By: Augustine Iloduba
I do not know Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Nigeria’s present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in person. I stand no chance of ever meeting him face to face because I live and work in the Southeast, precisely in my home state of Anambra. But they say, a man’s actions, utterances and what others say about him reveals the persona in him. Thus, I can claim fair knowledge about this impeccable and admirable army officer, Gen. Buratai
Watching Buratai from a far, the army chief invades the mind of every Nigerian with affection very difficult to find in Nigerians of his status. I can personally confess that he has proved to me in multiple ways his competence as a professional soldier, a detribalized and unbiased Nigerian, whose actions, pulsates every part of the country, with patronage, tenderness and fairness. I observed him closely for nearly two years and discovered he is my idol and perfect example of a hero, humbled in extreme humility.
I was surprised when I stumbled over a facebook commentary, authored by a supposed Southeastern brother, one Mr. Somto Okonkwo, which he titled “Biafrans To Buratai: Get Ready To Join Buhari Wherever He Is.” The name strikes like a pseudonym, but in the brief commentary, he attempted to spurn, malign, chastise and derogate the integrity and personality of the Army Boss, Gen. Buratai.
Okonkwo’s grouse stemmed from what he considered Buratai’s foreclose of any prospect for a Biafran agitation. He assumed the power of God Almighty and consigned Buratai and President Muhammedu Buhari to death and cursed the entire Northern political elites for the fate of Biafrans and its dearth in Nigeria.
But he ended up disappointing himself. He offered no sound or concrete basis upon which his Biafran passion and its actualization is possible in Nigeria now or in the future.
I don’t believe any true son or daughter of Igbo extraction would vomit such gibberish and display such ideological barrenness. And indeed, if Okonkwo holds his ancestry from the Southeast, its unmistakable that he is a descent of an Osu caste family. Or possibly, he is a man with malnourished thoughts, who suffers from a self-inflicted indignation orchestrated by poor parenting and thinks polluting himself with ignorance would translate into reality.
I do not see anything wrong in Buratai’s proclamation of Biafra separatism campaigners and other destabilization forces in Nigeria to back off, hence the agenda is not realizable in this era or millennium. It’s the unalterable truth. And to my mind, Buratai only re-echoed the position of his Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed forces, President Buhari. The Army Chief also only restated the popular perception and outlook of millions Nigerians on any Biafran campaigns now, which is more of a fraud than any genuine aspiration for a people’s self-determination.
I cannot discern the fulcrum of the Okonkwo’s counter-position on the assertion or even reason for his resentment of the truth on Biafra’s moribund status. Initiator of Biafran state, Late Dim Emeka Ojukwu before his death, personally extinguished the flames of Biafra and buried the ashes. Ohanaze Ndi’gbo has proclaimed Biafra dead and the agitators as detractors and criminals nerve-racking our people. So, where did Okonkwo find the fresh basis of his claims?
Notwithstanding his foul idiosyncrasy, I also do not think even in my wildest of dreams any genuine shadow of Biafra in today’s Nigeria. There are sufficient historical evidence why the Ojukwu-led Biafra failed. It has been consistent that Ojukwu failed to consult anybody, including key Igbo elites of the era before declaring the secession of Southeast from Nigeria to form a Biafran republic in 1967. It was all about himself and his leadership ego.
My Southeastern brothers have learnt lessons from these lacunas and mistakes. And I am convinced a genuine aspiration for Biafran should first start from the prism of addressing these fundamental lapses. We are yet to sight any such move.
I do not know of any section of Igbo people, which MASSOB’s Ralph Uwazurike or IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu consulted for consent before they began the destructive madness in the guise of campaigns for secession. It’s too banal to wake-up one day and claim the liberty of a people in representational capacity simply because you have a voice and the energy to speak, cause riots, abuse the freedom of our own brothers, mindlessly murder and maim our people in the guise of an agitation like the duo are doing. I do not share in their conviction or sentiments and so do millions of other Igbos.
I don’t think it is the problem of the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy or any president of Nigeria that Biafra has remained unpopular. Has Okonkwo asked himself why Southeasterners are always hesitant in obeying the orders of these Biafran separatist movements? Its natural that once a people consent to an action, they are not forced or prodded to act in accordance with it, like the current agitators coercively do to us.
It is done in the erroneous belief that we shall be compelled to pledge our loyalty to a cause which has no bearing with the good of the generality of the people. This is no era of slavery. They sometimes kill innocent people for refusing to identity with them. This is arrant nonsense and it defeats every sense of civility and decency obtainable in modern societies. Its plain criminality and Buratai and any other person opposed to it has spoken my mind and that of millions of Igbos.
Back to the person of Buratai who I have painstakingly observed for a long while. Only a demented debauch would carelessly cast aspersions on the person and character of President Buhari or Gen. Buratai as the author of the piece has done. But he deserves pity because ignorance is not cured by sentiments, but knowledge, which he shuns like a plaque. It explains why he is still talking about Buratai’s legitimate property investment in Dubai. He is centuries behind palpably reality.
I do know that those afraid of the duo in the Southeast are the criminal gangs and elements, hell-bent on tormenting and distorting our lives in the region. That these leaders have offered themselves as our bulwark, making it impossible for these deformed minds to further unleash their reign of terror or evil on us is the cause of the anger of worthless characters like Okonkwo and his few masked sponsors.
Then, it becomes easy for me to know why those who antagonize the Buhari presidency are the worst enemies of the Igbo nation. The criminal gangs who masquerade as MASSOB or IPOB dread Buratai and his men. They are those who wish to retain the portrait of the Southeast as the most dreadful haven of crooks; they are the same criminals that have held Onitsha, Aba and other parts of Igbo land on the jugular for years with their hi-tech criminality. And we are happy their wings are being clipped.
Okonkwo and his loathsome clique cannot be more catholic than the Pope. I have personally experienced these odd realities in my homeland and the changing tide now because I am of the Igbo nation. I was born and nurtured in Abagana, schooled in Awka to university level and has worked in the Southeast region all my life.
I am not holding briefs for Gen. Buratai. But the COAS I know will not dignify this trash with a response. I decided to somewhat rise in his defence more for clarity to some Nigerians who are prone to being misled by chumps like Okonkwo. I have already argued that Gen. Buratai’s statement is flawless in tandem with the reality in Nigeria and his towering record of selfless service and contributions to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria is open secret and no one in the mould of the blind writer has the capacity to diminish it.
But he is also an army officer who has displayed an unbending and uncommon interest in the development of youths in all parts of Nigeria. In the past, Buratai has devoted his personal earnings to support seminars and workshops designed to build the development capacity of youths of this country irrespective of tribe or religion.
When he sponsors pilgrims to the Holy land, the religious creed, the beneficiaries profess is irrelevant to him. His selflessness also extends medical treatment to all Nigerians in dire stress. And if I narrow myself down to the level of the Southeast, Buratai’s love for the Igbos has endeared him immensely to Ndi’gbo. He capped it by personally decorating himself as the ambassador of made- in- Nigeria goods, which the Southeast is the known hub of indigenous goods.
When our own son, the former COAS, Lt.Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd) held the position Buratai is privileged to hold today, he was like an alien to the region and to any Igbo man. But today, I know in the distribution of contracts from the Nigeria Army, Buratai ensures contractors of Igbo extraction are also patronized on merit and are handling works at the Army Headquarters, various divisions and units across the country .
I cannot join the league of those making a case for their stomachs by the deception of separatism. It is not only stale, but unpopular and out-fashioned. It is because of people like the author that Igbos have earned the sobriquet “Biafraud” from Nigerians.
This attitude should be discarded. The thinking of majority of Igbos in Nigeria is that they are more better in a Nigeria where multiple opportunities are available and all shall avail themselves of it at the appropriate time. Again, on this score, I undoubtedly stand with Gen. Buratai and the message should be clear now and in the future that disguised leeches seeking to destroy Nigeria should come back some eight millennia later to the gamble again. So, wishing Buratai dead is neither the panacea nor would it assuage their frustrations. If talking positively about a cursed Biafran cause means eternal life, Ojukwu who embodied it would have still been alive.
So, the warped outbursts of corrupted minds like the writer cannot even defray the potency of Buratai’s utterances or change the overwhelming resentful disposition of the people toward a Biafra campaign. For now, it is a dead end and Nigeria remains one and there is nothing any mortal can do about it.
Iloduba is an educationist and contributed this article from Abagana, Anambra State.