North: Igbo are not the problem

The interview of Dr. Junaid Mohammed in The PUNCH of October 25, 2014, was typical of men of his ilk. Rather than strategize with like minds to find solutions for the problems of his community, he prefers the escapist route of blaming others. The summary of his interview is that: the Igbo are the cause of the problems of the North and Nigeria; they have cornered the economy; they have grabbed all the land in Abuja; they have stopped the progress of the North by blocking all other airlines from the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; they are for sale and can be bought by even the devil, and that is why they are supporting President Goodluck Jonathan; the North has been too good to the Igbo, but the Igbo have been too bad to the North; the Igbo were the architects of their killing in the North; his invitation by the DSS for making inciting statements was orchestrated by the Igbo; the Boko Haram insurgency is sponsored by the Igbo and the Ijaw, led by President Jonathan; and in his own words, if some people think that his holding such strong views against the Igbo and using strong language against them make him a tribalist, “they can burn to ashes and go to hell.”

One wonders what a youth can learn from this so-called “Dr” who seethes with bitterness and frustration, and spews hate against other ethnic groups. It is such propaganda about the Igbo being the problem of the North that would make some Northern youths, protesting an unsavoury cartoon published in far away Denmark, to end up killing the Igbo in the North and setting their property ablaze. It makes you wonder, what is the connection between Denmark and the Igbo? Maybe, the Danes are Igbo who migrated from Africa, or Igbo are Danes who migrated from Europe! The only reason you can find for that is that mischief-makers and hate-mongers like Mohammed make it their job to constantly spread such hate messages among the common people that the cause of their plight are the Igbo.

Ordinarily, the high road would be to ignore Mohammed and his “facts,” but the danger in so doing is that many commentators already believe his falsehood as truth. First of all, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala did not become the finance minister and coordinating minister of the economy because she is Igbo. President Jonathan made it clear that getting her was a big deal. He said during one of his media chats on TV that other African heads of state asked him how he was able to get her to accept the post. Before Jonathan, President Olusegun Obasanjo had made her the finance minister.

In April 2013, the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano in Northern Nigeria, explained some of the financial sector appointments thus: “I was the one who came to Washington DC and got in touch with Mustapher Chike-Obi who was in New York to come and head AMCON. I took it upon myself to search for him because when we were at Kings College, Lagos he was one of the most brilliant chaps that school has ever produced, and while at Goldman Sachs, he excelled. He is world-class, so I decided to bring him back to use his wealth of experience in investment banking to serve his fatherland. Ngozi has nothing to do with this. On Kingsley Muoghalu, who is one of my deputies at the CBN, I also went to London to poach him. The guy is good. He knows his onions, and I don’t care which part of Nigeria he comes from. This was done even before Ngozi joined the government. So, how can she be responsible for this?”

Also, Ms. Arunma Oteh was appointed the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission by President Umaru Yar’Adua in July 2009. The Senate confirmed her and she resumed in January 2010. Again, Mr. Oscar Onyema became the CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange on April 4, 2011. However, Okonjo-Iweala assumed office on July 11, 2011. So, she was still at the World Bank when the duo assumed office.

Furthermore, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria is not a government organisation. Just like the Nigerian Medical Association or the Nigerian Bar Association, members elect their president. The current president is Dr Frank Jacobs, who took over from Chief Kola Jamodu last month. Before Jamodu, Alhaji Bashir Borodo was the president. Likewise, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group is a non-partisan private-sector organisation. The chairman of the governing board is Mr. Foluso Phillips, a Yoruba, while the vice-chairman is Mr. Kyari A. Bukar, a Northerner. Its director general, who is third in hierarchy, is Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr, an Igbo who took over from Mr. Kyari Abba Bukar, a Northerner.

It is said that those who live in a glass house should not throw stones. Now, let us look at some interesting statistics. Since 2011, except for the President, the top four positions in the nation are occupied by Northerners: Vice President Namadi Sambo; Senate President David Mark; Speaker Aminu Tambuwal; Chief Justice of Nigeria Aloma Mukhtar.

Since 1987, no Southerner has been the Chief Justice of Nigeria. No Igbo person has ever been the CJN in our history. The CJNs since 1987 are: Mohammed Bello, 1987-1995; Muhammad Uwais, 1995-2006; Salihu Belgore, 2006-2007; Idris Kutigi, 2007-2009; Aloysius Katsina-Alu, 2009-2011; Dahiru Musdapher, 2011-2012; Aloma Mukhtar, 2012-today. The current CJN is scheduled to retire on November 20, 2014, and already a Northerner (Justice Mahmud Mohammed) has been named by the Federal Judicial Service Commission to succeed her.

In security, the Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (retd.), is a Northerner. The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, is a Northerner. The National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), is a Northerner. The Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, is also a Northerner. Yet, nobody complains.

In addition, the past three IGPs (Messrs Hafiz Ringim, Mohammed Abubakar, and the current holder of that office, Suleiman Abba) are all Northerners. Just imagine if they were Igbo, Yoruba or Ijaw. Men like Mohammed would have brought down “hell”.

Moreover, when Yar’Adua was President, he appointed two Northerners, back-to-back, as the finance ministers (Shamsuddeen Usman and Mansur Muhtar). At the same time, he appointed Mohammed Daggash as the Minister of National Planning. He also appointed Mallam Sanusi the CBN Governor. The DG of the NESG then was also a Northerner. The sky did not fall. Mohammed did not call Northerners names for “cornering the economy.”

On the issue of land-grabbing, I have never seen any modern city where land is grabbed by might. No Igbo has been the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory or the President of Nigeria since Abuja was made the FCT, to have given Igbo undue advantage in the allocation of FCT lands. When Mallam Nasir el-Rufai was the Minister of the FCT, he stated that 67 per cent of Abuja lands were owned by Igbo, even though they were not originally allocated to them. What it means is that some favoured people got the allocations cheaply and sold them at high rates to the highest bidders. The Igbo are investment-oriented. They know that property is a great asset, especially in big cities. The Igbo are also proud. They don’t like landlords to lord it over them and make them cringe for fear of eviction or rent increase. So, they buy property wherever they live. Even in Igbo cities like Onitsha, Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Nnewi, it is the same story. That is why prime property in Nnewi is more expensive than prime property in many state capitals in Nigeria. Onitsha and Aba are a different story altogether. Like every item available for sale, property is available in all parts of the world. Let Mohammed use money and grab as much as he can.

Men like Mohammed should purge themselves of ethnic hate and mental laziness and rise to contribute their quota to the development of their environment like Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group and Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA Group are doing. There is too much work to be done in all parts of Nigeria that nobody should have any time for hate and buck-passing.