When Gowon Stirred The Hornet’s Nest At Asika’s Burial | Independent Newspapers Limited
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When Gowon Stirred The Hornet’s Nest At Asika’s Burial

Posted: Aug 1, 2015 at 6:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chukwujekwu Ilozue  –  Awka 


Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon’s recent statement, at the burial of late Mrs. Chinyere Ukpabi Asika, wife of the former Sole Administrator of East Central State, Ajie Ukpabi Asika, in Onitsha, that “Nigeria is a better country with Ndigbo,” may have ignited fresh debate on the fate of Ndigbo in the present political dispensation.

The place of the Igbo in Nigeria had often sparked controversy. The Igbo South East of the country are one of the major ethnic groups of the country, yet, it had been argued that they are one of the most marginalised in the scheme of things in the country.

In the bid to address the marginalisation, the South East, had seceded in 1967 to become the Republic of Biafra, an action that plunged the country into a 30 month-long civil war, during the administration of Gen. Yakubu Gowon as Head of state.

To date, many see the former Head of State, as the prosecutor of the Nigeria Civil War during which over two million south easterners, mostly women and children died.

Thus, Gowon’s comment that “Nigeria is a better country with Ndigbo,” has again prompted questions on the place of the Igbo in Nigeria. Gowon spoke in appreciation of the commitment of late Asika, nay, Ndigbo in general to the survival of Nigeria as one entity.

General Gowon who spoke at the All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha at a service attended by many prominent personalities including former Minister of Defense, Gen T.Y. Danjuma who represented the President; former governors of Anambra State, Chief Peter Obi, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Achike Udenwa of Imo State, Senators and members of House of Representatives amongst others described late Mrs. Asika as a woman who exemplified the virtue of patience and humility. He also commended the late Ukpabi Asika’s eagerness when he assumed duty as Administrator of East Central State and noted that “he exuded strength of character and understanding, and wanted to start work immediately. Though I cautioned him to think about it, I told him, you must consult your brothers, and your wife who was there to know if you would accept, I came away convinced that this is the man I needed.”

Gowon’s statement has since been subjected to further analysis. Before now, Igbo leaders had had some reservations about the style of leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari as it affected their people. The matter was made worse when the names of the Service Chiefs were released with none of them coming from the South East. The appointment s were criticised almost as much as the transfer of 47 convicted Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia prisons in Anambra State. As a matter of fact the prisoners transfer had triggered protests throughout the South East against the Federal Government.

When the appointments were made, the President of Ohaneze in Anambra state and chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo in the five Igbo speaking states, Elder Chris Eluemuno had raised the alarm and said that: “Somebody has to remind him (Buhari) that this is not a military regime, this is a democracy. Whatever appointments he is making must reflect the federal character of this country and he must reflect the interest of the entire country. The questions he must ask himself if his Special Assistants who he appointed cannot tell him that is: is he the President of Nigeria, or President of the North.

“He derives his powers from the constitution and the sovereignty of his powers is derived from the people. So, he must listen to the people, he must do everything possible to satisfy the country, not one section of the country”. In a recent interview, Eluemuno had accused President Buhari of being an Igbo hater and called on the Igbos “to brace up to the

challenge posed to them by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government which he said was out to confine them to the dust bin.

He faulted Buhari’s statement that he would first favour those who gave him more votes and said “there is no way the President should expect all Nigerians to vote for him in the last presidential election.” According to him, President Buhari contradicted his inaugural position that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”

According to him, the Igbos played prominent roles in the development of Nigeria and would therefore not be discriminated against in the scheme of things. Also speaking on the observed anomaly, former national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA, Chief Victor Umeh in an interview said that: “It is obvious that in the scheme of things as they are today we (Igbos) are not considered as we ought to be considered in the scheme of things. I am not happy about that, and maybe it is a journey only God will determine when we reach that Promised Land. I can tell you that I am not happy with the way things are happening in Igbo land. We are not considered in the decision making process in Nigeria. Elections were not conducted in Igbo land the way they were conducted in other parts of Nigeria. Those who stole our mandate put lackluster performance. I want President Muhammadu Buhari to know that Igbos are important people in Nigeria. I want him to

reintegrate Igbos in Nigeria and close the grievances of the Civil War. “We cannot rest on our oars until our people get their dignity or respect restored in the Nigerian nation. We watching the things happening the now in Nigeria and I said, God keep us alive this struggle will continue. Igbos are an important people in Nigeria not just because of their industry, their hard work, their resourcefulness but they are also a major ethnic group in Nigeria. No matter the circumstances, no matter the situation, nobody in Nigeria can take Igbos for a ride. It will not happen. We will continue that struggle even with the last breath we have, particularly me. God decided to create me an Igbo man and I can never rest until our people get their respect and dignity and right restored fully in Nigeria.”

Reacting to Gowon’s statement that Nigeria is better off with Igbos, Eluemuno said: “I agree with him because Nigeria cannot do without the Igbo. The Igbo represent commerce in Nigeria and without the Igbos commerce activities in Nigeria will not be relevant and Nigeria will not be at the level it is now. The Igbo have also promoted development in Nigeria. Like I said earlier, without Igbo in any community, that community will be dead”.

In the view of former Governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife “Gowon’s assessment is obvious and if you put it in the present context you will understand what he said. But the Igbos have a saying that a person rejected does not reject himself. It is possible that he is seeing indication of rejection as many people are seeing it. And knowing what happened during the war, it is possible that he is saying, hold it! So there will be no repeat of the occurrence of what happened before”.