Former Governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko, on 5 June 2021 challenged Southeast leaders on the spate of attacks going on in the region. In a statement, he challenged leaders of the Southeast of complicity in the attacks following their failure to rise collectively to condemn the actions.
In Wamakko’s words: “I, like all well-meaning Nigerians, have followed with disbelief, pain and disgust the happenings in the past few months in the Southeast and parts of South-South zones of Nigeria.
“As leaders of our people, we have been under intense pressure over the current situation. We cannot bear it any longer. If leaders from the Southeast feel they can allow their people to do what they want, we may have no choice than to stop dousing the increasing tension among our followers.”
The former Sokoto State Governor who lamented reprisal and unjust attacks on innocent Northerners in the Southeast pointed out that “the day the victim decides to pay back the aggressor, it will not be good for everybody.”
Wamakko explained why cutting off the supply of food commodities to the Southeast was on the cards of most northern food merchants. According to him, a truck carrying livestock en route Anambra ” was burnt down with all the animals around Awka.“
He equally referred to a similar event where two trucks conveying palm oil from Enugu to Kano State were intercepted and razed in Nsukka.
In the words of the former Sokoto State Governor, “Through all these, as individual leaders and collectively, we have maintained a studied silence by avoiding anything that will further rock the boat.
“Rather, we have been restraining our people who are victims of these atrocities by preaching patience and peace. Regrettably but curiously, our friends and compatriots, leaders of Igbo extraction, have remained dead silent in the face of an increasing assault by their people to stoke nationwide mayhem.”
He added that “The silence by political leaders and other prominent persons from that part of the country tells us only one thing: Their tacit approval for the activities of the murderous IPOB gangs.”
While some of the concerns raised by Wamakko are worrisome and should bother any sane mind, many observers reason that his message could have been better conveyed in a more friendly manner without heating the polity.
Rather than respond responsibly, the apex Igbo-cultural group decided to add salt to the injury. . In a statement issued on 7 June 2021 by the Secretary-General of the group, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, Ohanaeze Ndigbo alleged that the North is responsible for all the uprisings in the South-East, ”to keep Igbo leaders busy with insecurity challenges and set traps for them to fall in and get arrested.”
The apex Igbo-cultural group said the Northern Elders were responsible for the chaos in the South-East to help them retain Presidency beyond 2023. Part of the statement reads:
“The North is responsible for all the disaster in the South-East, considering an earlier warning by the USA Embassy Abuja, ‘that Northern bandits and killer herdsmen are changing positions to Southern Nigeria to wreak havoc and destabilise the zones.
“Northern elders are behind the chaos in Nigeria as a ploy to retain the Presidency in the North beyond 2023, as they did to Jonathan in 2015, so they exported violence to the South-East to keep Igbo leaders busy with insecurity challenges, setting up traps for them to fall in and get arrested.
“Rhetorically, Wamakko’s assertion that Igbo leaders are behind the scenes motivating the violence in the South-East, exposes the northern secrets in supporting bandits and Boko Haram for economic and political reasons.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo concluded that “The silence of Igbo leaders is golden and it will generate confusion in the camps of sponsors of terror in the South-East.”
While Aliyu Wamakko’s comments could be somewhat understanding, the manner and way in which Ohanaeze Ndigbo responded is rather condemnable.
The implications of the group’s statement portend more danger for the country coupled with the deep emotions underscored in Wamakko’s statement.
The Igbo group went beyond the lines in whatever they were trying to achieve.
Conversely, it is said that when poor leadership lives in denial of its responsibilities, it searches for and impugns a scapegoat. Rather than accept responsibility for its failure, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is capitalizing on Wamako’s commentaries to fuel the lingering crisis.
Many would have expected the southeast, with their desire to take a shot at the presidency, to be extremely reconciliatory. It is of a truth that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, despite its clamour for the 2023 Igbo presidency project, has done little or nothing to that effect.
As it stands, there is no presidential contender of Igbo extraction that has made any serious move towards actualising the hope of an Igbo presidency in 2023. The apex Igbo cultural group which has been behind the clamour for Igbo Presidency for years is yet to pick or rally around a candidate for the presidency ahead of 2023.
While it is agreed that it is the turn of the South to take the mantle to come 2023, the pendulum is swinging towards the Southwest with likely names as Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, among others.
It is a well-known fact that it takes a lot of political groundwork to achieve the presidency within the country. Ties amongst the six geopolitical zones have to be cemented as they have to be carried along to boost the candidacy of any potential contender.
Regrettably, the necessary political groundwork which the group ought to have started is non-existent even as 2023 is fast approaching.
Instead of grandstanding the attacks in the Southeast, particularly with the destruction of INEC facilities which can change the narrative of Igbo marginalisation over the years, it has maintained deafening silence which it claims is golden to set confusion in the camp of their purported enemies.
Ironically, Ohanaeze Ndigbo seems to be acting out the script of those who do not want the Igbo presidency project to be actualised in 2023.
What the apex Igbo cultural group should have done was to refute Wamakko’s statement without joining issues and throwing up the unverifiable accusation.
While certain elements might be fuelling the crises in the Southeast region to frustrate hopes of an Igbo Presidency in 2023, it is uncharitable to peddle accusations without any evidence, even if Ohanaeze Ndigbo was reacting in anger to the outright accusations of Aliyu Wamakko that leaders from the Southeast are complicit in the uprising in the region.
Although many Southeastern leaders have condemned the attacks and called on concerned authorities to help salvage a once peaceful region, the statement from Ohanaeze, which is covered by Wamakko’s accusations comes as an excuse for its incapacity to galvanize efforts to bring to life the hopes of an Igbo president in 2023.
Northern Elders have equally shown that they are all for unity and progress contrary to the accusations from the apex group. The Northern Elders Forum in a statement advised the Nigerian government not to resist any move for secession by the Igbos if it is supported by the people of the region and the Igbo leadership.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the Director of Publicity and Advocacy for the Forum stated this on 7 June 2021 at a press conference in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. He noted that Nigeria cannot afford another war to keep the Igbos seeing that Nigeria is on her knees and already burdened with economic challenges. Part of his statement reads:
“The Forum has arrived at the difficult conclusion that if support for secession among the Igbo is as widespread as it is being made to look, and Igbo leadership appears to be in support of it, then the country should be advised not to stand in its way.”
The Forum noted that “It will not be the best choice of the Igbo or Nigerians to leave a country we have all toiled to build and a country we all have the responsibility to fix, but it will not help a country already burdened with failures on its knees to fight another war just to keep the Igbo in Nigeria.”
In all of these, the situation involving Aliyu Wamakko and the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo could have been better handled. Nigerian leaders need to be tactful in their response and approach to certain issues of national importance for the very fact their words can do and undo in a country where little sparks can set the whole house on fire.