The above captioned refers.
I have received many phone calls and Special Invitation with some other details to attend above named function scheduled for Saturday, September 24, 2022 at the Women International Conference Center, Abuja.
I thank the conveners and organisers of the event for considering me worthy of their Special Invitation.
For a start, the caption of the dialogue: “THE FULANI AND IGBO DIALOGUE” in my opinion, is somewhat inappropriate, misleading, misplaced and a misnomer.
To the best of my knowledge, there has never been and in fact, there is no known particular dispute whatsoever between Ndigbo and the Fulanis to warrant a dialogue for the “Promotion of Peace, Understanding and Progress towards the mutual co-existence of both ethnic groups”.
Besides, both ethnic groups of Igbos and Fulanis alone does not constitute the present day Nigeria and has never been!
Ndigbo have always lived peacefully with other ethnic nationalities anywhere within and outside Nigeria including the Fulanis.
So, a dialogue like this and as captioned could be misleading, misconstrued and send a very wrong signal to the uneducated and/or uninformed.
Ndigbo have always been supportive and empathetic to the Fulanis and indeed all the ethnic nationalities that make up the present day Nigeria from ages immemorial.
For example, prior to the independence of Nigeria, the inclusive, Pan-Nigerian, Pan-African, nationalistic, cosmopolitan and republican nature of Ndigbo with the graceous kind magnanimity, encouragement and support of The Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, made it possible for a Fulani cattle dealer, one Alhaji Umaru Altine, to become the first elected mayor of Enugu, the capital of Igbo Nation, in 1952 and was in office till 1958 – a feat that has not been replicated and/or reciprocated anywhere in Northern Nigeria and indeed anywhere else in Nigeria to date.
Professor Eyo Ita (1903 – 1972) from Creek Town of the present day Cross River State of South – South geophysical zone was also the defecto first Premier of Eastern Region of Nigeria as the Head of Eastern Nigeria Government Business in a pre-independence era of Nigeria (1951 – 1953).
Many other examples abound which I wouldn’t want to bore us with here.
Whereas Ndigbo were at the forefront in the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence which the Fulani led Northern Nigeria detested and opposed, Ndigbo, particularly, The Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Zik of Africa, made it possible for a Fulani led Northern Nigeria to produce the first Prime Minister of Nigeria in the spirit of inclusiveness and also facilitated the formation of a coalition Federal Government of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe led NCNC with the Alhaji Ahmadu Bello led Northern Peoples Congress at independence in 1960.
These acts of magnanimity, solidarity and comradery of Ndigbo which are yet to be reciprocated, didn’t stop the massacre of Ndigbo by the Fulani led Northern Nigeria in the North and elsewhere in a politically motivated crisis caused by some adventurous young army officers just 6 (six) years after independence in 1966.
The ill-conceived first military coup of January 15, 1966, led to the untimely death of some prominent politicians and Nigerians including two Premiers, one in the North in the person of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and the other in the South in the person of Chief Ladoke Akintola.
The Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tarawa Balewa from the North and the Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, from Mid-West Region in the South among other prominent Nigerians across the North-South divide also lost their lives in the ill-fated coup of January 15, 1966.
Whereas, the Yorubas who also lost their Premier, Chief Ladoke Akintola and others who also lost their loved ones from other parts of Nigeria in the failed coup of January 15, 1966 which Igbo Commanders assisted to abort, were quietly mourning the unfortunate deaths, it was a Fulani propelled counter coup of July 29, 1966 that took up a misplaced aggression and revenge on Ndigbo in particular by killing many Igbo Officers and others including the serving first military Head of State of Nigeria, Major-General TJU Aguiyi-Ironsi (03, March 1924 – 29, July 1966), the very first Nigerian Major-General, who happened to be an Igbo man and his host military governor of Western Nigeria, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi.
It is also on record the then Fulani led Northern Nigeria championed a “civil” war against Ndigbo to ensure that Ndigbo remain in Nigeria (for whatever purpose) to which not less than 3 million innocent Igbos including women and children were killed.
It was the Fulani led Northern Nigeria that engineered the bulkanization and fragmentation of the old Eastern Region into States that removed the major oil producing areas which were originally part of the old Eastern Region from the administration of today’s South East geopolitical zone.
All the aforementioned and much more didn’t in any way deter Ndigbo from supporting the Fulani North to form a Federal Government in the second Republic under the NPP-NPN Accord of 1979.
Since the end of the “civil” war against Ndigbo in 1970 with the much mouthed No Victor, No Vanquished; and the wild goose chase propaganda of 3 Rs – Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the dilapidated, devastated and impoverished Eastern Region that never was and still isn’t, Ndigbo have, at the very best, been considered only fit for a toothless second fiddle positions if at all in the scheme of things in Nigeria.
At the end of the “civil” war and upon the return of Nigeria to “civil” rule in 1979, The Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Zik of Africa and most rationally, the father of modern Nigeria, wasn’t considered fit enough to become the first Executive President of Nigeria, most probably because he was an Igbo man but, another Igbo man in Arc. Dr Alex Ekwueme, was good enough to be a Vice President to President Shehu Shagari (a grade 2 teacher) of Northern Nigeria Fulani extraction.
Nothing in this regard has changed ever since to date safe that things are getting worse than worst!
Ever since, Ndigbo have been cohabiting and doing their business with other Nigerians wherever peacefully and developing wherever they find themselves in commerce, industry and infrastructure.
Ndigbo are not known for a born to rule mentality and/or syndrome
Ndigbo are not known for importing their foreign kit and kin to invade indigenous ancestral domains of Nigerians to dispossess, maim, rape and kill the real citizens of this country.
Ndigbo have never trespassed on other peoples ancestral territories
Ndigbo have never invaded other people’s farmlands in their ancestral lands with their cows or animals
Ndigbo didn’t create Boko haram and bandit terrorists currently plaguing Nigeria.
The terrorist herdsmen causing mayhem everywhere in Nigeria are not Ndigbo.
Ndigbo have never usurped power to govern by the force of arms anywhere.
Ndigbo didn’t create the present States in Nigeria where people were separated from their kit and kin thus making them new minorities in their new enclaves
Ndigbo are not responsible for the marginalisation of others and/or exclusion of some sections of the country from governance and/or key positions.
Ndigbo have never appropriated other people’s resources and/or monopolised same for themselves.
Ndigbo didn’t formulate the quota system that cheats on others.
Ndigbo have never sought to foist and/or force their religious beliefs on others
Ndigbo have never been known for any expansionist agenda
Ndigbo are republican, nationalistic, Pan-Nigerian, Pan-African and cosmopolitan in nature
Ndigbo are not against the restructuring of Nigeria to what was originally envisioned by the founding leaders of Nigeria.
The list is unending….
Therefore, if there must be any meaningful dialogue at this time, it will be inappropriate to make it “A DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE FULANIS AND THE IGBOS”!
More appropriately, what is needed at this time is a dialogue with all interest groups and all ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria if not a dialogue between indigenous Nigerians and the perpetrators of the aforementioned challenges confronting Nigeria.
There is no doubt that Nigeria is in dire straits at this moment.
Therefore, if there must be any dialogue at all at this time, it should be a dialogue of all ethnic nationalities and the various and varied interest groups, to restructure Nigeria according to the will of the people.
In the alternative, this period leading to election of a new president of Nigeria come 2023 should afford the Fulanis and indeed all peoples of good conscience, a golden opportunity to reciprocate the good gestures of Ndigbo by supporting Ndigbo to produce the next President of Nigeria come 2023!
Furthermore, what looks more plausible and minimum rational expectation from the Fulanis at this time are unreserved apologies, restitutions, reparations and reciprocity; not a wishy-washy selective ethnic dialogue which at best may be an unnecessary distraction from recent and current happenings and a calculated attempt to twist the narratives geared to falsify history!
Professor Echefuna’ R. G. ONYEBEADI