July 15, 2024

Dokubo and The Nigerian Question

Dokubo and The Nigerian Question
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By Suyi Ayodele

Not long ago, multi-millionaire militant, Asari Dokubo, in an interview with Arise TV, had this to say about his own ancestry: “I don’t know whether IPOB is Igbo. Even though I have Igbo blood flowing in my veins. I am not an Igbo man today. My great ancestor was originally an Igbo man from Abam (in Abia State). His parents moved to Obosi in present day Anambra State. From there, he came to Kalabari… and he became a Kalabari man.”

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In another breath, the same Dokubo spoke about his identity as a Nigerian. He denounced his Nigerian citizenship and claimed the separatist state of Biafra. Hear him: “Nigeria is not my country. I am an Ijaw man. I have never chosen to renounce my citizenship of Ijaw Nation. Abonnema is Biafra, Buguma is Biafra, Bakana is Biafra, Ogbuma is Biafra, Kula is Biafra, Abise is Biafra, Idama is Biafra, Soku is Biafra. These are the communities that I come from. The whole of Ijaw is Biafra. Biafra is a coastal region.” You need to see the videos to understand how passionately Dokubo believes in the Biafran project.

A lot of activities have happened in the last two weeks. I told a couple of people who called me to ask about the Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidency that it is not yet morning time for our new husband. This is one of the reasons I restrained myself from talking about the character of Asari Dokubo and his visit to the Aso Rock Villa seat of power penultimate week. An old university classmate, Mike Kebonkwu, did a piece titled, “Asari Dokubo’s weighty allegations against the armed forces” in his The Nation column on Friday, June 23, 2023. I sent the following as my response to him: “Who do you blame in this instance? Where on earth have you seen this kind of thing?

A Commander-in-Chief yielding the sanctuary of the presidential lodge to a felon to disparage the military”? I wanted to end Dokubo’s discourse at that level. But friends kept assailing me with the recent video by the self-styled militant, where he made some comments about the Ndigbo of South-East Nigeria.

In the video that has gone viral, the same fella, who previously traced his roots to the Ndigbo, went for the Igbo jugular. Premium Times, an online platform revealed that the video was shot in September 2022, and released in October of the same year. The video took on another life last Tuesday, apparently put on the social media space again by those who are miffed by the things Dokubo said during his Aso rock Villa visit. In the video, the ex-militant (is that complimentary?) did not only call the Igbo slaves, but he also regretted that the ‘civilisation’ of the British made it impossible for him to sell the Igbo the way his forebears sold them as slaves. Let us make him speak so that we can appreciate the state of mind of Dokubo.

He speaks, again: “You take your leprosy hand to write. You don’t have respect for the people who bought your father? Is it every Kalabari man that is a Kalabari man? Do you know your roots,) you talk to me? You don’t know that people own this Kalabari, Igbos, I don’t know them. I don’t know where they come from. Because I know that if not for British intervention, I will still be selling them the way my father sold them.” To underscore his seriousness, the man, who earlier at the Villa claimed to be the one securing Nigerians on the Abuja-Kaduna axis, brandished sophisticated weapons to demonstrate that he is ‘on the ground gidigba’.

Thereafter, he threatened, in the Niger Delta lingos, to kill the Igbo, as it appeared that: “E be like say una dey look for who go finish una? Look for una everywhere; finish una. Una dey see me” He asked as he showed them his weapon of mass destruction!

My problem is not with Dokubo, and I will tell you why. It is logical for one to conclude that, if, for the purpose of this argument, the Ndigbo race are slaves, Dokubo must have been a big chunk of that element himself. He could not have been otherwise. All anyone needs to do to know if the Kalabari ‘warlord’ is a slave or a freeborn is to watch his interviews quoted above. A man who claimed to be of Igbo extraction in one instance and claimed in another video, that the Igbo are slaves, should be asked who he is.

He said his forebears sold the Igbo as slaves. No student of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade should doubt that. If indeed that is true, it is safe for us to conclude that his Kalabari ancestry must have been because of the notorious slave trade of the era past. This is one of the reasons our elders were very reluctant at conducting a census exercise for slaves in the days of yore. They were wise in their reasons for not doing so. They drew wisdom in the saying that when a leaf stays too long on the native black soap, it turns to soap itself. This is the same reason the butterfly mistakes itself to be a bird because of its flapping of wings. And when a census is conducted among slaves, many so-called freeborn go home dejected. Only Dokubo knows what propels him to talk and talk the way he does. One can only hazard a guess here. Every dog that has a marksman-hunter as its chaperon, has the potential to kill a monkey.

If the Izon man spoke the way he did about our military penultimate week and there has not been any official reprimand from his hosts in the Villa, he can brandish an intercontinental ballistic missile to threaten an entire race, and nothing will happen. We are in Nigeria, a land-of-anything goes. That should not be lost on us. It is the Igbo today. Other ethnic groups should know it will be their own turn one day. It is like the case of the dead body. When it nods its head, what it is saying is, ‘your own is coming’.

The greatest problem I have here is the endangered race, the Ndigbo, its internal politics and politicking and the palpable division among the ranks and file of the people of Eastern Nigeria. No rational mind has any doubt that 53 years after the end of the unfortunate civil war, the Nigerian nation has not ended the war with the East. But a more saddening fact is that the Ndigbo have not also ended the war among its numerous “autonomous” clans. When a race finds itself in a skewed entity like the present Nigeria, one would expect a cohesion among the people. But that is not the case with Ndigbo.

The most beautiful thing about the Ndigbo is the way the race bounced back and got its feet rooted again after a 30-month devastating war. Give that to them. Their sense of perseverance, resilience, determination to make a mark and the never-say-die attitude deserve commendation. But it ends there.

The internal rancour in the South-East is something that should get any reasonable human being worried. They complain of marginalisation to no end. It is true that while they are right to an extent, the greatest issue is the fact that the rest of Nigeria is suspicious of the Igbo agenda; and rightly or wrongly tagged the people as not organised enough to be trusted with power, or some leverage of power. When one tries to defend that as too fallacious, the argument that is usually thrown up is the lack of cohesion in the region and the inability of the Ndigbo to push for a common front on anything.

While it is a fact that more than any other ethnic group, the Ndigbo, since the beginning of this democratic dispensation in 1999, has demonstrated a more consistent political lineage in their voting patterns, the ‘internal war’ it wages against itself has made that consistency to pale into insignificance.

If we were to use the voting pattern in the south-East as the yardstick, it will be wrong for anyone to accuse the Igbo of ethnic bigotry. For instance, in 1999, they voted overwhelmingly for General Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West and repeated the same feat in 2003. In 2007, the East lined up its voters behind the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, a Fulani from the North-West. Four years later, the region opted for an Ijaw man, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, from the South-South.

They repeated the same for Jonathan in 2015. When another round of elections came in 2019, the Ndigbo queued behind Atiku Abubakar, another Fulani from the North-East. The only time they voted for one of their own was in the February 25, 2023, elections, when they threw their weight behind Peter Obi. More than anything, the Ndigbo have shown more commitment to the Nigerian nation more than any other ethnic nationality since 1999. But the question is where does that consistency lead the Ndigbo? What has been their gain? Why have they not been able to consolidate on that? Who, for instance, are the go-to-leaders from that part of the country?

Rather than consolidate on their defined political marriage, the region keeps showing the other ethnic groups that beyond block vote, there is no ‘block solidarity’ among the Ndigbo. Between 1999 and 2007, a period of eight years, the Ndigbo, which had the senate presidency zoned to it, gave us five Senate presidents in Evan(s) Enwerem (June3, 199- November 18, 1999), Chuba Okadigbo (November 18, 199- August 8, 2000); Anyim Pius Anyim (August 8, 2000- June 3, 2003); Adolphus Wabara (June 3, 20023- April 5, 2005) and Ken Nnamani (April 5, 2005-June 5, 2007).

In contrast, when the same position was zoned to the multi-ethnic North-Central, the region chose David Mark (an Idoma) for solid eight years (June 5, 2007- June 6, 2015), and moved to Kwara State, still in the same zone, where it elected Bukola Saraki, who served as senate president for four unbroken years (June 9, 2015- June 9, 2029).

Why then should the Ndigbo blame the other ethnic groups for their lack of faith in the Ndigbo? Is it not true that a dog that eats its own litters is not the best guard for a corpse? I would not know why, and how our elders arrived at this axiom, but its deep meaning cannot be overstated. Very close to it is another saying that a man who deliberately steps on his own white garment will not think twice before he throws another man’s apparel into the furnace. When a man exhibits any of the characteristics in these two sayings, the best way to deal with such a fellow is to avoid him completely. This is exactly what the rest of the country appears to be doing to the Ndigbo. I raised this concern in my May 24, 2022, piece titled: “Ndigbo: A race without rulers?” Regrettably, it appears no lesson has been learnt.

Or how does one explain Ndigbo’s recent rejection of its own in the last Monday, June 19, 2023, appointment of Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, as the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Hardly had the announcement been made than the same Igbo that has been complaining of marginalisation came out smoking that Ogalla is not a “full blood” Igbo, but an Igbo with Igala ancestry. A good friend, who first drew my attention to the “not full Igbo” ancestry of Ogalla, said that President Tinubu “deliberately appointed the man knowing that he is more of an Igala man than an Igbo”. He went further to tell me that Tinubu “is not in any way different from Buhari in the marginalization of the East.”

What was my response to my dear friend? I simply asked him the question our elders will ask in a situation like this: “If we ask the deity to kill the housewife who gives the gods a soup that lacks flavour, what will the gods do to the one who comes to the shrine empty handed? I also promised to loan two of my Nicholas Monsarrat’s collections: “The Tribe That Lost Its Head” and its sequel, “Richer Than All His Tribe”.

General Muhammadu Buhari, from the start of his presidency in 2015, made no pretence about his dislike for the Igbo and he practically shut them, and many other non-Fulani ethnic groups, out of his administration. Now, the Ndigbo has an Ikechukwu (Godspower) as the NCS, the only argument they are raising is how close Ogalla’s Enugu Ezike, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, is to the Igala of Kogi State. Yet, they have an Asari Dokubo with his arsenal of sophisticated weapons threatening to hunt them down like wild games and possibly sell them “as slaves”.

What should be of more concern between ethnic survival and the ‘half Igbo ancestry’ of the new NCS? Why is the wisdom in the counsel of our elders that when your kinsman is the one plucking the oranges, you are not likely to eat the sour grape, lost on those disclaiming Ogalla and kith and kins in Enugu State? Is it not sensible that a man should first start to roast his yam before looking for the knife to scrape its burnt back? If Dokubo makes good his threat of Igbo annihilation, would it not be better for the Ndigbo to have a ‘half Igbo and half Igala’ in the Military Command chain than to have nobody? Every man should know where the rain began to beat him and when it stopped beating him.

The Ndigbo must come clean on what exactly they want from the Nigerian nation and stay faithful to that. The era of the Osu caste system is long gone and forgotten. Any attempt to bring such an anachronistic tendency back in the 21 century stands condemnable. Let every man of good faith wish Ogalla and his fellow Service Chiefs success in their onerous task of restoring peace to our troubled nation. I wish no less!

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