We Are All Victims, We Are All Bullies
One of the most beautiful things I appreciate about humans is the memory. I remember vividly, as a six or seven-year-old boy, my stepmother (now late) taking me to a white garment church (Cele as they are popularly known) at Iyana Ipaja, then a suburb of Lagos. The ‘Olusho’ (or Pastor in charge) ‘saw’ vision that I was a wizard or witch which if something was not done urgently, the “witch” in me would destroy the family and a lot of people. I remembered the flogging on my tiny body that day in graphic details today. Even when my father came back, he had to ban her from taking me to any church again on seeing how well the “witch” in me was “flogged out.” Till today, I am still scared of anyone who tells me s/he a white garment church. That is the power of human memory.
Another thing I have come to realise about the human memory is that it selects what it wants to remember. Despite my experience with Cele people, (I don’t ordinarily ask people about their religious beliefs), I have had friends whom I later knew attend white garment churches. Some have worked so intimately with me that their attending Cele doesn’t seem to matter to me again. Why do I still remember an incident that happened in the late 1980s? After all, we are all victims of history!
On May 30, 2017, the memory of the Nigerian Civil War came alive again, understandably, from the South-Eastern (the worst hit during the war) geo-political zone of the country. The part that we should not forget is that according to ChidoOnumah,We Are All Biafrans. But rather that say we all are Biafrans, I will say we all are victims of history. But How? Why? Where?
In 1953, Action Group (AG), led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo went to the London Constitutional Conference with two political demands: First, the question of whether Lagos should be part of the Western Region; and second, the question of the right of a region to secede from the Federation be included in the Nigerian Constitution.
Let us forget about the first question for now. Only recently did I read ProfessorKalu Ezra's classic, Constitutional Developments in Nigeria. The foremost authority on Nigerian Constitutional Developments writes:
"Before the  Conference got underway, the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Lyttelton, produced a cigar sent to the Conference by Sir Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Government, and said that he did not propose to smoke it unless the Conference was in trouble. Remembering the extreme and undiplomatic ‘challenges’ of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to the Colonial Secretary and the latter's stern warning reply to him, it was not surprising that rumours were afloat to the effect that a British man-of-war was standing alert near the Coast of Lagos to take charge of the situation, should the Action Group rank and file be goaded into taking the law into their hands over the Lagos issue.
"The Action Group delegation did not raise the question of the position of Lagos again at the Lagos Conference. But it did, however, DEMAND THAT THE RIGHT OF A REGION TO SECEDE FROM THE FEDERATION TO BE PROVIDED IN THE CONSTITUTION. But the Conference, clearly influenced by Dr.Azikiwe's scholarly exposition on the dangers of which received the strong backing of the Chairman, the Colonial Secretary, objected that any secession clause should be written into the amended Constitution." (page 189, My Emphasis).
Now, had the right of any region to secede from the federation been granted in 1954, there are high possibilities that the ugly developments in the mid-1960s would never have happened. We all must accept responsibility for this!
To show that we all are victims and all have blood on our hands, I recount some developments of historical significance in Nigeria.
The January 15, 1966, we are told, was not an "Igbo coup" even though it was led by Major ChukwumaNzeogwu (Anioma by tribe from Delta state) but somehow, we should believe the July 29, 1966 Coup is an "Hausa coup" even though it was led by Yakubu Gowon (Angas by tribe from Plateau state). Let us not forget that another "Hausa Coup" removed Gowon exactly nine years after in 1975.
We are to forget that the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr.NnamdiAzikiwe and his NCNC teamed up with "oppressors Hausa-Fulani" NPC not only in 1959, they also teamed up to send political sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to jail in 1962. The coalition to weaken the Western Region was perfected with the creation of the Mid-Western Region while at the same time the AG was calling the creation of Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR), Ilorin/Kabba and Middle Belt provinces which fell on deaf ears. Nowhere did Awo complain of "marginalisation of Yorubas" despite the hell he went through in the hands of this formidable coalition. No one recalls Yorubas calling for the head of Igbos for such shabby treatments meted out on the politician!
In parenthesis, Chief Awolowo warned the actors in the coalition of the consequences of their actions especially when they declared State of Emergency in the Western Region in 1962. Little did they realise it will shape events that will come later in 1966 and 1967.
The same pattern repeated itself in 1979. Let us not forget that Zik led his NPP to congratulate AlhajiSheu Shagari (from Sokoto) after the most controversial election in Nigerian history. The party even joined the Shagari government (at least till 1981). No one called Igbos betrayers for this. Even when the Yoruba-dominated UPN was boldly rejecting fraudulent election results in Ondo and Oyo states in 1983, Hausa-Fulani dominated NPN ‘stole’ Anambra (Zik's home state), yet he led his NPP once again to congratulate Shagari's NPN all to spite Awo. Again, no one called Igbos betrayers!
We should also not forget that ex-Biafran hero, ChukwuemekaOdimegwuOjukwu, on his return to Nigeria in 1982, about two decades after the war, joined and contested for the Nigerian Senate under the Hausa-Fulani dominated NPN in 1983. He lost, and somehow, we are to forget that.
In 1993, a certain Arthur Nzeribe was used by the military government to scuttle the presidential election was by Chief MKO Abiola (an Egba man from Ogun State), Igbos were never tagged by Yorubas for this unfortunate incident as betrayers or bad people. It wasn't the case of "Yoruba betrayal by Igbos". Everyone condemned only Nzeribe, not Igbos. I doubt if there was anything the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairman, Professor Humphrey Nwosu could have done to change that!
Let's not forget the main arrowheads of the elongation of Abacha's tenure were the Iwuanyawus, OjoMaduekes, Daniel Kanus (the YEAA man),OnyekaOnwenus and the likes were Igbos supporting a Kanuri man's ambition. Yes, there were Yorubas too, like Sunny Ade, Shina Peters,LamidiAdedibu and business mogul, AlaoArisekola, but no one called it an “Igbo” or “Yoruba” agenda!
Apart from core PDP supporters in the South West, and I mean the Fayoses, Gbenga Daniels, AlaoAkalasetc, that supported the Obasanjo's infamous third term, it was vehemently rejected in the South West. But in South-South and South-East, governors were trying to outdo each other to be seen to be supporting the Obasanjo's agenda. In fact, in the heat of the debate over the constitutionality of Obasanjo’s ambition, Professor Joe Irukwu-led OhanezeNdigbo, endorsed President Obasanjo’s ambition to contest for a third term. We should, for the sake of history, not forget to say it was the Senate, under Senator Ken Nnamani, that save the nation from Obasanjo’s brigandage!
My point is for people to tackle whoever offends or offended them, not his tribe or where he came fr om. A bad man gives his tribe a bad name even though the tribe contains a host of angels.
I will end this piece with a quote from Frantz Fanon, in his book, The Wretched of the Earth, where he writes:
"The collective struggle presupposes collective responsibility at the base and collegiate responsibility at the top. Yes; everybody will have to be compromised in the fight for the common good. No one has clean hands; there are no innocents and no onlookers. We all have dirty hands; we are all soiling them in the swamps of our country and in the terrifying emptiness of our brains. Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor."
On Fanon’s note, we are all victims of our history. So, no one is innocent or guilty!
OlalekanWaheed ADIGUN is a political analyst and an independent political strategist for a range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
His write-ups can be viewed on his website http://olalekanadigun.com/
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