All things being equal, as economists say, former Military Head of State Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) should succeed President GoodLuck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan on May 29. The choice of this date as a political succession day for Nigeria’s president, governors and parliaments may have petty origins on the surface, but, deep down, plugs into an important date in the universe. Traditionally since independent on October 1, 1960, this October day in which British colonialists transferred sovereignty to Nigerians has been Nigeria’s political transition day until the switch to May 1 now described as Democracy Day. In some spiritual circles world-wide, may 29 regarded as the peak of Pentecost, the outpouring of power from the Holy Spirit for the maintenance of creation.
Christians recognise Pentecost as a one-off event when disciples of the Lord Jesus received power from on High after his earthly departure. But, say the spiritual circle aforementioned, Pentecost happens every year.
From the highest planes of the spiritual realms, power surges downwards into creation like blood pumped out by the heart, for the maintenance and strengthening of everything which absorbs it. The regeneration observed in the spring season has been linked to the outpouring. So has the energising of human character and deeds, for good or ill. For this power, like electricity or atomic energy, is neutral, pliable into any form for which the “potter” bears personal responsibility.
Commenting on this subject a few years ago, this column suggested many riots which have occurred in Nigeria’s history in this season, including the onset of Nigeria’s Biafra civil war (1967-70) on May 27, may have been due to the forging of this power into negative ends.
For it merely helps to actualise inherent volition. Ideally, the inherent volition of man should be the transformation of earth-life into paradise-like beauty. But since his soul filled with poison, his use of this power can only be for ignoble ends.
As we stand in the era of change, which president-elect Buhari promised in his election campaigns, our prayer is that he be clarified about these matters, see himself as an upbuilding tool in the hands of his creator, connect and attach to Him, act only under His guidance, open himself to the helping rays of the power of Pentecost which transcend religious frontiers and, as Nigeria’s leader of the moment lead us to loftier heights.
If he does this, change would have meaning, significance and impact in our lives.
Road to change
The journey will be rough, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves. For the last thing many people desire and resist is change. And is because the spirit, tenant in the physical body we all legs about in, is in deep slumber.
When I was 40, in 1990, I took one day off work and traveled to Abeokuta, Ogun State to re-connect with the radiations of the town in which I grew up. I found, to my shock that if I was blindfolded, I would on my own find my way from the high on which I parked my car, to St. Andrews Primary School, Ileara, where, thanks to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free Primary School education project, I began school in January 1956, the year Chief Awolowo began free education in Western Region. My father was a colonial policeman and may have been unable to afford the bill. Nothing has changed in the environment between 1950 and 1990. The neighborhood was blighted.
Even the once lushful lawn of the parade ground of Ibarra police barracks where a reception was held for Queen Elizabeth II in 1956 had become patched and blighted.
Since the spirit forms the physical environment where it exists, it can be assumed that the state of the environment is the state of the spirit. Nigeria is replete with stories of successful people hesitant to build houses or make other investments in their villages out of fear that they may be killed.
There is no doubt that, at over 70, Gen. Buhari (rtd) is aging and would require bouncing health and energy to pull through his promises of four million jobs in one year, free education at all levels of schooling, steadying electricity all day long, curb of corruption, improvement of security and professionalism in the military, among many others. Add to these subtitle picture of voting patterns in the presidential election of March 28 which has led many people to conclude that wounds of the 1967 to 1970 Biafran war are far from healed. Thus manifested in grave ethnic divisions that need to be addressed.
The voting pattern was the geography of the biafran war… the Eastern- Region (South- East and South- South) pitched against the North and the West. Some political observers blame it all on the South–West. Their thesis is that nowhere in history does the victor nation in a war relinquish power to the loser.
They site Germany and Japan as examples. Both nations lost the second world war to Britain. The United States, France and the Soviet Union (now Russian). Till this day both nations are forbidden to manufacture offensive military weapons. Besides, foreign troops from the victor nations except perhaps China are stationed in Germany and Japan to monitor them. By this logic, Dr Ebele Goodluck Jonathan should not have become Nigeria’s President after President YarA’dua’s death midterm in office.
The North opposed his ascension. But the South–West, backing constitutionalism, literally made him President. It is instructive that the bitter struggle between the North and the South–West, Dr Ebele Jonathan, as Vice-President, kept mute, like the South-East and the South-South regions. With victory achieved for Jonathan in both the left over two years of YarA’dua’s tenure and, later, a full four years term for himself, President Jonathan would display open pathological hatred for the South-West vengeance against the North. He was to describe South-Western as a pack of “rascals”, re-engage in puletic office known foes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West, who set the stage for Dr Ebele Jonathan, as governor of Bayelsa State, to become Vice President of the YarA’dua Presidency.
The South-West was diminished in key appointments as well. As for the North, President Jonathan adopted a carrot and stick approach. The carrot was key appointments, especially in the security terrain. The “stick” came in the form of folding arms pretending to have no immediate solution for the Boko Haram insurgency, before which the well-respected Nigerian military would appear to flee. President Jonathan said he was not a “general”, in response to call that he engage the insurgents. Some critics of his Administration say the plot was to let a North –on-North war weaken the North for an easy political rout during the next Presidential election.
This would be facilitated by a sudden and victorious military assault as Boko Haram which would position President Jonathan as a tie-President who was latter left alone for another term. But it would seem the agenda, if there was one, miscalculated politically that the North and South-West, sworn political enemies since 1959, could offer a common political front in Nigerian history, and even fracture fortresses of the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP). That the North/South-West coalition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was able to defeat President Jonathan was not just a question of the game of numbers but more of intellectual sagacity.
While President Jonathan and the PDP were busy trying to destroy the person and image of Gen. Buhari (rtd) and image of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a master architect of the APC, the APC was busy abroad internationalising the coming election. They knew the APC would win the polls and the PDP would attempt to rig them and deploy soldiers to suppress protests. They were dead right in what happened in Port Harcourt and Abia State, among other discomfitures of the elections.
Many people have said President Jonathan played the Statesman by unconditionally accepting defeat, a feat, it is said, for an incumbent African President. Somehow I do not share this view. I believe the President merely succumbed to international pressure reigned against him and accepted a negotiated settlement for a soft landing in which he would not be probed personally.
There is a veiled reference to this in Gen. Buhari’s reply to President Jonathan’s congratulatory message in which the President–elect promised that the President would be treated with “respect” and “understanding”.
We must now proceed from the geography of the presidential election to the psychological war inflicted ethnic injuries which a Buhari administration should tackle, which may sap his energy and for which, in the coming series of this column, it would be shown how again people like him can make themselves biologically younger than their calendar or calendaric ages and fulfil all their tasks as if they are young people and without a scratch or dent in their health
Ethnic war injuries
The South–East has a grouse with the (1) North (2) South–West and (3) parts of the South–South.
Hundreds of thousands of igbos were killed genocidically in the North in 1966 which security forces, either helplessly or in full support, looked the other way. Naturally Igbos fled eastwards, to their homeland. It was a clear lesson that the generosity or warmness of a host land, not withstanding, there is no place on this earth that is a NO MAN’S LAND. It is better to invest the fruits of adventure back home and not seek to make a home of a host land.
Even Igbo soldiers in the Nigeria army returned home after skirmishes in the barracks in which some of them were killed by Northern soldiers. The mood in the East was for a breakaway from Nigeria. Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon, Head of State of Nigeria at 32, found this a daunting challenge. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of thought in the West, made the remarkable Statement: “If by commission or omission the East is allowed to go, the West will also follow.” The situation called for mediation and reconciliation. Ghana threw its doors open to Nigeria. All the regions met in Aburi, Ghana, Where Lt. Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, military governor of the Eastern regions, as opposed to federation, and Lt. Col. Gowon agreed. Lt. Col. Gowon rejected the agreement on his return to Nigeria, when the implications were explained to him. As was to be expected, Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu stuck to his guns, stating ON ABURI WE STAND. Chief Awolowo was to head for the East for a reconciliation meeting. It was at this meeting that the East said Chief Awolowo promised the East that, in the event of war between the East and the North, the West would fight in the side of the East.
This thinking dominates the thinking of the average man and woman in the East today, and explains why the East persists in its traditional opposition to anything originating from the West, however good or beneficial to the East, and why the East would wish the West dismantled and its star city, Lagos, regarded as a no man’s land.
Yet Chief Awolowo, in post-war speeches and in the books, have denied making such a promise at the meeting with Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu. A tape of the meeting recovered by Federal troops in Enugu following the fall of the capital city, and reviewed by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Gen. Gowon (as he later became) found no such promise. Even Odumegwu Ojukwu after his return from exile did not insist such a promise was made.
The gap in this Eastern thinking and reality has led scholars to conclude that a promise of support from the West for secession by the East must have been invented by pro-secession and pro-war intelligentsia in the East to galvanize the population for a war of secession.
Incapacitation of the West
The bitterness in the East over the West fighting alongside the North during the Biafra War takes no account of how the co-alition Federal government of the East (NCNC) and the North (NPC) emasculated the West in the civil service and the Armed forces, excused the Mid-West region (later called Bendel State, now Edo and Delta State) from the West as a part of that emasculation, encourage break up of the Action Group (AG), government party in the West, and sent the leader of the region, Chief Awolowo, to 10 years imprisonment on charges that he plotted to overthrow the NPC/NCNC Federal government. Reasonable people should have asked: how would Chief Awolowo have done this when his Yoruba kinsmen were little present in the Army under the said emasculation? An evidence of the emasculation presents itself in the story of Brigadier Ogundipe. After the killing of Maj. Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo, who was the Head of State of Nigeria, in the counter coup of July 1966, Brig. Ogundipe was the most senior Nigerian Army officer around. But when he commanded a northern private, the latter declined to obey until the head received instruction from a northern officer. Brig. Ogundipe had no Yoruba soldiers to enforce his order. So, like Igbo officers, he took refuge… in a naval ship commanded by a fellow Yoruba, who took him to England. With this kind of scenario, how did the East expect the West to fight a war. In any case, northerners controlled all the army barracks which rank up the West.
In Lagos, there were Myong Barracks, Abalti Barracks, Bonny Camp, Doddan Barracks, Ojoo Cantonement and Ikeja Cantonement. There were army garrisons in Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode and other towns. In any case, the Yoruba are guided by the wisdom of the proverb of the elders that “ti owo omode ko ba ba ida, kii bere iku to pa baba re”, that means until he has firmly gripped the handle of the sword, a child doesn’t seek vengeance against the killers of his father.
In the East at the time, Lt. Col. Banjo, a Yoruba, was in the custody of Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu. Lt. Col. Banjo was one of the four officers who staged the first coup in January 1966. They handed over to Gen. Ironsi when the coup failed. Banjo and Ifeajuna were released by Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu to work with him. When it would appear the West was not forth coming in striking a military blow, Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu decided on an invasion of Lagos from across the Niger through Benin. Banjo and Ifeajuna objected. He had them executed. Biafran troops from Onitsha crossed to Asaba and seized Bendel State which they renamed Republic of Benin.
From Benin, they moved towards Lagos but were stopped at Ore by troops commanded by Maj. Gen. Muritala Muhammed. Had Biafran troops succeeded, it was possible a Republic of Oduduwa would have been declared. But many people in the West doubt this intention.
Why, they wonder, did Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu not make the East the theatre of war by invading the North through the East-North border. Why force a war on the defenceless West? In any case, what were the justifications for the air bombings of a supposedly friendly or neutral Lagos?