The Politics Of Ethnic Nationalism,By Babayola Toungo



The campaign of hate and the popularisation of hate speech in Nigeria is a legacy of Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign tactics which many people failed to see it for what it was because we were blinded by one sentiment or the other. It first reared its head in the final days of the late Umaru ‘Yar Adua, his former principal. After the death of ‘Yar Adua, it became Jonathan’s mantra – with his no shoes slogan saturating the airwaves and the print media. We all forgot that most of us went to school without shoes. Most of us were blind to the real meaning of the slogan – it was a barb directed at most Nigerians. The other oft repeated refrain was Jonathan’s ethnic minority status and his religion. These were presented as if there were people out there who are against the candidature/ presidency of Goodluck Jonathan on the basis of these two issues. With the connivance of our security agents, Jonathan made it back to the Aso Villa. The man’s true colours began manifesting. All the credentials one need to be accepted into the president’s inner circle is your hatred for the north. Apart from the likes of Edwin Clark, Reuben Abati and Asari Dokubo, Igbo leadership was falling head over heels to outdo all.

Igbo (women) like Stella Oduah and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala were brought on board and given sensitive ministries to head. They have so far discharged their briefs with diligence, may be surpassing their expectations. The duo have effectively “igbonised” their respective ministries by ensuring that all departments and agencies under their ministries are headed by Igbos to avoid for a situation where a non Igbo may prove to be a spanner in the works. Two examples of Oduah’s “success” may suffice here. She worked extra hard to make Mallam Aminu Kano Airport redundant and one would not be wrong to rename the Nigerian College of Aviation, Zaria as Biafran College of Aviation because 90% of the management staff in the school are all Igbos. Not to be outdone by Stella Oduah, Okonjo-Iweala ensured that almost all agencies and parastatals in the Finance Ministry is headed by an Igbo man or woman. The Nigerian Stock Exchange, Securities & Exchange Commission, Bureau of Public Procurement, Budget Office, Debt Management Office, etc. No one cares that the actions of the two damsels is in direct contravention of the Federal Character principle which is easily laid on any northerner who had the guts and the gumption to try something akin to equity. But knowing the whole Igbo leadership and followership will stand by them and give them covering fire; they trudged on not minding whose ox is gored.

The recent revelation by the Nigerian Customs Service that the country lost about N1.4tr to waivers and concessions under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch put a question mark on the woman’s much vaunted integrity and economic expertise. It only proves that she is not averse to telling lies under oath as was recently shown by her response to the House of Representatives Finance Committee. With a straight face, she claimed waivers and concessions granted to some people “only” amounted to N170.7bn. This was a woman whose arrival from the World Bank was heralded with a lot of hype on her numerous qualifications from Ivy league business schools around the world. Nigerians were made to feel honoured that such a personage has “stooped” to be in our midst and be Finance Minister, a position her paid pipers made us believe is beneath her. That she is sacrificing a career at the World Bank to come and fix a broken country and a battered economy. I had cause to point out then that wasn’t it ironical that Christine Lagarde, the then French Finance Minister, was on the verge of leaving her post to take up the Managing Directorship of the IMF, the junior partner to the World Bank, while our own Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was resigning as the Managing Director of the World Bank to be a minister of a third rate rentier economy like Nigeria’s. What we were not conveniently told was that she was a Managing Director – one of three Managing Directors – and not the Managing Director.

While Madam Wahala was holding brief as our “Co-ordinating Economic Minister”, $49.8 billion got “missing”. She presided over the voodoo explanations that Nigerians were subjected to without blinking her eyes. For daring to question Okonjo Iweala’s integrity, we got heaps of insults from the Igbos. We do not know whether the monies were stolen on behalf of the Igbos or not – what we know is that this huge amount of money got missing when Okonjo-Iweala is sitting pretty tight as the ‘Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy’.

We have also seen how the issue of Stella’s (alleged)kleptomania is turned into an ethnic rather than a national issue as the Igbos went on a threat-issuing spree. Another instance of this Igbo politics of threats is the announcement by Professor Ango Abdullahi that the Northern Elders Forum is contemplating filing of a case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ihejirika, for atrocities committed by his troops in the country’s fight against insurgency. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Igbos have a separate agenda from that of other Nigerians. The threat by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) eastern region that the north should be prepared for a tribal war in the event the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) carried through its intention of taking Ihejirika to the ICC is very revealing to the unbiased. What are the Igbos afraid of, what are they trying to hide? Was Ihejirika an Igbo or a CAN, eastern region, Chief of Army Staff? Was he not a Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army? Were there things that the former COAS did at the behest of the Igbos and the eastern region CAN that they are scared may be laid bare by a trial? Or that people of Igbo extraction should not be held responsible for their actions or inactions, commissions or omissions while in office?

The fire of ethnicity and religiosity ignited by Jonathan in his 2011 campaign has turned into a conflagration with groups from the former eastern region trying to re-enact their despicable actions of January 1966, which took the country through a needless civil war. While his kith and kin are insulting the rest of the country, Jonathan is busy summoning from pulpits across Abuja. Nigeria will not survive another war and going by the beatings of the drums of war by the president’s supporters, we have to pray hard that one isn’t thrust on us. An amicable parting of ways as happened in the defunct Czechoslovakia, may be in the best interest of all concerned. We can go our separate ways without a single shot fired and with everybody’s integrity intact.

It is also high time northern leaders across board wake up to the possibility of such inevitability. The display disdain, hatred and raw animosity is becoming more and more provocative. It is apparent that what Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, Okoro and company began on January 1966 and which Tony Nyiam, Jonathan’s white-haired boy, tried to finish in April 1990 but failed must be completed for these people to be satisfied. The inheritors to the ‘five majors’ diabolical blueprint believe there won’t be more auspicious time than now – with a pliable and guillible president on seat – to realise their lifelong ambition. Arewa, Ronu!
(Views expressed above belong to the writer)

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