Friday, July 29, 2016

AS NIGERIA FORGETS JULY 29, 1966

29th July fifty years ago, Nigeria's story took another turn that appears to have eternally sealed it's fate, as a country whose  nationalities will forever remain distrustful of one another, for as long as they will manage to cohabit. It was the day the revenge coup was launched against military and civilian Nigerians of the ethnic Igbo stock, of southeastern Nigerian origin, everywhere outside of eastern Nigeria and their closest neighbors in the Niger Delta. I say another, because the first turning point had occurred on the 15th of January of the same year, with the first coup, which was welcome by many as an act of  patriotism, but as the days passed, was given the coloration of been biased in favor of the Igbo, and against most especially the northern Hausa-Fulani hegemony, which controlled power at the center in the days following Nigeria's independence from Great Britain.


Unfortunately, a day like yesterday passed without official statements or program by the government, apart from some discourse on some media, a few of which I was able to follow on radio and on the social media. It is sad that Nigeria pretends to move forward without any attempt at burying the ghosts of the past, while making the same mistakes over and over, enabling some Nigerians to ensure that the so called giant of Africa remains a perpetual Lilliput. Taking one step forward only when it had made plans to the effect that ten steps backwards was mutually assured, only to their own benefit, as well as their acquaintances.


I believe that Nigeria cannot make progress in the forward direction if our history isn't truthfully addressed and told. This is not a nation, it is a country of nations, or nationalities if you like, and it is built on a lie. Our founding fathers weren't the saints that they are officially made out to be, or else their ouster in the January 1966 coup wouldn't have been widely celebrated and greeted with wild jubilation and ululation in the nooks and cranny of Nigeria back then. They laid the foundation of  corruption mixed with tribalism and nepotism, amongst many other ills, that is strangling us as a nation today. The coupists were idealists but failed to convince Nigerians that they had no sectional agenda, in sparing Igbo politicians and soldiers, and officers of the eastern Nigerian extraction, a few of which were conveniently outside the country as at the time of the coup, or were simply not found in their usual and unusual locations when the coupists struck. Some were even seen to be chatting with some camaraderie with the those meant to "neutralize" them, as they crossed paths on some bridge.


General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, having successfully quelled a supposedly Igbo coup, been an Igbo officer, erred in not immediately restoring power back to the politicians regardless of their sins, rather he accepted to rule Nigeria. I saw a few of his interviews on YouTube and he didn't even strike me as one who recognized the import the weight of ruling Nigeria means. He was largely aloof. He also dilly dallied on the fate of the coupists whose ringleaders were five majors, four of which were Igbo like him, and a Yoruba from Nigeria's Southwest. The unitary system of  government that he had decreed  (Decree 34, which amongst others abolished the regions, which were three at independence, and four at the time, in favor of provinces) into being, which he embarked on a journey across Nigeria to sell (and from which he never returned alive) has remained an albatross for us. The northern Nigerian elite who rejected it at the time because they felt it was a ploy to keep and foster the Igbo over and above the other ethnic groups in the civil service and elsewhere, have over the years after the revenge coup of July, 1966 become the greatest beneficiary of the system. And though Nigeria today lies that it's a federation it has remained a unitary state, where once the center coughs the states catch cold. We had simply exchanged external colonizers for internal colonizers, all thanks to the military's foray into politics, after coups and counter-coups, and in the democratic dispensation after elections, dressed in civilian garb.


The 1999 constitution (as amended) handed over to us by the military (like many others before it) has made any attempt at changing the status quo democratically, impossible. No constitutional conference or the likes held severally over the years have been trusted enough by governments and succeeding governments, as well as contending ethno-religio-social groupings across Nigeria, as documents viable enough to change things. It is become obvious that the change mantra that ushered in the new incumbent government isn't worth the paper on which it was written. The hue and cry now is about RESTRUCTURING, yet none of the advocates mentioned anything about July 29th,1966 yesterday at public fora or the likes, seeing that any restructuring that needs to be done must recognize that it was on that date that an opportunity to truly restructure things despite the needless bloodshed that followed (for days on end, of Igbo folk nationwide, save in the east) was missed, rather the "revenge coup" by soldiers of northern Nigerian extraction like vampires thirsted insatiably for Igbo blood, and encouraged the civil populace in the north to do likewise, if not worse, then went ahead to embrace the unitary system, adding to it other lingua such as federal character, quota system, rotation, etc over the years that have perpetuated mediocrity and nepotism over merit in our public, even private spaces nationwide.


Twas yesterday, fifty years ago that some Nigerians corrected a supposed wrong with another wrong, and today we reap the fruits thereof, and even worse set ourselves on the pedestal to continue taking such sour grapes by not recognizing that day fifty years ago, when Nigeria lost its soul and humanity. Many will say that the war after the event of that day whetted appetites and we emerged stronger from it, but that's also yet another lie, because the truth is that Nigeria as presently constituted is tearing up at its seams and the center can no longer
NIGERIA

hold. We have failed to tell the truth about our past, therefore a truthful foundation for the future based on mutual trust cannot be laid, or built upon. There's no stopping this groping in the dark for a long time to come, not even the anti-corruption fight by President Muhammadu Buhari will change anything, even that as sectional as it continues to play out is just treating the symptom and not the disease, for Nigeria is sick!


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- GEORGE A'S GALLERY

2 comments:

  1. Well analysed.

    Unfortunately for Gen Aguiyi Ironsi, he appeared unprepared for the duties of statecraft thrust upon him by the events of Jan 15, 1966, when the political leadership of the country was removed. In fact, there was also no indigenous experience of a military junta for him to draw lessons from. And these became his undoing.

    It's very saddening as you put it that despite the north attempted to right his wrong of declaring a unitary govt, they sat on his presumed wrong and became the great beneficiary till date...

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  2. You couldn't be more right, it's quite unfortunate that opportunities to reset Nigeria on the right path was missed due to tribal considerations.

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