Rampant Igbophobia

A FEW days ago, the Coalition Of Northern Youths, CNY, issued a three-month quit notice to Ndigbo based in Northern Nigeria, telling them to leave by October 1.

The CNY followed this ultimatum up with a letter addressed to the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo…in which they listed their historical and contemporary grievances against Ndigbo and urged His Excellency (a passionate advocate of peace who describes Nigeria as indissoluble) to allow Ndigbo to exit the Federation and establish a Biafran Republic, if the majority of Igbo so wish.

The CNY recommended that a plebiscite be conducted in the South East zone by the United Nations and other regional bodies, to determine whether most Igbo would rather, once and for all, stay in Nigeria or acquire independence.

Pro-unity Igbos One of the CNY’s grievances revolves around its claim that Ndigbo have “infiltrated every nook and cranny of Northern Nigeria where they have been received with open arms as fellow compatriots, [but] we strongly believe that the region is no longer safe and secure in the light of the unfolding threats” [by Biafra activists, who are accused of spreading “anarchy, hate, suspicion and negativity”].

Another grudge expressed by the disgruntled CNY: Even though Ndigbo (allegedly) own 100,000 shops in Kano alone, “for a long time, [they] have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that in their domain…Northerners and Westerners are as much as possible disenfranchised from owning any businesses…” .

The way the CNY spokespersons harped on in their letter to Osinbajo, you’d think that there were no good-hearted, pro-unity Igbo on this earth and that lots of Northerners and Westerners are dying to open shops and factories in Abakiliki or Onitsha or wherever, but have been forcefully blocked by nasty natives.

The CNY complainants half-heartedly acknowledge that there may be a difference between aggressive “Biafran Igbo” and Igbo who are not currently expressing any interest in accumulating weapons or secession. But the CNY somehow manages to give the impression that it has a serious problem with Igbo in general.

Meanwhile, a billionaire “kidnap kingpin” called Chukwudi Onwuamadike (but popularly known as Evans), was recently arrested. But instead of condemning him purely on the basis that he’s an evil individual who – let’s face it – could have been from anywhere in a country in which abductions are organized by criminals of all ethnic origins, many commentators in online fora that I’ve monitored have chosen to focus almost exclusively on the fact that Evans happens to be an Igbo man.

In one online post after another, great emphasis is placed on the insistence that Evans’s talent for extracting vast ransoms from victims and their families is not particularly surprising because “everyone knows” that “Ndigbo love money”.

I shook my head sadly when I read the toxic tribalistic tripe that is being churned out by the Igbophobists who occupy certain internet sites and write demonising open letters; and I am so worried by all this rampant Igbophobia that I contacted a few friends earlier on this week, to find out whether they shared my concerns.

The people I consulted were from all four corners of the nation and opinions were divided.

Some are convinced that CNY is being secretly sponsored by Northern VIPs who can’t bear the thought of a Yoruba becoming President (if anything happens to Osinbajo’s boss, Buhari) and are desperately trying to generate tensions that will trigger off a military coup that will mess up the natural line of succession.

Others assured me that there was nothing to worry about and that all this IPOB-versus-CNY sabre-rattling is a storm in a teacup, a storm that will, instead of escalating to a point of no return, breezily blow over sometime soon-ish.

I’m not sure what to think. Today’s Nigeria is full of hungry, angry folks; and it’s difficult to predict outcomes in potentially volatile scenarios.

All I can say is that the status quo reminds me of a famous motivational British poster.

It was produced by the British Ministry of Information in 1939 in preparation for World War II.

The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, which feared mass air attacks on major cities in the UK by the German Luftwaffe. The poster’s message was very simple: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Good advice, methinks, for the Nigerian populace.

In the meantime, I must admit that I am mystified by the Igbo penchant for risk-taking. If I were in the shoes of Igbo business people in the North, I would pack my bags and go home and channel my energy into developing my own neglected zone.

Aba, for example, is awful and could and should be a lot better than it is. Many Igbo towns and cities are crying out for development. And that development will only be sorted out by sons and daughters of the soil.

Finally, what do The Heartlander readers think about the following interesting viewpoint? It was posted on SaharaReporters.com by someone called Ugo:

Attacks on Ndigbo are driven by jealousy! One criminal like Evans suddenly represents all Igbo! Awolowo thought he could keep the Igbo down by devaluing Biafran currency to 20 pounds after the war no matter how much one had. Lo and behold, five years after the civil war, the Igbo were controlling the commercial activities of Nigeria to this day…Yorubas in particular are extremely angry and humiliated by Igbo success story. That is what drives all the anger and rage – Igbo success.


by Donu Kogbara

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The Editor of The Heartlander. - News & Views from Imo State, the Eastern Heartland of Nigeria

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