Apathy Of The Igbos Towards The Northerners And Yorubas (A HISTORICAL VIEW)


The general election in Nigeria was an eye-opener to many hidden issues. It can also be used as an effective yardstick for measuring the tempo of unity in Nigeria. Events in Nigeria took a dramatic turn around when the South-West comprising majorly of the Yorubas aligned with the All Progressives Congress despite the heavy amount of money President Goodluck Jonathan pumped into campaign here. A clue of that is the rumoured $250,000 he gave to the traditional rulers, as well as the staggering $100 million dollars given to Dr Doyin Okupe to secure the support of the Labour and Accord party in the South-West for him. A host of others could be mentioned but is not the subject matter of this piece. Despite the publicity of change garnished with acute propaganda by All Progressive Congress, the South-South which is the strong hold of the People's Democratic Party never bought the idea of change.
The Igbos never took a definite stand. The leaders of the Ndigbo communities in all the northern states pledged support to Muhammadu Buhari of APC. Buhari had several memorable campaign shows in Imo which is the abode of one of APC's strong men Governor Ewele Rochas Okorocha. From the outward appearance, it was as if APC had secured the state. A week to the presidential elections, President Goodluck Jonathan also visited the state and was given a loud ovation by the chiefs and traditional rulers in the state. Pundits reported several contradictory positions of the Igbos concerning both parties until it was finally revealed at the collation centre on the 31st of March 2015. PDP recorded excellent results at the South East with the South South following suit while APC trailed PDP in defeat in those two geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This raised a feeling of betrayal among the Yorubas who felt the Igbos should have been on their side despite not benefiting anything tangible from the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari swept the South-West with the exception of Ekiti. To buttress my points, here are the official presidential election results from INEC.

State.            Buhari.       Jonathan
Abia.            13,394.       368,303
Adamawa.    374,701.     251,664
Akwa Ibom.  58,411.      953,304
Anambra.      17.926.      660,762
Bauchi.          931,598.    86,085
Bayelsa.         5,194.       361,209
Benue.           373,961.    303,737
Borno.            473,543.    25,640
Cross River.   28,368.      414,863
Delta.              48,910.     1,211,405
Ebonyi.           19,518.     323,653
Edo.                208,469.    286,869
Ekiti.               120,331.    176,466
Enugu.            14,157.      553,003
Gombe.           361,245.    96,873
Imo.                133,253.    559,185
Jigawa.            885,988.   142,904
Kaduna.          1,127,760. 484,085
Kano.              1,903,999. 215,779
Katsina.           1,345,441. 98,937
Kebbi.             567,883.    100,972
Kogi.               264,851.    149,987
Kwara.            302,146.    132,602
Lagos.             792,460.    632,327
Nassarawa.     236,838.    273,460
Niger.             657,678.     149,222
Ogun.             308,290.     207,950
Ondo.              299,889.    251,368
Osun.              383,603.    249,929
Oyo.                528,620.    303,376
Plateau.           429,140.    549,615
Rivers.            69,238.       1,487,075
Sokoto.           671,926.     152,199
Taraba.           261,326.     310,800
Yobe.             446,265.     25,526
Zamfara.        612,202.     144,833
FCT.              146,399.     157,195
Total.             15,424,921 12,853,162
Source: INEC

From the above results, APC recorded a total loss at all the South Eastern states with questionable margins.

APC is widely seen as a Yoruba and Northern people's party due to the high level of domination of these two ethnic groups and the pivotal roles played by the members of these ethnic groups. The election result margin which signifies political support also reflects the degree of disunity in Nigeria. Only a few Igbos too have bought the slogan of change of the APC.

This is my historical perspective of the looming apathy towards APC. The party comprises majorly of two ethnic groups the Igbos nurse bitterness against. These are the northerners and the Yorubas (South-West).
As for the Yorubas, the seed of disunity has long been nursed. There has been a peaceful but bitter competition between the Igbos and the Yorubas. It is difficult to say if Igbo and Yoruba are friends or enemies or merely tolerating each other. On the surface, they seem to be friends, because you rarely hear of any clashes or killings between the two in over 100 years. People from the two ethnic groups work together, live together, laugh together, worship together, and play together. Everything seems all right. Nobody wants to be seen as publicly making any comment seen as tribalistic or intolerant. But if you look deeper, there seems to be something you cannot truly place a finger on. It’slike a volcano waiting for the least provocation to
erupt. It only needs an excerpt from Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country (a book) to be made public, or the infamous threat speech made by the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu about the Igbos perishing at the Lagos Lagoon if they failed to vote for the APC's gubernatorial candidate in Lagos and the Governor- elect Akinwunmi Ambode. This made the solemn disunity so pronounced as both agitating sides poured out the venom that has accumulated for ages.

Historically, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu consciously and unconsciously sowed the seed of discord between both ethnic groups with the political tussle they engaged in. Chinua
Achebe died with a stormy anger against the Yorubas which he developed from the activities of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo during the civil war. "There Was a Country", which was the recent work of Chinua Achebe gave an insight about the civil war era, faulting the role played by the Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo which will be addressed with a linkage with the Igbo's apathy towards the northerners.

In July 1966, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari was one of the participants in a coup led by Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed that overthrew and assassinated Nigeria's first self-appointed military Head of State General Aguiyi Ironsi. This created a long term hatred and distrust between the Igbos and Hausas. This was a retaliatory move after the incidence of the first military coup popularly termed an "Igbo coup" which led to the brutal murder of the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The January 1966 coup was carried out by mostly Igbo army officers including Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna among others. The casualties of the coup included the Prime Minister Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Western Region Samuel Akintola, the finance minister Festus Okotie-Eboh among others. Analytically, one can safely say it was a coup of the Igbos against the northerners (Hausas and Fulanis) in a bitter quest for political power because people from these two prominent geographical areas dominated the separate coups either as conspirators or victims.

 Here is a list of the conspirators:

Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu (Igbo)
Maj. Timothy Onwuatuegwu (Igbo)
Maj. Emmanuel Ifeajuna (Igbo)
Maj. Chris Anuforo (Igbo)
Maj. Don Okafor (Igbo)
Maj. Adewale Ademoyega (Yoruba)
Maj. Humphrey Chukwuka (Igbo)
Capt. Emmanuel Nwobosi (Igbo)
Capt. Ben Gbulie (Igbo)
Capt. Ogbu Oji (Igbo)

The other point is the Biafran war saga that lasted for 3 years, 6th of July 1967 to 15th of January 1970. General Yakubu "Jack" Dan-Yumma Gowon was the head of state (Head of the Federal Military Government) of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975 during the civil war crisis. He prevented the igbos from secceeding. Till date the Igbos feel they would have strived better being apart. They felt marginalised by the rulership of the northern-dominated administration in Nigeria.

From 1968 onward, the civil war fell into a form of stalemate, with Nigerian forces unable to make significant advances into the remaining areas of Biafran control due to stiff resistance and major defeats in Abagana, Arochukwu, Oguta, Umuahia (Operation OAU), Onne, Ikot Ekpene, etc. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a yoruba man who was most notable as the outstanding first premier of the Western Region but was also a successful federal commissioner for finance
and vice president of the Federal Executive Council in the civil war suggested to Gowon to cut the food supplies of the Biafran army who were relying on Nigeria for food. During this turbulent period, another Nigerian offensive from April to June 1968 began to close the ring around the Biafrans with further advances on the two northern fronts and the capture of Port Harcourt on 19 May 1968. The blockade of the surrounded Biafrans led to a humanitarian disaster when it emerged that there was widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas. The Biafran government reported that Nigeria was using hunger and genocide to win the war, and sought aid from the outside world. Private groups in the US, led by Senator Ted Kennedy, responded. No one was ever held responsible for these killings. Federal Military Government surrounded Biafra, capturing coastal oil facilities and the city of Port Harcourt. The blockade imposed during the ensuing stalemate led to severe famine accomplished deliberately as a war strategy and described by some as a genocide. Over the two and half years of the war, two million civilians died from forced famine and fighting. Can you see things from my view point now?

A painful memory was created by political actors from the three ethnic groups. This has been passed down from one generation to another. I have an Igbo friend who virtually had nothing against Muhammadu Buhari prior to the elections, but claimed he would rather see President Goodluck Jonathan sell this country rather than accept a northerner as the Nigerian leader. Another case is that of a church member from an Igbo family. The family was quite impoverished, benefitted next to nothing from the Jonathan's regime but still voted for him. He went for Buhari which was heavily frowned at by his family members. He brought my awareness to this. This prompted me to start this research into history. This is my own perspective of the root of the apathy. In social science which deals with human behaviours, there is no definite answer to problems like we have in the physical sciences.

Whether my claims are valid or too subjective, I want to urge all the ethnic groups to bury the hatchet. There is a need for us to forget the happenings of the past because some of them are clouding our current judgment of issues. This is adversely affecting the future of the country. Tribal differences and interests have prevented us from speaking in one voice. Decisions are no more taken for the general will of the state but to satisfy sectional interests. We cannot change the past but we can affect the future with our actions and build a bright future for generations to come. Nursing bitterness about the past is a bad legacy to leave for the coming generation. This was the samething I told a friend who questioned my support for Buhari. He said I should hate him for making that infamous statement about PDP using corpers to rig elections. This endangered my life because I was serving in Bauchi state in the year 2011. We lost about 15 corpers due to a mere baseless talk. I had to forget the past and give him my support during the presidential election because the general interest of the masses is at stake. The future of the country is paramount in my heart. Unity is all we need for a formidable developmental force. Seccession is the worst option. This will lead to a mutual assured destruction (MAD). All the conflicting parties will break way permanently maimed with a huge set back. Thanks for reading thus far.


Osayimwen Osahon George

Senior Online Editor & Political Scientist Jetheights Services Limited
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