Having repeatedly stated (and re-stated) my distrust of Nnamdi Kanu’s variant of the Biafran struggle, I do not also support this seeming executive desperation to bully the Igbo and their South East zone some more, by hiding under the guise of crushing an otherwise harmless delinquent group.
In fact, if I were to draw a list of the five scariest threats to Nigeria’s unity, in the order of their importance, IPOB would not make the list.
In fact, what many of us have failed to realise is that, rather than Biafra, IPOB, MASSOB, BZM, etc., the greater threat to the continued existence of Nigeria as one united entity is what transpired at Ibadan about four weeks ago; the frightening coalition of the South West and Niger Delta.
Unfortunately, our country’s leadership seems to have this fixation about (and long-standing hatred for) Biafra and the Igbo that it has failed to see the danger that stares us in the face. Even when our own Senate, alongside the United States of America, France, Britain and other forward-looking countries, insist that IPOB does not exactly fit into the mould of a terrorist group, we seem determined to dress the Nnamdi Kanu gang in that borrowed robe. And only yesterday, we obtained a court injunction proscribing it. More like giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it!
It is the same way our leaders are fixated about crude oil. So much so that while China, UK and other buyers of our unrefined crude oil are already setting deadlines to stop usage of even the refined petroleum products, we are still busy committing scarce resources) exploring for more crude oil. From Borno to Yobe and Lake Chad, down to the Gongola mountains and across to the Sokoto Basin – as we desperately seek to sustain our unsustainable renteer economy and ensure that other parts of the country match Niger Delta’s oil, barrel for barrel.
We have been so blinded by our Igbo-phobia and oil-mania that we have failed to notice the danger presented by the renewed consciousness in the South West, which, in addition to being the economic nerve-centre of our country, has also emerged as the newest political kingmakers in our polity. How do I mean? Ask yourself: Could Goodluck Jonathan have been elected president in 2011 without Bola Tinubu and his South West bloc? And in 2015, when the same Tinubu teamed up with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, what happened? Jonathan became history!
That is why I feel sorry for Buhari, as the same clique that could not make him president in CPC (and ANPP) now appears to be appropriating him – and sidelining Tinubu. Well, 2019 is round the corner. It is then that PMB would realise that the little warrant chiefs he thinks he has hoisted within Tinubu’s South-West empire are mere clay-footed gods. But I digress.
So, how did the South West get to where it is today? The answer is simple: ‘Brains’, not ‘brawn’. And I wish the leaders of the East and the North can read between the lines.
The answer is that, unlike in other regions where intellectually lazy leaders have viciously guarded an unsustainable status quo, successive leaders of the South West have remained exceptionally visionary and strategic – and never losing sight of the bigger picture.
Today, we accuse the South West of controlling the economy of the country, as if they should feel sorry for it – or apologise to the rest of the country for our lack of foresight. We forget that their leaders – both past and present – have deliberately made their zone so investment-friendly that every Nigerian who has anything worth anything today, has it in the South West. And I’m not talking about Aliko Dangote alone!
Political descendants of Chief Obafemi Awolowo are not just paying lip-service to Awoism, the way those of Zik, Okpara and the Sardauna have been doing to the respective development agenda articulated by the founding fathers.
Take the example of Lagos for instance: It has had 18 years of unbroken progressive march – from Tinubu to Fashola and now Ambode. Not even the perceived political rift between Tinubu and Fashola or Fashola and Ambode has distracted from that steady march. Today, if you see any abandoned project in Lagos, it’s most likely going to be a federal project. This trend is now percolating down the entire geopolitical zone. Today, despite that Ibikunle Amosun may have pulled out of the ‘political family’, the fact remains that the positives from Lagos have spilled over to Ogun and are catching on in Oyo. Edo and Ondo are gradually coming on board. Osun has since imbibed the gospel – even though it is currently being hindered by a development ambition that is out of sync with its unflattering finances. And even Ekiti, despite its generous dose of stubbornness, still keys into DAWN (Development Agenda for Western Nigeria).
But what happens in other zones? While governors in the South West acquire land and literally donate it to investors – to come plant their investments (industries, private universities, church headquarters, real estate, etc.), their counterparts in the South East acquire same lands and convert them into personal estates for themselves, families and cronies.
While the elite in the South West acquire power to constructively engage the status quo and bring about quantum economic leap for their zone, their counterparts in the East acquire the power to oppress their kinsmen, while those in the North use power to sustain a status quo that has only served to perpetuate poverty and strife. There, power is all about sharing national cake – never about baking it. This is even as the entire North remains an agricultural revolution waiting to happen.
As it stands today, it’s only the South West that can really call the bluff of the rest of us, having, over the years, ‘tricked’ all of us into planting all our treasure trees in their zone.
Of course, they should not expect that the rest of Nigerians would just walk away without a fight. For there’s hardly any village in Nigeria today that does not have an indigene with appreciable investment in Lagos.
And even while the Yoruba are at it, they must also not forget that there are over 20 million Yoruba people in the North. I doubt if the South West is ready to accommodate that extra population when, as K.O. Mbadiwe would say, “the come comes to become”.
All this notwithstanding, I think any Nigerian leader who has any droplet of grey matter inside his skull must look beyond the mild wind represented by IPOB and focus more on the impending Hurricane which the marriage of the South West and Niger Delta portends.
However, rather than unleashing pythons and crocodiles on the zone, I think we should re-think our stiff-neck stance on renegotiating the terms of this Nigerian marriage that seems not to be working for anybody. It is only then that we can genuinely exorcise the ghost of Biafra. For the fuel that fires the struggle for Biafra is the injustice and inequity of the Nigerian system
In the final analysis, however, it would seem we are all better off together as one united Nigeria of over 180 million people. That, alone, is enough to make the world take us serious – if we take ourselves serious.
But to get there, we must come out of our respective prebendal cocoons, rethink our clannishness, remove religion from government and do away with this tribe of neo-Robin Hoods (stealing from the poor and keeping it for themselves) now parading as our leaders.