The Oasis Reporters
October 26, 2020
By Sir Don Ubani; KSC, JP
Okwubunka of Asa
Dr. Michael Okpara, from Ohuhu Clan in the present Umuahia-North Local Government Area of Abia State, was the Premier of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria. From 1959 to 1966, he was the youngest Premier in Nigeria, starting at the age of 39. Unlike today that many leaders are not driven by ideology, Dr M I Okpara believed in Pragmatic Socialism, with emphasis on Agriculture.
Up till today, his records of achievements in pragmatic governance remain a compass that every well-meaning Governor or even President in Nigeria would wish to be guided by. Under him, the Eastern Region, from which were created Nine States, (1) Abia, (2)Anambra, (3)Ebonyi, (4)Enugu and (5)Imo, constituting South-East geo-political zone and(6) Akwa-Ibom, (7) Bayelsa (8)Cross River and (9) Rivers, was said to be the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa before January 15, 1966.
The unfortunate Military Coup d’etat of 1966 brought to an abrupt end the hopes and aspirations of Nigeria’s First Republic.
Due to the unmitigated massacre of people of defunct Eastern Region in other parts of Nigeria and mischievous refusal of the Federal Government of Nigeria under Col Yakubu Gowon to abide by the Accord freely assented to by both the Federal Government of Nigeria, as led by Col. Gowon and the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria headed by Col Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu at Aburi in Ghana, presided over by the Chairman of Ghana’s Liberation Council, Lt-General J A Ankrah, the peoples of Eastern Region, after intensive consultations, had no option than to declare their Independence.
That gave rise to the birth and emergence of the Federal Republic of Biafra on 30th May, 1967. The declaration was the only survivalist option left for the dangerously- embattled Easterners who were being decimated through pogrom or calculated ethnic cleansing.
The bloodbath that the Region had been turned into by the Federal Government of Nigeria aroused in everyone, including Dr M I Okpara, a survivalist instinct.
Dr M I Okpara was among the last set of Biafran Leaders that flew out of Biafra when it had become obvious that after three years of unprecedented resistance by a people who were least prepared for a war, that the resistance could not be sustained any longer.
When Dr Okpara returned from exile about 1982, he opted to join the National Party of Nigeria, headed by President Shehu Shagari. Many political pundits had expected that Dr Okpara would naturally join his erstwhile Leader, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who was the Leader and Presidential Candidate of Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP. On the day of his declaration for NPN, he said something that has since become a popular saying, ‘First Fool No Be Fool, Second Fool Na Proper Foolish.’
Knowing what the Igbo went through during that war of attrition forced on them, Dr Okpara’s axiom was self-explanatory.
The recent or is it current #ENDSARS Protest in Nigeria brings to mind Dr M I Okpara’s First Fool and Second Fool analysis. While the Northern States, except in Abuja where sponsored Almajiris attacked Southerners and heavily destroyed such items as cars and vehicles, lost nothing, the South became a theatre of human destruction and general catastrophe.
Here in the South-East, our young men, being oblivious of the underlying wisdom in Dr Okpara’s First Fool No Be Fool Second Fool Na Proper Foolish, wrecked unmitigated havoc on their scarce infrastructure.
The Protest took a violent different dimension. A Monument like Aba Town Hall which is a treasured reminder of our encounter with and resistance against British Colonialism was set ablaze! Apart from the absurdity of hooliganism, what else would those behind that dastard act claim is their gain? The Igbo are known for their entrepreneurial ingenuity. They have basically managed to survive deliberate marginalization by the Federal Government and general poor governance, simply on the strength of their relentlessness in business. Banks have remained an essential source of our economic resilience. Why must Igbo youths ever contemplate vandalizing and looting banks at Aba, for instance?
Unlike in some other States where volumes of hoarded COVID-19 palliative items were discovered and ransacked by rampaging youths, none was and could have been found in Abia State because Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was very transparent and altruistic in managing the palliatives.
The worst misfortune that a people should allow to befall them is repeating a mistake that almost devastated them fifty-four years ago. The January 15, 1966 Coup that was led by Majors Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu were in reaction to tense political crisis in defunct Western Nigeria, in which the Federal Government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was aiding Chief Samuel Akintola in a very suffocating rivalry against his former boss, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The coup was, therefore, a fallout of unhealthy political turmoil that had bloodily engulfed the West. The crisis that promoted the coup was not in the East.
Except historians of Igbo extraction and a few outside Igbo land, hardly does any person remember to state that the involvement of the young military officers were purely interventionist. They even had in their agenda a grand design to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo from Prison in Calabar and install him as Prime Minister of Nigeria.
For fifty-four years, the Igbo have suffered unimaginable punishment for the interventionist role of their sons.
Who would blame Dr M I Okpara for saying, First Fool No Be Fool, Second Fool Na Proper Foolish ?
The Igbo should have by now, based on their horrible experience resulting from the 1966 coup, learnt to be as wise as the Serpent and as harmless as the Dove.
There is no gainsaying the fact that despite the burden of machinery of Federal Government’s marginalization agenda against the Igbo, they, comparatively-speaking, have remained the most successful and richest citizens of Nigeria. If a census is conducted on Hotels in Abuja, it would be obvious that the Igbo own, at least, 60% . The same is applicable to the Estate Industry in Abuja.
It must, however, be mentioned that more than 60% of Igbo wealthy class made their money in Lagos. No matter likely differences in opinion may be, Lagos has been generally favourable to the development of Igbo Entrepreneurial Spirit.
While our close neighbours in Rivers State took over property belonging to the Igbo during the Nigerian/Biafran war, hiding under the most inhumane law called Abandoned Property promulgated by the State Government under Navy Commander Alfred Papreye Diete-Spiff as Military Governor and assisted by Major David Mark, property that Igbo deserted in Lagos as a result of the war were safeguarded by the Yoruba and handed over to them after the war.
If there are friends the Igbo have in Nigeria, the Yoruba come first. But they, like any other groups, are human-beings. They have their sensibilities, interests and pride to protect.
What happened in Lagos during the #ENDSARS Protest was purely the making of aggrieved Nigerian Youths. It was neither a tribal nor religious uprising. Anger has been bottled up for many years and it was only natural that one day it would burst. It has eventually burst.
As it is with human beings, each action would have its fallouts. One Uk-based young Yoruba man called Adeyinka Grandson, from his far-away Uk residence, probably taking advantage of cheap and easy facilitation by Social Media, issued a QUIT NOTICE TO THE IGBO NOT ONLY IN LAGOS BUT THE WHOLE OF YORUBA LAND.
Thanks to the maturity and understanding of Yoruba Elders and Intelligentsia. They quickly intervened and rightly disowned Mr Grandson.
Any serious misunderstanding between the Igbo and the Yoruba would keep the South perpetually under slavish marginalization by the Fulani hegemony. That Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo failed to agree initially has been the reason why the people of the South find themselves in a disadvantageous position today.
Currently, national issues are taking a more critical outlook in not only the South of Nigeria but equally in the Middle-Belt. Both the South and the Middle-Belt are beginning to realize that Injustice Against One Section Is Injustice Against All. They are beginning to work together.
The Nigerian Federation, if allowed to operate as a truly-0structured State, would be the pride not only of Africa but also the Democratic World. This is why every broad-minded Nigerian is advocating for A Restructuring of the Country.
The issue of Separatism or Disintegration of Nigeria is not an option. If it could be an option for other tribes in Nigeria, it would not be considered even in the least by the Igbo. If Nigeria is Restructured, there would hardly be any country, at least in Africa and the Black World, that would come close to her in overall development.
The Demand for Restructuring is already in motion. The innocent blood of all those that were brutally killed in the course of protesting for a separate country, Biafara and the ones recently slaughtered en masse at Lekki Toll Plaza by the Nigerian Army would, by and large, bring about the realization of the dream of Nigerians and there will be a Restructured Nigeria.
While the process of Restructuring Nigeria is being anticipated, the Igbo should be circumspect in their utterances, conduct and deed. We should restrain from making provocative utterances that could severe our relationship with others. No one is an island to itself.
Igbo Governors, Political Leaders, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Clergy, Journalists, Writers and all should be relentless in defining and quantifying who their Leaders are. Igbo, as a nation, can not afford to be lackadaisical on who their Leaders are. A rabble-rouser who hangs away from Igbo land, using radio to rain abuses on personalities at will, cannot be allowed to make a claim of leadership on the Igbo. He should not even be allowed to cause trouble between the Igbo and other Ethnic Nationalities.
One fundamental challenge the leadership of the Igbo must have to address now is the self-destructive radicalization of Igbo Youths. They have been badly brainwashed. A Psycho-Social Machinery must be put in place to make sure they are deradicalized. Until this is successfully done, the negatively-brainwashed Igbo Youths would continue to be an embarrassment to the Igbo Nation.