By Ikem Adimorah
Achilles heel is a weak point or fault in somebody’s character, which can be attacked by other people – (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). It originated from Greek mythology in which it was believed that when Achilles was still a child his mother submerged him in the Styx River for protection against any injury. She held him by his heel, which was never covered by the waters of Styx. He was only killed through an arrow that hit the untouched heel.
On the eve of his departure from London to Nigeria on July 11 1957, after leading the NCNC delegation to the constitutional conference in the United Kingdom, Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikaiwe decried, “…the spate of claims and counter-claims for separate states, the volley of allegations of oppression fired at a certain Regional Government, the exaggerated fears expressed by representatives of minorities against certain majority groups and an apparent general feeling of insecurity should the British depart from Nigeria, placed the Colonial Secretary at a vintage point. As a clever politician, he wasted no time in making capital out of these imponderables; hence he was not prepared to give a blank cheque for Nigeria independence.” That was how Nigeria lost the second proposed date for independence, which was proposed for 1959 after the 1956 date became implausible, but more importantly, it exposed a major weakness in the journey to nationhood.
The imperialists took note of the weakness. A weakness they manipulate to date keeping stronger economic advantage even when sovereignty has been granted. According to Chinua Achebe in There Was A Country, in which he referred to a euphoric mood of Nigerians pre-independence. “We had no doubt where we were going. We were going to inherit freedom- that was all that mattered. The possibilities for us were endless, at least so it seemed at the time. Nigeria was enveloped by a certain assurance of an unbridled destiny, of an overwhelming excitement about life’s promise unburdened by any knowledge of providence’s intended destination.”
The benefit of hindsight may strongly suggest that what seemed a bloodless independent struggle offered on a platter of gold, was actually an impending doom waiting to happen, a land-mine. Kegs of gunpowder kept in a whirlwind of wild fire. Even the lure of Oloibiri oil wells’ lucre, seem to detest them. They knew what was coming would give them a firmer grip on Nigeria’s crude oil- a sinister hold. A hold by mole.
But why did our leaders not see the pitfalls and avoid it? Chinua Achebe gave a succinct answer in There was a Country, “Nigeria was not ready or willing to face her problems. If her leaders had approached their duties with humility, they all might have realized long before the first coup that the country was in deep trouble. Nigeria was rocked by one crisis after another in the years that followed independence. First, the Nigerian Census crisis of 1963-64 shook the nation, then the federal election crisis of 1964, which was followed the western Nigeria elections crisis of 1965 – which threatened to split the country at its seams. At that point in time most of us, the writers at least knew that something was very wrong in Nigeria. A fix was long overdue.”
He admitted that media practitioners of that time who mold opinions and set agenda did not anticipate the level of violence that was employed by the military even though some of them had predicted a coup. January 15 1966 coup was a date that changed many things in Nigeria.
The mutinying junior military officers led by Major Chukwuma Nzogwu were mostly Igbos. The coup shortly after referred to as Nzogwu coup but later became erroneously and wildly tagged Igbo coup. A term that resulted from half truths and untruths told because confusion was the order of the day and the government delayed in dispelling the confusion.
Our Achilles heel came to the fore again. Neighbours, co-workers and friends became enemies overnight. If they were magnanimous enough, they only mock your scamper for your children and properties to run for safety. Many were killed by those they knew and never expected would harm them in any way. Men, women and children hunted down in their homes or in the streets for the sin of a few junior military officers. They say the Igbos are too ambitious, they deserve the treatment they were getting. Over three million souls wasted.
The heel became their heal,
forcing the nation together.
“The task of keeping a country one,
a task that must be done.”
And the heal relapsed
and refuse to heal.
It has remained our Achilles heel,
The recent anti–government protest, code named #ENDSARS has shown that we can hardly coexist and build a progressive country if the Achilles heel remained unhealed. The protests were more in the southern part where poverty on the average is lower. It is an irony, most northern youths sat on the fence. Perhaps because Buhari is from the north, demand for good governance, which is the essence of leadership, could just be another hate speech.
Typical of Nigeria, with endemic tribalism, the protesters got into serious confusion along the line that could prop a few questions in discerning minds. What was the confusion? Perhaps, the shootings and deaths of their colleagues. But, they reacted destroying and looting public properties. Or was it that the sponsors of the protests have got what they wanted from the government and abandoned ship? Could it be that the protesters, turning against themselves and destroying public and private properties was a make-up leeway for the sponsors? This was how Chinua Achebe saw Nigeria in a similar confusion, “……because part of the way to respond to confusion in Nigeria is to blame those from the other ethnic group or the other side of the country.” The Igbos have been accused of trying to burn down Lagos and desecrate the Oba’s Palace, making away with his Staff of Office during the protest.
Many had thought the Nigerian youths have overcome the jinx of our Achilles heel when the protests started spreading like wild fire. But it was never to be.
PEACE to the souls that died to recover a lost country!!! They didn’t die vainly.
To those who lost dear ones in the struggle, be consoled, the day of reckoning has come!!! The pains of our oppressors shall be greater.
Adimorah is a public affairs commentator