The Voiceless Igbos of Northern Nigeria

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The average Nigerian does not feel like he is being represented anywhere in the country, whether at the Federal, State, Local Government, and certainly not by his or her elected members of the State House, House of Representatives, or Senate. In fact, most people do not know who their representative is.  Nor do most politicians

understand that they are there in any representative capacity.
 
The situation is even worse for NdeIgbo in Northern Nigeria. Here is my conversation with two prominent Igbo Community Leaders in Kano following the March 18, 2013, suicide bombing at a luxury bus park in Kano which killed over forty people and left well over 40 seriously injured. The interviews were conducted over the weekend.
 
“Sir, Has Governor Kwankwaso called you to offer any condolences and to offer assistance of the government of Kano State?”
 
“No, on the contrary, following the aftermath of the bombing, the Governor insisted on demolishing all stalls belonging to Igbo Patent Medicine dealers in Sabon Gari despite our begging him to punish only those who have been caught doing bad things.  We feel humiliated that while the Igbo Community was in mourning, the Governor chose to beat a wide path of destruction through our businesses. It took only court injunction to stop him but he has indicated that he is coming back.”
 
“Did he visit the terror scene to ascertain first hand what was going on?”
 
“No, but his deputy did.”
 
“Did his Deputy call you to offer condolences or visit with you or offer government assistance?”
 
“No Sir. He just visited the scene.”
 
“Do you know the Kano Senator representing the area of the bombing?”
 
“Yes Sir.”
 
“Did he call you to offer any condolences or government assistance or find out how the Igbo community is coping?”
 
“No, Sir.”
 
“Did the Emir of Kano call you?”
 
“No, Sir.”
 
“And you are a well know bona fide representative of Ndi Igbo in Kano?”
 
“Yes, Sir.”
 
“Did any Hausa or Northern elite call you?”
 
“No sir.”
 
“So the Igbo community in Kano is on their own as far as the Kano State Government is concerned?”
 
“Yes, Sir.”
 
“Okay. Did any Governor from the South East call you?”
 
“Yes, Sir. Only one Governor.”
 
“What did he say?”
 
“He said that he has told us to leave Kano and that it is our fault that we are still staying.”
 
“Is that all he said?”
 
“Pretty much, Sir.”
 
“So no other South Eastern Governor called you?”
 
“No sir”
 
“Did any South Eastern Senator call you?”
 
“Yes, Sir. Senator Chukwumerijie and Senator Ekweremmadu.”
 
“And are you satisfied with the nature of their call?”
 
“Yes, Sir.”
 
“Did any Traditional Ruler from the South East call you?”
 
“No, Sir?”
 
“Did any Igbo Organization in Diaspora call you?”
 
“No Sir. Only journalists, but no Igbo organization in Diaspora has called to find out how we are doing or to offer us any support.  Are you a journalist, Sir?”
 
 
“No, I am a victim’s and good governance advocate and I will see to it that the world knows that NdeIgbo in Northern Nigeria are an endangered species in their own country.”
 
“Sir, be brutally frank with me, who do you think is responsible for the suicide bombings?”
 
“It is Boko Haram, Sir.”
 
“Who is behind them?”
 
“I don’t know, Sir, but they are well organized. All I know is that the Northern elite does not seem as concerned as we are. When you challenge them, they tell you that Northerners were also killed but the truth is that NdeIgbo are the primary targets.”
 
“Sir, last year, there was a coordinated series of attacks in Kano that left many people dead.  Knowing that Kano is a hotbed of terrorism, why do you people stay?”
 
“Sir, that is the question we ask ourselves. The truth is that many NdeIgbo in Kano are born and raised in Kano. My kids all grew up here, schooled here, went to University here, speak fluent Hausa, have occasionally visited the South East but otherwise have Hausa friends and see themselves as Nigerians first.  In fact, they do not think of themselves as NdeIgbo.  Many NdeIgbo have lived here all their lives – 30, 40, 50, 60 years. We are Northern Nigerian Igbos not Southern Nigeria Igbos.  There are more Igbos in Abuja than in Ebonyi State. Outside Abuja, in the rest of Northern Nigeria, there are more Igbos than in any State in the South East and we intend to live indefinitely outside the South East as Nigerians. Sir, funny enough, people want to blame us for living out the true meaning of one Nation and funny enough, the policy makers and Hausa and Yoruba journalists speak of NdeIgbo as the people who do not want a United Nigeria. I have lived in Kano for a long time, but I can tell you that there are very very few people from the Southwest and South South here.  We, NdeIgbo of Northern Nigeria should be the pride of Nigeria but instead, they treat us like Hausa goats.”
 
“Sir, what I am saying is that we are Northerners even though we are Igbo by state of origin of our parents. You people in America should make that clear. WE ARE NORTHERN NIGERIANS who happen to be Igbos and we are not running away from our country. The Hausas live peacefully in Igboland and nobody is killing them. Nobody is killing them in the SouthWest. Why are they killing us in the North? Are we not Nigerians? Do we have two countries? Did I come to Kano with my family on a Visa? I came here with nothing and worked very hard for everything I have.  I have many Hausa people that I am responsible for feeding their families through my business. I am proud of everything we  have done to make Kano look like Nigeria.”
 
“Sir, I am saying that it is a shame that we Northern Nigerian Igbos are treated like a people without a country. Governor Kwankwaso does not treat us like fellow Nigerians who should be protected by his Government. The South Eastern Governments do not treat us like we deserve protection. The Federal Government pays lip service to terrorism. It is only when it comes time to vote that Jonathan will remember that there are Ndigbo in large numbers in the North who can help give him the 25% margin of victory.”
 
“Sir, you in America, does the country protect you or do they treat you like a foreigner?”
 
“Absolute protection guaranteed, but we are talking about Nigeria, not America.”
 
“Sir, you saw that the Northerners own 83 percent of the oil blocs in Southern Nigeria. No one is killing them for that. Why are people telling us to run away from Northern Nigeria just because we are trying to live and work hard as Nigerians within our own country?  If they want to divide Nigeria, let them divide it so that we know where we are. At least, if I come here on Visa then I know. But these people cannot be killing us and also be telling us that they are one Nigeria.”
 
“Sir, it is beginning to look like 1966 again. First, the North rejected one Nigeria. Then they killed us all over Northern Nigeria. Then when we had no protection under the government of Nigeria, we formed a country that will give us protection. Then the Whiteman told them that they prefer one Nigeria. Then they came and attacked us claiming that the love one Nigeria and we don’t. Since after the war, Gowon has been telling people how much he loves one Nigeria and that he killed and starved NdeIgbo to keep Nigeria one.  Now it is becoming obvious that he lied. It is the same thing like 1966. The Northerners slaughter us like we are not part of Nigeria and when we try to go away, they force us to stay so that they can control the oil in Southern Nigeria. Some people want to make Nigeria ungovernable just because a non-Notherner is the President, but look who is the Vice President, Senate Leader, Speaker of House of Representative. They have every plum position in the country, yet they are not happy. You people should do more to expose the injustice of one Nigeria because we certainly don't feel like we like in a country that values our lives.”
 
“Sir, they cannot continue to kill us like pigeons. You people have to make it clear that we deserve a government that can protect us. If Governor Kwankwaso does not understand that we need his protection, he should resign or be impeached. If Goodluck Jonathan does not realize that his number one job is to provide for the security of all Nigerians, he should be impeached. Never in the history of Nigeria since the civil war has there been this much killing of NdeIgbo and it is not like NdeIgbo have political power in Nigeria. Imagine how it would be if NdeIgbo become the President of Nigeria?”
 
“What I am saying, Sir, is that we are tired of being killed and we are not running away from our fellow Nigerians either. Nobody has a monopoly on violence. If you people in America want to support us, fine. If you want to go and hide and speak English while drinking Oyibo tea, fine. But don’t blame us when you come home and they kidnap you or you become a victim of terrorism in your expensive hotel room in Abuja. This fight is for all of us.”
 
“But some Northerners lost their lives, too, you realize that. Have you called their local leaders to offer condolences?”
 
“Yes, I have. But let me be clear with you, Sir, NdeIgbo are the primary target. The hypocrisy of the Northern elite is that they look the other way so long as majority NdeIgbo are slaughtered. What they do not consider is the impact of NdeIgbo in the economy of Kano State. If we all run away because Kano State is too violent for people to live and do business, terrorists will take over Kano State and businesses will run away from Kano State.  With hunger and unemployment, the violence will get worse. Sir, this was how Somalia began. If they think that getting rid of NdeIgbo will solve their problems, it will be a huge mistake because the poverty in Northern Nigeria is the reason why people are willing to kill themselves just so they can kill other people. It does not make sense. Some elites are exploiting poor Northerners and it is time poor Northerners open their eyes and stop being used.  If somebody tells you to go and kill yourself and go to heaven, you should ask them to go there first.  Unfortunately, they promise the suicide bombers that they will take care of their parents and loved ones and brainwash them into committing suicide. Out there in the community, somebody is brainwashing Northern Nigeria youths to go and kill themselves and kill others as we speak. It is a huge moral failure in Northern Nigeria that their elite should hide their faces in shame. It is becoming a way of life in Northern Nigeria and all I am saying is that we Igbos in the North do so much for the Northern economy that it does not make sense for the Northern elite to just throw away their faces when we are attacked.”
 
“Mark my words, eventually the poor Northerners will get some  education and turn against the elite who preferred to use them as suicide bombers than giving them proper education so that they can be something in life.”
 
‘Do you have any message for NdeIgbo in Diaspora?”
 
“Yes, tell them that the slave that is indifferent to the death of a fellow slave is being indifferent towards his own impending death.”
 
“Do you have any message for Traditional Rulers in Igbo land?”
 
“Yes, Sir. Ask them if the people being killed are not from their towns originally. Why is it that the only time they care is when we are paying homage to them?”
 
“Do you have any message for Igbo Governors?”
 
“Tell them that we are ashamed of them. Ask them if dying in the hands of terrorists is better than dying in the hands of kidnappers. Tell them that when they stop becoming Governors, they will start hiding from kidnappers like the rest of us.”
 
“How about civic groups, lawyers etc?”
 
“Sir, we need people to sue Governor Kwankwaso, the Commissioner of Police, the Federal Government. Everybody knows that Kano State is a hot bed for terrorists. We do not feel that they are doing everything reasonable to protect us. The terror victims are victims of bad government and the government should be responsible. Unfortunately, if you do not come quickly to claim your loved ones, they dump them in a mass grave. Our injured victims are left on their own. No one pays their medical bills.  Our country is becoming quite a hell for all of us. Sooner or later, it will touch everyone. “
 
“Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for your leadership. I want you to not forget that the death of a Northerner by suicide bombing is just as bad as the death of an Igbo man. The innocent Northerners selling groundnuts and cigarettes and cleaning shoes to make a living should never be blamed for the violence even though the Northern elite may look the other way. Also, please continue to use your leadership position to work for the welfare of all Nigerians, not just NdeIgbo. Ofor ka ide ji awa ana. Don’t forget that. Oji ofor ga ana? Don’t forget that too.”
 
“Thank you, Sir and God bless.”

"Speaking about God, how is God doing these days in Kano?"

"Sir, we don't go to Church anymore. You won't find any Igbo man gathering with others to pray. We used to go to the Churches in Army Barracks and Police Stations and they went after Police Stations. We do not feel safe anywhere in Kano State and we certainly do not conduct any form of religious assembly for fear of being killed."

"Ok. Thanks."
 
Respectfully,
Aniedobe

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