‘Nigeria, a federation of the angry’

Issues blighting the country’s growth are highlighted at the presentation of a book on the Civil War

IT was an interesting intellectual jousting last Wednesday when newspaper columnist, Dr. Jimanze Ego- Alowes, presented his latest book,  ‘How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War’ at Best Western Hotel, Ikeja GRA, Lagos.

A contrarian,  Ego-Alowes also does not shy away from controversy as evident from his earlier works including  ‘Minorities as Competitive Overlords’ and ‘Economists as Assassins’.

Though this latest work reflects on the civil war; and the roles of the major dramatist personae including General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd), the late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, Professor Wole Soyinka and Ben Nwabueze amongst others (with the author blaming  Gowon and some so called Yoruba collaborators  as responsible for the war),  one of the book reviewers, Olakunle Abimbola, took a different view. For the columnist with the Nation Newspaper, the Yoruba never fought the war for themselves but as part of the Nigerian Army against a rebel Biafra Army.

He also wondered how a people can be said to have lost a war they didn’t fight for themselves in the first instance.

Abimbola presented his review after Charles Okoh had earlier read his. Okoh noted how Ego-Alowes, a columnist with the Sun Newspaper, investigated the Yoruba alliance with the north and how it was consummated. He added that though some might find parts of the work explosive, it is a “delightful and glorious read”

Managing Director of the Sun Newspapers, Eric Osagie later stepped in as the peacemaker because Abimbola strongly countered some of Ego-Alowes points  in colourful language. He congratulated the author and the two reviewers. Abimbola, he advised, “should write a book like this so we can extend the frontier of knowledge.”

The book, Osagie added, provides another opportunity to examine the structural imbalances in Nigeria, noting that “tyranny of the majority is the problem of Nigeria.” He wondered why out of over 250 ethnic groups, we have just representations of the three major tribes on the naira.

“I belong to the minority, but I can tell you that one of the problems of Nigeria is tyranny of the majority. When you do currency and put three heads from the major ethnic groups on them and neglect others, that is tyrannical. When you reduce Nigeria to just three nationalities; that is unfair! Let’s do all we can not to offend other ethnic nationalities. The author is provoking thoughts with this book; let’s understand our differences. Nigeria is suffering today because we have failed to face the facts; Nigeria is a federation of the angry, not just the three major ethnic groups.

“Let’s all look at the book as part of nation building. We need to give a forum to Nigerians to express their  anger. Everybody is angry. So, it’s better to sit down and talk; that is the best way. We just had Brexit; they had their dialogue in a civilized way. The first duty of a writer is to provoke further response. Ego-Alowes is an intellectual; he may not always be right, but he has the right to have his say.”

Contributing, Mr.  Goddy Uwazurike of Aka Ikenga, the intellectual arm of Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo, commended Ego-Alowes for his courage in taking on seemingly forbidden national issues in his new book. He explained that Nigerians have become largely sentimental and incapable of approaching national issues dispassionately. “Today, you must look dispassionately and see where power lies. People in government are not telling the president the truth about the hunger in the land,” he said while faulting the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu.

In his remarks, the author explained that he’s not just an agent provocateur trying to cause disharmony with issues raised in the work but simply trying to facilitate meaningful dialogue.  He disclosed that he chose Abimbola, whom he had never met before on purpose to highlight the importance of dialogue across divides.

“I’ve always felt bitter that Nigeria is not being run on an inclusive basis but we need to confront our ‘enemies’ and speak about our issues. We need to speak across divides; must hold leaders accountable. Intellectuals should not subject themselves to politicians.

“It is only in this country that we allow politicians to think for us. No; they are artisans who merely lay the blocks of civilization over designs scholars have made. That is how the west attained civilization through Harvard, Yale and Sorbonne that laid the foundation of western civilization. Why can’t it be so here?”