By Folorunsho Kuku
How The Igbo Elite And Professionals And Their Past Misadventures & Miscalculations Resulted In Nigeria's Current National Political Problems
In this piece, historical facts helps to dispel many of the false claims about how the Igbos have been unfairly treated over the course of the years within Nigeria and instead throws light on how the decision of their elites, knowingly or unknowingly, brought thrust Nigeria into its current abysmal state.
Igbos claim to have always been cheated out of juicy positions in Nigeria thus the clamour for regional and political restructuring where they are unable to secede from Nigeria.
The Fact 1.1
While Tafawa Balewa presided as Prime Minister of Nigeria, several positions, now famously considered “juicy”, across the country were led or headed by the South East.
1) General Officer Commanding (today’s equivalent of Chief of Army Staff) was
Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi from Umuahia in present day Abia State
(1965 - 1966)
2) IG of Police was Louis Edet from Calabar in present day Cross Rivers StateExecutive & Cabinet Ministers
(1964 – 1966)
1) Governor General & First President was Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was from Enugu
2) External Affairs (today’s equivalent of Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Minister was
Jaja Wachukwu from Aba in present day Abia State
3) Education Minister was Aja Nwachukwu from Ebonyi State1st Cabinet:
4) First Unilag VC was Professor Eni Njoku from Ohafia, Abia State.
5) First Nigerian Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan was Professor Kenneth
Dike from Awka in present day Anambra State.
Northern Leaders led by Sardauna Ahmadu Bello however resisted same from occurring at Ahmadu Bello University insisting that the North will prefer to have a foreigner head the school until the North had produced a qualified administrator.
The reason for this was that by the late 50s and early 60s South East dominated the senior
ranks of the Northern Civil Service after the British colonial staff rushed to leave the
country as agitation for independence grew louder. What is obvious is that as each region attained self-determination, leaders of each ethnicity sought that its people lead or head these institutions located within their regions.
Dissatisfaction of the way the polity was run by politicians across Nigeria culminated in a mutinous coup executed largely by senior ranking South Eastern officers who executed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, Brigadier General Maimalari and a host of the crème of the North’s leadership as well as Chief Ladoke Akintola, the Regional Head of the South West region.
The plan of the mutinous soldiers had been in the works since 1964 and Major Nzeogwu gave the instruction that led to mayhem and blood-letting on the morning of January 15, 1966. Reading the details of the main actors involved, it is surprising that they failed to see how skewed those they eliminated largely represented a certain demographic of the growing nation.
Of all the senior ranking officers in Nigeria at the break out of the 1966 coup, there were fifty five (55) officers (officers as at June 1959 are listed below), the SE had thirty seven (37), with the exception of Lt-Colonel Arthur Unegbe (Quartermaster-General of the Nigerian Army when the January 1966 coup broke out) no other Igbo man was killed.
Of the eight (8) officers from the North, six (6) were killed while of the ten (10) officers from the South West, two (2) were killed. Note that the Igbo Majors as at 1966 who were the primary brains of the coup did not join the Army until the early 60s and are junior to those listed below.
In an awkward twist of fate and curiously, the headship of the government when the coup failed, fell into the laps of another Igbo officer, J.T. Aguiyi-Ironsi, (being the most senior military officer in the country) despite not being one of the coup plotters. Aguiyi Ironsi with help of a leading legal expert, subsequently imposed a unitary system of government on the country.
The Fact 1.2
What rules guided the Military in governing the country after the suspension of the constitution?
Renowned professor of constitutional law, Professor Ben Nwabueze was the man who drafted the constitution that took away powers from regions and handed it to the central government to help Aguiyi-Ironsi consolidate the powers of the regions.
It is surprising today, that Professor is shouting regional and fiscal restructuring, a system of governance that he helped to destroy with the Unitary system he drafted and was promulgated into law in 1966 to aid his kinsman consolidate power.
Igbos Were Made Third Class Citizens in Nigeria by the active collusion of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba & British Colonial Government since the amalgamation of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria protectorates into Nigeria in 1914
The Igbo want to blame the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and indeed every other Nigerian tribe and Lord Lugard/Britain other than themselves for their alleged claim of being third class citizens in Nigeria.
In their perpetual attempts to play the victim card, they recount the political events of Nigeria from 1914 to the present with half-truths and in a highly selective manner that cleverly avoids the mention of the roles played by their elite who by all natural laws of judgement were actually responsible for the woes that befell not only the Igbo race but emasculated the entire Nigeria nation.
A little while after the 1914 Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates, it became clear to political actors that the country was bound to fail considering that the act of the amalgamation was done with colonial fiat and without the consent and consensus of the over 300 different tribes that were lumped together.
This prompted the political leaders to demand for de-amalgamation so as to forestall the cracks in the
union in the future, a danger which the forced amalgamation portended. To this end, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, speaking on behalf of the Northern protectorate in 1944, described the amalgamation as "…the mistake of 1914 which if allowed to remain will ultimately lead to unstoppable bloodshed and a failed country."
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, speaking on behalf of the Yorubas and other non-Yoruba South Western ethnicities, described Nigeria as “…a mere geographical expression not qualified to be called a country let alone a nation.” Chief Awolowo added that if the amalgamation could not be reversed, then Nigeria should be structured as a strictly federal state so as to enable each tribe enjoy autonomy this freedom from being dominated by any one single tribe (he had experienced first-hand how Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe attempted to hijack the political leadership of Lagos, Nigeria’s foremost commercial nerve centre and native homeland of the Aworis, a Yoruba tribe that arrived at Lagos in the 14th to 15th century from Isheri in today’s Ogun State)
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, speaking for the Igbos, denounced Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, terming them ethnic champions. He accused them of nursing a sectional agenda against the unity of Nigeria, and he declared further that the unity of Nigeria was non-negotiable.
After moving the self-rule motion for independence in 1953, Anthony Enahoro proposed that a secession clause should be incorporated into the future constitution of Nigeria so as to give legal backing for any tribe to peacefully exit the forced union should it feels marginalized in future.
According to Enahoro, such provision in our constitution would instill in all Nigeria's future leaders the fear of the consequences of mis-governance. At the start of the 1954 London Constitution Conference Chief Obafemi Awolowo tabled a motion to the effect that this secession clause be inserted and over a full day debate, Awolowo drove home his points referencing the Soviet
Union and Western Australia. In responding, Dr Azikiwe made his points using the expression “the indivisibility and perpetuity of the Federation” with references to United States.
At a later date, Awolowo too made a case for secession clause, but Azikiwe again resisted him and instigated the colonial authorities to threaten him and Enahoro with charges of treasonable felony if they did not stop proposing secession clause for the future.
Before independence, Tafawa Balewa too had in a public speech described Nigeria as a British experiment and Nigeria's unity as a British intention which Nigerians themselves don't believe in. But Azikiwe kicked and demonized him too. Had Azikiwe supported the motion with Enahoro, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa about the spirit of allowing a secession clause to be enshrined in our constitution, perhaps, Nigerian leaders would have known the checks and balances
that ensured fair play for all ethnic groupsin the amalgamation.
Instead, he played into the hands of the British Colonial Masters who took advantage of this difference and supported Azikiwe’s position therefore forever enshrining the clause of “indivisibility and perpetuity of the Federation” in our constitution.
There are no records documenting the disaffection of other South East members, present at parliament and Constitutional conference in which Azikiwe opposed Awolowo's secession clause motion, against Azikiwe’s position.
The South East and Igbos at large are being stopped from seceding because they have a smaller mass of land and population.
Igbos initially never wanted to hear anything like secession in Nigeria believing that they had the most educated crop of civil service, teachers, soldiers and professionals and this fuelled the thoughts of their elites hence their initial resistance to the idea of secession as indicated in their quotes:
"From all indications, the god of us Igbos have destined us to rule the whole of
Africa"..... Nnamdi Azikiwe (1945).
"It is getting clearer each day that Igbo domination of Nigeria is just a question of
time"... Oscar Onyeama. (1949)
As at 1900, the whole of the present Benue State, Kogi East Senatorial District and some southern parts of Taraba State called Munchi District back then, were all part of the Southern Protectorate.
With that situation the South had a higher population than the North hence always had an upper hand in any democratic bargain. But by the early fifties when the regions were being created, common sense dictated clearly that these areas should fall in the future Eastern Region. But against common sense, the colonial masters decided to gerrymander them into the Northern Region.
While they did that, Azikiwe who was supposed to be in Enugu fighting against it as the leader of the East, was far away in Ibadan struggling with Awolowo to rule the Western Region and also playing the spoiler role against Awolowo's attempts to have Kwara and present Kogi Yorubas (the Igbiras) carved into the Western Region from the North which was already too large by landmass.
While Azikiwe abandoned his burning house and was far away in Ibadan struggling against Awolowo for his own (Awolowo's) region, Igbos saw absolutely nothing wrong with that. Rather they applauded him as a nationalist. A nationalist whose house was burning yet busy chasing rats in a faraway land.
When opinions of anti-colonial governance became unanimous that the British Colonial government must be forced out of Nigeria and indeed the whole of Africa, it was still the Igbos that frustrated the attempts as chronicled below.
In 1948, Anthony Enahoro organized an anti-colonization symposium in Lagos for which Dr. Azikiwe was to deliver the keynote address. When the D-day came, Azikiwe failed to show up. Anthony Enahoro then quickly replaced Azikiwe with another person who did the impromptu job perfectly well as he lambasted and lampooned the British Colonial Government.
However, the British soldiers invaded the symposium venue, arrested the speaker and Enahoro and jailed them for treasonable felony. Ironically, the next day Azikiwe came out of hiding and granted a radio interview where he accused Enahoro and the other organizers of suffering from youthful exuberance.
On regaining his freedom few weeks later and being told of Azikiwe's radio interview, Enahoro resigned from his post as Deputy editor of Azikiwe's newspaper - The West African Pilot. Subsequently he wrote a book titled "Nnamdi Azikiwe: Sinner of Saint". After launching the book, Enahoro left Azikiwe's party - the NCNC, and moved over to Awolowo's Action Group.
Every Other Tribe but Igbos Are Betrayers – Ijaws, Yorubas and others
The first military coup in Nigeria was carried out by majority of Igbo army officers. That
was the coup that truncated democracy just six years post-Independence and led to a
succession of coups which put the country on the reverse gear for the next thirty three
Through the first coup, those Igbo army officers who accused the politicians and government of the day of monumental corruption, killed the political leaders of the Northern, Western and Midwestern Regions but allowed all Igbo political figures to escape by tipping them off prior to the D-day. In addition to the killing of political figures, they also killed a total of 27 innocent high ranking military officers from every region except the South Eastern Region.
|J.T. Aguiyi Ironsi|
As the coup appeared unsuccessful, J.T. Aguiyi Ironsi, who was supposed to have been killed alongside other military officers, ended up becoming the new military ruler of Nigeria. Rather than immediately arrest and punish the coup plotters, he kept them in detention where they were treated as heroes. This and subsequent actions sowed the seed for the eventual Biafra War
On the 23rd of February 1966 (i.e. a month and 8 days after the first coup popularly but wrongly known as Nzeogwu coup), an Ijaw born Army officer called Isaac Adaka Boro who hailed from Kaima town of present Bayelsa State, declared the secession of the Niger Delta Republic in an attempt to free his Ijaw people from the monumental marginalization they had been suffering under Igbos in the old Eastern Region.
|Isaac Adaka Boro|
Aguiyi Ironsi immediately ordered Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu to arrest him and hand him over to the military high command under him in Lagos. Ojukwu went all out against Isaac Adaka Boro with federal military might and within 12 fighting days killed 150 Isaac Boro's soldiers, arrested him, stripped him naked, and had him driven to Lagos and handed to Ironsi who immediately charged him to court and within two months secured against him a conviction of treasonable felony for which he was sentenced to death by hanging fixed for December 1966 by the Supreme Court.
His 'crime' was that he declared secession of The Niger Delta Republic from Nigeria – sounds familiar?
Meanwhile the Igbo coupists who shed innocent blood of other tribes and even sprayed bullets into the bellies of the pregnant wives of Ahmadu Bello and Brigadier Ralph Shodeinde were not charged to court or arraigned before any military tribunal six months after the coup had taken place. Their dates kept being moved, Aguiyi-Ironsi kept dilly dallying. This formed the reason for subsequent destructive actions that played out.
Isaac Adaka Boro was in detention waiting for December to come for him to join his ancestors. However, a revenge coup was executed on July 29 led by Northern soldiers and Ironsi was killed. Major Yakubu Gowon took over, released Isaac Adaka Boro unconditionally and re-instated him into the Nigeria Army with his previous rank. By this time, dark and ominous clouds had stared to gather over the North as reprisal killings against South Easterners were unleashed by Northerners.
As a result of the large mass of people of South Eastern extraction being maimed and slaughtered by Northerners, on May 30, 1967, Major Odimegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu declared secession of South Eastern from Nigeria and without consulting or apologising to Isaac Boro, declared Biafra Republic and drew a map of Biafra which included the very areas that made up Isaac Adaka Boro's earlier declared Niger Delta Republic for which he fought against him and killed his soldiers.
Seeing such level of arrogance in Ojukwu, Isaac Boro asked Gowon to provide arms for him to crush Biafra by fighting on the Nigerian side in vengeance for Ojukwu's frustration of his own secession declaration 15 months earlier. Isaac Boro, as an Ijaw man conversant with the waterways, led the Nigeria Army through the coastal areas into Igboland to finish off thousands of Ojukwu's soldiers thus leading to the crushing defeat of Biafra.
But today, Igbos accuse Ijaws of betraying them in the war. Who betrayed who?
Ojukwu Declared Biafra because other Nigerian tribes did not like the Igbos and failed to honour the Aburi Accord.
After Ironsi and Ojukwu successfully crushed Isaac Boro's Niger Delta Republic declaration, Ironsi immediately proceeded to promulgate the Anti-Secession decree (Decree no 34 of 1966) aka the Unification decree which made the mere mention of secession from Nigeria punishable with death by hanging.
Ojukwu openly supported and endorsed the decree despite disapproval of it by the general public. So when Ojukwu later declared Biafra secession, he was reminded of the Anti-secession Decree made by him and his brother Ironsi.
Igbos frequently reference Aburi Accord to create the impression that the rest of the Nigerian tribes don't honour agreements. This is a very dishonest narrative from Igbo considering that Aburi Accord was organized by soldiers and un-elected civil servants who should not participate in political exercises like making laws due to the civil service anonymity principle.
Secondly, those civil servants and military men in attendance were not elected representatives of federal constituencies to the Aburi summit. In the philosophy of democracy the only universally acceptable way of making laws is through duly elected representatives of the people. But in going to Aburi, the peoples' representatives duly elected in the 1965 elections were all side lined for politically naïve soldiers to hijack the process in January 1966 under the guise of getting Nigeria rid of rotten and corrupt politicians.
By principle, it is unheard of that soldiers make laws for the people rather, the elected civilian populace makes laws that guide the military. Aburi Accord therefore had no seal of the people's sovereignty hence it was an illegality which shouldn't have been allowed to stand.
Thirdly, in 1957, Nigerians from all federal constituencies democratically elected representatives whom they sponsored to London, paid their flight tickets and hotel accommodation for the Independence constitutional conference. Those representatives all resolved and agreed on federalism marked by regional autonomy and resource control in the Independence Constitution which they brought back home and majority accepted it.
In that constitution, Nigerians agreed that on no account shall the military take over power (Azikiwe, as President, twice invited the Military to take over in 1964) while also clearly stating that amendments to the constitution could be done by only democratically elected representatives.
That constitution was the first ever agreement between all Nigerians.
On the day of his inauguration as the Army GOC, Aguiyi Ironsi stood before the whole world and with his own mouth swore to protect and defend that sovereign Independence constitution regardless of the circumstances that may later arise. But just six years after he manufactured an excuse to clinch power against the clear provisions of that constitution agreed to, unilaterally began to amend its provisions with his very offensive decrees, and ended up dismantling the federalism and resource
control therein, and ultimately subverted that constitution we all painstakingly sacrificed to draft.
That was the height of Irresponsibility and the dis-honouring of sacred agreement. The primary actors who breached the first agreement that all Nigerians, ever all mutually consented to, happened to be of Igbo extraction, thus laying the foundation for violation of future agreements.
Article written by Folorunsho Kuku
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