Buhari and the Incidence of Igbophobia

Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari arrested Nnamdi Kanu and disregarded the constitution to keep him locked up, Igbophobia (the irrational hatred or dislike of Igbo people) within the Nigerian state has become a plague. Nigerians always claim to be the most intelligent people on the planet but the evidence is always missing in the way they do their things.

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The real problem blighting and causing a string of crises in Nigeria is simply that it is a seriously failing state with increasingly failing economy. There is hunger and frustration everywhere. The current Biafra crisis is definitively not an ethnic rivalry problem but an engrossing distraction, the reality is so much harder to swallow.

What really constitutes Igbophobia? Let us examine some parts of Igbophobia.

“Kanuphobia” is the triggering part of the current wave of Igbophobia in Nigeria. If you ask the average Nigerians what they know about warfare, you would be very impressed with their answers. One then wonders why most Nigerians believe that Nnamdi Kanu has a standing army that can fight a symmetric or even asymmetric war with the Nigerian Army? Or why the Igbos are immanently willing to fight a civil war for him?

Kanu is a ‘propaganda hustler’ and the thoughtlessness of the Buhari government elevated him into a notable ‘rabble-rouser’ and jumped up Biafra. In reality, Kanu has not got a fraction of the resources to start and fight a war of secession. Kanu’s army parades are nothing more than charades staged for a starving and frustrated nation.
One must not be naïve enough to believe that the current Igbo Independence movement cannot end in its realisation in future, but Kanu is not the man who will achieve it.

“Igbo Preferentialism” is another part of Igbophobia and is something many non-Igbos are frantically worried about; how dare the Igbos seek preferential treatment or perpetuate the image of “marginalisation” within the Nigerian state? A simple reading of post-Civil War Nigerian history would shed light on the instabilities of the state resolved by “ethnic preferentialism”.

The North wanted to secede after the 1966 coup which saw Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and Northern Premier Ahmadu Bello assassinated, but President Nnamdi Azikiwe (and other Eastern Region politicians) and former Western Region Premier Obafemi Awolowo (S L Akintola who was Awolowo’s main adversary in the Western Region was also assassinated) left alive. General Yakubu Gowon announced the secession of the North but the next day at the behest of the British government reversed the decision and sought “One Nigeria”. That was the beginning of the wholesale and multi-faceted “Northern domination” of Nigeria as preferential treatment that guaranteed the appeasement of the Northern leaders and achieving the goal “One Nigeria”.

After the cancellation of the presidential electoral victory of M K O Abiola [reputedly Nigeria’s “freest and fairest” elections] by military president Ibrahim Babangida, Abiola’s death and the ascension of Sani Abacha as military president of Nigeria, the leaders of South-West seriously sought to secede as Oduduwa Republic on the basis of the “necessary liberation from Northern-domination”. The South-West evidently could no longer tolerate being part of the Nigerian state. That secession effort was appeased by General Abdul-Salami Abubakar staging the “Election of the Two Olus”, an election in in which Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae – two Yoruba men – stood elections in a nation of over 250 ethnic groups (three of them major) ensuring the South-West will certainly produce the president in 1999.

The Igbo leaders have not clamoured for secession but for the circus of Nnamdi Kanu which is being superimposed on the Igbos and the nation is crying Igbo preferentialism. It is not surprising that history is not taught in Nigerian schools.

“Igbo Greed”, a further part of Igbophobia is deeply embedded in the Nigerian psyche that the Igbo are an ardently greedy ethnic group. Nigeria is a very greedy corrupt state which requires no denial. However, in Nigeria corruption is a function of access to state resources. Since 1970 the Igbos have not had that access the way even some ethnic minorities have. We know the ethnic groups that greedily stole and mismanaged Nigeria’s vast incomes and resources.

Ever since Gowon decided to “indigenise” Nigerian industries in the early 1970s onwards and Babangida embraced neoliberalism via the privatisation of state assets in the mid-1980s, Igbo businessmen were largely excluded from the processes, more so in the indigenisation program in which the state bequeathed heavily discounted foreign assets almost exclusively to the mainly Northern and South-Western elites. Most of those indigenised assets quickly failed due to mismanagement even when the government was running a near-monopsony to keep the industries afloat.

The Igbos have visibly invested in land and ‘brick and mortar’ mostly because the dynamics of Nigerian state makes it difficult for them to buy preferential shares in multinational or large corporations and invest in core national assets.

“Igbo Aggression” is yet another part of Igbophobia. The Igboland has witnessed many killings of defenceless youths by State security forces and more recently by army brutality that cannot be hidden in this day of mobile technology. The State is actually winning active support for Kanu, home and abroad, through its brutality. It is state brutality that made world powers to refuse the sale of arms to Nigeria. However, the Igbos are now portrayed in the media as the aggressors and murderers.

When a nation claims to be of world class intelligence but supports genocide and army brutality against a particular ethnic group, intelligence has to be redefined divergently. Nigerian state is inherently violent in peacetimes and to blame it on the Igbos and not the state that perpetuates it is evidence of evil political lying.

The Igbos did recently engage in an act of civil disobedience at the behest by refusing to open their shops across the South-East region. For true proponents and lovers of peace and democracy around the world, any significant non-violent mass civil disobedience is a rare laudable achievement.
The painful truth is that the Igbo traders boycotted their shops because they are not selling much like elsewhere in Nigeria. If the economy was buoyant and businesses all over the country were doing well, no one would abandon their shops at the beckoning of a rabble-rouser. Can Nigerians not see the obvious: that those protesting for Kanu and prostrating to him in public are the elements of society most denied of any chance of upward mobility?

Fervent indulgence in Igbophobia will not provide Nigeria constant electricity, pipe borne water, good roads, sanitation, good education, good jobs, security, protection from hunger or a strong Naira. Are those not really the things Nigeria and its government should be concerned about? It would be wiser to stop falling for Kanu’s charades.

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