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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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    Growing up as a child in Rigiyar Dorowa area of Sokoto was one of the happiest times of my life, opposite our house were the native Hausa/ Fulani hosts while on our sides were the non-natives 80% of which were Igbos. life was good, pidgin English was the lingua franca and the two other languages we could not do without were Igbo and Hausa and as kids we spoke them fluently nobody thought us we just grew up to speaking the languages as we mingled without segregation.

    I have stayed out the Biafra discussion because I realized that whenever the issue comes up emotions run high while common sense and logical reasoning is always thrown out of the window hence my decision to watch the drama on the sidelines ,As a child who was born, raised and educated in Sokoto, North western Nigeria, I have felt the warmth, kindness and undiluted love of the people, I also understand the thinking’s of a typical northerner haven spent the first 27 years of my life there and as a husband to a lovely Igbo woman and father to kids with some Igbo blood in their veins I also have a stake in the Eastern region.

    Like I asserted in my book the Unseen Terrorist published by Author house in the United Kingdom, telling yourself a lie is like putting a short gun to your head and pulling the trigger in both ways you end up destroying yourself. There are 5 issues we must objectively look at in the ethnic and religious conflict that produced the Biafra agitation, at this point in our nation’s history silence is no longer golden, and history will not be kind to us if we fail to objectively dissect the issue and help the warring parties understand what is truly at stake.

    Issue Number 1: The Tendency of the North to always be Violent

    No one likes living with animals, as Northerner’s we have spilled so much human blood, about 75 % of our innocent and defenseless victims have been the Igbo people and their children, and we have not spared their property also. Once there is any small fight or civil disturbance the next thing a northern miscreant thinks of is how to destroy Igbo property and sniff life out of a fellow human being.
    During the sharia and election crises we killed and destroyed their properties across northern Nigeria, while they were still bleeding from the pains of the civil war and the trauma of abandoned property we continued to make them our number one target at the slightest provocation, these animalistic behavior we have perfected over decades has made living with us a nightmare.
    Even among the so called northerners we have remained extremely violent to ourselves, how do we explain the killings in my home state Benue, how do we rationalize the slaughter by Boko haram in the North East. The Agatu massacre by Fulani herdsmen, their collaborators and silent supporter’s is unexplainable yet we want people to live and coexist with us! Only a mad man will do so without asking questions.

    Issue Number 2: Beneficiaries of the Northern Population.

    The second truth we must tell ourselves is why are the Igbo’s found in the remotest villages of Northern Nigeria, No one has milked the benefits of the Northern population like the Igbo nation truth be told. Unfortunately, majority of Igbo’s and southerners are unwilling to accept the role of the north in developing the Igbo entrepreneurial zeal.
    A vast majority of the Goods and products sold in major south eastern markets like Aba and Onitsha are not consumed in the East they end up in the north, this explains why the volume of cash inflow to the east is at its lowest during Ramadan and crisis period up North, today the Igbo’s control about 70% of the core commercial activity in the North while Northerner’s control less than 3 % in the Eastern region these are facts.
    The Northern population has provided a training ground for many Igbo traders and their trainees who later became masters and continued their commercial exploits , data has shown that a vast majority of real estate especially in major cities in the northern Nigeria are owned by our eastern brothers and sisters thanks to a northern population that was willing to support their enterprise, but to claim the Igbo’s are doing the north a favour by making money in their enclave like some have claimed is taking the insult too far .

    Issue Number 3: Insensitivity to Religious Beliefs on Both sides 

    The complete lack of regard for the religious believe of the typical Muslim is usually the trigger for violence between the Arewa Muslim community and the Igbo nation, it is not unusual to find an Igbo man provocatively gulping a bottle of beer before a fasting Muslim neighbor without recourse to their emotions during Ramadan, the failure and outright refusal of a vast majority of the Igbo community to recognize and respect the religious beliefs of their host communities will continue to be the weakest and most lethal link in this complex relationship.

    On the other hand, the insatiable appetite and perpetual quest to burn churches by arewa miscreants and few educated illiterates is another issue that has hastened the segregation of the nation along ethnic and religious lines, this is because the non-northern Christian population in the north is largely dominated by the Igbo’s 
    Unfortunately, the political elites on both sides see this as a political weapon and often used same to whip up sentiments during elections this explains why elections in Nigeria is never based on issues of development but largely on ethnic propaganda and where you pray.

    Issue Number 4: Demerits of the Biafra agitation and Arewa exit declaration.

    It was Micheal Crichton who said “if you don’t know history you don’t know anything, you are like a leaf who does not know it is part of a tree.” 
    Today Puerto Rico is begging to lose its statehood and join the US as its 51st state, South Sudan the world’s newest nation is currently in coma with no end in sight to the infighting for power by her political elite. It’s not about chasing people out of a land or claiming you want Biafra it’s about the huge consequences of what some of our friends are asking for…

    Salient issues

    A. If Biafra is granted independence as some want that will automatically transform Igbo’s into foreigners in Nigeria, a nation they contributed immensely to build.

    Which country in the world will allow foreigners to control 80 % of the commerce within its territory? It will be against National security to do so, except the capital of Biafra will be Abuja.

    B. If Biafra secede Will the Arewa dominated “new” Nigeria allow Igbo’s who by this time are non-nationals to still hold on to 70 % of the real estate which they control in the capital?

    C. Many of the Nigerian flagged ships are Igbo owned, with Biafra coming into the picture they will automatically lose their privileged rights under the Cabotage laws and even go bankrupt because they automatically become foreign flagged ships with little or no expertise in foreign shipping and the huge demands

    D. It will be odd to see Goods from Aba the China of Africa and Onitsha paying import duty just to cross the Niger Bridge into Asaba! ,!!! Yes that will be an export terminal if the agitation succeed, this will reduce the competitiveness of these products in terms of pricing.

    E. Our current laws limits foreign equity in local banks, even Jaiz Nigeria’s only Islamic Bank has more Igbo shareholders than arewa Muslim shareholders
    , if that is the case imagine the Igbo shareholding and equity in traditional banks! What happens to these investments by hard working Igbo men and women? Will the law be changed overnight?

    E. The Nigerian Civil service is dominated by Igbo’s, comparative to their population nationally they have taken more than their fair share , will the over saturated states Eastern civil service struggling to pay salaries absorb them? How will the new nation cope with the huge number of pensioners from the east under the national payroll?

    Qatar with all its huge resources powdered by gas and other petroleum resources is currently feeling the heat of the blockade by GCC nations, its only land border is with Saudi Arabia this route serves as the only link for the supply of critical resources and it is currently closed, the proposed Biafra although with some little orifices is virtually a landlocked region the Igbo man is too mobile and enterprising to be confined to a landlocked nation. Therefore those supporting Biafran agitation must avoid parochial sentiments and look at the bigger picture.

    On the other hand my Arewa brothers who are banking on free crude oil money after chasing the Igbo’s away must go back to the drawing board. It is sad that they fail to realize that once the South east goes, the South South will joyfully exit, and as we all know their agitation will not be as peaceful as IPOB who present themselves for practice training with live bullets by drunk officers and men of the Nigerian police and army, even the middle belt might not be willing to stay after the fragmentation and trust the highly educated Yoruba nation they have all the ingredients and capacity to start and sustain a viable new country.

    As at today many of the northern states cannot sustain themselves, Benue my home state inclusive, with all the noise about food production and food basket there is widespread hunger, desperation and hopelessness in the land. The Northern healthcare system is driven by the population they want to expel, 9 out of every 10 pharmacy and chemist in the north 8 are owned by Igbo’s.
    The educational system in the core north is on life support thanks to Boko Haram. We have failed to properly manage the industries bequeathed to us by the late Sir Ahamadu Bello the Sardaunan Sokoto today their carcasses are scattered all over the region. If there is a time we need entrepreneur’s and investors to come to our region it is now !!!.

    Many of those who have joined the band wagon of chase them away and Biafra agitation have not seen war, and some are under the influence of tramadol, alcoholic drinks and other substances which they abuse , nevertheless there are genuine agitators with sufficient grounds to call for a divorce of the marriage of 1914, they have issues which needs to be addressed, this is why I believe the decision the Buhari administration to pursue the policy of 97% and 5% as soon as he was inaugurated was the worse decision of his presidency so far.

    Furthermore, the decision to completely throw away the entire recommendations of the national conference without sieving through to implement some of its nation saving recommendations is an action we will continue to regret for many years to come. With the current administration showing no regard for the constitution, court orders or the rule of Law, citizens are beginning to copy these dangerous precedents by abrogating to themselves powers which even the state does not have, as manifested by these haphazard declaration’s and counter declaration which will further weaken whatever is left of the Nigerian state. 

    It is instructive to note that the general feeling among Nigerians who genuinely have the interest of the nation at heart is that there is an urgent need to restructure or tweak the framework of Nigerian state in order to prevent an imminent collapse and descent into lawlessness and anarchy.

    Finally, just like my Eastern family my Northern family must recognized that we all need each other, No ethnic nationality can claim to know all, and no region is entirely self-sustaining as such we must stair up the Nigerian spirit of innovation and seek for ways to permanently resolve our differences, salvage our crumbling economy and preserve whatever is left of our common humanity.

    May God Bless the Federal Republic Of Nigeria

    Oche Joseph Otorkpa is a fellow of the Royal Society for Public health UK
    And Author of the Unseen Terrorist

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