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Ndiigbo, Oil Subsidy & Other Removals By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

Several times in the past week, I have had reasons to cry out, “Emeka Ojukwu, where are you?”
The slaughtering of Ndiigbo in Northern Nigeria has continued. It happens in their places of business, in churches and in their homes. Even men planning to bury those killed days before are being killed. Those who survived the killings in other parts of the North are being killed in the new places they ran to. Nowhere is safe for the Igbo in the North.

Several times in the past week, I have had reasons to cry out, “Emeka Ojukwu, where are you?”
The slaughtering of Ndiigbo in Northern Nigeria has continued. It happens in their places of business, in churches and in their homes. Even men planning to bury those killed days before are being killed. Those who survived the killings in other parts of the North are being killed in the new places they ran to. Nowhere is safe for the Igbo in the North.

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I could not help but think back to the coup of January 15, 1966. That was when low ranked military officers, most of them, Igbo, planned and executed a coup, in most cases with the assistance of Northern troops. In the cause of the coup, some non-Igbo political leaders were killed. It led to the massacre of Igbo people in the North. In a counter coup that followed six months after, Igbo officers in Nigerian military were massacred.
The argument made by the killers of Ndiigbo in the North was that the coup was an ‘Igbo coup’ and that they were revenging the death of some northern political leaders. In essence, that Igbo people had a meeting and planned a coup during which they decided to kill non-Igbo leaders.
We all know how it all ended. The killing had to stop and the man who drew a line in the sand was the same man who helped to squash the so-called Igbo coup- Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu of the Nigerian army.
The killing of the Igbo has continued ever since, though there hasn’t been another of the so-called Igbo coup since 1966.
Only a few people will remember that before the 1966 coup, even before the 1953 killings of the Igbo in Kano, right inside the Northern House of Assembly, there were speeches and plans aimed at removing Ndiigbo from the North.
Here is how I captured the mood in my essay,” Jabotinsky, Zionism & the Biafran Imperative.”
“Northern Nigeria of 1962 and 1963 was very hostile to the Igbo. "Igbo-must-go" was a campaign many Northern political elite were encouraging. In existence was a Sardauna Brigade, a paramilitary organization maintained as a private army by the then Premier of Northern Nigeria but used as an instrument to intimidate the Igbo, especially after the controversial National Census of 1962-1963 that Igbo amongst other Nigerians contested the population figures produced by the North. In speeches after speeches at the Northern House of Assembly, antagonisms against the Igbo were building up. There were calls to revoke all Certificates of Occupancy from the hands of the Igbo resident in the region. To-do-away-with-Igbo became the region's policy. In a 1964 speech in the House, Alhaji Usman Lima declared,
“Mr. Chairman, the North is for Northerners, East is for Easterners, West is for Westerners and the Federation is for all.”
The house applauded him.
“And so was Alhaji Mustafa Ismaila Zanna Dujuna who declared that “First Northerners, second expatriates and third, non-northerners.”
“These outbursts, prelude to the war were not simply dissident voices. Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gashash, O.B.E, Minister of Land and Survey, told the house the following, “I would like to assure Members that having heard their demands about Ibos holding land in Northern Nigeria, my ministry will do all it can to see that the demands of Members are met. How to do this, when to do it, all these should not be disclosed. In the course, you will all see what will happen.” During this time, NPC, the northern political party published “SALAMA: Facts must be faced,” a booklet that launched a vicious and devastating attack on the Igbo. At the same time, the government of Western Nigeria published UPGAISM. This booklet blamed Igbo strangers of exploiting the land and resources of the Western Region. What followed was the purging of the Igbo from government positions.”
Here is Ahmadu Bello espousing the same view.
Over 40 years after, the killings have continued unabated. The goal is still the same – to remove the Igbo from Northern Nigeria. What has changed is that the official North now wants the Igbo not to blame all of the North for the killings but rather some renegades who do not represent the North.
Oh, another thing that changed is that now Gov. of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, is pledging to pay for the burial of 22 Igbo men killed in Mubi. Unlike before, they will not be buried in mass graves. Hurrah! Their children, wives, dependants, well, those ones can fend for themselves. The state does not feel any responsibility to them. When states do not compensate for lost properties destroyed in riots, how can they contemplate compensation for lost lives?
I have not heard the North apologize for using as excuse the military coup of January 15, 1966 to kill thousands of Igbo people who knew nothing about the coup. I have not seen Northerners on the street protesting the constant killing of the Igbo in their midst. But Gov. Nyako is busy telling the Igbo to stay because his security men have swarm to the place of the last killing. And the security men will relocate to the place of the next killing as soon as it occurs.
All I hear is that the people doing these ‘new killings’ are not Muslims. Some say they are foreigners. Some even say they are just pure evil, but in the meantime, go bury your dead. We will chip in transportation fair.
Emeka Ojukwu, where are you?
Once again, the argument has returned to why, why are Ndiigbo still in the North?
In Maiduguri, tens of thousand of Ndiigbo have left. They first sent their wives and children home. And then, they abandoned their businesses and their properties and left. That is, those that survived. As we speak, abandoned properties of the Igbo litter the landscape of the North. Lives have once again been destroyed.
Still some remain. Why? Who are these people? In what shrine do they worship? Are they dare-devils or simply believers in a noble cause?
I don’t know. But I have contemplated a Nigeria where the Igbo have packed out of the North. The luxurious buses from Onitsha to Kano silenced. The trailers from Kano to Onitsha idle. Sabon Gari settlements taken over by Northerners with churches turned into mosques and hotels turned into meeting rooms. I have wondered if there will still be a basis for Nigeria’s existence after that. I also wondered if other parts of Nigeria will see how the North ‘succeeded’ in ‘removing’ the Igbo and do the same. Where will that leave the concept of a nation?
To a large extent, that we have a country called Nigeria today is because we have Igbo people willing to leave their ancestral homes to relocate to other parts of Nigeria. These brave men and women epitomize the concept of Nigerian nationhood. They are the quintessential Nigerians. They bought the ideals of Nigeria. What happens if they give it up?
Having said all these, I reject in totality the position of some Igbo in the raging fight to reverse the so-called oil subsidy.
Here are some of the arguments out there: why should the Igbo protest when nobody has ever protested the killing of the Igbo in the North? Why should the Igbo protest when the whole protest was a plot to destabilize the government of our brother? Why should the Igbo protest when the protesters are agents of those who benefit from the subsidy? Why should the Igbo protest when the price of petrol has been over N120 in the East for such a long time?
My answers are simple. Why will anyone protest the killing of the Igbo in the North when the Igbo are not protesting and building alliance? Despite what insinuation is out there, the real reason most people are protesting is because this one touched them in their pockets. For me, irrespective of the argument supporters of the subsidy make, all I think is what it means to my Godmother. Nobody has explained to me how she will survive on her merger income with three kids to feed. She needs to be alive to see the new Niger Bridge. If the price of petrol was N120 in the East before the removal of the oil subsidy, I bet you, it has doubled since them. So is the price of food items that come from other parts of Nigeria. So who is shortchanging who?
It hurts to see the Igbo miss a chance to help forge a nation that will be just. For me and for most Nigerians, the issue at stake is beyond subsidy removal. It is an opportunity to remove all the iniquities that have made Nigeria unsafe for everyone, including the Igbo. It is an opportunity to demand a restructuring of Nigeria. I had hoped that the Igbo, with their universal viewpoint, would have seen this wider perspective of this struggle.
But no. Instead, Pius Anyim, Peter Obi and other so-called Igbo leaders are busy having their Mkpuke meetings where they tell lies to themselves. They dream about Igbo presidency come 2015. They swallow more promises of phantom International Airports and bridges to nowhere. As Mr. Obi used to say, “When the premise of the argument is wrong, the conclusion is also wrong.”
For what it is worth, here is a draft of a speech I plan to make at the Nigeria House in New York City on Tuesday, January 10, in support of the Occupy Nigeria movement.
Fellow Nigerians, I came here today to tell you one thing and one thing alone – this is our chance.
This is our chance. It is not our first and only chance. We have had chances before and we blew it. This is our chance. This is our final chance.
In the past, I have maintained that the ideals of Nigeria have not been tried and found wanting; but that the ideals have been found difficult and left untried.
This is our final chance to install the ideals of Nigeria. If we fail this time, the forces of evil, now circling us, will finally overwhelm us.
For those who know but do not care and those who care but do not know, Nigeria is a failed nation that works for the very people who failed it.
Our job is to stop Nigeria from working for those who failed it. We need to do it now. Today. And how do we do that? We do what Martin Luther King Jr. suggested – discomfort the comfortable and comfort the discomforted.
There is no other way. Elections every four years will not take us there. Prayers for a divine intervention are music to the ears of the oppressors.
Yes, Nigeria is an oppressive society. It is not a democracy. It is a feudal system run by feudal lords. In feudal system, “might is right and woe to the weak.” And history tells us that feudal lords never care or ever learn.
By coming out here today, you have shown that you do not condone evil. “One who condones evil,” Dr. King said, “is as guilty as one who perpetuates it.”
It is evil to pay for our corruption with the lives of the most wretched people in our society. It is evil to heap the burden of our inefficiency on the heads of the weakest in our country. It is evil to demand sacrifice from the poorest of our people when the richest amongst us are increasing their indulgences.
The removal of the oil subsidy may have brought us here but we are not going home until all the insanities of our society are wiped away.
We are not going to let up. We are not going to be bribed. We are not going to be cajoled. We have to let them know that they have performed their last abracadabra.
We have to tell them that we know what reducing a salary of $1,000,000 dollars by 50% means. It means that these government officials still make more than twice what President Barack Obama makes. We have to tell them that we know how many people 1600 buses can carry. It can only carry the people who can afford it.
Whatever their argument is, the unassailable truth is that no government anywhere in the world can wake up one day and double the price of fuel. That government will not survive a week in power. That includes governments that provide safety-nets to their impoverished citizens.
They have performed their last abracadabra. This is our chance. This is our final chance.
Let us seize this moment. The society that we left behind is undergoing a massive decay. Posterity will judge us by the action we take. “The hottest places in hell,” Dante said “are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain neutrality.”
By choosing to come here today, the hottest places in hell shall never be your portion. May you continue to be involved. At the end, may posterity count you amongst those who are worthy.
I hereby ask you to repeat after me the words of the English poet, John Maxwell Edmonds, that are engraved in the graveyard of heroes all over world. Heroes, like you, who stood up for what was right - heroes who were willing to pay any price to “restore the dignity as man.”
“When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow
We give our today.”
Thank you.

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