. And they have reacted very inappropriately by issuing a quit order to an entire nation. After the initial braggadocio, the Arewa youths are beginning to come to their senses. While asking the Igbo to leave the North, they declared that they would, by October, begin a process of disengagement from the Nigeria in which they cohabit with the Igbo. By that declaration, the Arewa boys were saying that they want to dissolve the Nigerian union. That would have been interesting to IPOB, were the Arewa boys serious about it. They would have made IPOB’s job easier. But the northern youths must have, by now, realised the foolishness of their declaration. That is why they are hiding under the cover of Igbo property merchants who they said have dissociated themselves from IPOB’s agitation. Only a few days ago, the leader of the Arewa youths, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, said the quit order they issued to the Igbo was backed by prominent northern leaders. In other words, the youths did not act on their own. They are carrying out a regional agenda. That is why it is stupid for anyone, including Ohanaeze and South East Governors Forum, to think that it is still safe for the Igbo to remain in the North on the strength of the assurances coming from complicit northern elders. This self-deceit is too much to be overlooked.
Ohanaeze and South East Governors Forum ought to take the lead. They are supposed to sit back and reflect on the way out of the quagmire. Why are the Igbo the endangered species in Nigeria? The answer is a bit straightforward. Majority of the Igbo, unlike other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, live outside their homeland. They invest massively in these foreign lands and, therefore, feel uncomfortable anytime a situation that will force them home arises. No other ethnic group in Nigeria faces this dilemma.
Ohanaeze leadership and South East Governors Forum ought to initiate the process of fashioning a way out of this unpalatable situation. Making overtures to complicit northern elders so that the Igbo will continue to remain in the North amounts to toeing the line of least resistance. The Igbo must inconvenience themselves if they must free themselves from the present baggage of being a diaspora people. The process of that new life must begin now.