Fri. Sep 30th, 2022
By Ike Abonyi

“No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry, patriotism, and hatred; these are all learned behaviour patterns.” –Jacques Fresco

Recently, a viral sound bite was attributed to a deputy commissioner of police (no denial from DCP yet) who hails from northeast Nigeria. The officer threatened fire and brimstone against a southeast man who bought the officer’s neighbour’s house. He said the buyer was not safe near him and would be dragged to court over the transaction, that is if the life threat fails. Details later.

We live in a country where anti-Igbo prejudice seems quasi-official, nationally accepted, and widely tolerated. The Igbo is the only ethnic group in Nigeria that you can easily hold up in public mockery; attacks on them (even from the hallowed pulpit) are becoming commonplace. Their language and songs irritate some bigots.

That notwithstanding, the real Nigerian, the true promoter of one Nigeria is the one who can find home everywhere. In the same vein, the city or nation that cherishes development must be the one that opens up to accommodate people of diverse backgrounds. When you get ensconced in your cocoon and expect to grow beyond your level, you must be a wishful thinker who eats his cake and wants to have it back.

Lately, Ndigbo, the undeniable development agents and facilitators of one Nigeria have been facing series of phobias (even in the church of all places from those who misconstrue the Igbo mercantile drive as a domineering demon even when it naturally goes with the physical development of the areas of operations. No other have proven more than Ndigbo to be better Nigerians; every inhabited corner of this land is home to the Igbo.

A northern friend once described the adventurous nature of Ndigbo with two stories of how a young Igbo trader, a boy, in his remote village introduced the ₦500 bill to her aged mother when it was first issued by the apex bank. The same trader, so the story goes, later also introduced bottled water to her when doctors prescribed clean drinking water. This memory lingers with the woman who remembers and appreciates the boy after many years.

Similarly, all the consumables of industrialist Aliko Dangote, a Fulani from Kano State, is probably first introduced to villages in Kano by an Igbo trader settling and serving in the remotest areas of the state, making money, paying tax, and contributing to development. If the preachments about living together in peace and harmony are not just lip service, these audacious conveyors of development should be given special attention.

If Nigeria appreciates development, there is no way it would not recognize the full worth of Ndigbo and accord due recognition. President Muhammadu Buhari, despite his labelling of the Igbo territory as “dot in a circle”, still pointed out the Igbo versatility in a recent interview in which he mocked the IPOB secessionists.

This columnist’s assertion about the Igbo man being a better Nigerian comes out glaring as an Adamawa businessman, Vincent Umeh, is struggling to prove his Nigerianness with a serving police officer, Ibrahim Baba Zango. The latter is threatening his life on tape (confirmed by well-meaning people) for daring to dilute an indigenous neighbourhood in Yola by investing in property near the police officer’s Yola home. Zango who is not an indigene of Lagos where he serves insists that Umeh, “stranger and non-indigene” cannot live and take possession.

While the Adamawa State government looks the other way, the Adamawa Emirate Council is mum on the issue. But the local police command appears to on a hide and seek game.
But Zango is yet to disown the sound bite.

Lately, Ndigbo, the undeniable development agents and facilitators of one Nigeria have been facing series of phobias (even in the church of all places from those who misconstrue the Igbo mercantile drive as a domineering demon even when it naturally goes with the physical development of the areas of operations. No other have proven more than Ndigbo to be better Nigerians; every inhabited corner of this land is home to the Igbo.

The bizarre story for those who have not heard is that Umeh from the South East innocently bought a house on Mohammad Mustapha Way, Yola, from Zango’s next-door neighbour and fulfilled all contractual obligations about the transaction before the ownership was transferred to the Igbo man.

Indigene Ibrahim Baba Zango who happens to be a stranger where he is currently deployed as DCP was furious about the deal warning Umeh to steer clear of the sold property, for the Igbo man was not qualified to be his neighbour.

“I don’t want…you can’t be my next-door neighbour, I swear. What sort of insult is this? Can a northerner move now to the South East, say Onitsha, to buy a property just like that?”

Meanwhile, the original owner and vendor of the house in question is an indigene. He affirmed that Umeh followed due process and is indeed the legitimate owner of the place, pointing out that he had offered DCP Zango the right of first refusal but he was not forthcoming and he needed money to solve his problems.

One expects the intolerant police officer to know that in Igboland you can buy land but it is scarce, contrary to the case in the north. But the other truth which is known to all is that hardly does any northerner invest in landed property in Igboland. The only people who readily buy property outside their homeland are the Igbo. Umeh is just one victim of xenophobia.

If this chauvinism-driven threat against Umeh was coming from one local northern villager, it could be easily explicable. But bigotry coming from a law enforcement officer of Zango’s standing in a federal institution as the Nigeria Police Force is a source of national shame.

Amid the IPOB’s Biafra-must-go clamour and other separatist agitations across the federation, an Igbo man is still settling himself and his family in the embroiled northeast state of Adamawa says a lot about the nature of the Igbo. Some northerners who support IPOB for the Igbo to leave Nigeria have their eyes on the property of the Igbo. But such people are neither conversant with nor have learnt from history. Otherwise, they would have bothered to find out what happened to those who took Igbo houses in the abandoned property saga during the civil war. The truth about ill wishes for your neighbour so that you inherit his hard-earned assets is that such ill-gotten valuables hardly endure while God always provides for the hard-working.

The Adamawa State and federal governments and the Emirate Council under the revered Lamido Adamawa should ensure the safety of citizen Umeh’s life and property. The police from whom Umeh has sought protection should investigate the case, publicly declaim, and go on to reprimand its bigoted officer for embarrassing the force and Nigeria.

If this chauvinism-driven threat against Umeh was coming from one local northern villager, it could be easily explicable. But bigotry coming from a law enforcement officer of Zango’s standing in a federal institution as the Nigeria Police Force is a source of national shame.

This condemnable extremism is what is holding down development in the north and should be a source of concern for northern leaders. For instance, Nigeria’s Sokoto Caliphate was founded long before the Dubai of the United Arab Emirates was established. Nigeria’s crude oil was discovered before that of the UAE. Northerners have been in charge of Nigeria’s oil wealth for more than 40 of our 62 years of independence. Fifty years ago, Dubai was a desert. Today, it is a tourist destination for development and anything modern. Dubai by all standards is the most digitised city in the world today. Northern influence peddlers have made it their second home but find it hard to replicate the easy life of Dubai here.

How did Dubai become what it is? The short answer is the dream of one monarch who resolved to open up the place to the world to flood the place with ideas and resources of the global community. Dubai is an Islamic land but does not allow bigotry in the way of its development, knowing that sentiments could hinder modernization.

Today, without distorting her Islamic principle, Dubai is one of the most technology-driven cities the world has yet seen. Nobody has seen the Émirate make a show of destroying alcoholic beverages the way Kano State celebrates destruction by the Sharia police.

Kano City, the commercial nerve centre of the north, was progressing at a rate comparable only to Lagos? It used to be the fastest-growing city in Northern Nigeria but that was halted and put on the reverse by bouts of extremism in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, Kano is still openly celebrating the destruction of people’s businesses in the name of religion and expects to attract investors.

If Dubai was closing up and exhibiting fundamentalism, it would still have been a desert. But like most other developing Islamic cities in the Arab community, it has found a way of moving along with non-Muslims without fundamentally injuring their religious principles. That was why Nigeria was made an object of ridicule when the Boko Haram sect emerged in 2009, forbidding anything western and trying to enforce this loathsome belief.

The question needing answers at this juncture is, between Umeh and DCP Baba Zango, who is a better Nigerian? Answers to the question will help especially the federal government in appreciating the yeoman contributions of Ndigbo and why they should be given deserving recognition and attention, especially in political space. One thing I am not confused about is that Nigeria will be better off by loving Ndigbo, eschewing hate, prejudice, and bigotry for unity, understanding, and progress.

To do otherwise is to give legitimacy to all the Igbophobia which tends to prove recalcitrant Igbos youths under the command of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB right that Nigeria does not want and does not deserve Ndigbo.

However, a whiff of fresh air (apologies to Governor Umaru Adamawa) is that DCP Zango is an isolated case. From his appearance even in a police uniform, he looks like one struggling with managing his emotions. His tolerance level gives him out easily as a fundamentalist who should be closely watched.

May God help him to find Umeh a good and utility neighbour.

The question needing answers at this juncture is, between Umeh and DCP Baba Zango, who is a better Nigerian? Answers to the question will help especially the federal government in appreciating the yeoman contributions of Ndigbo and why they should be given deserving recognition and attention, especially in political space. One thing I am not confused about is that Nigeria will be better off by loving Ndigbo, eschewing hate, prejudice, and bigotry for unity, understanding, and progress.

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