Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Anti-Igbo Pogrom--Wole Soyinka


“And there, with the shift of power, the nation hoped that the bloodletting would cease -- but no. A progressive pogrom of the Igbo erupted in October the same year, a hunt for Easterners of all ages who were unfortunate enough to have heeded the call of the new regime to return to their places of work and residence in the North, reassured that all was well. They were gruesomely mistaken. Not merely from the North but from every corner of the nation, the Igbo fled homeward, wheeled contraptions every kind bearing their dismal remains and possessions into Igboland. The trainloads of refugees from the North bore pitiable cargoes; some survivors with physical mutilations, some women in such a state of shock that they clung to the severed heads of their spouses or sons, cradling them on their laps. Even within Lagos, the hunt for the Igbo continued unabated, in their homes and at roadblocks. The depletion of my wife’s wardrobe during the months of October and November was only one of many private testimonies to the desperation of one’s Igbo male acquaintance--not all of them soldiers--who resorted to female disguise to escape detection as they fled eastward. Images of death and mutilation in eastern journals and the television coverage of a savaged humanity erased the final sense of belonging in a people who saw themselves isolated within the nation and catalyzed their resolve to secede.”

Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka from his memoir “You Must Set Forth At Dawn.” The Random House Publishing Group; New York: 2006

Monday, November 14, 2011

Story Never Ends For Igbo Writer In America




Just like any other day in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the universe, and a world that stomps on the Hollywood Walk of Fame twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty five days in a year, sightseeing and appreciating the good things of life brought about by inspiration and the wisdom of humankind.

With a flexible schedule and as things happen, and with all the stuff in my head -- some mysterious voices -- the projects I carry on my shoulders keeping up with time, thinking that I have it all together and figured out, not knowing it’s a whole lot of bunch untouched; that kept piling up as I lay pretending to be unperturbed; that it’s all fine, when a caseload of stuff yet to be done, drives me crazy.

Now overwhelmed and all mixed up; looking more and more like going through stuff I have crossed in the past while shuffling. But again, I was only visualizing from what I had been encountering all these moments, I dabbled myself into something of a long, packed closet boxes, that now needs to be dusted off; going back to the past like starting all over again.

Like one of the days back in the day, I usually keep the tabs of the goings on within my schedules every popped out events I had imagined was worth the take for keeping up toward the scheme of things in making the surroundings one lives in, a place that should be known for what it produces, characterizing it as trademark and universally accepted.

It has been a year or something now I have not been that outgoing due to the circumstances I found myself in -- diverting my course of direction, devoting more time on projects I had thought should get going before not catching up anymore and wasting all the precious time that may not be regained again; coupled with a whole lot of writing assignments -- notes on the facts and logic about a complicated Nigerian national state, affairs of state of a jumbled and bellicose Igbo nation I have been weary of pointing out, an all time Igbo Diaspora life, the African Union and an organization without rhythm, African Americans I have encountered in Los Angeles and all around the United States.

Moreover, it also did not keep out my contribution to creation, knowing my value by way of growth doing scholarly work, helping folks at public institutions who needed me on a variety of their quest for knowledge, and meeting new people in a new era; going with the flow as filmmaker, actress and friend, Esosa Edosomwan would tell me.

In my own world, what I thought I had accomplished in this day and age of madness in a dramatically changed world I have been very slow catching up.

The times of turmoil and triumph-trending women in my life; experiences with Igbo professionals, accomplished scholars and intellectuals; my colleagues in the media and generally the entertainment landscape I never imagined in a lifetime would be so, as in thoughts, passion, and actively the way it streamed along to my liking.

Reflections and the streaming days of the playgrounds at Ruga Park, by 37 Barracks of the Ghana Army at Accra; the childhood buddies -- Eugene Onyeji, Theodore Onyeji, Edward Chukwumezie, Hillary Akabuilo, Chukwu Egbejimba, Ijeoma Egbejimba, Hellistus Eke, Fanmi “Polo” Ahmed, Oko Ahmed, Emmanuel Kudjo, John Kudjo, Zakary Ibrahim, Adamu Ibrahim, Manma Sani, John Satorji, Paapa, John Bull whose Mary Go Round crash got us all cracking up but with feelings for the spoiled brat who could not hang with us at the Kanda Estate playgrounds, the Adangbe friends, Akan friends, Ashanti friends, Hausa friends, Wangara friends, Tamale friends and friends too numerous to mention, including Said Usman whom I had bumped into some few months ago while on research work and he looking for an ideal place for recess before his routine prayers at the Mosque on Exposition and Vermont, just by the corridors of University of Southern California. Usman was the last guy I could have thought grew on the same block with me in Ghana, I would meet after all these years.

With all that interest, friends long lost I have found and friends long forgotten that found me in this new age of social networking -- Silas Onyeiwu Snr. (during our Lagos days of uncertainties and our future), Gordy Ekechukwu (our Lagos days of projected higher learning pursuits), Kendryx Alfadoh (colleague in disc-jockeying, rooftop dancing, pub-crawling and partying all around Eko), Emmanuel Okafor-Ize (my hangout guy at FESTAC Town who shovelled me around and showed me the way of Los Angeles upon my arrival), Pius Obasi Totti (from the high school days of NASCO and Ikeji Arondizuogu), Aloysius Duru (from high school to the days of invading my village and me paying back invading Umuowa in return, just for the girls), Tony Ike Okpara (from high school to bad bay image days in Los Angeles), Destiny Anorue (my little cousin who saw me last when I bid the village bye), my nephews Tobechukwu, Kelechi, Iwgebuike, Ezenwa, Chika, Chidera and Uchechi (who finally caught up with me and getting it straight, eventually, in the long run.

The hurdle, inspiration, motivation and getting orderly coming to terms with reality on life being what you make it.

And, of course, that little boy about to be six-years-old in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana, held to his hand by his father while they walked down the street to Nima Roman Catholic School in what would be a journey to eternity, commencing his first day at school, learning every day of his life that he would be an obedient boy and become the youngest ever to receive the Holy Communion and Confirmed according to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The little kid talked about in the Diocese -- Rev. Fr. Lobianco, Rev. Fr. Tonti, Sister Mary, Brother John, and Arch Bishop Joseph Bowers.

The little kid on his way to school on that morning of February 24, 1966, grabbed by soldiers of the Ghanaian Army. Not scared and having no clue what the siege was all about, the soldiers comforted him just by the barriers of Flagstaff House and Nima, telling him that Ghana has changed, heading toward a new order on a calculated operation for a better Ghana. Nkrumah’s regime had been toppled by the Emmanuel Kotoka-led military juntas (upcoming memoirs), and a new era in the nation’s history, which would lead to many, many inexplicable events -- the counter coup, Arthur-Yeboah, Ankrah, Afrifa -- and the Afrifa transition -- to the nation’s Second Republic taken away by Kofi Busia.

Life’s journey -- the trails, good, bad and ugly -- never ceases to be amazing, amusing and fascinating. It has been what kept humankind going, the inspiration and hope of getting it straight that the future is well abound, the expectations -- high and fortunate -- not to give up.

It is with these high expectations that humankind continues to explore, work very hard to meet these goals on the ideological bearings there is no substitute for hard work, which pays off, eventually.

So, as I sat down in my little study with heaps of junked literature, neglected newspapers and magazines needed to be dumped in the waste bin, clipped articles, abstracts from archives culled from libraries around my state and other channels open for learning and research work elsewhere in America, I venture into using what I have acquired by way of the endeavors to gather and provide, in order to appreciate and extend to others what had been given to me, which makes a better world that we live in today -- the gift of sharing.

Through the gift of sharing and things like that, I have approached many institutions noted for collaborative works on research, philanthropy, welfare and other related social programs, to stand by my worthy causes as the chain and community grows.

So, as it happened, I bumped into folks while snacking and freelancing at the Wilshire Corridor hangout around the Miracle Mile in Greater Los Angeles, meeting diversified folks and going through “L.A. Rebellion: Creating A New Black Cinema,” the ongoing project playing for about a month now and ends on December 17, 2011 with closing remarks and special presentation by Ben Caldwell of “Spaces Looking In Looking Out” taking place at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum, in collaboration with the Pan African Film Festival; and also initiated by the Getty Foundation, bringing together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene with presenting sponsors -- bank of America, The Getty, Pacific Standard Time: Art In L.A. 1945-1980, The warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, California Council for the Humanities and the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences.

What had captured my attention in this phenomenal epic project launched by UCLA School of Theater, Film And Television were: “Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification,” directed by Barbara McCullough; “Penintentiary,” directed by Jamaa Fanaka; “Sankofa,” directed by HaileGerima; “To Sleep With Anger,” directed by Charles Burnett, featuring Danny Glover; “Daughters of the Dust,” directed by Julie dash, about the story of descendants of escaped slaves living on the Southern coast of the U.S. in 1902 preparing for qa move to the mainland; “Bush Mama,” directed by Haile Gerima, inspired by seeing a Black woman in Chicago evicted in winter which he developed as his UCLA thesis, and many others.

“Penitentiary,” in particular, I had watched at the Roxy Cinema, Apapa-Lagos, upon its release, reading the movie’s preview in the Right On Magazine, way back when the movie premiered. Seeing it gain took me back to this Fanaka film, depicting prison as a microcosm of African Americans, seeing the prison system as a site of continual violent struggle against bot external (the prison itself) and internal (fellow prisoners) forces played out on the bodies of inmates, who are either sexually exploited or “beasts” (the exploiters).

As the historical event unveils at UCLA through December, the African American community, the African American Association of Journalists, scholars in film, television and the arts have focused on the need to bring forth the awareness of the history and origin of Black cinema, including the director of the project, Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak who had called it “seen the amazing expression of a unified and Utopian vision of a community and in “over three years getting to know the filmmakers, collecting their work.”

In one of my travels to see a couple of films at the event and while poking around the complexes before heading home I met South African born Razianna Myeni, Cassandra Pinson, Julius Baxter, Britney Johnson, Dee Dee Richardson and Ted Calloway who had just walked out seeing “Daydream Therapy,” directed by Bernard Nicolas while we sat on the balcony of one of the eateries talking about the festival over some coffee and light drinks, applauding Horak, the events director and Shannon Kelley, the events head of public programs for collectively coordinating with the filmmakers Haile Gerima, Zenaibu Irene Davis, Barbara McCullough, Charles Burnett, Fanaka, O. Fumilayo Makarah, Jaqueline Frazier, Billy Woodbury, Ben caldwell, Larry Clark, Julie dash, Carroll Parrott Blue, Allie Sharon Larkin, Alicia Dhanifu and many others, for the approach and allowing their works to be used at the festival.

Britney, who had been working on a documentary about inner city youths in South Central Los Angeles, simply put by Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak as “there are projects that take on a life of their own, as if reality suddenly asserts itself, grabbing an idea and shaking it so that it grows and grows,” which was the case when Britney took center stage in our round table discourse giving us a hint on one of the best documentary texts, pulling out from her bag Jack C Ellis and Betsy A. MClaine’s book “A New History Of Documentary Film,” in which every discussant (besides myself who’s yet to have a take on documentary films of sort), acknowledged Ellis and MClaine’s book being a guideline for those in documentaries and stuff of that nature.

Britney, who aspires to take her projects to the shores of Africa which would be part of her knowledge-based programs in the near future, with focus on Africa and its ever growing turmoil and cases of sad reality in the continent on varieties of complicated, ethno-cultural and religious issues and differences. As related, we begun to cite series of the continent’s problems from its precolonial state to its present day, in which, I, personally, have seen many unfold -- Ghana and Nigeria -- the many coups and counter coups I bear witness.

Within this very perspective, the troubled and unstable nature following independence of the number of nations in the continent and the purpose of that pursuit being able to rule on its own standard and based on its culture, I am compelled to ask, who are the Africans? How did they get there? How was it fabricated?

In reading Ali A. Mazrui’s “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” with regards to the African question, I came across a passage of inquiring minds and the conduct by which the continent named Africa came into being, popping out the question, “Where is Africa”? and Mazrui’s explanation:

“It could be said that Africa invented man, that Semites invented God and that Europe invented the world, or rather the concept of the world. Archaeology indicates that man originated in Africa. The Semitic people gave us the great monotheisthic world religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Europe developed the concept of the world in the wake of its voyages of discovery in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but it even imposed its form of that concept on the outlook of peoples in other continents including Africans.”

And:

“ It is not possible to overestimate the enormous impact of Europe upon our perceptions of ourselves as Africans and upon our view of the universe...Even with regard to the size of the African continent, it is quite remarkable how far European ethnocentrism has influenced cartographic projections over the centuries.”

Mazrui would go on to be mad at African ancestors on considering the actual names of the different continents of the world. Mazrui, wondering about the political stupidity of Africa when other nations and continents had chosen its own name that conforms to the nature of their being, noting on the consequences and tragedy of the African continent and with a close look, may have provoked the ancestors and obviously could be seen all around “us” by which ancestral voice could be heard in the curse depicting neglect and abandonment:

“Warriors will fight scribes for the control of your institutions;
wild bush will conquer your road and pathways;
your land will yield less and less,
while your off-springs multiply;
your house will leak from the floods,
and your soil will crack from the drought;
your sons will refuse to pick up the hoe,
and prefer to wander in the wilderness;
you shall learn ways of cheating,
and you will poison the cola nuts you serve your own friends
Yes, things will fall apart...”

Of course, it all fell apart and the walls came tumbling down. Nkrumah predicted the fold, saw the debacle in and around the African continent which he forewarned in his earlier fear of a linkage between nuclear tests in the Sahara, racism in South Africa and recolonization of the entire continent; and astonishingly revealing from what he had said over fifty years ago. In April 1960, Nkrumah had addressed an international meeting in Accra on what he had seen with his two naked eyes in vision, which would be exploding sooner than later. Nkrumah said:

“Fellow Africans and friends, there are two threatening swords of Damocles hanging over the continent and we must remove them. These are nuclear tests in the Sahara by the French Government and the Apartheid policy of the Government of the Union of South Africa. It would be a great mistake to imagine that the achievement of political independence by certain areas of Africa will automatically mean the end of the struggle.”

In a statement made by the sage half a century ago and twenty-first century African continent, should it not be mind-boggling that Nkrumah who engineered the concept of a Pan African national state and had he been around today seeing the sorry state of the continent, would he not be worried and would he not be asking, what happened?

In Wole Soyinka’s “The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness,” lectures the Nobel Laureate delivered as the inaugural for the Dubois Institute Macmillan Lecture Series at Howard University in April 1977 citing President Nelson Mandela’s open confrontation with African National Congress (AFC) on “its own dismal record of needless cruelty and abuse of human rights, especially in prisons and detention camps run by the movement within friendly front-line states,” when the legendary Mandela had launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human right abuses during the Apartheid era on which Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison. The commission was established to heal the nation’s wounds through fact findings of the demons engaged in the human enterprise of unnatural taste, and to seek resolve by way of apologies and reparations.

And Soyinka had asked on such grounds, and in retrospect using the South African post-Apartheid model, if the same could be said of post-dictatorships in other African countries with its new democratic order, following in the foot steps of the Truth and reconciliation Commission. Soyinka writes:

“Would the Truth and Reconciliation ethic have been applicable, even thinkable in post-Acheampong Ghana? In post-Mobutu Zaire? Will it be adaptable in post-Abacha Nigeria? That circumstances make such a proceeding expedient is not to be denied, but we must not shy away from some questions: would it be just? And, more important, how does it implicate both the present and the future? The crimes that the African continent commits against her kind are of dimension and, unfortunately, of a nature that appears to constantly provoke memories of the historic wrongs inflicted on that continent by others.”

No question, I too had seen many documentaries, stories and newsreels of most atrocities in Africa by Africans. In my native land on which I have written extensively to near exhaustion on too many of the subjects. I weep each time I reflect to the atrocities, with the never ending question; Is humankind alert and would it happen again? Of, course, given the necessary circumstances, it would, and still happening, and would continue, over and over again while the world watch it unfold.

And my reaction to this had always been that when the unthinkable happens in a world that deliberately inflicts wounds on its own with the thought that at the end of every tragedy, there must be a moment of reconciliation. But what would reconcile what Elemi John Agbomi, in what he had told me not too long ago when I had interviewed him (this part not published) and narrating to me his experiences as a little boy in high school, then Government Secondary School, Afikpo, and how the federal Nigeria vandals invaded the land, sacking the place and cutting short his secondary education upon declaration of war by the vandals, thus firing the first shot. “Certainly, the Biafran War was a tragedy,” Agbomi would say. And what he had seen as a nation that deliberately ignored the ominous consequences of the pogrom and civil war, Agbomi begins to talk about his experiences during the war.

At barely fifteen years old when the vandals invaded and sacked his hometown of Adadama in what is now Cross River State, and while in refugee camp at a location near Mbano in what is now Imo State, he had been drafted and enlisted in the Biafran Army with badge number BA 30 400. He talked about all sorts of atrocities committed by the vandals upon arrival to any village or town they seem to have run down. Rape, looting, kidnapping was just the order. Agbomi, just young as to not knowing what had cut his education short, a full blown assault on his homeland and all the displaced persons he could not fathom how it came about “as people like “us” were all put together at one place (refugee camp) with rationing meals, not knowing when the next order will be made for evacuation as enemy attacks draws near and becomes imminent.” “Us” means Biafra, the Igbo speaking people (Ibibio, Kalabari, Efik, etc.)

Even with hunger and food rationing, some no doubt, at the camps, hopeless and having lost some of their relatives, held on, despite all the uncertainties, until the end of the war when he had felt liberation in a war torn eastern Region; and starting life anew, all over again, with a clean slate. But Agbomi’s eyewitness account of an Orwellian drama, did not stop, short of tales horrific in human nature -- the widespread raping of Igbo women, looting of properties, demolition and plundering of the Igbo nation by the vandals.

In Minna, then northern region of the fabricated Nigeria, and under the premiership of Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto who ran the affairs of state and controlled the power block of the nation even though the central capital, Lagos, was the seat of government with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as prime minister on the platform of the Northern People Congress (NPC). Minna was another town of orgy revenge for the assassination of Balewa, Bello and other northern politicians who perished in the first military coup of 1966.

Michael Achebe Okongwu, only six years old, was in a Minna classroom as a primary school pupil when elements of the northern Islamic Jihadists, who were also hoodlums and nihilists, struck, invading the primary school where Okongwu attended, attacking every Eastern looking persons. In Okongwu’s classroom, where they were taking lessons from their teacher, a female and Yoruba by tribe, mistaken for Igbo, was brutally slain in the presence of her pupils by the nihilists who had been instructed to kill every Igbo. Even if the bare facts were known, almost no one understood the full intentions of the Hausa-Fulanis, including their Yoruba allies’ attempt to exterminate all Igbos. It was simply beyond the power of most peoples imagination. Okongwu, who now calls Southern California home, still cannot fathom the chaos, callousness, bigotry, hatred and ignorance of the premeditated pogrom of 1966 and 1967. In most times that we speak, and especially on the related pogrom and what he saw with his eyes as a little boy beginning the long walk and hauling, from Minna to Ogbunike and the continual assault by the vandals who violated every order, bombarding every enclave in Igboland, until vanquished, indicated there no such thing as one Nigeria. “I will never, ever forget,” Okongwu would always say.

Or the case of the late Egbebelu Ugobelu, born Samuel Obi, in Class 2, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Grammar School, Abagana, when, also, the vandals invaded the land in the quest to wipe out the Igbo nation from the face of the earth through its war strategy of economic blockade, hunger, starvation and stone-walling. Growing up in Port Harcourt before admission to Nnamdi Azikiwe Grammar School for his secondary education, Pot Harcourt was an Igbo dominated town and had flourished with Igbo men of commerce and industry; higher education, academia and intellectuals.

During Gowon’s genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation, Ugobelu was enlisted in the Biafran Army and stationed at the Umuahia Brigade Command before Umuahia fell to the federal Nigeria vandals. The post-civil war would see him through National Grammar School, Nike, Enugu, completing secondary school and obtaining his West African School Certificate (WASC); employment at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Lagos; and selection for the “Crash Program” during the Murtala Mohammed-Olusegun Obasanjo-led military juntas’ projected courses, getting a shot at the United States and studying Accounting and Management Science before returning home and coming back to the shores of America four years later on the grounds of a failed state.

Ugobelu and I spoke uncountable times, and each time was about the pogrom, the civil war, Nd’Igbo and their place in history, and his experiences during the disturbances and conflicts that swallowed over two million people.

In his book, “Biafra War Revisited: A Concise And Accurate Account Of Events That Led To The Nigerian Civil War,” Ugobelu had suggestede “Biafra War,” on a title based on his notion that the war was “virtually” fought on Biafra. In many of our related discourses, he had thought I was one of the child soldiers, just from around my narratives of the northern Islamic nihilists and Gowon’s-led genocidal campaigns, until we had both begun to know each other very closely as we continued to learn from one another, detail by detail, what happened in the killing fields, the refugee camps, Obafemi Awolowo’s orchestrated “Economic Blockade,” the starvation to death of women, infants and children; and the aftermath of the projected pogrom --the horrific rape of Igbo women, and where many of the women (some tired, some reduced to animal and skeletal nature from being desperately starved), having no choice but to embrace the vandals, proclaimed liberators, to the chagrin of the survived Igbo men, who were too tired, poor, plundered and inhibited to take part in anything like that when the women were taken away, becoming the vandals’ stock.

And yet, after all these acts of human tragedy perpetrated on a people by the vandals, the Truth and Reconciliation commission created by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led regime in the Fourth Republic modelled after Mandela’s earlier commission in South Africa, under the chairmanship of Justice Chukwudifu Oputa was laughable and had no intention from its set up to investigate and find, arriving to conclusions acts of genocide committed by the blood thirsty cannibals. It is ironic, that most of these blood-lust vandals could not be asked to testify during the Oputa commission.

During Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Nigeria was already going through the hands of the despot, Sani Abacha. Soyinka’s W.E.B. Dubois’ Lecture at Howard University, particularly bent on the Truth and Reconciliation anticipating similar situation in his native country while on exile trooping the planet promoting his movement of democratic dispensation, and away from a country that had been ravaged by the despot Abacha, wishing it was the other way round. Abacha had wanted Soyinka dead or alive for inciting a pro-democracy movement that generated all the anger and frustration which was actually not concretely grounded because of its original base, and with that base, centered, on a section of the country that Abacha sought, to which they have been Abacha’s victims, and by which in the name of democracy, advocates for democracy joined without regard to the particular section being persecuted or looked for reasons behind the friction.

In “The Open Sore Of A Continent: A Personal Narrative Of The Nigerian Crisis,” Soyinka indeed lost every hope of a Nigeria that would one day become an entity again. However, I was not sure why the movement had assured itself of victory when most of the staunch advocates had already fled the country, and could not stay to have faced the consequences, for freedom and democracy does not come by a distant pen alone, but by proxy movements, relative activism and fighting in combat.

Many did not align with the movement on the grounds of its related, fractured foundation which had a lot to do with the interest it protected, and again, the generators of the movement were not viable and intact to have gathered enough following being one of the reasons the platform of the movement was not taken seriously, at all, until luck struck, leaving Abacha dead, and a swift transition that would usher in a fabricated Fourth Republic.

But Soyinka bent on the annulled “June 12,” 1993, election his cousin Moshood Abiola was allegedly said to have won in a landslide, suddenly to be reversed and cancelled by the Ibrahim Babangida-led military juntas on the grounds of election wuruwuru and magomago, rigging, which in a 180-degrees about face erupted a set of civil disobedience resulting to Gestapo-like regimes which inevitably chased the junta, Babangida out of power in a twist of transition through Ernest Shonekan, then civilian administrator, paving way for Abacha to usurp power which chased all the pro-democracy backers out of sight.

Soyinka, in series of his books, essays and lectures, had been about frustrated efforts and anger, on the continent in its leadership woes having no sense of purpose to have propelled the states to the forefront of democratic orderliness. And, like Soyinka, I, also, ask why a continent, first in natural resources, first in human capital, second most populous and second largest in the world could not utilize its overwhelmingly abundant natural resources and its unquestionable, enormous human capital to have formed a one, strong unified entity to have subdued colonial conquests of peoples and cultures, by all accounts?

And, angry Soyinka questioning the kind of country his native land was, lamented:

“In a world tormented by devastation from Bosnia to Rwanda, how do we define a nation: is it simply a condition of the collective mind, a passive, unquestioned habit of cohabitation? Or is what we think of as a nation a rigorous conclusion that derives from history? Is it geography, or is it a bond that transcends accidents of mountain, river, and valley? How do these varying definitions of nationhood impact the people who live under them?”

And, as developed, just like the African Union and its Organization of African Unity (OAU) parent could not take any serious measures in all the years the entire continent had problems fixing and putting all its loopholes together beginning from the first shot opening the doors for coup plots and assassinations of government officials and heads-of-state in the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, etc. And, looking at South Africa and, Apartheid, why was OAU not able to form an army to liberate South Africa? Why could OAU not to have form an army to liberate the Congo from the mess well orchestrated by the West and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in savagely axing Patrice Lumumba? Why could OAU not swiftly to have reinstated Nkrumah in Ghana when the military juntas wrestled power from him? And why would OAU to have sat idly and watched Samuel Doe forcefully remove William Taubman from power in a bloody coup? And why would OAU do practically nothing when Tafawa Balewa and some of his cabinet members were kidnapped and shot execution style by a murderous gang of mutineers? And why would OAU, the most powerful union in the continent’s history allowed and endorsed the diabolical nature of the anti-Igbo pogrom, when Igbos were sought from place to place and murdered in the most brutal of circumstances? Why would OAU, upon Hassan Katsina and his northern Nigeria blood thirsty Islamic nihilists could not be stopped in its genocidal campaigns against the Igbo nation? Why in what had erupted in Sierra Leone, the chaotic civil war, OAU could not arrest the situation until a terribly, costly price had been paid? And, all in all, why could OAU not seize the moment to have stopped the Western Hemisphere’s consistent dominance of Africa through coercion and theft? And as the case goes on and on, and on, what is OAU/AU doing?

The Nigerian crisis and the rest in Africa during the sixties was very unique with a OAU that had no alternative, especially with the first military coup in Nigeria and all the stories that followed when Aguiyi Ironsi was flogged and murdered in what OAU could have stopped from spreading. Even when Joseph Akahan, according to Frederick Forsyth in his book, “Making Of An African Legend,” the northern nihilists under Akahan had concluded that its by the brutal murder of Ironsi that he (Akahan) and his group of mutineers at the Government House, Ibadan, agreed that it has been made even and there should be no more bloodletting, “balancing out” the act in allegedly what the top Igbo Military brass had begun, the “Igbo Coup.”

And never minding the fact that it had been made patently clear the first military coup was not an instigated Igbo coup from its plot, the mutineers would continue in their widespread wholesale massacre of Igbo personnel and military officers. The air force aide-de-camp who witnessed the brutal murder of Ironsi while fleeing into the bush and other slaughtering campaigns of the Igbos around the Ibadan area recorded the following account:

“At Lemauk Barracks, Ibadan, the commanding officer Col. Joe Akahan claimed at sunrise that he had known nothing of the midnight movements against General Ironsi. But it is unlikely that the troops, transport, arms and ammunition used for the siege of Government House were, removed without the C.O’s knowlede. At 10 A.M., Colonel Akahan called an officers’ conference, from which he himself stayed away. When the officers were assembled the Easterners were taken away to the squadron, then later to the taylor’s shop. At midnight, that night, thirty-six hand grenades were lobbed through the windows. The survivors inside were shot down. Eastern soldiers were then made to was the blood away, before being taken out and shot. The easterners in Ironsi’s retinue were also finished off. On the afternoon of the 30th, Colonel Akahan called together the northern soldiers and congratulated them, saying at the same time that there would be no more killing since events had been balanced making it even.”

Ironsi’s murder would be the key ignition to bring about the wanton killing of Igbos around the nation in a “premeditated and diabolical” act which continued apace through the Civil War until now, with an end not yet in sight. Despite Ironsi’s attempt in assuring the northern nihilists that he was for the stability of the country announcing the shuffle of the military governors and ordering the immediate transfer of several military units trading places with the Fourth Batallion in Ibadan and the First Batallion in Enugu, putting away fears of another possible coup, which would pave way for a unitary government he promulgated and was declined by the northern hoodlums and Vandals, and with too many blood in their hands, rounded Igbos, torturing them and killing all execution style.

Such would be the case and Nigeria would not be the same again. In Ghana, there were similar cases, too, but short of wholesale massacre, pogrom and civil war. The overthrow of Nkrumah in February 1966, by the Kotoka-led military juntas was followed two months later by the bloody assassination of Kotoka by a group of mutineers from the Ho, Volta Region Camp led by Moses Yeboah. In the Congo, similar events had occurred previously when Patrice Lumumba was captured and assassinated. Such had been the pattern; the assassination-coup-war dance in the 1960s Africa -- the aftermath of Independence.

Like Ironsi, whose story had never been told at length by those who were close to him and knew him very well, things like his life before the combat in Congo, his series of casual and not casual affairs, his increasingly heavy drinking days as told partly by some of the stories, while most of his counterparts elswhere in the continent whose tenure and era had been covered and written by close friends, relatives, haters, admirers and authors of varied flavors, I requested a copy of Ironsi’s biography “Ironside,” written by one of the nation’s finest journalists, Chuks Ilogbunam.

Ilogbunam, this past September 15, on wishing me well on my birthday told me that “Ironside” had been out of print, and that no immediate plans to continue since Ironsi’s story had been told in many ways, that he could embark on “second edition by next year”, and that the copy he had, had been worn out. Ilogbunam writes;

“I throway salute. Ironside sold out "centuries" ago. But if I locate a tattered copy anywhere, might just send it on to you. I chose not to do a reprint because about 10 books dealing with the same period have since appeared. It will make little sense, I think, to reprint without due scrutiny of alternative opinion. But I scarcely had the time the past five years to do anything connected to scholarship. Now that I am in some "freedom" I should redo Ironside for a second edition by next year. Regards.”

Iloegbunam, I will look forward to that second edition, and I do hope that more is yet to be known in what had been the most blood-soaked event in the entire continent where the major actors, some still alive, living in denial as if those innocents that perished was a mere political dance on which Igbos have to start all over again, which was the case in a Nigeria that had been doomed to fail.

But nevertheless, despite all the failed talks resulting to Gowon’s-led assault which shouldn’t have erupted in the first place had the Aburi Accord been respected and upheld, followed by related faile meetings, the British-Russia aided Nigerian vandals did not find the combat easy. Biafra fought. Against all odds, in what President Julius Nyerere had seen as worthy and on the principles of self-reliance, the government of Tanzania recognized Biafra as a Sovereign National State. That profound recognition was followed by Ivory Coast’s President Houphouet Boigny on May 08, 1968; President Omar Bongo of Gabon on May 14, 1968 and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, May20, 1968.

Several other countries in and outside the continent had planned to join the league recognizing the new nation, but were dissuaded by a contingent led by former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Alfred Palmer, who had met with these country’s leaders and public intellectuals, charging that a Biafran recognition for sovereignty would not be proper at the moment for the ongoing conflict, which was upon Ojukwu’s Special Squad “S Brigade” invaded and captured the Mid-West, which sent shocking waves to the rest of the world.

The shocking waves resulted to the failed talks in Kampala, Uganda, when the Biafran delegation led by Justice Louis Mbanefo went back home on a breach of the peace talks. The Nigerian delegation which was obvious of deceit and betrayals was led by Anthony Enahoro the traitor, Aminu Kano and the three “Biafran renegades”--Dr. B.I. Ikpeme, Brigadier George Kuruba and Anthony Ukpabi Asika, with proposals meaning a ceasefire should be on the terms of the conqueror, mandated by a British-Russian support.

Thus a whole lot happened, a whole lot is still happening and a whole lot will be happening as time goes on. The question here is, what should be done? Evidently, the saga continues and the Story Never Ends For Igbo Writer In America!

Ambrose Ehirim


Notes: See;

Apologies, Reparations and the Path to Healing; Ambrose Ehirim, BNW/Igbonet/The Ambrose Ehirim Files, (2000)

L.A. Rebellion: Creating A New Black Cinema; UCLA School Of Theater, Film & Television. (2011)

The Burden Of Memory, The Muse Of Forgiveness; Wole Soyinka, Oxford University Press, New York: 1999

The Open Sore Of A Continent: A Personal Narrative Of The Nigerian Crisis; Wole Soyinka, W.E.B. Dubois Institute

The Africans: A Triple Heritage; Ali mazrui; Little Brown and Company; Boston: 1986

The Igbo Of South Eastern Nigeria: Victor C. Uchendu, Holt Reinhart and Winston, New York: 1966

Without Bitterness; Nwafor Oritzu, Creative Press, New York: 1944

Making Of An African Legend; Frederick Forsyth; Pen & Sword

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remembering 11.11.69 On 11.11.11

By Ike Chime

It was like every other morning since my ordeal started. I woke up from the cold bare concrete floor that had become my bed from the day I was thrown into the guardroom in the quarter guard of 1st Div Nigerian army in Enugu in February 1969. I have earlier spent some months in the concentration camp further down the main street of the army barracks, ironically, a long house with barbed wires I have known since my childhood as we usually walk through the barrack during our usual childish adventures. Little did I know that the gruesome abode we often wondered what it could be used for will one day become my prison.

The concentration camp was the first place I was brought to after long tortuous interrogation on the very day I was apprehended. When I stepped into the overcrowded house, the first thing that hit me was the raw smell of human filth, an odour I have come to get familiar with. You live with it during long operations. It is a combination of body filth, due to many days without bath, rotten skin from the stockings and boot, decaying wounds, and putrefying dead bodies.

Most of the inmates were suffering from malnutrition. They were mostly bones and hollowed, but determined eyes. I was greeted by most of them with smiles of courage. They urged me to be strong, that whatever the case, victory will be ours. I was marvelled by their courage despite the hopelessness of their condition. I was in handcuffs, indeed the only one in handcuffs among hundreds of inmates in the camp.

We lay packed like sardine in the open hall; everyone kept to his little space for lying down, and sitting or standing in the day. It was the most inhuman of a situation reminding one of situation in boats during the middle passage. I have never been exposed to a situation like this before.

As a new entrant, I was taken to the inner room which was more crowded, and I could not find any space for myself as most of the inmates there were standing. I realised that in that room there was a trash can with a cover which served for the offloading of human excrement. On top of its cover I found myself the comfort of at least sitting down, but I had to get up intermittently as someone is pressed to use the can. The concentration camp was organised by the inmates, and as usual there was hierarchy. The veranda section of the house was where the seniors stay, then there was the main hall, and the smaller inner room where the newest entrants stay. The GOC of the camp stays in a comfortably spaced area in the corridor. In the evening there was a call for silence that the GOC was coming. He came into the central hall with his retinue of lieutenants. He announced that there was a new entrant today, and according to their custom, he has to introduce himself and tell what led to his coming to the house. I was nudged forward by some of the boys, and I introduced myself and what led to my ordeal. This way I was formally initiated. In the evenings, we sang and said prayers, the song that stayed with me up till date, and brings tears to my eyes when I think of it, an Igbo song that translated thus-

See that child sitting on a rock

Sitting on the rock, weeping

Rise up my child and wipe your tears

For everyday is not made for weeping

Jesus commands you to rise up and dry your tears

Every day is not made for weeping



I did not last long in this human dungeon, for I was taken away one day to the front gate of the barrack, the quarter guard area in a military guardroom where offenders of the Nigeria army serve their term. It was an open hall with three narrow rooms, one, much narrower with an iron bar. It was in that one with bars I was locked in. The soldiers were one by one taking out their frustrations on me. They will call me unprintable names, pii on me, spit on me and so on. I had to keep to the end wall of the room to avoid their humiliation. Some of them compete on whose pii can hit me from the distance.

A few days later, an elderly man in his 70's I guess, was brought into my cell, and was made to share the hand cuff with me, me on the left hand, and him on the right. It was an awkward situation as we eat and use the toilet tied together. Think ot, waiting on him to poo-poo and vice versa. He told me his story, he said he went to the bush to ease himself in the bush behind the Holy Ghost Cathedral when he found some shiny metal objects and thought they will be nice for putting snuff. He collected them and displayed them for sell in Ogbete market. I was really touched because I knew what the objects were, I knew the location he got them from, but what can I do about it? Well we were interrogated and tortured on a daily bases. The guards were instructed to beat us with bulala (horse whip) every morning. My back was so sore that it was difficult to bend down. The wounds could not dry as they were opened up every morning with fresh flogging. But there was this tall gentle provost whom whenever he was on duty will take me behind the house and ask me to start shouting while he hit the bulala on a bundle of tarpaulin by the corner. He was a very kind and fatherly type and will always smile at me. I was always happy when he was on duty, and often look forward to that.

This was the routine until 11.11.1969.

It was like every other morning during my ordeal. Our cell door was opened and there was among the regular guards a military police officer dressed in a ceremonial outfit. He exchanged some words with the guard who ordered us to come out. Outside was a waiting military Land Rover with about seven fully dressed military policemen sitting in rows holding their rifles upright with the butts on the floor of the land rover. We were aided to sit onto the floor of the vehicle. I found this kind of wired and I started feeling butterflies in my stomach. We were quiet as the vehicle left the guardroom area and started heading towards the gate. It turned right towards the city, and turned left at the New Haven junction and then right into a compound that was in those days used as the military police headquarters. There was a bevy of activities going on as I suspected they have just dismissed from their morning 'Stand to' parade. The vehicle stopped in front of the main building and turned to face the way out. This way I could see what was going on the grounds. The military policemen sat still in the Land Rover as I noticed another Land Rover being loaded with shovels and a large coil of rope. Also there was a constant communication going on with the officer who picked us up and the people loading this other vehicle. I simply put two and two together to understand what was going on. I turned to Baba and said "Baba, I think they are going to kill us"

Our vehicle left the compound with the second Land Rover trailing behind. The convoy drove back towards the barrack gate and stopped in front of the gate but along Abakaliki road. The officer in the front seat by the driver came to the tailboard and spoke some words in Hausa to the military policemen. Then it happened, we were both blindfolded. I mumbled to Baba, “Baba, you see, I told you, they are going to kill us! they are going to kill us” I shouted. Then he spoke for the first time, and that was also his last words “Nwam kachie obi” ‘My son be brave’ he said to me.

From this moment I felt cold sweat run down my body in constant waves. My mind was racing from one place to another, from one issue to another. It was more like the fast scrubbing rewind while editing a video. I was having flash memories of faces of dear ones, my parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. I mumbled their names and tell them I am going home. This experience I find very hard to fully describe. Also at the same time I was consciously trying to trace where we were being taken. I realised that the vehicle turned left after a while, registering in my mind that we were heading towards Abakpa Nike. After a while I felt the hollow echo you get while on a bridge, this further strengthened my hunch that we were heading towards Abakpa. Then after a while there was sound of increased human activity, suggesting a market area, and I thought this must be Abakpa market. After that it became very quiet except for the sound of the moving vehicle, and I thought we are now in some Nike village.

After what seemed several minutes, the vehicle stopped and we were led out of it. We were dragged through some bush and I remember falling into a ditch, probably an abandoned trench, and was dragged out of it. We went further into the bush until we stopped. I started hearing more voices, and there were some activities going on of which I could not phantom with my eyes blindfolded. Then suddenly the blindfold was removed, the blaze of the sun dazzled my eyes, and when I managed to focus, a voice said, “Hei you boy look in this direction”. I recognized that voice. It was that of the senior officer who had once interrogated me, a major by rank. I looked in the direction he ordered and saw Baba firmly tied on a stake.

Then the major continued “You are a condemned man already, the GOC have signed your death warrant, I am the only one with the power to save you, only if you will give me a reason to do so by telling me the truth and everything regarding your operation. You are too young to be wasted. If you play along I will make sure you are sent to Lagos or Kaduna to continue you education........” Then he added “But if you fail to cooperate, what will happen to this Baba, will happen to you, the ball is in your court”

All the while he was talking my mind was racing, what to do, spill the beans and expose other operators. But if I do, how do I guarantee he will keep his side of the deal. Then I remembered what happened the year before when one of us got caught in action, he spilled the beans and his two accomplice where arrested. Three of them were shot by firing squad and people were forcibly taken to the field in military trucks to witness it, and I was there. That was it, I am going solo on this, if this is my fate, I am accepting it with honour. Then I spoke thus, “You people have tortured me enough, i have told you all I know, I have nothing left to say” “ Okey o!” the major said, “ I have tried my best”

That moment there was an aircraft flying overhead, and for some reason I can’t explain, I looked up at it, and the major said “Yes you can look at an aircraft for the last time, yes, look”

He then spoke to his men in Hausa, and the military police officer took over from there. He shouted some command and the seven armed men fell in line facing Baba at the stake. At a second command they knelt down and cocked their riffle, “fire” and seven gun barrels roared, and as I watched, Baba did not flinch one bit. I thought this could be a show off; maybe they were using mock bullets. The military police officer was mad at his men for some reason I did not understand, maybe they missed their shots. He commanded them to fire again, and the guns roared one more time. Then I noticed something. Baba had a netted singlet on, and I noticed that it was split at several points, that was when it dawned on me that this was for real. I became agitated. I knew he was innocent, and they should know that. Here is an illiterate old man in his 70s selling used wares he picked from things people abandoned while running for their lives from Enugu. It is simple logic that if he knew what he picked from the bush behind Holy Ghost Cathedral was a dangerous explosive; he wouldn’t display it for sale. Now they shot him.

The soldiers quickly untied his body from the stake after the medical personnel inspected and declared him dead. This was when I saw his blood all over the stake and I could not control my emotions anymore. I shouted “You bloody vandals, you have killed an innocent old man, and you will all pay for this. The man did nothing why kill him” I was totally hysterical and out of control, I knew I had nothing to lose. The whole place was a bit out of control at this time. My shouting, the major shouting at me to shut up, the military police officer shouting to his men to dig Baba’s grave and mine at the same time. It was totally a crazy moment.

It was a hot mid morning and during the dry season. The hamattan season was early that year. In that heat I was feeling cold sweat running down my whole body, and I could not stop talking even as the major kept shouting at me to shut up. As the confusion continued, I started walking towards the stake and shouting, “Come on, let’s get this whole business done with, let’s get it done with. There is no need wasting my time, I cannot wait any longer, the die is cast, the die is cast” and some other stuff like that. To be honest I did not know what was pushing me, but I was so determined. Suddenly the major shouted “Hei! You stop there, shut up and stop there” and I obeyed. He walked over to me and said “the die is cast, the die is cast, where you got that nonsense from”. Then after staring me in the eyes for a moment while tapping his staff on his leg, he took a deep breath and gently asked me, “Are you really sure someone gave you that bag” to which I defiantly replied ”I am tired of repeating the same thing every time, I have told you this time without numbers and I took your men to the home of the fellow that gave the bag to me, I am tired, just get this done with, the die is cast” He shook his head, walked away from me and motioned to the other three officers among them. They came over to him and they put their head together in a kind of mini emergency summit. They nodded their heads, and he then raised his head and ordered “Pita de shi” Hausa word meaning, bring him out. He quickly reminded them to put the blindfold back on me.

This way I was again taken, this time out of the bush to the waiting Land Rover and put to sit on the floor, flanked by armed military police firing squad, but without Baba.

May his gentle soul and those of other innocent victims of the Biafra war keep resting in peace.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

[Nigeria] State creation: Bottlenecks, agitations, new challenges

By JUDE OSSAI, STEPHEN GBADAMOSI and BANJI ALUKO -- Sunday Tribune

That new states are on the agenda of the National Assembly with respect to expected constitution amendment is no longer in doubt. The focus is on which of the new state movements is likely to get the nod, even as new realities from the Senate appear to stand against the target. Regional Editor, OLAWALE RASHEED, writes on the politics of state creation from the country’s inception and likely new states to emerge from the impending exercise.

MANY justifications have been advanced for the push for new states out of the existing 36 in the federation. Similarly, countless reasons have been canvassed to support non-creation of states. Indeed, a couple of days ago, calls had been made for some states to be merged. The argument had been that some states were becoming non-viable. Politics of the time is, however, driving fast towards the emergence of new states between now and 2015.

Many citizens worry about the effects of further balkanisation of the federation. Those in support of new states, however, regard it as part of national restructuring to ensure equity and justice.

Since the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates of what now is Nigeria in 1914 and the subsequent creation of states in the country, the issue of state creation has always been a strenuous and delicate matter. Instructively, all the states in Nigeria, apart from the Mid-Western State, were created by the military government that had ruled in the past.

The last National Assembly took the bull by the horn as it started a process for the creation of new states. Although the Assembly could not complete the business, the new and present National Assembly has picked it up from where the last Assembly stopped. Shortly after its inauguration, Senate President, David Mark, and the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, gave indications that creation of new states would feature prominently in the proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution. A stamp of legislative authority has been given as the presiding officers of the two chambers have declared their commitments to the project.

There also appears to be a presidential support. President Goodluck Jonathan, while seeking the presidential mandate, had cause to promise new states in some zones of the federation. What is more, some Ijaw leaders see the Jonathan presidency as an opportunity to add another predominantly Ijaw state to Bayelsa. Checks also revealed that key actors in power and out of power are resolutely behind the project.

The framers of the constitution are conscious of the possible agitation and so the procedure was deliberately complicated. The constitutional requirements for creating a new state are as follows:

According to the 1999 Constitution, to create a new state requires that such creation be supported by at least two-third of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new state) in the Senate, House of Representatives, the House of Assembly in respect of the area and the local government councils in respect of the area that the state will be created in. That is not all; a referendum on the new state must be approved by two-third of the people in the area where the state is to be created and the result of the referendum approved by a simple majority of all the 36 states of Nigeria supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly. After all these stages have been completed, the state is then approved by a resolution passed by two-third majority of members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

This stringent guideline has not deterred successive civilian governments from commencing moves towards state creation. In the Second Republic, A Senate committee set up in 1981 under Senator Abubakar Tuggar shortlisted 50 new states to be created. The then National Assembly approved the list for subsequent referendum in accordance with the provision of the constitution, but the process was aborted when the military overthrew the Sheu Shagari-led government in December 1983.

In the current republic and even with those stringent constitutional provisions, the legislature has received more that 40 requests for state creation. Among such proposed states are Igboezue, Adada, Aba, Njaba, Orlu, Orimili and Orashi (South East); Anioma, Oil Rivers, Ogoja, Afemaiesan, Toru-Ebe and New Delta (South South); Oduduwa, Ijebu, Ibadan, New Oyo, Oke-Ogun (South West); Apa, Idoma, Edu, Okun, Oya (North Central); Amana and Savannah, Katagum (North East); and Gurara (North West).

The underground scheming is almost akin to what happened in previous state creation exercise under the military. Most states created under Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha were due largely to the influence of highly placed people from the fortunate states. Even new state capitals were determined more by who was closer to the military rulers. Osogbo, for instance, got the capital of Osun due to such figures as Dr. Olu Alabi. Dutse upstaged Hadejia just as Asaba got the nod due mainly to influence peddling factors.

In the subsisting scenario, some of these personalities have promised their kinsmen a state of their own. What is more, some are hoping to emerge as chief executives of the new states after the expiration of their existing tenure. Hence, there are elements of personal and tribal agenda in the on-going exercise.

Conditions
But part of the criteria used in the past for a state to be created included the economic viability of the area demanding the new state, especially the ability and potentials for sustainable internal revenue generation, provable cases of demographic strength and underdevelopment arising from denial of access to human development; provable evidence of socio-cultural affinity and geographical contiguity; the need to redress lopsided cartography and boundary lines resulting in endless border and resource-based conflicts; provable instance of consensus among the demographic groups demanding the new states.

Others included the ability of the new states to provide their structure and resources to take off; ability to ensure internal security and cohesion and peaceful co-existence with their neighbours and the existence of human resource and personnel to run the state.

Talks of merging current states emerge
Some of these conditions that, perhaps, seem to be witnessing erosion in some states and this might explain the alarm raised by the Senate last Thursday where it claimed that some states in the country were on the verge of bankruptcy.

The development pushed the upper chamber of the National Assembly to mandate its committees on National Planning; States and Local Governments; and Finance to study the situation and make recommendations on possible remedial measures to avoid total collapse of the economy of the states.

Some of the states said to either in critical conditions or unhealthy are Ekiti, Plateau, Benue, Edo, Adamawa, Cross River, Enugu and Taraba.

Others are Ogun, Kogi, Yobe, Ebonyi, Ondo, Kaduna, Oyo, Bauch, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Gombe and Rivers.

Against this backdrop, some senators have suggested the merging of some of these states, though there have also been other suggested solutions, such as readjustment of the revenue sharing formula. The question now is with the current agitation for more states, how does this new development affect the process believed to have been set in motion to actualise the goal?

Current agitation
A zone by zone analysis focussing on the politics of the exercise can be done as follows:

South East zone
Of the six geopolitical zones, the South East has been the most vociferous in the agitation, citing the need for zonal parity as it has only five states, while others have six or more. To the advantage of the zone, it currently has the deputy Senate president, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and, strategically, the coordinating minister for the economy.

This connection within the administration is, however, generating divisions, rather than the unity needed to make the project a reality. The deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, is believed to have his eyes on a Njaba/Orlu state to be create from Imo and Anambra states. But the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, and the SGF, Chief Pius Anyim, appears to be poles apart on this issue. Anyim is reported to be interested in the creation of Old Ohaozara/Igboeze Orimili out of the present Anambra State. Senator Ekweremadu hopes a new state can emerge from Enugu State.

An Igbo writer attempted to resolve the riddle when he analysed the history of state creation in the South East. According to him, South East zone was first divided into Anambra and Imo states. Anambra got divided again into Enugu and Anambra states, the same time Imo was divided into Abia and Imo states. At last, Ebonyi State was created from Enugu and Abia states. So, the next or sixth state in the South East is obviously to be created from both Imo and Anambra states.

Apart from the above, there are those who also believe the Igbo can never agree to get a new state, even as the race is being blackmailed based on alleged ruling presence of Igbo in Delta and Rivers states. Interests from the North which are waiting in the wing to stop a new state for the Igbo cited the notion that the Igbo, indeed, have seven states as they are substantially present in controlling stature in Delta and Rivers.

But only last week, the Ambassador Ralph Uwechue-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo rose from its meeting in Enugu and reiterated its quest for an additional state in Igboland.

In Enugu State, agitators for Adada State creation have called on the National Assembly to stick to the guidelines spelt out by the Senate President Mark who emphasised that the exercise should be an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past which have resulted in perennial misgivings among many Nigerians.

Adada State also prominent
Leading the Adada group was a former speaker of the defunct Eastern House of Assembly, Igwe Charles Abagwu. Also in the lead of agitators were chairman of the state Committee on Actualization of Creation of Adada State, Major General Godwin Ugwuoke (rtd); chairman, movement’s Tactical Committee, Chief Cletus Opata; and the spokesman for the group, Chief James Ugwu.

Who will have the upper hands among these heavyweights spearheading the Igbo cause is only a matter of conjecture. Anioma state, from current Delta and Anambra states is, however, being touted as a likely option.

Why Anioma is likely
The creation of Anioma State is, perhaps, one of the oldest in the country. Records show that agitation for the creation of the state dates back to 1951. It is an attempt by the Igbo-speaking people of Delta State to have a state of their own. The word, Anioma, was a coinage used by the late Anioma state agitator, Osita Osadebey, to group the Igbo-speaking people of Delta State in Aniocha, Oshimili, Ndokwa and Ika areas.

According to Emeka Esogbue, a native of Ibusa in Oshimili North Local Government Area, the proposed Anioma state will also bring together other Anioma communities, such as Ndoni in Rivers State, Igbanke and Ekpon in Edo State and other Anioma communities in Edo, Imo and Rivers states.

Igboezuo State
Perhaps, the most convincing of all the agitations for state creation in the South East, agitators of Igboezuo state just want the creation of a state from the five states in the region to make up for the imbalance. By not citing cultural affinity or historical antecedents as reasons for its creation, it appears proponents of Igboezuo state have demonstrated correctness of perspective and have placed the overall interest of the Igbo nation before any other mundane consideration. What is their argument? To them, Igboezuo is like a union of the five Eastern states; the new heartbeat of the Igbo nation.

They are proposing that some existing local governments from the five states of the region be excised to form the new state. From Anambra State, Orumba North and South local government areas; from Enugu, Awgu and Aninri local government areas; and from Ebonyi, Ivo and Ohaozara local government areas. Abia will cede Isuikwuato and Umunneochi, with Imo producing the bulk of the local government areas by giving up Okigwe, Onuimo, Ideato North and South, Isiala Mbano and Ehime Mbano. With these, the new state will be ready to take off with 15 local government areas with headquarters at Okigwe.

Njaba State/Orlu State
In the vanguard of Njaba state is former Governor Achike Udenwa, while Senator Hope Uzodinma is behind Orlu state. The proposed Njaba state, according to its promoters, should be carved out of the 12 local government areas that make up Imo West (Orlu zone) of Imo State and Ihiala in Anambra State. The local governments are Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Nkwerre, Nwangele, Isu, Njaba, Ideato North and Ideato South. Njaba state, according to them, will ensure fairness as regards state creation in the former Eastern Region.

They recalled that the region was split into Imo and Anambra and from Imo; Abia was carved out while Enugu was created from Anambra and out of Abia and Enugu, Ebonyi later emerged. They, therefore, maintained that equity demands that the sixth state for the area be carved out of the present Imo and Anambra states. In the same senatorial district, agitators of Orlu state want the 12 councils that make up the zone to be accorded a state status.

South South zone
The zone, though with six states already, seems also set to get additional state. Those in the know said the president is under pressure to ensure the creation of a new state for the Ijaw in the Niger Delta. The argument is that as the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, Bayelsa alone should not be the only predominantly Ijaw state. This is the genesis of the proposed Toru-Ibe state which is generating heated controversy between the Bini people and the Ijaw of the Niger Delta.

The Bini and Itsekiri recently accused the Ijaw of annexing their riverine areas to increase the land areas of the new Ijaw state. The opposition has been very vociferous. The Ijaw have also responded, claiming that the said riverine areas belonged to them as the Bini met them while on migration.

The Ijaw of Edo State said their demand for the creation of Toru-Ibe state from Edo and Delta states was to save them from the oppression they claimed to be suffering in the hands of the Bini people, which they said was more than what the Israelites suffered while in bondage in Egypt.

They described the claim by the Bini that all Ijaw riverine communities in the state belonged to them as “a bundle of lies and deliberate falsehood carefully crafted to bamboozle, misinform and mislead governments of Nigeria, especially members of the National Assembly who must be very wary.” Spokesman for the Ijaw in Edo State, Professor Christopher Dime, insisted that the Ijaw would never cede an inch of their land to any ethnic nationality in the country, adding that “the Ijaw had been the aborigines and the customary owners of all land covered by the proposed Toru-Ibe state.”

He said “despite their posturing, blind guessing and recent attempts at historical revisionism, it is clear that the Bini do not know and, indeed, cannot know when the Ijaw came into the Ijaw lands of present Edo State because the Ijaw were on the land long before the Bini migrated from Yorubaland.

“That the Ijaw were among the oldest ethnic nationality in Nigeria and, indeed, in the West African sub-region is not in doubt. That they are indigenous to the Niger Delta and its fringes to the West, East and North is equally no news. There is a pool of incontrovertible scholarly evidence and documentations in support of these claims. Among them is Chief Jacob Egharebva of blessed memory, the best known and celebrated Bini historian with Bini royal blood, who in his A Short History of Benin, said, ‘many, many years ago, the Bini came all the way from Egypt to found a more secure shelter in this part of the world. After a short stay in the Sudan and Ife, tradition says that they met some people who were in the land before their arrival.”

Agitators of Toru-Ebe State are said to aim to bring together the Ijaw in Delta, Ondo and Edo states. The demand for the creation of the state is, therefore, aimed at satisfying the long-standing yearnings of the people for self reliance, peace, stability, self-determination and development.

According to Dr. Felix Tuodolo, the clamour for the Ijaw to have a state of their own did not stop with the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996 and that agitation for the creation of Toru-Ebe State dated back to 1976. They are also insisting that Ijaw in Edo, Delta and Ondo states have become minorities in these states, a situation they believe can only be remedied if they are given a state of their own.
Appartr frome Dime, some of the other prominent Ijaw leaders agitating for the creation of this state include Chief J. O. Mieyebo, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Okokolo Carter, Mr. V. B. Bamuza-Mutu, Brigadier-General Broderick Demeyeibo, Chief Edwin Clark, Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni (rtd), Chief Joshua Fumodoh and Chief F. J. Williams.

They asserted that the proposed Toru-Ebe State was viable with abundant minerals, oil and gas, river-bed sand and gravel, oil palm produce, timber, raffia palm for the production of industrial gins, mangrove trees for salt making, deep sea coastal and river fishing, shrimp and also farm produce in commercial quantities. The proposed state has natural landscape with beautiful beaches which can be developed into revenue generating tourist industry. The proposed state is also said to have enough human resources.

Beyond historical disputations, many insiders appear sure that if new states are created, Toru-Ibe is certain to be one of them.

North Central zone
Many are clamouring for new states in this zone as earlier listed. A factor very potent in the exercise is Senate President David Mark, an Idoma from a Tiv dominated state of Benue. Mark is seen by his people as the one to liberate them from the alleged hegemony of the Tiv.

This is why the creation of Apa state is very central to the political life of the Senate president.

His detractors were even as mean as to suggest that Senator Mark is to secure the creation of the new state and emerge as its first governor. This is if, as rumour mongers noted, he fails to secure the presidency come 2015.

According to the Senate president, the Assembly would break the jinx that states could only be created by the military. He assured Nigerians that the committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution would be fair to all in the consideration of states to be created.

The Mark factor is, thus, seen as set to stop a very historic opportunity for the Yoruba to have another state in the zone. In the North Central, Apa state and Senator Mark hold the key.

South West zone
The agitation for new state is also very strong in the South West. Three prominent expected states exist in the zone namely, New Ijebu, Ibadan and Oduduwa.

Oduduwa state is facing challenges due to change of government in Osun state, in addition to other associated development in the state. This is especially so in view of the constitutional requirements.
The two leading movements are basically those of Ibadan and Ijebu. Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ms Jumoke Akinjide, was upbeat about the chance of Ibadan state. According to the minister, the creation of Ibadan state is realistic and nobody should doubt it.

“Ibadan state, when created, will be one of the most viable states in the country. The reason, as you know, is that we have the Ibadan metropolis and the Ibadan less city. We also have strong economic potentials in view of the large number of people in Ibadan.

“In terms of economic viability, population and landmass, Ibadan ranks number one in terms of earning state position. If any state will be created, Ibadan state will certainly be one of them,” she stated.
But some analysts are pointing at change of government in Oyo state with a rationalisation that he minister may not be in a position to be so hopeful. While not doubting her good intention, the thinking of some pundits is that Ibadan state will be a mirage, unless the incumbent governor, Senator Abiola Ajumobi, pursued it as his agenda.

There is also the doubt as to whether Ibadan can stop the highly influential Ijebu from getting a state of their own in the new dispensation. The Ijebu are anchoring their agitation on records of history.

According to proponents of the new Ijebu state, its creation was long overdue because out of the old 24 provinces in Nigeria, only Ijebu province was yet to get a state, while three states had been created out of the old Sokoto province and two out of Kano.

But will the Egba let the Ijebu off the hook by backing the creation of the new state? Analysts premise that question on the history of rivalry between these two great ethnic stocks of Yoruba race, a competition a prominent Egba writer traced to political power struggles after the fall of the Oyo Empire and commerce, as to who controlled the slave market or route.

Interestingly, Ijebu and Egba lands extend beyond the present Ogun State with Ijebuland reaching up to Somolu and Epe and Egbaland extending to Oyingbo, Mushin and Abule Egba in the present-day Lagos State.

Sunday Tribune was, however, told that Egba and Ijebu elites are unanimous in the drive for the new Ijebu state. What remains, according to pundits, is for the new state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, to publicly support the bid for the new state.

Proponents of the new state are, however, very hopeful of having a new state possibly rich in oil and gas, good sea port and a rival to Lagos State. Unless the state government opposes the new state, insiders are sure Ijebu state will beat the proposed Ibadan and Oduduwa states, if new state were to be created from the South West.

Oke Ogun State
But there is also the issue of the proposed Oke Ogun state. The creation of the state from present Oyo State is among the most prominent agitations in the South West. With a land mass constituting about 60 per cent of the present Oyo State and a population of about 1.4 million, the Oke Ogun area in Oyo North Senatorial zone believes it deserves a state of its own. Other reasons being given is that the area has for long suffered neglect as a result of the distance between the area and Ibadan, the state capital, which is as much as 130 kilometres, as well as lack of development in the area.

But according the proponents of Ibadan state, which is the main road block to the proposed Oke Ogun state, of all the former regional capitals in Nigeria—Enugu, Kaduna and Ibadan—only Ibadan has not got a state of its own. It is based on this historical fact that backers of Ibadan state believe that it will become a reality if the National assembly eventually considers state creation.

North East zone
Two new state creation movements are very prominent in this zone, namely Katagum, wanted out of the present Bauchi State; and Savannah state, out of present-day Borno State.

Historically, Katagum is a province which leaders have been agitating for a state for long. Possibly due to geopolitics of the state, Katagum, despite producing key national leaders, has not been lucky in the quest for a new state. It was one of the 50 states shortlisted in 1981 and one of the 20 recommended during the Abacha-led regime.

In the present scheming, Katagum is truly strategically placed to realise its dream. A likely new Emir of Katagum is a prominent leading player in the present power structure in the country. Additionally, decision-makers are bending towards the scarce values of equity and justice in treating the Katagum request.

But there is a possible new equation to the situation in the North East. With low-level insurgency ongoing in central and Northern Borno, many are proposing the creation of a new state of Savannah to cover Southern Borno, which, interestingly, is predominantly Christian.

Leaders from Southern Askira/Uba, Bayo, Biu, Chibok, Damboa, Gwoza, Hawul, Kwaya-Kusar and Shani local government areas of Southern Borno had constituted committees to pursue the ambition. What is hard to determine is whether the mainstream Borno political elites will support such a move.

The Savannah state proponents are facing the same challenge as those of Gurara state in North Western zone. The leader of the movement, Bawa Magaji, said the creation of the proposed Gurara state was approved by the Kaduna State House of Assembly in its resolution on November 18, 2009.

“The proposed Gurara state, with headquarters in Kachia, has a population of 3,383,207 and a land mass of about 28,393 square kilometres,” he said.

But will mainstream Kaduna elites allow the separation? And again, can the North West have another state, since the zone is already with seven?

In the meantime, Katagum holds the ace in North East zone.

North West zone
Agitation for the creation of Southern Kaduna state from the present Kaduna State has been on for a very long time, but the aspiration has never yielded any positive fruit, despite that many states were created by the military governments. Their cry received further impetus after the religious crisis which rocked Kaduna State in 2000. As a result of the crisis, a committee (leaders of thought) formed by former governor of the state, Ahmed Makarfi, recommended the splitting of the state. Motion for the creation of the proposed state was also moved in the Kaduna State House of Assembly in 2002. Upon the declaration by the National Assembly to create additional states in the present dispensation, agitators for the creation of Southern Kaduna have returned to the drawing board.

One issue that comes up each time the debate for the creation of Southern Kaduna state is raised is about where the state capital will be located. It was even said that this singular issue prevented the creation of the state by the government of the late General Sani Abacha in 1996. Although the proponents of the state seem to have accepted making Kaduna metropolis the capital of the new state, they are still undecided over the choice of the capital between two towns—Zonkwa and Kachia.

Options for National Assembly
Again, the process is complicated and allows for unhappy elements to spoil the realisation of the project. For the National Assembly, many are suggesting the creation of five new states, one per zone, minus North West. But the former leadership of the National Assembly suggested 10.

If new states are to be created, the nation may well be expecting the following states: Ijebu, Katagum, Apa, Anioma and Toru-Ibe.

But with the new development over the unhealthy state of some states, which is sending jitters down the spines of stakeholders in the affected states and has made some notable Nigerians to call for the merging of some states, the death knell of new state creation might have been sounded.