BY UCHE EZECHUKWU
All through the Easter weekend and beyond, I was assailed with several calls from irate Nigerians, mostly of the former Eastern Nigeria extraction who felt endangered, urging me to respond in kind to what they saw as the irrational and dangerous memorandum which Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State had addressed to his counterparts in the Northern states. I had understood their feelings as well as their fears but had, out of experience, refrained from doing what I believed would have been akin to replicating the popular story of the mad man and an angry farmer.
This farmer, as the over-told story goes, had finished his day’s work at his farm at the other side of the village stream and had stopped at the stream on his way back home to have a deserved bath. Discarding and dropping his clothes on a ridge beside the stream, he waded in and moved off to an area where the stream was deepest to have a full dose of the refreshing water. While he was at it, a naked mad man walked down to the stream, noticed the discarded clothes and started putting them on. From where he was, the angered farmer saw the crazy man trying his clothes on and shouted at him in anger, to drop the clothes immediately or get a beating of his life.
The mad man ignored him and continued with what he was doing and before long, he was dressed up entirely in the farmer’s apparel and started to walk away as if nothing had happened. Blinded by anger, the enraged farmer, forgetting his stark naked status, went after the mad man that had taken his clothes. When the mad man broke into a run, the farmer who had been driven into an uncontrollable rage gave a chase until both the dressed man and the naked man came out to the road and headed to the market place which was the abode of the mad man. All the bewildered people who saw the naked farmer pursuing a dressed man with dreadlocks, wept openly because they believed that the illustrious and the erstwhile, well-respected farmer had gone so mad that he even embraced the confines of the market place. In the belief of Ndigbo, a madness that gets to the market place becomes incurable!
An analysis of the memo by Admiral Nyako – a man who qualifies to be tagged a statesman, having headed the Nigerian Navy – clearly shows that it is a product of a deranged mind. Should any sane person be driven by anger to respond to it in kind, that person might easily fall into the same classification as the author of the ‘satanic verses’ from the Yola Government House. It is clear that only a man whose mind has been soiled by some sort of insanity or driven around the bend by bigotry, hatred and inferiority complex that could have authored the type of incoherent and yet dangerous epistle that Nyako sent to his colleagues, urging them to declare a war on their compatriots who hail from what he described as the former Eastern Nigeria.
Before I proceed with what promises to be a long treatise, I want to make two observations. The first is that the impression which is currently rife all across the ‘former Eastern Nigeria’ from where I am writing this, that the mindset of such people like Murtala Nyako represents that of a typical Northerner, is not true in any form. It is not also true that Northerners and Muslims hate Easterners and are warming up to exterminate them as Nyako is urging them. The truth, instead, is that the average Northerner, like the average Easterner, is his brother’s keeper and desires to carry out his daily life’s pursuits in peace, tranquility and peace with his compatriots from all over the country. For, if the Northerner had hated and abhorred the Easterner, like the Nyakos of this country, how come that Easterners inhabit all over the North in their millions, raising families and running their lives in peace and tranquility, except on those occasions when they are confronted by such dangers like the Boko Haram scourge, to which the native Northerner is equally and non-discriminatorily exposed.
In the same way, Northerners enjoy the same amount of hospitality and reception all over the South, as they conduct their daily lives and business. Last week in Enugu, I sat with and held convivial discussions with some Northerners whose parents have lived in Enugu for as long as one can remember. In fact, most Nigerians I know are proud showing off how much of the other Nigerian languages they can speak. Many of my Igbo compatriots often come to a function in Igboland fully decked in full Hausa attires and are even elated when they are described as “alahaji”. Most ordinary Nigerians envy the likes of Bisi Olatilo who are proficient in three main Nigerian languages and I often almost die of positive envy when I watch Bisi acting as a master of ceremony at social events at remote Anambra villages. In fact, he compered the funeral ceremony of a general’s mother in my own village!
Again, I want to observe for the benefit of those who might be thinking otherwise, and as I heard some people pontificating loudly here yesterday, that it is not true that Muslims hate Christians in the North and are daily devising means and strategies to wipe them out or convert them. The truth, which I had emphasized from time to time and which such responsible leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto has reiterated, almost ad naseum, is that Islam and Christianity are not at war, but rather that evil and bigoted people had always manipulated the two religions to drive wedges between fellow Nigerians who had been relating amicably in their work places, social environment and professional chores. In fact, most of the crises that are being described as religious crises are in fact driven by politics and when they are stripped bare, one would find motives that would appear as shameful and anathema to the two major religions in whose names the dirty crises are being fomented. So, when Nyako calls on the Northerners to exterminate the Easterners, he is neither doing it on behalf of the North nor Islam, but rather at the instance of a personal idiosyncrasy that is driven by a cracked personality.
My second observation is that the likes of Murtala Nyako are not restricted to the Northern geopolitical zone, but are also to be found in every cranny of this vast country, if not the world. Such psychological misfits are also found amongst all the religious persuasions and in all the professions. The problem is that such people become very dangerous when they find themselves at a vantage positions of authority from where they can use their pedestal to wreak widespread havoc, protected by the cover of office. In other words, people with Nyako’s mindset, while in power, even over a local government area, can twist their office and use it to commit evil.
For instance, there are people who are now alleging that Nyako, by the colour of his utterance and extreme hatred against his fellow countrymen and women, who just happen not to share his immediate similarities, could easily qualify as a likely sponsor of terror. People who harbor such thoughts rely on some recent incidents that happened in Adamawa State. About two years ago, members from the Adazi community in Anambra State were at a community meeting at Mubi, Adamawa State, when they were attacked by some armed terrorists through the window of the hall where they were meeting. Twelve men lay stone dead while many more were injured. Instead of conducting detailed investigations, the Nyako government, in a bizarre twist of events, started blaming the victims. The story from Adamawa government quarters was that it was in fact those Adazi people that had slaughtered themselves, following some phantom community feud, whose existence the people trenchantly denied. In fact, so grave was the situation that the Adamawa authorities withheld the bodies from the bereaved relatives until a forceful intervention of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State. Even at that, the Adazi relatives who were retrieving the bodies from the mortuary were again attacked with one fatality. The evetn did not look or sound normal, but then neither do most things in that state look normal since Nyako came to the saddle.
It is true that there have been murderous activities directed against the non-indigenes in some parts of the country, like the luxury bus holocaust in Kano that have remained very suspicious, but even those do not justify the harrowing sense of danger which is currently overwhelming the Easterners that reside in the North, to the extent that many groupings are talking of preparing for self-protection. The type of condemnation that Nyako has been receiving including the tongue-lashing at the last security meeting should reassure Easterners in the North that Murtala Nyako, who is reputed more for his clueless governance than anything else, cannot be the teacher of the Northerners, no matter his age and antecedents.
Other Nigerians, especially the Northerners that I have spoken to are aware that a man who throws a stone in a crowded market place has no way of ensuring that it would not land on his own mother’s head. Again, the average Northerner knows that the likes of Nyako exposes him to a clear and present danger as one does not expect a group against which you had declared a war to watch you helplessly, for in the word of Igbo people, it is only a tree that knows that its life is in danger and stands still at one place, doing nothing.
The greater danger, however, seems to be the silence of most Northern leaders over the satanic declaration by Murtala Nyako, which tends to give the impression among many other Nigerians that such views are widely held and shared. Fortunately, through my close individual and corporate contacts and connection with Northerners of worth, I can categorically assert that Nyako’s prescription of genocide against the people of former eastern Nigeria because they support the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan is not widely shared. But like the reticence with which Northern leaders treated the Boko Haram scourge at its onset, which was widely taken in the South to mean that they supported the terrorists, the Northern leaders are again becoming restrained in the condemnation of Murtala Nyako. Such an attitude is not healthy and cannot help any one.
In the next part of this piece, I will try to do a psycho analysis of the mindset of people like Murtala Nyako and his copies in the other parts of the country who, rather play such unifying roles that they should play by the virtue of their antecedents, are constituting themselves into public nuisance. I will try to analyse why such a man who by the virtue of his training as an officer and gentleman should be very large hearted and even-handed has relapsed into a role of a cheap bigot. One would also wish to find out why a man who by the virtue of his marriage to a full fledged and well trained medical doctor from one of the most prominent families in igboland and who should have seen himself as one of them because of the kinship he should share with them, turns around to hate them so much as to harbor a death wish for his inlaws.
Such an analysis might afford us the opportunity to look more deeply and emphasize the many things which bind us together as Nigerians rather than the very few issues that still constitute temporary areas of ethnic and social discord. It is after such discourses that most ignorant Nigerians could start to see more light in the different areas of their current misunderstanding. Yet, leave it or take it, the likes of Murtala Nyako in every part of the country should be kept very far away from the public space if the aspiration of a future strong, prosperous and united Nigeria is ever to be achieved.
(To be continued next week…)