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By Emeka Ugwuonye on 20/04/2014

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Muritala Nyako, Governor of Adamawa State and retired Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, raised a predictably provocative position in a letter he wrote to his brother Governors of the 18 Northern States. In his letter, he accused the people of “Eastern Region” of Nigeria, obviously “Biafrans”, of waging a campaign of genocide against the people of the Northern part of Nigeria. Nyako’s letter was reported in today’s ThisDay online news. In his letter, Nyako accused Jonathan and the people he called “citizens of Eastern Nigerian origin” of holocaust. To ensure that no one would misunderstand him, he made extensive references and comparisons with the Nazi Germany and Hitler, as well as the mass killing of the Jews during that era.

Clearly, if Nyako were to possess any distinct characteristics or personality traits, that would neither be a sense of moderation, honesty, or consideration for historical accuracy. Equally predictable on this matter is the fact that many Nigerians would readily accuse Nyako of insanity or of being on a campaign of dangerous incitement and revisionism.

All such accusations would be reasonable, if not totally accurate. The first question to ask is about Nyako’s locus in this issue. He is the Governor of one of the frontline states. His state or part of it has been under siege both by the insurgents and the national army that has fought them. Also, he is member of a faction of the Northern elite who believes it is their manifest destiny to rule Nigeria at the top level and who seem violently intolerant of any alternative. They have been among those determined to use the vestiges of democratic political competition to achieve that outcome of ethnic political domination. In that sense, therefore, Nyako has more than sufficient stake in the matter, not to mention the fact that if a true state of emergency were to be imposed in the fight against the insurgency, it would oust him from office. He does have a locus, indeed.

The second question is: Given that Nyako was recently a member of the Nigerian military elite and yet espouses such absurd and irrational view of the country’s history, what does that say about the Nigerian leadership class as a whole? To answer that question without delay, Nyako’s letter tends to confirm the widespread view that the Nigerian leadership class, regardless of the part of the country they come from, is comprised of people who are incompetent, visionless, ignorant and lost, who lack what it takes to move Nigeria forward, and who ought to yield leadership to the younger and better informed generation of leaders.

To think about it, Nyako was an actor of some sorts in the Nigerian civil war. And since that war was characterised by allegations of genocide against the Biafrans, it is logical to conclude that Nyako might be reliving history in some distorted form. He ought to know the meaning of genocide. And he ought to know the weight of his allegations.

Despite that, Nigerians must not shut Nyako out automatically, as such would tend to foreclose or stifle discussion on this important matter. It is a fact that insurgency is ravaging Nigeria with every potential to escalate into a full-blown civil war. It is a fact also that whatever Nigerian Government has been doing about fighting the insurgency has not worked and should be changed. So, how dare we dismiss him just because we know him to be a provocateur?

How many people among the Northern elite feel the same way as Nyako does? How many officers and troops in the Nigerian armed forces feel the same way as Nyako does? These are the crucial questions which must be answered in order for us to gauge the potential of escalation or future direction of the current insurgency. So, rather than dismiss Nyako, he should be encouraged to come out in the open with his views.

As offensive and absurd as it may sound, the kite that Nyako flew has some immediate practical political consequences or tendency. He wrote a letter to all the governors of the North, trying to mobilise them around his viewpoint. It is a move that could have serious consequence if it were to succeed. Also, in his letter, he sought to spike up ethnic tensions with all its combustible elements and tendencies. So, you cannot afford to dismiss these issues without discussing them.

Genocide has been an issue that Nigerians have been too shy to talk about. Every reasonable adult familiar with Nigerian history knows that genocide was committed against the Igbos by the Nigerian forces. It has taken too long for Nigerians to publicly admit that. The country’s leadership elite has been in a state of denial on the genocidal dimensions of the Nigerian civil war. The attitude is to not talk about it. But if Nyako is ready to talk about genocide, perhaps it is time for Nigeria to open up to the injustices, genocide and war crimes committed during the civil war. An open discussion of all of it is the way for Nigeria to repair and cure itself of the brooding sense of injustice that has continued to torment the country and its people. In that sense, Nyako might have done us all a favour.

He has opened the discussion and we must pursue it toward a comprehensive understanding of the true relationship between the Nigerian state and the Nigerian tribes and peoples. In this commentary, the author has avoided quarreling with Nyako’s definitions or characterisation of events. For instance, Nigeria’s geopolitical divisions are no longer known as “regions”. They are rather known now as states. Also, Biafra is now defunct and cannot reconstitute under it is original territories. Yet, Nyako seems not to have known all that.

It suggests that in Nyako’s mind, the civil war never ended. Nyako “called on his fellow governors to collectively sue the federal government to court and claim damages for loss of lives and property”. Human right lawyers and organisations are taking Nyako’s proposed lawsuit seriously. They would meet him in court with a counter-claim for genocide stretching back to the civil war and even beyond.

•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, lawyer and activist, whose photo appears alongside this piece, writes from Lagos.

Source News Express

Posted 21/04/2014 01:18:43 AM


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