Gowon's challenge and Fani-kayode's infamy
Written by John Okiyi Kalu
29th October 2012
I was enjoying my largely quiet and uneventful weekend until I checked my facebook messages and saw as much as 8 messages from friends alerting me about two different issues trending on facebook. At least Nigerian facebook community. Given the bombing of a catholic church in Kaduna that killed more than 4 worshipers, I couldn't help but finally agree with President Jonathan that terrorism may have come to stay with us and hence not deserving of headline attention. People have come to expect one church or the other to be bombed in Northern Nigeria every sunday. What continues to surprise me is how the government is able to protect all the mosques in the volatile middle belt of Nigeria every friday but cannot protect churches every sunday.
Even the recent Eid celebration was without violent incidence and the govt is poised to take the glory for maintaining peace and preventing terror attacks. Yet I wonder if the govt was sleeping when Madalla catholic and other churches were bombed last christmas. Does the federal government of Nigeria place more premium in securing Islamic lives than Christian lives?
We are waiting for answers.
The first message I received in box caused me to celebrate and sing for joy in my mother tongue. "Obu otu olu gi di, Chineke obu otu olu gi di, o mara nma". (Is this how thy works are, your work is wonderful, Almighty God). The report in the media that General Yakubu Jack Gowon of Nigeria Prays fame has agreed to go to the international criminal court at the Hague to defend himself of charges of genocide against Igbo children elicited that song of praise from my lips.
"I am ready to face the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague for prosecution over roles played by me when the war ended"-Yakubu Gowon
Just so that you understand why am celebrating, permit me to state that the only elder brother I had from my mother's great womb died of kwasiokor during the Biafran war. Up to date nobody has been held accountable for that. In 1983, Chief Awolowo claimed the credit for authoring the starvation policy of the Gowon regime when he stated in a widely circulated interview that he personally decided to use hunger and starvation as a weapon of war knowing that civilians will die but (in his mind), soldiers will die too. In the "great" man's mind it doesn't matter if 3m civilians die as long as he is able to defeat 50,000 emergency Biafra soldiers Over 700 unarmed men and women were executed at Asaba, and nobody as much as faced court martial, rather the man that led and orchestrated the heinous crime, Murtala Muhammed, has since been rewarded with an International Airport named after him and his face inserted into our currency. I am also not aware of anyone being punished for the massacre of over 5000 Igbo after the war in Benin and a further 7000 in Calabar. All murdered in cold blood.
That the Holy Spirit moved Gowon to agree to present himself before the ICC at Hague is something marvelous in my eyes. If the leaders of Ndigbo summon the courage and resources necessary to take up this Gowon's challenge, Nigeria and humanity will benefit. Gowon will get the chance to clear his name "tarnished" further by the publication of Achebe's "There was a country". The inheritors and defenders of Awo's estate will also get a chance to defend the legacy of their man. As long as Achebe's book is circulating all over the world (I heard Amazon and the publishers have run out of stock because of overwhelming demands) generations will question Awo's humanity and will discuss him in same breathe as Adolphus Hitler of Nazi Germany. In terms of number of children killed, Awo trumped Hitler by a massive 1m souls. Hitler was credited with killing 6m jews, including 1m children, using all manner of tools and policies whereas the Biafra war killed at least 3m Igbo including 2m children killed directly by the use of starvation as a weapon of war. In football parlance, Awo defeated/outscored Hitler 2:1.
Clearly, the employment of hunger as a weapon of war and execution of unarmed civilians violates the fourth Geneva Convention and is a war crime. That some were ignorant enough to advance the view that Nigeria was not a signatory to the convention is shameful. As at the time the convention was signed in 1949, Nigeria was a British colony. Britain was one of the signatory. At independence we "inherited" the convention. There was clear and unambiguous legal obligation on Nigeria as at the time of the conflict to respect the convention. Gowon knows that, hence his decision to go to the Hague and defend himself, if called upon. All others who participated in that war should also be ready to defend themselves.
The ball is now in the court of Igbo leaders to do the needful and institute this mother of all genocide cases. Ohaneze Ndigbo should lead the way and reconfirm their relevance to ordinary Igbo men and women. A good starting point will be to dust up their presentation at the defunct Oputa panel and assemble Igbo lawyers from home and the diaspora. Other Igbo groups will support them with relevant data.
Ohaneze and Igbo leaders have no reason to shirk their responsibility to our people. This is by no means a quest for secession but rather a move to correct and prevent future genocide in Nigeria. If this case is not instituted then Achebe's book should be thrashed as lacking in fact and substance, at least as regards the issue of genocide. Ndigbo should also know they can no longer complain when Igbo in the North are isolated and murdered by Boko Haram and their civilian accomplices. A unique opportunity has been presented by Gowon to end acts of genocide in Nigeria, albeit it by accident.
The other story that made me sing was the one by one Femi Fani Kayode titled "Who introduced tribalism into the politics of the south? The Yoruba or The Igbo?". It reminded me of Dillinger's "I've got cocaine runnin' around my brain..." It is all well that I don't know this revisionist, FFK, personally. That's apart from his (dis)service to Nigeria as Minister of culture in the obtuse Obasanjo regime. All other contacts with him have been through his facebook comments made either using his name or numerous aliases.
His August 13th post particularly interested me.
"I went through this and I must confess that the Elder from the north that spoke called Alhaji Usman Faruk is talking absolute nonsense and he has got his history completely wrong. It was the 98 per cent yoruba Third Marine Cmmando under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin Adekunle that liberated the mid-west and the southern minorities from the igbos and NOT the north. Secondly the north literally begged Awolowo not to declare Oduduwa Republic and go the way of Biafra even though that was his original intention. Thirdly if it hadn't been for Col. Obasanjo (as he then was) in Ibadan the Biafran forces, under the command of the gallant yoruba officer Col. Banjo, would have entered and swept into the west at Ore and the war would have been over very quickly. They asked for safe passage and Obasanj refused. Fourthly it was the support that the south west gave to the north that allowed Nigeria to win the war. Fifthly it was the lie that Gowon and the northern leaders fed to Awolowo that he would be made President of the country after the war and after being effectively being made de facto Prime Minister under Gowon during the war that got Awoloo to support them. Had it not been for that strong support from the yoruba and particularly the efforts of the third Marine Commando who pushed the Biadfrans out of the mid west, the south south and back into the east and who evenually went into igboland, occupied it and took the surrender of the igbos, there is no way that Nigeria could have won the war. No maer what sid of the divide we are on in this matter we must get the history right. The arrogance of Faruk is sickening."
Please note these points made by this self confessed student of history
1. "...the north literally begged Awolowo not to declare Oduduwa Republic and go the way of Biafra even though that was his original intention."
2. "...it was the lie that Gowon and the northern leaders fed to Awolowo that he would be made President of the country after the war and after being effectively being made de facto Prime Minister under Gowon during the war that got Awoloo to support them."
Anybody familiar with recent writings of this man since Chinua Achebe's "There was a country" was launched will not believe that he wrote those lines. Permit me to supply the evidence here. https://www.facebook.com/femifanikayode/posts/342407195846984?refid=12
For those who can read English language, please what exactly is the difference between Achebe saying Awo authored and executed genocide against Biafra for personal interest in the Presidency of Nigeria and what this man wrote? Even Awo accepted he authored the policy when he said "so I decided....". Yet this character took out time to abuse Achebe in newspapers and his facebook wall. But on the question of Awo committing suicide in 1987 to avoid treason trial by IBB, Femi is mum.
In his defense of his latest obnoxious post I read this funny and treasonable comment from him. "@Uche, that has been my position for the last 22 years. Read ALL my essays and watch ALL my television interviews. I even took that position when I was in government. Perhaps you didnt know that I was very active in NADECO and when I was your age I was busy smuggling arms into the country to help in our secession bid whilst Abacha was in power. I have always believed in an SNC and I always will. I have also always believed iin the right of every nationality in Nigeria to ''self-determine''. If you don't know that about me then you never knew what I believed in and the cause that I have been championing all these years. I am a member of the Steering Commitee of thePolitical Summit Group today . Believe me when I tell you that I am more radical than you could ever be when it comes to this matter." FFK
I have not stopped wondering if this man is promoting armed struggle against Nigeria. All I can do is keep singing "I've got cocaine runnin around my brain". I just hope Dillinger and his later day clone got a detoxification treatment before embarking on another journey to twist history. Even if the West needs a clone of El Rufai, surely they can do better than this man.
FFK's basis for alleging that Igbo introduced tribal politics is an unverified comment purportedly made by one private citizen he called Charles Onyeama in 1945. ’Igbo domination of Nigeria is only a matter of time’. According to him, this was reported by a Kenya news medium. If I may ask, how many Nigerians in 1945 had access to Kenyan publications? How on earth can this alleged obscure comment lead the famous Yoruba nation to form a tribal organization as claimed by FFK? I just hope that the founders of that development union called egbe omo oduduwa won't sue FFK for such monumental misrepresentation of facts. In any case, if that statement was actually made, it must be viewed in the context of the time. As at 1945 Nigeria only existed as a British colony with each ethnic group struggling to motivate their people to move ahead in life. Am aware that in marketing there is something called puffry. That Etisalat said they are the best network does not automatically translate to fact. Other networks are permitted to make similar claims. Anyone can puff. Even in my village it is acceptable to say we are the best in the world. Of course that doesn't mean we are introducing "tribal" politics among Igbo. The key remains if actually the alleged comment by Mr Charles translated to negative action at the national level to dominate others. I will be surprised if there were no Yoruba and Hausa private citizens making similar comments before or at that time. Competition drives innovative excellence and the current federal structure is designed to engender healthy competition among the federating units. We will soon find out who actually attempted to actualize tribal politics in Nigeria.
His second quote credited to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe is another attempt to deceive.
‘It would appear that the God of Africa has created the Igbo nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondage of ages …’ – Dr Azikiwe, President of the Pan-Igbo Federal Union. (The West African Pilot of July 8, 1949). As a member of Igboville we reviewed the full text of the presentation made by Zik at Aba in 1949 and did not find that line. We reasoned then that elements from the SW inserted that line to discredit Zik and place him where Awo and Bello reside with tribalism. FFK has just confirmed that.
If truly Zik said so, I can only be prouder of his vision and pan Africanism. It is a known fact that Zik's portrait is one of only 5 African leaders currently at OAU secretariat. He is a recognized pan Africanist. If his wish was for Ndigbo to lead Africa out of bondage does that make him the champion of tribalism in Nigeria? Does the man FFK know that of all the founding fathers of Nigeria Zik remains the only person who wanted one Nigeria? Even to date, younger Igbo elements condemn Zik for his vision of "United States of Nigeria" at a time Awo and Bello were grabbing all grab-ables for their tribes. He virtually sacrificed everything, including Prime Ministership of Nigeria, to ensure that we carry along the reluctant North to achieve independence. To date, Zik's people (Igbo) are the only ones with investment all over Nigeria. Others are only interested in milking Nigeria's oil resources to develop their area. If anyone is looking for evidence of inclination and propagation of tribalism in Nigeria, stop your search with FFK's people.
The champions of tribal politics is well known to all of us. It wasn't Zik that said you cannot be a good Nigerian without being a good Yoruba man. FFK must know who said it and propagated it.
On 1966 coup, I can only refer FFK to the May 5, 2007 interview granted by Odia Ofeimum (Awo's private Secretary) to the Guardian newspaper in which he stated as follows:
"People were told that it was an Igbo coup but that is not correct. It is a very interesting part of the Nigerian story. In the first place, there have been many serious lies that have been told by our leaders in the last 45 years of Nigeria's history. Our leaders have not been bold enough to tell us the truth."
I guess Odia must have included FFK as one of the known liars of the Federal Republic.
If anyone truly want to know when and how tribal politics was entrenched in southern Nigeria, look no further than operation wetie (carpet crossing) executed at then Western House of Assembly at Ibadan. Regardless of the attempt at distorting history, it is safe to say that Zik and his party convincingly won elections in the West, North and East. It must have been the same bare faced lies that Femi is trumpeting that was used to convince Yoruba parliamentarians and people to turn against Zik. This singular act of using lies and deceit to achieve personal parochial political ambition is known to be the precursor of the first military coup and Nigerian civil war. It is still responsible for the East-West political divide in Nigeria and shaped the minds of generations of Yoruba politicians towards the politics of tribe first. Until Obasanjo used state power to rig PDP into the South West, the Yoruba nation never voted for non Yoruba Presidential candidates. Even when non-Yoruba parties won elections in the south west, as in the case of Akin Omoboriowo's NPN victory in Ondo against UPN's Bola Ige, violence and subterfuge were employed to scuttle such political gains.
Those who know Femi Fani Kayode should remind him to stop dancing naked in the public square and focus more on detoxifying his head. Ndigbo have a proud heritage of being the only true Nigerians in words and in deeds. Our investment and politics bear witness to the fact that we are truly believers in the one Nigeria project. Let Femi point to one investment owned by him or his immediate family in Igbo land as proof of being detribalised. Otherwise he should shut up and take his drugs.