By Ori Martins
One of the journalists that I admired so much during my days at Sun newspapers was the irrepressible Comrade Linus Obogo. He was hard working and dedicated. He was a grammarian of repute who practically understood that a major role of a journalist is to educate, mentor, inspire and to inform.
This morning, my phone beeped and it was Senior Linus Obogo who had tagged me alongside 51 others in a witty but apparently not well-balanced article. The summary of the piece was that 51 years after the civil war Ndigbo are still bitter against the Federal Government of Nigeria. Two, Obogo querried Ndigbo on their continued developing other towns in Nigeria rather than taking care of Igbo nation. He finally descended heavily on Ndigbo for supporting the now (in) famous sit -at -home directive even as he ended by labeling Ndigbo “uneducated” based on his reasons.
Certainly, I was alarmed that such a truculent attack on Ndigbo could be ascribed to Obogo who is very knowledgeable about the Nigerian project and its tragic ventures. It goes to show how other Nigerians regard Ndigbo. Obogo hails from Cross River State and his wife is Igbo.
First, after the civil war, the military government of General Yakubu Gowon initiated what he called the 3R, Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation and made then Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo who was at the time the federal commissioner of works to be incharge of the project. We challenge Obasanjo to point to us any project he attracted to Igbo nation as a part of the rehabilitation effort. Did Obasnjo reconstruct any of the national or regional institutions the rampaging federal forces inhumanly destroyed during the war? It is on record that rather than reconciling Ndigbo and Nigeria Obasanjo carried out policies that further made unity between the Igbo country and Nigeria quite elusive.
For instance, Obasanjo was second in command in 1976 when the 19 states structure came into being. He was a part of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) that alloted only two states of Anambra and Imo to Ndigbo while creating four in the Yoruba region – Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and Lagos. At the time, the Eastern minorities had had two states of Rivers and Cross River to be at par with the Igbo country.
Two, when history and circumstances propelled Obasanjo as head of state following the brutal assassination of Murtala Muhammad, Obasanjo continued the Igbo marginalization to wit: he built six federal polytechnics without any in Igbo nation. He established nine federal colleges of education and none was in the South East. Obasnjo constructed six new airports and not one was considered good for Ndigbo. Shortly before he left office on October September 30, 1979, precisely on September 28, Obasnjo issued a decree declaring that the properties of Ndigbo in Port Harcourt which they left and fled for safety during the 1966 hostilities were abandoned properties! Within that period, the same Obasnjo made the Indigenization decree that encouraged Nigerians to owe substantial share in all public enterprises in the country. That was how Nigeria was shared and sold to Nigerians without Ndigbo as they never had anything inview of the fact a paltry sum of 20 pounds were given to them irrespective of the millions they had in the banks before the war. As Obasanjo marginalized Ndigbo so has every other leader since after the war with the exception of Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, between Ndigbo and Nigeria who really is doing wrong against the other?
Even now, President Muhammadu Buhari has constructed rail lines across Nigeria but none in the South East. He has put in place seven federal universities without any in the South East. Buhari has established three specialized universities in and none was sited in the Igbo region. There are 18 security chiefs and none was alloted to South East. Before now, the military administrators created 774 LGAs and only 95 are in the South East, a zone that also has the least in number of states, least in national assembly members and in all things.
As for the sit -at -home issue, my answer to it is: the late prime minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah said., “We prefer self government with danger to servitude in tranquility”. Case closed! Nigeria’s bitterness against Ndigbo is in excess and cannot guarantee unity or development.