If Igbo must survive Hurricane Obasanjo

By Ikechukwu Ameachi  - Daily Independent – 16.11.04

On Thursday, November 11, I received a text message from Mr. Kalu Onuma, the Administrative Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos, inviting me to a crucial press conference. The issue to be addressed was the renewed violence and political thuggery in Anambra State. I replied almost immediately asking what purpose the conference would serve. He called me very late in the night persuading me to come. I obliged him but left the venue very angry, as I knew I would. I will come back to this.

Addressing a mass rally on November 17, 1948 in Lagos to protest the jailing of some members of the Zikist Movement including Osita Agwuna and Anthony Enahoro who called for a revolution against colonial rule, Raji Abdallah, President of the Movement captured most poignantly what ought to be the rule of engagement between an oppressed people and their traducers. "We have passed the age of petition. We have passed the age of resolution. This is the age of action – plain, blunt and positive action," Abdallah said.

I am angry because the Igbo elite seem to be oblivious of the fact that the only language President Olusegun Obasanjo understands is violence and that he has no respect whatsoever for those that seek peace. That is why the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, former Senate President threw caution to the winds, made peace with him and was humiliated barely 24 hours later. Former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba survived the hurricane because they decided to fight. If anybody is in doubt as to the best way to deal with President Obasanjo, the metaphor of Asari Dokubo and Ralph Uwazuruike is most instructive. While one decided to wage armed struggle in the quest for self-determination, the other chose to tread a pacifist, non-violent path. We are all living witnesses to the method that made the most impression on Obasanjo.

While he treats Uwazuruike with so much scorn and condescension, with security agents hounding, jailing, killing and maiming MASSOB members everyday, Asari is treated as a hero. I was barely six months old when the Nigerian civil war began on July 6, 1967, so I couldn’t have been privy to the grave events that precipitated it. But I have read almost every literature there is on the war. Some people accuse Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu of rushing into the war. The jury is still out as to whether the Igbo had any option other than going to war after the events of 1966. But if events in Anambra State now are anything to go by, then those who blame Ojukwu are only being mischievous. No people can endure the level of insult and humiliation being visited on the Igbo by Obasanjo without reacting one way or the other.

That was the point Professor Chinua Achebe made on October 10, when he rejected the National Award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). As he is wont to do, Achebe, a man of letters, chose the path of peaceful protest. "For some time now, I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance of the presidency", Achebe wrote. For a government that means well, Achebe’s letter would have provided enough food for thought, a clarion call for introspection as it were. But it would have been out of character for Obasanjo, a man in a permanent state of war, to do that. Expectedly, he did the very opposite by causing his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode to literally call Achebe a persona-non-grata.

It would have also been very much out of character for the Nigerian state under Obasanjo’s watch to stop there. The state where Obasanjo is the emperor sees even the most well-meaning advice as an affront on its monstrous powers, which must be crushed. The consequence of Achebe’s challenge is the two-day tragedy that befell his beloved state. For daring to speak truth to power, which was nothing more than an appeal to the conscience of leadership to rise up to the challenges of governance, Achebe has unwittingly put his people in harm’s way.

The Federal Government accused him of slapping Nigeria for daring to advice the omniscient president. For a man whose life creed is tit for tat, having accused Achebe of slapping him, it was only expected that sooner than later, he would revenge. The mayhem in Anambra bore Obasanjo’s trademark. It was his unique style of asking Achebe; "What can you do beyond writing letters?"

It is high time the Igbo told Obasanjo like Abdallah did almost 60 years ago that the age of petitions and resolution is gone for good, because action is the only language he understands. I get angry whenever anybody says this president means well for this country. How can a man who gets his kicks from inflicting psychological and physical pains on others mean well? What crime did Anambrarians commit that their lives and property are wantonly destroyed without the government and its security agents lifting a finger? It was John Stuart Mill who once wrote that; "The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals comprising it". How can Obasanjo mean well when the lives and property of citizens of the state under his watch is not worth a dime? As at the last count, scores of people lost their lives and properties worth N6 billion were destroyed in Anambra.

And you ask, what crime did the people commit? A gubernatorial election was scheduled for April 19, 2003. The peace loving people of Anambra State like other Nigerians trooped out to elect their governor. They conscientiously exercised their right of franchise in a most convivial and genial atmosphere. Their will as expressed through the ballot was mindlessly subverted, and their votes stolen. Anambrarians voted for a party called All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and its flag bearer, Mr. Peter Obi. The state under Obasanjo’s scornful watch, with the active connivance of the electoral umpire and making use of all the instruments of coercion at the disposal of the state subverted the people’s electoral will, stole the mandate and awarded it to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The primary beneficiary of the electoral heist was Dr. Chris Ngige, the flag bearer of PDP who got sworn in as the governor of Anambra State.

Intimidated by the massive deployment of security forces, the people grumbled and resigned themselves to fate. But God decided to wipe away their sorrows by making Ngige the nemesis of their oppressors. Of course, the only reason why the cabal that was asphyxiating Anambra with Obasanjo as its patron saint chose Ngige was because they saw in him a pliant and fickle-minded fellow. But they grievously miscalculated. Ngige was quick to come to the realisation that the only way to gain legitimacy for his dubious mandate is to pitch tent with the people and use his offices to serve public good.

Now, Anambrarians are happy. Ngige, by dint of hard work and prudent management of state resources has become their son in whom they are well pleased. Now, shouldn’t a president who claims that his sole aim in government is to banish corruption and enthrone transparency hoist Ngige’s transparency pennant on the totem spar? No! To Obasanjo, Ngige and if need be Anambra must be destroyed because he has refused to hand over the key to the state till to the same characters Achebe branded a "clique of renegades". Obasanjo cherishes the company of felons who kill and maim innocent citizens and burn public property.

Mr. President is a man consumed by hate, particularly against the Igbo. Appealing to his conscience and goodwill is a waste of time. The mayhem that took place in Anambra State last week is nothing short of a declaration of war against the Igbo nation and should constitute the red line. The only way the Igbo can earn a modicum of respect and survive this deliberate insult is not by turning the other cheek. They can only survive the rampaging Hurricane Obasanjo by calling his bluff and fighting him. By so doing, the Igbo would have nothing to lose but their chains. And the time to do that is now. Anambra provides a test case. As for Ngige, the restoration of limited security for him calls for caution and vigilance. The Nigerian Police, particularly under Tafa Balogun have proved times without number that they neither have conscience nor honour. After all, Chief Bola Ige was assassinated under their very watch.


Other Comments:

.......... "The unfortunate thing about it all is that, up to this very moment, the Nigeria Police have not fired a single canister of teargas and, as at Thursday, if you watched the NTA, you would see that, while some hungry-looking people were busy dismantling some structures at the entrance of the Government House, Awka, about 120 armed mobile policemen were watching and offering cover to those people who were destroying things in the state.

"Watching these things happening, you ask yourself if Anambra is no longer part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Anambra people pay their taxes, rates and dues and they contribute their quota to the development of the country. Our own money is used to maintain and pay for the security intelligence services. But since this thing started, the security people knew about it and they did nothing. They allowed it to happen and they encouraged it".

- Nnimmo Bassey; Director -  the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) ( source: Civil Society Condemns Anambra Police, Profer Solution - From Mohammed Abubakar, Abuja - Guardian 14.11.04)

".............It is this tardy reaction by the Presidency and the police high command that one finds baffling - in fact, disgraceful. Did the National Security Council have to meet before preemptive security measures should have been taken to deal with the actual breakdown of law and order in the state? That irresponsible and callous delay has led to the destruction of the Anambra State Government's entire physical infrastructure (except the court buildings). To confirm that the wooden-footed and kid-gloves response of the police to the hoodlums is indefensible, the State Security Service has indicted both the police high command and the Anambra State command of dereliction of duty. The SSS told Saturday Punch (November 12, 2004) that it had formally warned the police authorities of the impending breach of the peace, via a security report. The police took no action.

The naked partisanship of the police authorities - and of The Presidency - in their handling of the unending crisis in the state leaves one speechless. When the governor was abducted from Government House, Awka by policemen on July 10 last year, the Commander-in-Chief had only rewarded the police brass hat who led the criminal attempt to physically remove Ngige from office by approving his retirement - an illegal act; for by so doing, he usurped the constitutional powers of the Police Service Commission. (See Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, Part I, Section 30[a] and [b].) Why was the President so anxious to shield the offending police chief that he had to resort to illegality to achieve this? .............

......Where was the Commander-in-Chief when Anambra was burning on Wednesday and Thursday? Why did the police in Anambra vainly try to "placate" marijuana-smoking arsonists who had blocked the Onitsha Bridge for over five hours? Why did the police do nothing? Why? "
- A renegades' haven - Sunday Punch, November 14, 2004

"In the light of the development in Anambra State in the last few days, reasonable people have come to the inescapable conclusion that President Olusegun Obasanjo, through his political cohorts" may have engineered the latest terrorist attack on hapless Igbo to spite Professor Chinua Achebe, who cited the Anambra crisis as one of his reasons to reject a national award" - Ndigbo Lagos

" In spite of denials by the President’s men (and women) it is by now obvious to even a two-year old kid that Olusegun Obasanjo, President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is neck-deep involved in the intractable Anambra crisis. And this is unfortunate. Only God knows the bond between that hitherto nonentity and Mr. President. Perhaps for the first time in many years, Obasanjo suddenly lost his voice on an issue requiring presidential hysteria" .........Discussion on the Ngige - Uba imbroglio will be incomplete without mentioning the ignoble roles played by the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Chief Akin Olujinmi and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Tafa Balogun.........

- Solving the Anambra conundrum, Sunday Punch, November 14, 2004

"We still state that this whole saga is designed by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his group to humiliate and belittle Ndi-Igbo with an eye to 2007, rotational presidency and true federalism........" - Pan Ndi-Igbo Foundation (PNF)

"................ The Obasanjo government has a whole lot of questions to answer to the world. The least of which are: who suspended the authority of the police in Anambra State to act instantly and automatically to prevent crimes of all sorts? Who delayed the renewal or issuing of such orders when it became clear that there was an ongoing criminal act in Anambra State costing precious human lives? Why is Felix Ogbaudu remaining in his job after allowing scores of innocent people to die and property worth billions of Naira to be destroyed while he awaited orders from Abuja? How can those responsible for law and order in Anambra State and those in Abuja that withheld the issuance of prompt orders for the police to move in and save lives not be arrested and charged for crimes against humanity? Why should the government of Nigeria that lets the terrorists of Anambra State move freely under its protection not be charged for aiding and abetting terrorism?

- THE ONGOING ABSURDITY IN ANAMBRA STATE by David Ihenacho – nigeriaworld.com 17.11.04

"...........All that is to be done, is for A FEW of the Igbo in Diaspora, of which there are millions, to come together and take Obasanjo and the Nigerian government to court - (war crimes, crimes against humanity, ..., in all major capitals in the world. Igbo has thousands of lawyers in Diaspora, yet not one of them is ready to step forward, what a shame! IGBO INDEPENDCE and Trillions of dollars owed Ndi Igbo is what is on the line, and the complete and total bankruptcy of the abomination nigeria is also the desired effect" - Ekwe Nche Organization - Press Release: Obasanjo's Sponsored Terrorism ... (DO SOMETHING) 15.11.04

" Anambra State today paints a prevailing picture of dark age and of modern day slavery though shrouded in democracy that is nowhere to be found. The most surprising thing about this whole mess is that our people are the architect of it all. Some of us might argue that Abuja sponsored the whole charade, but Umuigbo carried it out to the letter. Yet it is not as if the executors have another homeland that will replace the present for them......

We ASU-CHINA condemn in strongest terms the charade called Abuja Peace because it is clear that it is the same Evil that Anambra state dreaded for so long, that has being re-modified and shoved down our throats.

We call for the arrest and prosecution of Chris Ubah for the carnage he caused in our dear state.
We call for Dr. Ngige to honorably resign if he cannot do without compromising the state treasury.
We call on Ndi Anambra to rekindle the spirit of CHASING AWAY rogues and thieves from our state as it was in the old days of BOYS OYEE .
Today it's Anambra state, tomorrow it could be another Igbo state.
It is high time we chased these cankerworms out from Alaigbo.
Ndi Anambra, It is high time we woke up and challenged these undesirable elements.............."