NIGERIA: THE ROAD TO CENTENARY (5)

NIGERIA'S GENERAL YAKUBU GOWON (VICTOR) SHAKES HANDS WITH GENERAL PHILIP EFFIONG (VANQUISHED), AFTER THE FORMALITIES FOR THE SURRENDER OF BIAFRA WAS COMPLETED.
NIGERIA’S GENERAL YAKUBU GOWON (VICTOR) SHAKES HANDS WITH GENERAL PHILIP EFFIONG (VANQUISHED), AFTER THE FORMALITIES FOR THE SURRENDER OF BIAFRA WAS COMPLETED.

Though General Gowon declared at the end of the War, that there was ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’, there was little on the ground to show for it.

Immediately after the war a stipend of £20 was given to Easterners to put their lives back on track. This was regardless of how much they had and/or their dead loved ones would’ve left behind in banks in the places they used to reside.

Though many Igbos were displeased with this particular policy, again hatched by the same person they now consider their number 1 enemy in the person of the then Finance Minister, at a time the Nationalization Decree was in force to which the boards of foreign conglomerates as well as businesses were to make way to Nigerian boards, as well as losing ownership to Nigerians to which they sold off their controlling shares.

This was how the Igbos totally lost out in the control or share of the control of the economy for most of the years post-civil war, as against what obtained in pre-and immediately post independence Nigeria, when the situation was almost neck and neck with the Yòrùbá. At some point back in the day, the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Sir Louise Phillipe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, an Igbo was the richest man in Nigeria (whose Rolls Royce, the only one in Nigeria at the time, was used to convey the Queen of England on her visit to Nigeria in 1956).

The most contentious issue of post war Nigeria as it affected, and still affects (though marginally) the Ìgbò was the issue of ‘ABANDONED PROPERTY’, considering that most Ìgbò land and home owners outside of Igboland in what used to be called the ‘Republic Of Biafra’ left the places where they were been persecuted before the war and after the coups in haste without properly settling the issues relating to their homes, lands and property.

The animosity the Hausas hold for the Igbos remain unequalled nationwide (continues till this day), hence it was natural that many Igbos who had property there didn’t even bother to go back for them knowing they wouldn’t get it back, or may even lose their lives should they attempt such risky endeavour. Besides most of the houses owned by Igbos in the North had been pulled down and destroyed.

Houses of Easterners in the West of Nigeria fared better, as most owners of Eastern origin having left it while fleeing where able to regain them, even Ìgbò street names in many cases remained unchanged. A case was even reported, where a Yòrùbá caretaker collected rent on behalf of the Ìgbò landlord, and remitted same without let to the owner when he returned after the war.

Many houses in the West owned by Igbos were also lost, but the number pales in comparison to those that weren’t to the ‘indigenes’. Ojukwu fought for his in Lagos for many years after he was granted amnesty by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari government in a bid to curry votes of the Igbos. A bid that paid off immensely to his political capital howbeit shortlived.

Nowhere in Nigeria where Igbos backstabbed as they were by so called comrades-in-arms as they were by residents of Port Harcourt. Once the Igbos retreated into the Eastern heartland, their homes were taken over, in some cases by house boys and girls, whose status immediately changed to landlords and landladies.

Attempts by Igbos to recover their lands and properties in Port Harcourt met with stiff resistance, and some Igbos lost their lives (some lured to their death by the new owners of the proceeds of Igbo blood, sweat and tears) in the melee that ensued when they encountered the usurpers.

Again, like in the pogroms Igbos had suffered over the years, for which the Nigerian government kept quiet, this time it simply declared Ìgbò property ” Abandoned Property”, striping Igbos of the right to demand their rightful property back.

The most painful aspect of this was the fact that of all, it was the people the Igbos could call ‘brothers’ that sold them out the most. It didn’t come to many as a surprise that Igbos simply stayed off the case of Niger Deltans in their fight for ‘resource control’, and appeared to remain aloof as Ken Saro Wiwa (who had a running battle with some Igbos during the Port Harcourt, ‘Abandoned Property’ saga) faced the predicament that would lead to his ‘death by hanging’, at the hands of the merciless dictator General Sani Abacha, along with eight others on the 10th of November, 1995.

Igbos suffered further in the total absence of Federal Government presence in their area especially while the military held sway, while civilians administrations, none of which were Igbo, used the promise of a much needed second Niger Bridge as bait to garner Ìgbò votes, interestingly this bait keeps catching Ìgbòs, once the tape is played by the Presidential candidates, usually of incumbent parties or with the backing of the majority of Nigeria’s power players and Kingmakers.

Senior military positions were denied Igbos for the many years after the war till Chief Olusegun Obasanjo turned the tides in His second coming as Head of State in 1999. Once an Ìgbò military personnel attains the level of Colonel or Brigadier General in the Army, or it’s equivalent in the other military and paramilitary services, he/she is retired.

They were also schemed out in the civil service, while their intelligent children lost spaces in Unity Secondary Schools and Federal Universities using a quota system that lowered scores for students of Northern origin but hiked it disproportionately for their peers of Eastern Nigerian origin.

Alhaji Maitama Sule surmised the thinking of Northerners when he said, in reaction to the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola’s attempt to run for presidency in the ’80’s, that the Northerners were primed to Rule, the Yòrùbá to run the Economy, while the Ìgbò have not been outsmarted in commerce.

Commerce was the only space left for Igbos incidentally, though many would argue that they simply went back to their natural place. Those people forget that Igbos were in almost every field of endeavour at independence and immediately afterwards.

Gowon’s 3R’s was simply mouthed, but never implemented, Nigeria however continued to trudge on, trying to forge nationhood like you would from a broken egg.

By the time he was toppled from office while attending an Organization Of African Unity (defunct OAU) summit in Kampala, Uganda, on the 29th of July 1975 Nigerians had gotten tired of him, and they celebrated the coming to power of General Murtala Mohammed, by dancing on the streets.

If only they knew what awaited them!

‘kovich

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2 thoughts on “NIGERIA: THE ROAD TO CENTENARY (5)

  1. Well said. It’s quite interesting how the Igbos recovered relatively quickly from the gory effects of the civil war despite little or no Fed Govt assistance. The industrious nature of the Igbos is second to non. What they were denied in govt and economy was compensated in commerce. I very well know of previously poor Hausas who became very rich, courtesy of abandoned Igbo property all over the North much including West-End Avenue in Maiduguri. But it’s still amazing how Igbos later became a group of formidable landlords in the same town. Although now, no thanks to the BH crises. Be that as it may, almost all Igbo landlords in the North first became landlords in the East due to the greatly bitter lessons learnt during and in the aftermath of the Biafra war.
    Now in another vein, the Igbos in commerce/business are widely known to be to very smart, cunning and will go @ any length to have their way in business. The question here is that was it so from the onset or aftermath of the war? Also, the “operation get rich quick” syndrome which is the bane of Nigerian societies has a peculiar hallmark among the Igbos, and people will easily say especially Anambrans like Ihiala, Nnewi etc. whereby, they go can extremely extra miles like involving bloody rituals just to get rich.

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  2. Igbos have always been in Commerce, even before the war.
    They were also visibly present in other sectors. At independence, two of the four vice chancellors of federal tertiary institutions were Igbo.

    Igbos also dominated the federal civil service and academia even in non-Igbo states. It was why the Northerners saw Ironsi’s UNIFICATION DECREE as a threat and as an opportunity to institutionalize what they saw as already obtainable in terms of Igbo domination of the civil service.

    After the war, many Igbos were financially emasculated, making it trite for the elder sibling(s) to go into trading so they could help the younger ones through school. A few elected to go back to school, usually via help of the community, unfortunately the Nigerian system that heavily marginalized Igbos limited opportunities for many educated Igbos, leaving many of them frustrated.

    The businessmen soon began to return home with their cars, married beautiful and educated women even when they couldn’t speak a fluent sentence in English.

    Soon enough, even the kids weren’t told before they knew or felt that business was definitely the way to go. Igbos did well in society yet remained unacceptable, mainly because they had no ‘name’ as it were in the Nigerian society, as also many weren’t properly educated nor attended pristine schools like their business counterparts from other parts of Nigeria, they became excluded from choice groups and segments of upper class society.

    The secret societies offered power with abundant riches with the price paid in the loss of loved ones or some other obligation that to the faint at heart will appear impossible. Many who obtained riches this way also died without attaining ripe old ages. It isn’t uncommon to find abandoned edifices scattered allover Eastern Nigeria overgrown with weeds said to be formerly owned by occultists.

    At the heart of the penchant of the Igbo to succeed at all cost, by any means possible is the pressure from HOME. The Igbo can’t be said to have succeeded if he hadn’t come home with his car to the village (refer Nollywood for examples), and one cannot also rule out the role greed, envy and discontentment plays in all of these, which seems to be tied in with the enterprising nature of the Igbo, though not totally responsible for the success they’ve recorded in commerce.

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