By PROF. BONIFACE EGBOKA
Operation Wetie resulted from the struggle for power between Chief Awolowo and Chief Akintola in Yoruba land of then Western Nigeria that precipitated massive losses of lives and destruction of property was a Historic reality. Some young and discerning Nigerian students in the sixties then, observed the turbulent political shenanigans and Gerrymandering and the dog-eat-dog dramatic scenarios that enveloped the country. It was most unfortunate that some people from Southeast, Southsouth and Southwesterners through a coup d’état in January 1966 hijacked the Operation Wetie problems which emanated from the political imbroglio generated by the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani while struggling to control power in Western Region.
One was a student at St. Peter’s Secondary School, Achina and later in High School at Government Secondary School, Afikpo from where one read, heard and saw some unimaginable evils that occurred during that period; how, many Southeasterners and Southsoutherners grievously-suffered, lost lives and property from self-destructive problems caused by other persons elsewhere. These Operation Wetie problems and their aftermath eventually resulted in an Armageddon of massive destructions of lives and property and marginalization of people of then Eastern Nigeria which still go on today. Possibly if this Operation Wetie hijack had never occurred, these problems could not have arisen or would have been sorted out in one way or the other. The January 1966 Yoruba coup and July 1966 Fulani-Hausa revenge-counter-coup, the ignoble Nigeria-Biafra war and consequent massive losses in lives and property might not have occurred. As succinctly-recorded by Wikipedia, “Akintola attempted to take over from Chief Awolowo by trying to remove him as leader of the Yoruba party. In May 1962 with the Yoruba Western House of Assembly ready to abdicate Akintola after the party had passed a vote of no confidence on the premier in one of the party meetings, no sooner had this been concluded than crisis erupted in the house. The Action Group party soon broke into two factions one in support of Akintola and the other for Sage Awolowo leading to the infamous ‘Ogun Wetie’ in…dear Yoruba land which brought about daily mass murder and arson, these crimes were routinely carried out on Yoruba land between 1963 until 1966. The northerners who were in power and had wanted to take control of Yoruba land, politically declared a state of emergency on…enclave and eventually restored Akintola to power (even though he had lost the legal battle with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, then, Nigeria’s highest tribunal). By 1963, the plot between Akintola, Tafawa Balewa and Ahmadu Bello was perfected and Chief Obafemi Awolowo was arrested for a phantom coup plotting. His trial commenced in earnest and he was alongside some accomplices convicted for treason and jailed for 10 years. In 1965, Akintola went into a full partnership with the northerners when he formed a new political party; Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) believed to be representing the Yoruba people, and went into alliance with Northern People’s Congress (NPC) of Sir Ahmadu Bello. The elections were rigged in his favour since Sage Awolowo was already behind bars and was imposed on the Yoruba people as their premier. The great Yoruba people revolted…resorted to Ogun Wetie which continued until 1966”. Then came the January 1966 Yoruba coup which some politically-jaundiced writers have falsely-labelled as an Igbo coup because some Igbo Army officers were involved whereby northern and western Army officers and political leaders were killed; then followed the July 29, 1966 counter-revenge-coup by Hausa-Fulani officers whereby most Igbo and Niger Delta Army officers were cowardly/brutally-murdered. Recently in 2015 a political alliance of the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani put Ndigbo in the cold till now. Yet still today, Ndigbo of the Southeast are trying to repeat the pogrom-sordid History.
People on both sides of the divide are playing most dirty politics in nature and geometric dimensions. They issue countless fake news, grievously and endlessly-insult themselves, calling each other unnamable names, scandalously-destroy the unwary with deceitful lies. The PDP, APC, APGA etc. are guilty of this misadventure and impiety. One understands why majority of Ndigbo are sad/angry and why they have taken platform that may be injurious to their body politics, trying to hit some political opponents quite viciously. This style of politicking is unacceptable in sane polity. The BUHARI/OSINBAJO versus ATIKU/OBI imbroglio vis-a-vis the Presidential ticket and their contest shall be a formidable one! If the ATIKU/OBI ticket wins, the Igbo would again be counted among once more; but this must not make one throw caution to the wind. Even though there are other formidable Igbo fronts for the race such as those of Dr. Kingsley Muoghalu and Mrs. Orby Ezekwesili but the ATIKU/OBI ticket gives an intriguingly-serious message on possible survival of the Igbo as an ethnic group and a people. Hence, Ndigbo must be careful/cautious over what they should say, write or do. Nigeria is today ravaged by youth unemployment, poverty and hunger, disunity, insurgency, insecurity etc. There are serious divisions and problems that require sanity and maturity to solve them. Let them not blame the Igbo for these woes. The Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani, northern and southern minorities are no more as united with their majority neighbors as they used to be. If someone or any group is not careful, they would pass the buck and hang a dead cat on a person’s neck and beat the person or group to death. There have been write-ups and video recordings widely-in circulation that look like fictitious stories in poor taste. The strength of action (and purpose?) with which these stories have been circulated are amazing. One is distressed that some of our people have participated actively in circulating these stories. PMB is reported to have gone and then got cloned by one Jibril from Sudan and imposed on Nigeria to rule us. How possible can this be? One knows that the British hates the Igbo but one believes that there is a limit beyond which Britain can hide such evil if it ever occurred. Will the United States, United Nations, EU, AU, Russia, China etc. feel so unconcerned and go on doing business with Nigeria and her leaders if such Jibril story is true? One strongly-doubts the story. PMB might have undergone some major medical treatments but not, may be, to the extent implied. One wonders how world politicians, security agencies and journalists would keep mum over such a situation if it is true? The Presidential contest is set between two Fulani giants (although some claim that Alhaji Atiku may not be a Fulani). Ndigbo must use their high sense and maturity, less of their mouths and pens, in support of either. We must not make any of them a political or type of an enemy. Some leaders/members of IPOB have been bombarding Nigerians insisting that Ndigbo and Niger Deltans must not be involved in the 2019 elections. Again, this posturing is amazing/anti-Igbo! How can our people not to have a firm voice to go out and vote? Why should we disenfranchise ourselves? They are calling for a Referendum for Biafra; but is it not the same people who can also vote in such a Referendum when it might come to pass? Why must we cut our nose to spite our face? Or we want to make it most easy for our detractors to win against us outright; those who are opposed to real Restructuring of the country and Devolution of Powers to component Units or Regional Autonomy or even emergence of the dreamed Biafra. One was a combatant Army officer who fought in the grim Biafra-Nigeria war and who saw most of it all both at war fronts and rear. Ndigbo must be united, diplomatic and less voluble and try to make more friends across political boundaries. We must no more cry more than the bereaved or jump into funeral homes and carry other people’s unholy carcasses on our heads. The Igbo is known for very good use of their heads and hands; let us revive such their uses once more.
By Boniface C E Egboka, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org