Saturday, 29 May 2010

29 May 1966

Sunday 29 May 1966 is undoubtedly the most tragic day in Igbo history. It is the launch date of the Igbo genocide – the most gruesome, devastating and expansive genocide in 20th century Africa.

The genocide lasted for 44 gory months. 29 May 1966 was the day that Igbo people were subjected to an overwhelming violence and unremitting brutality by supposedly fellow countrymen and women. This atrocity was clinically organised, supervised and implemented by the very state, the Nigeria state, which the Igbo had played a vanguard role to liberate from British conquest and occupation from the 1930s to October 1960. This state, now violently taken over by murderous anti-African sociopolitical forces in 1966, had pointedly violated its most sacred tenet of responsibility to its Igbo citizens – provision of security. Instead of providing security to these citizens, the Nigeria state murdered 3.1 million of them, a quarter of their population then, between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970. The genocide was carried out with full complicity of the British government led by James Harold Wilson. The words in Hausa of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly on state-owned Kaduna radio and television throughout its duration and with editorial comments on the theme regularly published in both state-owned New Nigerian (daily) newspaper and weekly Gaskiya Ta fi Kwabo during the period, were unambiguously clear on the key objectives of this crime against humanity:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su
(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

Yet this 29th day of May 1966 is also the Igbo Day of Affirmation, Recovery and Liberation. The Igbo people resolved on this day, the day that marked the beginning of the genocide, to survive the catastrophe. This was the day the Igbo ceased to be Nigerians forever – right there on the grounds of those death camps in the sabon gari residential districts and offices and churches and schools and colleges and shops and markets and hospitals and rail stations and trains and coach stations and coaches and trucks and airports and planes and highways and village tracks and brooks and rivers and gorges and bridges and woods across north Nigeria and elsewhere in the country. They created the state of Biafra in its place and tasked it to provide security to the Igbo and prevent Nigeria, a genocide state, from accomplishing its dreadful mission. The heuristic symbolism defined hitherto by 1 October 1960 (date of the presumed restoration of independence for peoples in Nigeria from the British occupation) shattered in the wake of this historic Igbo declaration. For the Igbo, the renouncement of Nigerian citizenship was the permanent Igbo indictment of a state that had risen thunderously to murder one of its constituent peoples.

The Igbo could not have survived the genocide if they still remained Nigerian. They rightly chose the former course of their fate and not the latter which they decisively cast adrift. Consequently, Nigeria collapsed as a state with scarce prospects. Despite the four murderous years of siege, the Igbo demonstrated a far greater creative drive towards constructing an advanced civilisation in Biafra than what Nigeria has all but wished it could achieve in the past four decades. Nigeria gburu ochu; Nigeria mere alu. Surely, Nigeria couldn’t recover from committing this heinous crime, this crime against humanity.

Astonishingly, though, the world wonders what the Igbo are still doing in Nigeria, the burden of a strangulated occupation notwithstanding. In the past 44 years, the Igbo have written an extraordinary essay on human survival and resilience. These attributes have now been laudably demonstrated and the Igbo must now move on – to another dynamic threshold of their being. O zu gozie. No one should ever feel that they are trapped in the Nigeria quagmire. The Igbo must now actively begin to reconstruct their gravely battered homeland, transform the lives of their 50 million people, and contribute their ingenuity to working on the wider, inventive canvass of the African renaissance. To embark on these pressing tasks, the Igbo should, today, walk away from the Nigeria genocide state, this state of terror. The Igbo should go now. Go, Go, Go.

29 May is a beacon of the resilient spirit of human overcoming of the most desperate, unimaginably brutish forces. It is the new Igbo National Holiday. It is a day of meditation and remembrance in every Igbo household anywhere in the world for the 3.1 million murdered, gratitude and thanksgiving for those who survived, and the collective Igbo rededication to achieve the expectant goal of the restoration of Igbo sovereignty. Now is the time.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Salute to those who make a difference

Africa has uninterruptedly been a net-exporter of capital to the Western World since 1981. The thundering sum of US$400 billion is the total figure that Africa has transferred to the West in this manner to date. These are legitimate, accountable transfers, largely covering the ever-increasing interest payments for the “debts” the West claims African regimes owe it, beginning from the 1970s. A recent study by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research organisation, states that Africa may have also transferred the additional sum of US$854 billion since the 1970s (“this figure might be more than double, at [US]$1.8 trillion”, the study cautions), through illegitimate exports by the “leaderships” of corrupt African regimes, with Nigeria topping this league of felons at US$240.7 billion. In effect, the state, in Africa, no longer pretends that it exists to serve its peoples.

These capital exports, legitimate or/and illegitimate, are funds of gargantuan proportions produced by the same humanity that many a commentator would be quick to categorise as “poor” and “needy” for “foreign aid”. In the past 30 years, these funds could and should easily have provided a comprehensive health care programme across Africa, the establishment of schools, colleges and skills’ training, the construction of an integrative communication network, the transformation of agriculture to abolish the scourge of malnutrition, hunger and starvation, and, finally, it would have stemmed the emigration of 12 million Africans, including critical sectors of the continent’s middle classes and intellectuals to the West and elsewhere.

Yet, despite these grim times of pulverised economies and failed and collapsing states in Africa, we shouldn’t ever forget that those who still ensure that the situation on the ground is not much worse for the peoples than it is, and so profoundly retrievable, are Africans – individuals, working alone, conscientiously, or working in concert with a few others or within a larger group to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide healthcare and some leisure to immediate and extended families, communities, neighbourhoods, villages and the like: the surgeon who not only works tirelessly in a city hospital, with very limited resources, but uses his scarce savings to build a health centre and an access road in his village with subsidised treatment and prescription costs; the nurse who travels around her expansive health district, unfailingly, bringing care to the doorsteps of the people who neither can afford nor access it physically; the retired diplomat who has mobilised her community to set up a robust environmental care service that has involved the construction of public parks, regular refuse collection and some recycling, after-school free tuition for children with a planned community newspaper in the pipeline; the coach transport operator who laid out scores of his coaches to ferry survivors of a recently organised pogrom 350 miles away to safety; the civil rights activist and intellectual who rallied members of his internet discussion groups within the course of a month’s intense campaign to successfully apprehend a contractor who was about to abscond with millions of (US) dollars’ worth of public funds meant for a crucial upgrade of an international airport initially built by the community; a stretch of individuals’ programmes of scholarships for students at varying levels of school life, provision of staff salaries in schools and colleges, maintenance of libraries and laboratories in schools and colleges, construction and maintenance of vital infrastructure in villages and counties, etc., etc. These are the authors busily scripting the path of the renaissance Africa.

To cap these phenomenal strides of Africans, the 12 million African émigrés we mentioned earlier now dispatch more money to Africa than the much-parroted “Western aid” to the continent, year in, year out. In 2003, according to the World Bank, these overseas residents sent to Africa the impressive sum of US$200 billion – invested directly in their communities. This is 40 times the sum of “Western aid” in real terms in the same year – i.e. when the pervasive “overheads” attendant to the latter are accounted for. Thus, Africa’s pressing problem in the past 57 years of presumed restoration of independence has not been “poverty”, as it is often uncritically portrayed, but how to husband incredible range of abundance of human and non-human resources for the express benefits of the peoples.

A widespread revolution in the consciousness of Africans will hasten the realisation of a critical mass of the types of Africans described above – at all levels of society. Gradually, many fires are being lit. This shift in consciousness will feed into the strategic goal for change which still remains the dismantling of the architecture of alienation and subjugation posed to African existence and progress by the “Berlin states” emplaced.