This time, 30 years ago, what historically emerged as East and West Germany – two separate countries that were created following the former USSR’s occupation of East Germany in 1945 – got reunited on October 3, 1990 on what is today known as Unity Day. The 1945 episode that saw USSR to occupy East Germany while America and the Allied Forces took control of West resulted in the erection of Berlin Wall which politically divided Germany into East and West, with the former being more viable than the latter. This event is known in international relations/ politics as the Cold War.
In 1990 when those two counties broke their barriers and agreed to stand again as a united country, no element of segregation was ever meted out to the other country. In that affair, East Germany was the one that was deemed to have returned to West Germany. This was because the politico-economy of communism propagated by USSR and practised by East Germany was crushed by the American led allied forces. To that effect, at the collapse of Berlin Wall which was a great symbol of communism, it was widely believed that USSR and East Germany had lost the cold war to West Germany and the capitalist world led by America.
Yet, West Germany which had an upper hand over East Germany never declared an exclusion battle or marginalization war on the latter. For instance, the East German Mark was exchanged with the German Mark or Deutsche Mark (DEM, which was also replaced with Euro on January 1, 1999) on equal proportion without any form of discrimination against the returnee East Germany. They were equally accommodated and immediately integrated.
However, it was not the same in Nigeria. After the gruelling Nigeria – Biafra war in 1970, the government of Nigeria, then supervised by a military leader, General Yakubu Gowon, against the spirit of no victor, no vanquished slogan that ruled the airwaves after breakaway Biafra surrendered, Gowon rather commenced what is now known as Igbo marginalization. For instance, this was Gowon’s cabinet – it was an Army-Civilian Federal Executive Council. It was a 16-man full-time cabinet for the Nigerian Federation. Members of the cabinet are known as ”commissioners”. Members were: Alhaji Ali Monguno; Alhaji Aminu Kano; Commodore J.E.A. Wey; Major-General Yakubu Gowon (Chairman) Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Vice-Chairman and commissioner for Finance); Dr. J.E. Adetoro; Chief Anthony Enahoro; Mr. B.O. Briggs and Dr. Okoi Arikoo, Mr. H.A. Ejunitchie (Secretary to the Federal Military Government); Mr. J.S. Tarka; Mr. Femi Okunnu; Alhaji Yahaya Gusau; Dr. R.A.B. Dikko; Alhaji Kam Selem; Major Alao; Lt-Col Ekpo (Military Secretary); Mr. T. Omo and Lt.-Col. Joe Akaha . That was how Gowon started Igbo marginalization. There was no Igbo in his federal executive council. Also, in the same vein, Gowon’s Supreme Military Council, SMC, was composed without Igbo representation. Again, in Gowon’s Second National Development Plan which he put forward to run between 1970 and 1975, out of the eight major projects embarked on, only the reactivation of Nkalagu Cement Factory was allotted to South East. It was Gowon that took away the Iron and Steel project earlier billed for Enugu because of the presence of coal in the area by the Sir Tafawa Balewa/Zik administration. It must also be recorded that it was Gowon that created the 12 state structure and lumped all Igbo into one enclave of East Central State. At the same time, Gowon created Rivers and South Eastern State thereby making Ndigbo a minority in a majority. Subsequently, till date, all other successive federal governments have maintained Gowon’s master planofIgbo marginalization. Following the defeat of Biafra, Gowon created the the post war 3R slogan of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
Obasanjo, as the federal commissioner of works, was charged with the responsibility of supervising the 3R policy and programme. Of course, Obasanjo never truly reconciled Ndigbo and Nigeria. He never reconstructed any any known project and neither did he rehabilitate any Igbo. Rather, he voted for the impoverishment of the Igbo when he supported the Gowon’s policy of paying only 20 pounds to Ndigbo no matter the millions or thousands they had in the bank!
There was no striking difference between the composition of Gowon’s regime and that of General Muhammed that came after it. Ndigbo even got it worse as Murtala created the 19 state structure and only located just two in the South East – Anambra and Imo, while the Yorubas got four in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Lagos.
After Murtala was assassinated on February 13, 1976, he was succeeded by General Olusegun Obasanjo who did not really improve the lot of the Igbo. This was so because Obasanjo enacted the obnoxious Indigenization Decree that completely made the Igbo a mere spectator and subsequently “routed them from the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”. For those who do not know, the Indegenization Decree was promulgated to ensure that Nigerians purchase major shares of blue chip (foreign) companies operating in the country at the time, and by so doing ownedmore than 60 per cent equity thereof. Since Ndigbo were just six years old away from the Nigeria -Biafra War, and considering that only 20 pounds were made available to them after the civil war, they had virtually nothing to partake in the sharing of Nigeria. This was how the Yoruba bought over Nigeria and became high flying executives in all international firms in the country. You now can see Obasanjo’s crude administrative onslaught against Ndigbo. Obasanjo built six federal polytechnics without any in Igbo nation. He established nine colleges of education and none was cited in the Igbo country. He constructed six new airports and not one was considered good for Ndigbo. Still on projects and wanton exclusion of Ndigbo herein, Obasanjo as head of state, conceived the Third National Development Plan which he scheduled to run between 1978 and 1980 (although he left office on October 1, 1979). In the development plan, Obasanjo carried out 11 projects and only two minor plants were designated for the south east – the Nkalagu Cement Factory and Anambra Motor Company (ANAMCO).
Against every expectation, the President Shehu Shagari Fourth National Development Plan of 1981/85 (though the 1983 coup caught up with it) was never in any way viewed as being good to Ndigbo as only one out of the 37 major projects was cited in the South East, the Aba Textile Mill.
When the military took over again in 1983, the situation was more devastating for the South East. General Muhammadu Buhari’s 19 member Supreme Council had only Chike Offordile as a member. He was the attorney general. It has also been reported that Buhari voted against Dr. Peter Onu in the election to produce a substantial secretary general for the OAU (AU) and rather voted for a fellow Fulani from Niger Republic. As a civilian president, Buhari had 14 security chiefs without any from the South East. Under his watch, about $150bn worth of railway lines was awarded and none is located in the South East. Four military universities have built in the north and none in the South East. With Buhari as president of Nigeria, Igbo is not the deputy president, not senate president, no deputy senate president, no speaker of the house representatives or deputy speaker. The Igbo is also not the national chairman of the ruling party. As a matter of fact, it has never been so bad for Ndigbo in a democratic Nigeria!
For obvious reasons, Buhari did not last in his first missionary journey as a military of state. He was displaced by General Ibrahim Babangida. As usual, Babangida at a time (1987) had 24 members in his Supreme Military Council and none was Igbo, though at a time also he had Commodore Ebutu Ukiwe as second in command.
Ukiwe was frustrated out. Major General Ike Nwachukwu as member, at a time, was a member of SMC. The case was still the same when General Sani Abacha took over. He had only an Igbo Commodore Alison Madueke in his Provisional Ruling Council. And when he was controversially booted out, there was no Igbo representation in the PRC of Abacha.
This is how they have been sharing Nigeria without the Igbo. Recall that there are 36 states and only five are in the South East whereupon others zones have six each while North West has seven. There are 774 local councils and the South East has the least. There are 109 senators and just 15 are of South East origin. Also, of the 360 federal House of Representatives composition, the South East are in absolute minority.
These are the issues that compel Igbo youths to listen to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB message and Biafra agitation.
It is still the message Ohanaeze preaches thorough its president, Chief Nnia Nwodo, trying to pass across to Ndigbo and Nigeria.