In spite of all apparent reality to the contrary, and for reasons just as varied as the people, there may be a few individuals and interest groups who still wish for the survival of the Nigerian state as it is presently constituted. Such well-wishers naturally are interested in seeing the country move forward in the positive direction. For some obvious reasons this much desired forward march has remained an impossible goal for about the entire span of the country’s history. Perhaps one of the most important first steps that is needed by the country to go forward in the desired direction is to find a way to unify the many divergent national, religious, ethnical and other aspiring groups which are the various strands that form the national fabric of the Nigerian country.
Involuntarily, the Igbo ethnical, national, religious and linguistic group is one of those major strands which were forced by colonial fiat to be parts of the national, etc. groups that constitute today’s Nigerian state. Within six years of Nigeria’s existence as a colonially united country crisis broke out in the new country and collectively the other groups as described above chose to attempt to exterminate the Igbo, claiming that the Igbo were responsible for the country’s many problems. Therefore, from 1966 to 1970 the new country – the government and its citizens pursued vigorously a national genocidal program of trying to totally wipe out Igbo people from the Earth as solution to Nigerian problems. At the end of the ordeal, though forced and patched up to rejoin the now badly frayed Nigerian union fabric, the Igbo emerged from this systematic crucible of hatred, shedding forever their Nigerian citizenship.
So, the best way to understand the Nigerian country and Igbo’s place in it is to look at it from this point of view: Nigeria as a genocidal state and its Igbo population as the victim of the crime. Genocide is the word to have in mind while responding to the question of whether the Igbo should continue to maintain their stake as partners in the colonial union known as Nigeria. Throughout history and in all regions of the world where there has been genuine and honest response to the crime of genocide, separation has always been the only sensible response. At the end of the crime, the victims are usually removed far away from the perpetrators. Separation is the only solution that permanently prevents future occurrences of the atrocities of genocide in any society (such as in Nigeria) where it has taken place.
While the international community is saying “Never Again” at the end of any genocide, it goes without saying that the only reliable guarantee that is capable of safeguarding such a promise is the shield and assurances that sovereign independent international boundaries provide for a persecuted people like the Igbo. The smart approach, as they say in Igbo, is that while anyone tries as much as possible to keep fires away from combustible gunpowder, they should also make as much effort in keeping the gunpowder away from fires.
Here following, let’s mention a few of these genocide victims (like the Igbo) who of necessity had to be separated from the perpetrators of their ordeal in order to ensure that the victims do not suffer the same fate in the future within the same place and from the same people. In Igbo tradition there are two traditional sayings which support this call for separation; 1. Igbo people believe that the cripple is not expected to die in a previously announced warfare. Due to their handicap, he or she is not expected to wait till the last minute to move away to a safer place. 2. The Igbo also believe that it is only a tree which is known to stay put and does not make efforts to escape the blows from the ax of the feller after it had been told the previous day that it would be cut down.
About two weeks ago, in the midst of threats from the Turkish government which perpetrated the crime, German legislators officially recognized the Armenian Genocide as such. Soon after the Turkish Ottoman Empire committed the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 with the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians, the Armenian people separated themselves from Turkey into an independent country of Armenia with administrative capital in Yerevan. After German Nazis committed the genocide of the Jews in Germany and the rest of Europe in which 6 million Jews were massacred, the victims had to separate themselves far away from the perpetrators. This Jewish Genocide is better known today as the Holocaust. The genocide ended in 1945 and the Jews established an independent state of Israel in the Middle East in 1948. It should also be remembered that it is the accusation of genocides that led to the breaking up of the united country of Yugoslavia into several different sovereign independent countries. The genocide of the East Pakistanis by the government of the West Pakistan led to the separation of the East from the West, where the East became an independent sovereign state of Bangladesh. The list goes on.
The genocide such as the one that took place in Nigeria against the Igbo is an institutional genocide. Most genocides are institutional crimes, anyway. In most cases it is only states that have the capacity to muster such elaborate machineries usually required to carry out such great massacres. The government as well as the other peoples of Nigeria committed the genocide of Biafrans between 1966 and 1970 in which 3.5 million Biafrans were killed. Igbo people alone made up 3.1 of the 3.5 million who died in that genocide.
The root cause of the Igbo Genocide in Nigeria is hatred. Therefore, the hatred that produced the act is institutional and not merely individuals hating their Igbo neighbors and friends. The Nigerian state as an institution is the primary source of the prevailing Nigerians’ hatred of the Igbo. Because its source resides in the institution of the federal republic of Nigeria, it will be near impossible to uproot this hatred from the Nigerian society. It will be near impossible to create a lasting atmosphere in the Nigerian society where the Igbo will be eventually accepted and allowed to exist side by side with the other Nigerians in the spirit of true brotherhood.
Institutions run as continuums therefore the established government policies, customs, norm and culture such as the society-wide hatred of the Igbo in Nigeria, run from one generation to the next. Agreements, armistices and promises such as “Never Again,” “No victors and no vanquished” and other similar lofty pledges, when they are genuinely made, can only hold for a short while in genocidal societies like Nigeria. Eventually there will always emerge the biblical Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and who sees no reason in honoring any pacts made by their predecessors. Once such Pharaohs arrive in power, the vicious cycle resumes and genocide repeats itself. Therefore, the only real solution that will permanently prevent any more future genocides of the Igbo in Nigeria is for the Igbo to embark on a Moses’ kind of exodus from the Nigerian Egypt into their own ancestral homeland in Igbo territory.
Written by Osita Ebiem for Biafra24
Published by Yahgozie Immanu-el.