It is reported that the Southeastern states (Igbo states) governors are scheduled to meet in Enugu in a few days’ time in order to take a collective stand on the killings of their people, Igbo and other Christians in the Islamic North of Nigeria by the jihadist group Boko Haram. It is believed by many that this meeting will define this generation of Igbo leaders. One cannot help but wonder if the intended attendees see it that way because that is what it is. The meeting will be the most important of all the meetings that these leaders will ever hold. It will define the direction and the future of the Igbo nation. And everyone is eagerly waiting. Are the leaders going to fail the led? The next few days will tell. No one envies the position of these leaders at this very challenging period in their people’s history. Since the last several months every day that passes see hundreds of dead bodies of their people being transported back to Igbo land from the Islamic North part of Nigeria. This is not counting the deluge of millions of refugees pouring in from the same Islamic North of Nigeria. There are over 3 million stranded in Kano alone, waiting to be evacuated. Today’s Igbo leaders have their plates full and probably ill-equipped to deal with the present dilemma.
Why do we say they are ill-equipped? Because only forty years ago Igbo and other Biafrans got defeated in a genocidal Biafra War in which 3.1 million of their people perished. And like a people’s history is being recycled, every event of today is a sinister replay of all the sordid events of the 1960s that led to the Biafra – Nigeria War. The decision to go to war in the 60s was quicker not because the magnitude of the atrocity was higher but because Igbo leaders then had not been defeated in war in the living memory. They sincerely believed they could take on the world and win especially as they knew they were fighting a just cause; self-defense and self-determination. But eventually they discovered the hard way that victory does not always go to the just. They found out that many times, especially in the world of yesterday, that in the real world cunning, lies and might were the most important assets. So they fought the Biafra War armed only with their belief in the justness of their cause and failed. With this in the background, any of us can easily guess what is going on in the minds of today’s Igbo leaders. Naturally no one likes to fail repeatedly especially when the future and wellbeing of an entire nation of over 50 million people are at stake.
Considering this bitter past of the people’s recent history it is not difficult to see why the terribleness of the situation is failing to elicit the urgent response from Igbo leaders as expected. Their reticence is almost understandable since they don’t want to make the same mistakes again, some people have argued. Those arguments of course can be appreciated since mistakes of this sort can be too costly and responsible leaders always weigh both short and long term effects of their actions. But a time comes when leaders that worth their salt must take their stand in every matter that concern their people. A time comes when making mistakes while acting to solve problems are better than inaction. And right now is that time in the life of the Igbo nation. The Igbo leaders of today as the custodians of the collective wishes of the people cannot afford to toy with this sacred duty of theirs at this time. They must meet and they must take decisions. They must speak the mind of their people to the world. This time calls for bold action. Every true leader knows that his greatest fear is not about mistakes and failure but it’s about not doing something when the situation requires and the people expect to hear what their leader has to say. The next question after asking about what happened has always been what does the leader, supervisor, manager, etc. say or do.
At this time in Igbo people’s history, when they are being killed and looted in their tens of thousands by the Islamic North of Nigeria the question on people’s lips is what does the Igbo leaders say. The leaders in answering the question must not only say something now but they must do something for this generation of their people and for those yet unborn. For the Igbo leaders this is the greatest moment of their lives. How do they want history to record them? This Igbo governors’ meeting of course is belated but must be convened. We hope that the meeting should be merely to formally declare what more than 98% of their people want to hear: The separation of their people and land from the Nigerian state? Anything short of that announcement will definitely be unacceptable and a letdown of Igbo people.
This moment does not call for any timid disposition, half-measures or sentiments from any Igbo leadership. This time calls for bold decisions and truth telling. Apologizing for being alive such as the one heard from Mike Udah, the Press Secretary of Peter Obi the Anambra State governor is demeaning and should be eschewed. The report has it that Mike is denying a story in the Nigerian Compass of January 23, 2012 which quoted Peter Obi as saying that “Boko Haram may divide Nigeria, says Southeast Governors.” Peter Obi happens to be the leader of the Southeast Governors. Mr. Udah repeatedly denied that the governors did not make any reference to the breaking up of Nigeria. He almost made a fool of himself in his very pathetic efforts at self-denials. At the end of watching this undignified display of abject foolery by the Press Secretary many people began to ask the inevitable questions; who is this apology supposed to serve? Where does Igbo leaders’ allegiance lie? Whose interests are they serving? Is it those of the Islamic Northern interests or Igbo people’s interests?
Many people were therefore quick to conclude that if the Igbo governors did not mention the need to break up Nigeria as a result of the activities of the terrorist Islamic Boko Haram group against the Igbo and other Christians in Nigeria then they said nothing and cannot be taken serious. If the governors did not say that Nigeria should be broken up now because over 5 million Igbo lives have been unjustly killed by the Nigerian state and the intolerant Islamic religion of the North and West of Nigeria since 1945 till date, then they must have forgotten an important part of their message, and Mike Udah should have been grateful to the reporter who wrote the story for reminding them of the right things to say at this most important time in Igbo people’s history. He should have been especially grateful to Nigerian Compass for calling to the Southeast governors’ attention the reason why they were elected to be leaders over their people at this particular time. There could not have been a better time to tell the leaders that this is the time for their glory or damnation. What the governors do today on behalf of their people in this situation will define them forever. We hope they will do the right thing and help speedy up the dissolution of the unworkable Nigerian union and free their people forever. Let’s divide Nigeria today.