By Donald Ekpo, Akwa Ibom State
"For as long as the Old Eastern region remain in disarray and not united, self-determination of the region will remain impossible." ~ An anonymous retired Nigerian Army Chief
The word “South-South,” even though it may sound absurd, is a name we have come to accept as a people. We can’t say exactly how we came about to be identified with the name neither can we say exactly when we were given the name, but we just know it is our name. While growing up back in the days, geography taught us about “the North,” “the South,” “The East” and “The West.” For proper definition of locations, we were also told about “The Northwest, NorthEast, Southwest and SouthEast” I can’t remember anything like the “NorthNorth”, “SouthSouth”, “EastEast” or Westwest , but here I am today, writing a letter to my South-South brethren. That is what happens to a people that are not in control of their Cultural Development or the Political and Economic Future.
That is what happens to a people that are just there for their numbers, that is what happens to people that are just kept for their services, that is what happens to people that are just custodians of wealth for a supposedly superior people, and finally, that is what happens to peoples that are slaves. Any name is suitable for them, they can only get whatever is given to them even if it is originally theirs. If in doubt, please remind me of the meaning of KUNTA KINTE.
I write this letter not because it is frustrating to see how we allowed a defrauded propaganda to position our people as the pawns in the Political Chess called Nigeria, but rather, I write this letter in an effort to request that we free ourselves from these propaganda that has lingered for too long. If our grandfathers and fathers did not ask questions, is there any divine law that says we cannot ask? We know we all belonged to the old Eastern Region of Nigeria before the Northern Protectorate took back their power after the gruesome murder of General Aguiyi Ironsi.
Just for the records, let me do us a bit of history here; Major General Ironsi as Head of State was cornered and arrested somewhere in western Nigeria on July 29th of 1966, his hands and feet were tied together, then tied to a Land Rover with a little space in between, and driven on a tarred road, face down for several kilometers. The then highest ranking Northern officer, an acting (Unconfirmed) Lieutenant Colonel was chosen to be the next Head of State ahead of serving Brigadiers, Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels of the Southern Nigeria, followed by the dreadful killings of officers and soldiers of Eastern Nigeria including our so called South South soldiers and officers.
The genocide that followed is what is recorded as the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 – 1970. As if that was not enough, the Eastern region was broken apart with the sudden creation of the then South Eastern State (today’s Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom), Rivers State (Today’s Rivers State and Bayelsa). It was during that war that propagandas were designed, created and generated to separate us from the old Eastern Region and make the average Igbo man our potential enemy in an effort to reduce their own presumed enemies. In as much as it is a bitter history, but I find it necessary to do you this preamble.
I write this letter to remind us that our region, known as the South-South today was a creation of the North for the sake of creating the disunity we face today. And moreso, it was not just for the disunity for them to win the war, but to also take away our resources, our manpower and our economic future. In 2014 when President Jonathan, a son of the so called South-South decided to re-contest the 2015 elections, Sheik Junaid Mohammed in an engagement on behalf the Northern Protectorate, reminded us that the so called South-South was a creation of the North for effective management of the Northern interest in Eastern Nigeria. How bad could this be? Can we imagine that? So while we are busy reminding ourselves that we are a different people or that the Igbos are wicked and are trying to kill us, the North is joyously taking over and owning 85% of our oil wells while the West takes over the left overs.
And what do we get? Noise! Even the supposedly football legend, Sunday Okechukwu Oliseh is busy telling us he is not Igbo as if it is a curse to be Igbo. One wonders if the name Okechukwu is of Hausa or Yoruba origin. When you speak Igbo as a language and yet claim you are not Igbo, is that not the saddest thing that can happen to any people of identical culture? Even Major Kaduna Nzeogwu that led the first coup that was said to be an Igbo coup is from Okpanam village in today’s Delta State. Could he have come out to say today like Sunday Oliseh said that he was not Igbo? If the Abakaliki or Nsukka indigene that has a more distant dialect of Igbo is Igbo, how come the Anioma or Okrika indigene that is easily understood is not Igbo? How did a people of the same culture get so separated these far?
I write these letter to speak to those of us regarded as "minority tribes." How can we be minority when in essences we are known to be about 35 million of the said 180 million of the said Nigerian population? How can we be a minority in our own lands if we were not treated as such, or if we did not accept to be such? If those from the alliance that separated us from the West are said to be about 50 million in population, and our brethren in the East are said to be about 40 million, how can we accept we are a minority? Our compatriots from the alleged minorities of the North are said to be another 30 million, who then is the minority? Having run through these figures, we know who the real minorities are.
Be it as it appears, the truth is that our region was broken into two so as to weaken our original strength given that at a combined population strength of 35 million and 40 million people, our economic and entrepreneurial strength put together would be something the alliance will be worried about. So why should we ever think that it is logical to claim we are two different people when in essence, we have always been one and the same people for over 400 years before the arrival of the white man. If what the white man did to us was not bad enough, is it not ridiculous that we allowed a certain minority immigrants to assume control of our economic and political future?
I write these letter to ask my brethren in the South-South these pertinent question; Let us assume the very worst situation in this fracas between us and our Igbo brothers, why are we worried about the Igbos taking over our “natural resources” (assuming they don’t have theirs), ARE WE PRESENTLY IN CONTROL OF OUR “NATURAL RESOURCES”? Does it make more sense that our natural resources is being controlled by some strange people from over 700 miles away? People that kill us at will at a single provocation of their religion? People that even kill us in our land? People that challenge us to the ownership of these our resources? People that show absolute disregard of who we are? People that think it is a privilege for us to be in any position of authority? And finally, people that do not in any way have the kind of entrepreneurial skills that we have?
Why would we allow our imaginary quarrel or fights with our brothers translate to the decision of one of the women in King Solomon’s Judgment that insisted that since she couldn’t have the child, the other woman should not. So are we in essence saying it is better for none of us brethren to own our resources simply because we don’t trust our brothers, yet we do nothing about the stranger that has ripped us apart? Are we logically correct in these senseless quarrel?
Even while we are senselessly worried about how the Igbos will colonize our people because that is what we were told, and that is what some of these alliance are still trying to tell us; can we sincerely tell ourselves that the Igbos are that evil? Evil enough to leave their Natural resources in Abia, Imo, Anambra and Enugu states to come and take ownership of our resources? How will they do that? How possible will it be for a people that barely kill by the sword compared to our present oppressors? Do we honestly see that as a possibility? How and why did we allow these propaganda to go these far? Is these not what the alliance has used to rule us through the divide and rule scheme? Sheik Jumiad Mohammed said it clearly that our separation was a creation of the North for the effective management of our resources while we keep fighting an imaginary enemy.
I write this letter to remind us that we and our Igbo brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers have cultural identities, we uphold the sanctity of life, we do not kill a man like a chicken, we worship the same God, and we have identical looks and reasoning capabilities. Education is a respected virtue to both of us, entrepreneurism is a common love between us. We both respect constituted authorities. Even-though we both have the cultural odds that cannot, and should not be used to castigate an entire people. So how come the Igbo man suddenly became evil shortly before the war if the castigation was not a propaganda tool of the war?
How did we accept that our Igbo brothers were evil while we were saints? How are we saints? Is there any evil that is the monopoly of the Igbos that we are totally clean of? That we don’t have a single man/woman that does same if positioned in the same situation? How did we allow a distant people determine how we leave our lives? If we think we are different and as such we are treated better than the Igbos; have we noticed that the fate of the Onitsha Port is the same fate that befell the Ports in Calabar and Port Harcourt? We from the East are all forced to go to Lagos to pay taxes to those ports. How have we been treated differently by these alliances if we were different from the Igbos? Are we not facing the same fate as our Eastern brethren? How do you think we will fare if we were the only ones to receive these treatment given a circumstance where the Igbos are no more in this contraption called Nigeria?
I write this letter to our brethren to remind us that without a unified stand of the entire region, the self-determination process will be a farce. We need each other in all difficulties. We are the Eastern Region; we are the region of the Lower Niger; we are a common people; we are not different from each other. Starting from the Hills of Ogoja to the rocky soils of Ebonyi, down to the temperate region of Anambra down to the enclaves of Ishekiri and Isoko, we all look alike.
The Akwa Ibom man and the Abia State man are the same people simply divided by boundaries. The Calabar man and the Arochukwu man have identical ancestral masquerades. The Ikwerre man is just an Igbo man that was separated by the North to act as a different people. A British woman, camped somewhere in Kaduna decided to add the “R” consonant to the “U” vowel to totally break the identities of the Igbos in today’s Rivers State. The Ijaws, Kalabaris, Oron, Efik are practically the same people positioned in different locations possibly during the settlement centuries ago. We are all interrelated in the region and as such must not be divided.
We have been used for decades, disregarded at every opportunity, our rights are perceived as privileges if not favors. We do not have control over our future as instructed by the late Ahmadu Bello when he instructed his people not to allow us have control of our future, and should be seen as a conquered territory. Are we a conquered people by some strange people that believe they are born to rule, conquer and kill? These are a people who do not hold as sacrosanct what we revere as one. How can we continue in this Union that was designed to enslave us? How can we allow the lies told by these strangers to pitch us against ourselves?
AN ADDENDUM TO MY IGBO BROTHERS
I write to you to remind you that you can only fight a lie that was imbedded into the hearts of my brethren by putting yourself in his shoes to know how best to respond. We cannot fight evil with evil. Like we know, they say two wrongs don’t make a right. It is your responsibility to subtly ask those accusing you some logical questions that may prick their hearts to realities. We are all in this mess called Nigeria together.
Our Son, Goodluck Jonathan, was treated the same way General Ironsi was treated, they were both rejected. They were both despised. Both of them wanted a united Nigeria that existed beyond tribes and religion, but what did we see? President Goodluck Jonathan was lucky to escape with his life, but the General was not that lucky; He was tied to a Land Rover and driven on the rocky tarred roads between Abeokuta and Ibadan till he died and was shredded to pieces. Based on the Alhaji and Kunle’s phone conversation I believe we all listened to, we know that it could as well have happened to President Jonathan if he was not wise enough to let go of their birthright. But can we continue like this?
Look at what they are doing to Nnamdi Kanu? These are the same people that organized 70 lawyers to represent the Boko Haram suspects that have raped, maimed and Killed Nigerians, yet the one they choose to lead us says Nnamdi is too dangerous to be released because he has dual citizenship. Is these the kind of place we will continue to belong to when we are likely going to be having malicious morons of this magnitude leading us?
I write to you my brothers to remind you that the Gambaris know for certainty that having broken a greater part of you into other states in the "South-South," it may be difficult to successfully secede knowing what we know today. So it is inappropriate for you to remind my own brothers that with or without us, that you will succeed.
We cannot allow the propaganda of these gambaris to keep us apart. We must reject it by all means and efforts. We stand a greater chance to succeed as one region. As the older one of the two broken parts of our region, it is your responsibility to expose the deception that was used to mislead my people. It is you that will tell my people you do not have any intentions to colonize them. We have to collectively put these alliance to shame by consciously keeping our relationship cordial in the region. My dear brethren, I write to request that you take it as a duty to remind us that we are all one people because in truth, WE ARE ONE!
THE LOWER NIGER CONGRESS will not succeed if we do not position ourselves for success. We cannot go to a referendum with a divided house. We have to all agreed that we cannot continue in this contraption called a United Nigeria that was not just built on lies and propaganda, but was designed to fail while it enslaves our people. We have been battered, raped, disregarded, maimed and killed at will for the past 50 years. I am talking about the entire Eastern region. While we are being raped and killed, we are busy seeing each other as our enemy, while the real enemies smiles at our folly. We cannot continue like this. We should all take the opportunity presented to us by the UNITED NATION CHARTER ARTICLES ON SELF-DETERMINATION FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.
The Lower Niger Congress, has so far made presentations to the US Congress on the plight of our people, made a presentation to the United Nations, and have been able to secure a period by which the referendum will take place here in our region. But will we succeed during the electoral process if we are not united? Is it not time we put our swords into plowshare and see how we can take control of our political, economic future and Cultural development?
The Lower Niger Congress having met with traditional and titled leaders in all the corners of the Lower Niger Region believes the project will not be a success if we do not see ourselves as a united body. We cannot afford to go into a referendum that may be sabotaged by the propagandas of the alliance of the North. It is our duty to educate ourselves, educate our relatives, and educate our brethren. It is the best duty we can do for the generations unborn of our region.
This contraption called Nigeria was never designed to succeed, not with the present fraud of Constitution, not with the present mentality that only a section of the country were meant to rule, and finally, not with the present odds that accompany those that make it to the leadership position.
Finally, brethren, I appeal to you all to join hands in actualizing our dream to build a new nation based on principles, agreed morals, agreed terms and absolute regional autonomy to provoke developmental competition.