IGBO GOVERNORS MUST LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE
| by Osita Ebiem
( May 10, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian)The mass kidnapping of about 279 young high school girls from Chibok in Northeast of Nigeria by Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group is currently making headlines around the world. There is a public outcry and righteous indignation against this dastard crime. This sort of heinous crime against children and the innocent is completely unacceptable anywhere in the world today. By every standard it is a crime against all decent human beings everywhere. We all condemn it.
All well-meaning leaders everywhere have come out to condemn this evil in strongest terms. These leaders include the group known as Southeastern or Igbo states’ governors. Igbo governors are supposed to be the political opinion leaders of Igbo people. For this reason they are expected at all times to play politics in consonance with the general vibe of the people they lead. This means they must know how to express to the rest people in the Nigerian union what the Igbo really think in every given situation. When they are in doubt it is expected of them to consult widely before coming up with a consensus positional statement that will sit well with the majority of the people they are leading. In the group’s recent positional statement on the Chibok abduction which was made without making any connections of the travails of the girls from Chibok with the Igbo’s past collective Biafran genocidal experience is just as condemnable and disgusting as the Chibok abduction they came out to condemn. In Chibok as well as in many similar incidents in the past the Igbo governors got it all wrong and committed an unpardonable blunder. Igbo people (in deed all the people of former Eastern Region who suffered the Biafran genocide) can no longer accept from their leaders, glib – neither here nor there statements on issues of one Nigeria. Real leaders always look for opportunities to restate and reiterate their people’s history and that is what the people of the former Biafra want from their leaders of today. The leaders must constantly make it a duty to remind Nigeria and the world of the Biafran injustice, in doing so they will effectively forestall further occurrence.
As the representatives of Igbo people’s stand or opinions in matters of one Nigeria, duty demands from the governors at all times to state boldly the actual feelings of the Igbo in every Nigerian discuss. Leaders are those who take the people they lead to a future that is predetermined and largely influenced by the current generation, to reflect the people’s collective aspirations. Such a future is only possible when the people and their leaders are not afraid or ashamed to make copious references to their past.
Biafra is the past of Igbo people and the rest people of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria and no one can claim to lead the people in this region without being able to make passionate and constant references to Biafra at every given opportunity such as the current Chibok incident. It would have been more honorable for these governors who claimed to be expressing concern about the abducted Chibok girls to have kept quiet if they did not know how to link the current event with what befell them and the people they are leading during the Biafran genocide of nearly fifty years ago.
Chibok presented the governors an opportunity that a more sensitive and politically savvy leadership would have used to remind Nigeria and the rest of the world about the gravity of the same atrocity that the perpetrators of the Chibok gruesome act – the Islamic terrorists of both North and West of Nigeria (Hausa, Fulani and Yoruba peoples) committed against the people of former Biafra in even a more horrendous manner. In Biafra, Biafran girls were not only abducted, raped and pierced through; they were starved to premature death by the Nigerian and British governments and their military establishments.
There is nothing wrong with sympathizing with a grieving neighbor while making references to one’s own similar horrible experience. This does not only help the grieving neighbor to heal better by knowing that their present situation resonates with the same experience that their sympathetic neighbor went through in the past, it equally helps the sympathizing neighbor to heal too by knowing that he is not alone in his pain. Chibok should have afforded the Southeastern governors the opportunity to remind Nigeria, the British and the rest of the world that Chibok is possible today fifty years after Biafra because the ghost of the Biafran genocide has not been exorcised.
Perhaps the most noticeable embarrassing twist in the Chibok incident is the fact that the victims of the ongoing crime include also the original perpetrators of the former crime on the sympathizing neighbor.
As we conclude this piece, it becomes harder to silence this nagging and uncomfortable question: Why are Igbo governors afraid or ashamed to confront Nigeria and Nigerians with the injustices of the Biafran genocide whenever they are given the opportunity as in the ongoing Chibok opportunity? What is wrong with Igbo governors, anyway? If they are not well prepared for the position they are holding – leading Igbo people, why can’t they learn a lesson from their brother and a true leader – the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio. Over the years, Akpabio has not only proven himself as real leader at every given opportunity by always doing and saying the right thing, he has shown real leadership when he conducted in the first week in April 2014 a memorial service for the proper and honorable repose of the heroes from his state who died in the Biafra-Nigeria war.
It will also be recalled that in May 2012 at a Silverbird Award in Lagos he Akpabio looked the war criminals – the perpetrators of the Biafran genocide in the eyes and asked Yakubu Gowon, Muhammad Buhari and Theophilous Danjuma “a very simple question” about the injustices of Biafra. This is how the governor put it in an interview he gave to the press after the incident, “But something struck me: it was said that Gowon should be commended for initiating the three Rs: reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. And I asked a very simple question . . . : how come reconstruction started in the West when the war was actually fought in the East? They started the Third Mainland Bridge, the National Theatre, the international airport, and so on, in the West, while the war was fought in the Eastern Region.” In the area of reconciliation, he asked; “And if we really wanted to ensure total reconciliation, how come every account holder in the Eastern Region was given only £20? It did not matter whether your father had £10,000,000 or £50,000,000 before the war; you were given just £20. It was a take it or leave it situation. If your family survived and there was an account holder alive, he/she went to the bank, and collected just £20.”
Now, those are the type of questions that real leaders ask on behalf of those that they lead. The leader must always ask the right questions and demand from the responsible people the appropriate answers. The leader must be able to talk and act boldly on the behalf of the people they are leading. And on this count and by every other standard, including the good job he is doing in his home state, Akpabio has always demonstrated that he is a leader.
( The writer is our regular columnist on Nigeria based in New York City. He is the author of just released non fiction, Nigeria, Biafra & Boko Haram )