Fred Ezeh, Abuja Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Friday, took the attention of guests and graduands at the 7th convocation lecture of the headquarters of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Obasanjo was the first PhD graduate of NOUN, having successfully completed his academic and other research works, that aimed him the doctorate degree…
By Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo
In Igbo folklore, a story is told of a certain Udekwe Uyadi, who was brutally slaughtered by his people during an inter-communal war with their neighbouring community. His road to the grave was foretold by the Chief Priest of Idemmili. Ani-Ukwu was a very large parcel of land between the two communities. Over the years, control and ownership of this parcel of land had always spurned bitter skirmishes between Obodo-Ani and Odumagu. Obodo-ani’s claim to that land was anchored on the fact that their forebears were buried there and by tradition, you cannot bury any person in a land not owned by him. Odumagu, a vicious and diabolic brood of warriors, whose origin is not shrouded in controversy sojourned to that part of the world several years ago. The elders of Obodo-Ani, had out of compassion, given the sojourners the northern end of Ani-Ukwu to settle. In the course of time, the Odumagus began to expand and soon both communities began to inter-marry. Udekwe Uyadi’s mother was from Odumagu and in Igbo parlance, he was the “nwadi-ani” of Odumagu.
By Igbo cosmology, the nwadi-ani is assumed to have a stake in his mother’s place and he is expected to show compassion in matters concerning his mother’s home land. Hostilities between both communities had begun again and now emotions were running high. A new generation of Obodo-Ani youths had risen in both power and wealth and were asking very fundamental questions. Odumagu had over the years sustained their encroachment into Ani-Ukwu despite several warnings and peace engagements with theirs hosts. The emerging generation of Obodo-Ani wanted Odumagu to return to the boundary their forebears gave them but Odumagu would hear none of that. Why would they listen? They had appropriated the cash crops of Obodo-Ani, which they sold and became rich. They were in strategic positions in the government and they had weapons with which they could subdue Obodo-Ani.
However, the renewal of hostilities brought new configurations to the fore. Meetings upon meetings were held in both communities to broker peace but no ice was cut. In an exclusive meeting held by Obodo-Ani, the Chief Priest had warned of impending danger and the ensuing betrayal by one of them. Obodo-Ani was in turmoil. Each time they held secret meeting, Odumagu would hear of their resolutions even before the meeting dismisses. Who was responsible? It was Udekwe Uyadi. He would normally travel to his maternal home on his bicycle very early in the morning after such secret meetings and would divulge the decisions of the meeting to his mother’s kinsmen. On this particular day, information came that the mole in their midst was Udekwe Uyadi. A group of four men went and ambushed him on his way back from Odumagu and murdered him. That was the end of sabotage and in the ensuing war over ownership of Ani-Ukwu, Obodo-Ani prevailed.
I have told the foregoing story merely to show that the contest for survival by any group of people is always fraught with the activities of quislings and saboteurs like Udekwe Uyadi. As a matter of fact, conspiracy, sabotage and treachery are some of the basest tendencies writ large on society in the contest for survival. It is a permanent feature of human existence. Throughout history, we see this trend repeated over and over again; yet many people refuse to learn from it.
Sabotage is a deliberate action perpetrated by enemies of a movement or process. The aim of any saboteur is to weaken the struggle or agitation; and disrupt the narrative of oppression. In some cases, such saboteurs deliberately try to conceal their identities; at other times they act with a certain degree of braggadocio in the hope that their sponsors will save them in times of trouble. Maximo Guillermo, better known as Max Manu, was one such saboteur. He was Norwegian by birth and fought on the Norwegian side briefly, as a freedom fighter but was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941. He eventually escaped to the United Kingdom and later came back as a saboteur. In June 1942, German submarines dropped off four soldiers in Long Island and northern Florida, but one of the men developed cold feet and turned himself over to the FBI and became a saboteur to the German cause.
In the Bible, we read about a certain Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. We also read about Achan who betrayed the nation of Israel after the demolition of Jericho. There is also the story of Gehazi who betrayed the trust Prophet Elisha had in him. During the Nigeria-Biafra war, we saw and heard of several saboteurs and traitors that undermined the efforts of our people. One common thread with traitors and betrayers is their sad ending. Max Manus suffered from nightmares, alcoholism and bouts of depression, following his activities as a saboteur. Judas Iscariot hanged himself and could not complete the commission entrusted into his hands. Achan and his family were stoned to death and Gehazi and his descendants had to suffer from leprosy.
Today, in Nigeria, Ndigbo are again in the centre of the storm. Their crime? They are asking for self-determination or at worst radical fiscal restructuring of the country where the Igbo would be in control of their destiny. In this Igbo agitation for a better deal in Nigeria, our son, Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPoB) insist on self-determination as the only way forward. Just like me, Kanu has been subjected to harrowing experiences in the Nigerian gulag for daring to ask for the state of Biafra. On May 30, 2017, IPoB achieved a milestone when its directive for Ndigbo both at home and in the Diaspora to sit at home was complied with. The success of that directive culminated in the issuance of quit notice by the North to Ndigbo living in the northern parts of Nigeria.
The plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria is very obvious to even the blind. We are the only tribe in Africa where over four million of her people were slaughtered in cold blood in a state-sponsored genocidal pogrom. We have endured economic genocide and physical genocide. Our political space has been abandoned; our roads are the worst in the country and our farms have been over-run by Fulani herdsmen- armed with sophisticated weapons. We have been driven into aggressive demand of our freedom in Nigeria. The Nigerian state has done everything in its power to reduce our demographic strength. We have been shortchanged at every turn. Nnamdi Kanu asked for Biafra and he is detained and charged for treason but the Arewa Youths issued a quit notice, which in real terms amounts to the creation of a new Nigerian state without the Igbo, and despite executive orders for their arrest none of them has been arrested till date.
Yet in the avalanche of the foregoing atrocities against the Igbo nation, there are still Ndigbo who are type cast quislings and betrayers to the Igbo cause. These Igbo quislings and saboteurs occupy prominent positions and their chief presides over the king’s court in Imo State. He has undermined the Igbo cause in ways that demand the Achan response. And here I want to ask: Does anybody need to be a rocket scientist to understand that Ndigbo are the object of high-wire conspiracy and hatred? Why would someone who lays claim to leadership of one of the most sophisticated Igbo states choose to play Gehazi in our quest for survival?
I am an elder statesman and my duty as a soldier of Igbo freedom, even in this my old age is to point the way forward for our people. My grey hairs are hairs of wisdom and I can only advise those whose hands look like monkeys to remove their hands from our pot of soup before strangers come and accuse us as cannibals. One of my sons has written extensively on this issue and I agree with him that we cannot buy our freedom in Nigeria at the cost of our conscience. Traitors beware!!!
• Nwankwo wrote in from Enugu.