The Ndigbo Question - 2


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Professor Omo Omoruyi


 The Ndi Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics is real and should have been addressed since 1970 after the Civil War.   Who should have addressed the Question?   Should it have been the military government or the Igbo leaders?   My view is that the Igbo leaders should have engaged in internal inquiry among the Igbo intellectuals and politicians at home and in Diaspora on what should be the Igbo Permanent Interest in Nigeria after the Civil War.   This was never done then and at later juncture in Nigerian politics since then.   It is not late today instead of blaming others like Chief Obasanjo or Omo Omoruyi. 
       It should be noted that after the Civil War, the Igboland and people were promised the three RS (rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation) by the Federal Government.   Unfortunately the Igbo leaders took Gowons 3 RS as a substitute for an internal debate among the Igbo on the issue of an Igbo Permanent Interest in Nigeria that some call Vision.    Mr. Olisa Adigwe in of march 21, 2003 and CO should appreciate the Biblical injunction as to what happens to a people without a Vision.  
        The commencement of the post-military transition programs between 1975 and 1999 saw the Igbo political leaders at a disadvantage, no defined permanent interest.   There were obvious problems arising from this.   Let me deal with this briefly.
      With the use of States as the unit of representation and distribution of federal facilities, the Igbo as a majority ethnic nationality only had two units (Anambra and Imo) compared with the number available to the Yoruba (4) and the Hausa/Fulani (5) in 1977-79.   The Igbo were denied their rightful place in the armed forces that focuses on States as the basis of recruitment into the armed forces.  
      Since power lies in the barrel of the gun, the Igbo did not compare with other majority groups in Nigeria and consequently suffered a lot of disadvantage during the past military misrule of Nigeria.   
      The foregoing issues were fundamental issues in the “Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics” since 1970.   How to resolve these issues was beyond the power of an elected President (Obasanjo) since 1999.   It will be uncharitable to accuse President Obasanjo for not addressing these fundamental issues since 1999.   It is unfair on the part of some Igbo commentators to accuse me that I did not like the Igbo people. 
       The choice facing the Igbo in 2003 is one of the following options:
1.      Would President Obasanjo be able to lead Nigerians from the north, southeast and west to address these and other issues between 2003 and 2007?   I would say yes on the basis of the way he handled the function of “bridge’ between the past military misrule of Nigeria and today. 
2.      Would the Igbo playing the role of a Stalematist in 2003 solve the “Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics”?   I would say NO because it is based on a negative approach to politics and not based on interest.  
         The Igbo Question in Nigerian   Politics still remains one of the lingering and unresolved political issues since then.   This question should have been one issue that Nigerian politicians should have been talking about since 1999.   Unfortunately instead of the Igbo leaders talking about it, they take the Yoruba as their permanent enemy and the Hausa/Fulani as their permanent friend.   They fail up till today to identify the “Igbo Permanent Interest”. 
      It is a pity and unfortunate that anyone like me because of what I know who dare to say “wait a minute” with the advice that the issue of Igbo Permanent Interest is what the Igbo leaders should pursue is easily called all sorts of names.   I have no reason to hate or love the Igbo or any other ethnic nationalities for that matter.   This is a strong accusation.   It is arrant nonsense and ludicrous for Adigwe to liken me to the American racist who when accused of being a bigot  would point to his African-American friends.
      To correct some commentators with a scanty knowledge of the origin of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), the Igbo did not admit me into that party.   It was the other way round; I was one of the founders and no Igbo politician dead or alive took precedence over me in that party.   This is meant to correct someone like Adigwe who is very ignorant of the genesis of NPP and my role in it.  
        As a matter of historical fact, the Igbo political leaders of 1979 did not found the NPP; the Igbo leaders as we saw them in 1979 were “joiners” of the NPP and they were not “founders” of the NPP.   That fact did not make them second-class citizens in the party.  
        To further correct Adigwe I did not join the NPP in order to use it to run for the gubernatorial election in Bendel State in 1983.   Mr. Adigwe, get your facts right.   I did not pitch tent with the NPP so that I could use it for election.   I did not join the NPP because of the love I had for the Ndi Igbo.   There was no Ndi Igbo when the nucleus of the Club that later became the NPP was put together.    
      The account of the founding of the NPP drawn from the minutes of the meetings at various stages is in my book, Beyond the Tripod in Nigerian Politics published since 2001.
      At the risk of being further misunderstood and called names by some Igbo political commentators in search of “enemies of the Igbo”, I will not stop challenging my Igbo friends to take a new approach to the resolution of the Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics.   The relative impotence of the Igbo in Nigerian politics is further complicated by the role of the Ohaneze Ndi Igbo.  
       My criticism of the Ohaneze arose from what I knew of the genesis and leadership of Ohaneze.   The behavior of the leaders today further strengthens my criticism of the role of Ohaneze since 1999.  
       For the interest of readers, the Ohaneze was formed during the period of the transition to civil rule in the late 1970s.   Those who founded it erroneously thought it could be made to take the place of the former Ibo State Union.   How this could happen when those who founded it were political jobbers in search of a second-class role with the north.   How political impotence could be resolved by a group in an atmosphere of a permanent enemy for a vital sector of the Nigerian society beats my imagination. 
    One would recall certain facts in 1979:
1.      That the leadership of the Ohaneze was prone to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In fact it was the Igbo wing of the NPN by another name.
2.      That the leadership of Ohaneze for reason that it today should be regretting strongly opposed the emergence of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the later the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) in the politics of transition and after in 1979-83. 
3.      That the leadership of Ohaneze thought then that the emergence of Dr. Ekwueme was a solution to the leaderlessness in Igboland; In fact the campaign then was that Dr. Azikiwe and those in the NPP should accord recognition to Dr. Ekweme being the highest elected person from Igboland.
4.      That the then emerged Dim Ojukwu from exile who refused to accept the preeminent leadership of Dr. Azikiwe and new leadership of Dr. Ekwueme.   He in fact refused to accept the Ohaneze’s political agenda.
5.      That the emergence of Dim Ojukwu who saw himself as the undisputed political leader of the Igbo thought that he should reenact his leadership through the ballot box.
6.      That some elements of the Igbo leadership actually wanted Dim Ojukwu to seek election to the Senate and challenge the leadership of Dr. Ekwueme from there.
     One only needs to read Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s autobiography to know how close the present Secretary General of Ohaneze was to him.   I recall how we in the NPP dismissed the Ohaneze and its leaders the same way we dealt with the Vice President Ekwueme and the NPN in Igbo land.   I recall the part I played then regrettably today in frustrating the quest for leadership of the Igbo by Dr. Ekwueme through my column; “Every Wednesday with Omo Omoruyi” in the Nigerian Satellite published by the Jupiter Publishers owned by Chief Jim Nwobodo.  
      Ohaneze should stop making the Igbo voters to adopt a strict adherence of the idea of a permanent friend or permanent enemy to one ethnic nationality or the other in Nigeria.   Ohaneze should allow the Igbo participate freely in the politics of realignment of political forces based on interest and not on fixed notion of permanent friend or permanent enemy.  
     One would recall that the mission of Ohaneze leaders in 1970s was to oppose any realignment of political forces that Chief Jim Nwobodo and Dr. Sam Mbakwe were pursuing in the country.  For this the Igbo today would have been fully reintegrated into the political mainstream of Nigeria.  
      One would recall ones role in the process as the representative of the party in two key four-party Committees, Committee on Realignment and Committee on Power-Sharing that involved the NPP, the UPN and two factions from the PRP and the GNPP.   One recalls the meetings in all the State Capitals of the 12 States controlled by the four parties in the north, east and west.   One recalls how that effort involved the Igbo leadership from the NPP led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe working with the Yoruba of the Unity Party of Nigeria led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.  One still recalls how the realignment of political forces was being pursued under either through the Progressive Party Alliance (PPA) or through the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP).      
      One still recalls how the two Igbo Governors (Anambra and Imo) spent the resources of their two states to promote the realignment of political forces in Nigeria between 1979 and 1983.   They wanted to link the progressive elements in Igboland with the progressive elements in Yoruba land on the one hand and with the progressive elements in the Fourth Dimension on the other.    I saw this effort as a genuine attempt to promote an alternative political party to the NPN after the 1979 election.
     One still recalls that the two Governors were on the left of the Igbo politics that vowed to challenge the myth of permanent rule of the north and the permanent second class status for the Igbo in the post Civil War Nigeria.   One could ask where are these Igbo leaders with this belief today?
      What was gradually developing in Nigeria in 1983 was a two-party tendency in Igboland and in the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.   That system would have cut the various groups in Nigeria into two camps of the right and left or of the conservatives and the progressives.   But for the coup in December 1983, Ndi Igbo would have become the President of Nigeria through the new political formation that united the Igbo and the Yoruba as equals much faster than through the NPN spearheaded in Igbo land by Ohaneze.     
     When one had a position to advise, one pushed for the two party system as natural to the Nigerian plural society.   This was the basis of the introduction of the two party system in 1989 by decree, which to me was actually a response to the political tendencies in Nigerian politics since independence reenacted in 1964 and again in 1983.   It is my view that under the two party system introduced in 1989, an Igbo would have stood the chance of succeeding Chief MKO Abiola in 2001.   Of course, this would have occurred, if and only big if some elements in Igboland had not made themselves available as the instrument of annulment of the June 12 under General Babangida and of sustaining the annulment during the period of General Abacha.   
      It is unfortunate that the real reason why some Igbo leaders made them instrument in the hand of the annullist still dominates the thinking of someone like the Secretary General of Ohaneze, Professor Ben Nwabueze who is making the case for an Igbo President.     From what I knew about his anti-Yoruba feelings in whatever he did in the past, the use of Professor Nwabueze as the theoretician and messenger was a disaster for the Igbo quest for the resolution of the “Igbo question in Nigerian Politics”.  
      Whither the pro-Nigerian Igbo leaders!   They should step forward.   One still recalls that the two Igbo leaders who were with MKO Abiola when he announced his decision to demand his democratic rights at the famous Epetedo Declaration were Chief Bobo Nwosisi and Chief Raph Obioha.   One still recalls the role of Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu in the pro-democracy movement.   I have never seen when and where people recall the antecedents of these illustrious Igbo-Nigerians.  
     One knew Bobo and Ralph from ones role in the NPP that they were members of the progressive wing in Igboland; they were key members of the NPP in the Second Republic and of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Third Republic.   They were members of the Igbo leadership that was dreaded and in fact, rejected by the Ohaneze.   One of the tragedies of Igbo politics was the complete eclipse of this wing in Igboland.   It would appear that the conservative element swallowed them unfortunately.
      I was not surprised that in the presentation of the Igbo Presidency Project, Professor Ben Nwabueze never alluded to his opposition to the June 12 that was supported by the progressive elements led by Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Sam Mbakwe, Dr. ChukwuEmeka Ezeife, the late Pius Okigbo in Igbo land, Bobo Nwosisi, Ralph Obioha and Raph Uwechue to name a few.  When I saw Professor Nwabueze meeting with the Yorubas under the auspices of the Frontiers and Patriots, I called a friend’s attention to his antecedents.   How could a pathological Yoruba hater work with the Yoruba leaders, like Chief FRA Williams and Senator Abraham Adesanyan?   Wonders will never end in Africa!   One saw the action of the Frontiers/Patriots as an exercise in mutual self-deceit.   One was right.
        One could pose some questions for the Igbo leaders in the Ohaneze.
1.      Does the Ohaneze Secretary-General, Professor Ben Nwabueze still believe in the anti-Yoruba platform as the basis of the Igbo Presidency Project?  
2.      How does he feel about the idea of multiple Igbo standard bearers? 
3.      How does he feel about taking Dim Ojukwu to the Nigerian people as the standard bearer of Igbo in fulfillment of the Igbo Presidency Project? 
       Professor Ben Nwabueze should recall the highly contentious statement in all the national newspapers on the N’Igbo Presidency Project within the context of wanting to stop President Obasanjo.   One recalls that he spoke of the irrevocable commitment of the Ndi Igbo to produce the President in 2003.   He should have stopped there.   But Professor Nwabueze betrayed his penchant for hatred for the Yoruba when he advocated the pursuit of the Igbo Presidency Project on the anti-Yoruba agenda.   One wonders how an Igbo or any group in Nigeria would succeed without the Yoruba support in today’s Nigeria?   The way the Ohaneze is promoting the Igbo Presidency Project and the way Dim Ojukwu is going about rallying the Igbo votes on the anti-Obasanjo platform would work against the Igbo plan in the future.   The reality on the ground in Nigeria today is that Nigeria could only be governed with the support of the Yoruba who dominate the economy and are in a position to be critical to the polity.   The Igbo may not like this as their coequal competitor in the past.   But the Hausa appreciate this and are concerned since 1993 as to what the Yoruba wants.  
       When one read the case Professor Ben Nwabueze made for the Igbo Presidency Project in the name of the Ohaneze, one could not help but recall what he, maybe in the name of the Ohaneze wrote about the Yorubas after the annulment in 1994.   He wrote a book called Nigeria ’93: The Political Crisis and Solutions (Ibadan Spectrum 1994).  
      One still recalls when he personally came to my house at Abuja to invite me to the public presentation of the book or book launching.   I was still in crutches then and I could not attend.  I was very anxious to read what he had to say about what I knew he masterminded as the drafter of most of the anti-Abiola’s decrees after the annulment.   I finally got a copy of the book.   The book was full of many untruths, assertions and claims that I would not like to go into here.   What made me recall this book today in the context of the Igbo Presidency Project on the platform of the anti-Yoruba was what he said about the Yoruba in that book.    He said at page 134 as follows:
                                   Nice and friendly as they, the Yorubas
                                 have no sense of fraternity with other
                                 ethnic groups in Nigeria when it comes
                                 to federal appointments.  
                                They see nothing wrong in monopolizing
                                all positions in a federal establishment,
                                 from messenger to chief executive.  
                                 To them, that is how it should be,
                                 the natural order of things.  
                                 Any other Nigerian in their midst
                                 in such establishment is resented
                                 as an unwanted intruder.  
                                 In a Yoruba dominated federal establishment,
                                Yoruba becomes the medium of communication
                                 in which government business is conducted.  
        Professor Nwabueze then made the highly contentious statement on why the Igbo opposed the Yoruba becoming the President in 1993 that had a possibility of becoming a two-term Yoruba presidency.   The way he presented the argument then has implications for President Obasanjo’s bid for a second term and the Igbo Presidency Project.     In the book referred to above at page 134, Professor Ben Nwabueze wrote;
                                  It is for the reasons that a serious fear
                                  is created in the minds of other Nigerians
                                  that two successive terms of eight years of a Yoruba
                                  president, many federal establishments
                                  would have been thoroughly Yorubanised.
         My grouse against the message and the messenger is obvious.   One would recall the case for an Igbo Presidency made by the same person as the spokesman of the Ohaneze who has never hidden his disgust for the Yoruba as President of Nigeria.  One would further recall how he was a tool in the hands of the military to frustrate a Yoruba becoming President in the past.   One wonders as to what message Professor Ben Nwabueze in his new role as the Chief Scribe of Ohaneze is communicating to the Nigerian people.   
         Why blame others, especially the Yoruba or President Obasanjo himself for the failure  of the messenger and the death of the message in 2003?   Why the Igbo Presidency Project collapsed was because of the messenger and the method and not the message.   The message is good but wonders if it should have been delivered the way it was done.   What one would have liked to read from the eminent Constitutional Lawyer was how the Ohaneze was going to implement the Igbo Presidency Project.   He dodged this simple question of political tactics. 
         One was shocked that he instead devoted most of the essay on the Igbo Presidency Project not on the anti-Yoruba diatribe but on running down the person I repeat the person of President Obasanjo as if that is the Agenda of the Ohaneze.   As if that was not enough, it is sad that the three front runners from the southeast, Chief Jim Nwobodo and General Ike Nwachukwu left the PDP and sought a new platform to commence their ambition because of Chief Obasanjo.  
       Of course, Dim Ojukwu who had never hidden his anti-Yoruba feelings quickly bought the anti-Obasanjo rhetoric of Professor Nwabueze and the Ohaneze as a political platform to rally all the Igbo votes in the country to himself.   Does Dim Ojukwu see this as a sound method of realizing the Igbo Presidency Project?   Dim Ojukwu’s concept of winning is he can frustrate the ambition of Obasanjo.   The way to do this is to deny Chief Obasanjo the success on April 19.   This means that he and General Buhari being the two credible candidates will be forced to run-off.   This is where the full weight of the Igbo political leaders under the Igbo Presidency Project through the Stalemate Strategy will be brought to bear on the Igbo voters on behalf of General Buhari.   This is what I call the Igbo Presidency Project through the “Stalemate Strategy”.    One hopes the Igbo voters will be wise enough and I know they are to quickly see beyond this anti-Nigeria plan as a ploy for the Buhari election in 2993.  
        Professor Nwabueze gave ammunition to Alhaji Wada Nas.   In fact, one finds some similarities in the anti-Yoruba argument in his book and in the anti-Obasanjo campaign by these two eminent Nigerians.   Just read the last paragraph of Professor Ben Nwabueze’s essay and compare the expression here with some of the anti-Obasanjo diatribe in Wada Nas essays.   According to Professor Nwabueze,
                       In the past two years or so, the supreme object
                        and motive for all the manipulations, and abuses of power,
                         all the confounding shifts, all the destabilizing realignment
                        of forces, all the divide and rule tactics employed to foster
                         trouble and unrest in some states or areas of the country
                        and all the sponsored or inspired crisis in various
                       institutions  and organizations has been the consuming   
                      passion and ambition for a second term.  
He then concluded his warning about 2003
                        If our experience of Obasanjo’s rule during this period 
                        teaches anything, it is that, in the circumstances of Nigeria,
                       a second term is a positive evil, which must therefore be
                        exorcised from the Constitution-for the Presidency and
                       as well as for the State Governors.  
(See Ben Nwabueze, “Igbo Have  Right to Presidency” in This Day July 26, 2002).
        What Professor Nwabueze could not tell his Igbo people and Nigerians at large was whether the Ohaneze Igbo Presidency Project” would advise the Igbo political leaders all over the country to pursue their ambition through the PDP.   He did not tell the Igbo politicians that they should seek the political ambition through another political party.  One would have thought that such a Project would have resolved these two basis questions of political life in 2003.   On this ground, the leaders of the Ohaneze misled the Igbo people in 2003.
       At the crucial moment having failed the Igbo people in 2003, the Igbo politicians were left with no guideline as to how the Igbo Presidency Project would be realized after 2003.   This was why the late entry of Dr. Alex Ekwueme into the race, the emergence of three Igbo candidates (Nwobodo, Nwachukwu and Ojukwu) and the frustration of other Igbo in the ANPP completely rendered the Igbo Presidency Project in 2003 a nullity and counter-productive.  
       Just as the attempt to push for a consensus candidate in Igboland was too late for 2003, so too one would say that the plan to support Buhari through the Stalemate Strategy in 2003 would be too late.   Just as the President Project failed in 2003, the end of the Stalemate Strategy is also doomed to fail in 2003.  
     One would recall how Professor Nwabueze told the Igbo to vote against Obasanjo in 1999 after the Jos Convention of the PDP that did not support the favorite son of Ohaneze, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and how that failed.    The use of Ojukwu/Nwobodo/Nwachukwu as a ploy to support Buhari is like what Professor Nwabueze wanted the Igbo to do in 1999 and the Igbo said no.   The Igbo voters are likely to say no to the trio of the Stalemate.   Just as they supported Chief Obasanjo in 1999, they are likely to support Obasanjo in 2003 because it is in the best interest of the Igbo people in the long run.
       What is an issue is the lack of an Igbo Agenda.   One discovered this in the Constituent Assembly in 1977 and saw how the Igbo political leaders had to live through this during the period of the Second Republic.   Those who pursued the anti-Yoruba agenda during the period of the annulment and during the Abacha period never sat down to map out what the Igbo, as an ethnic nationality wants in Nigeria.   This is still the problem today.
       At the moment, there are over ten Igbo political tendencies in Igboland manifesting themselves in all political parties.     We are yet to know how these Igbo political tendencies are going to sort themselves out within the PDP and between the PDP and other parties.  The Ohaneze is yet to tell the country how they would build a consensus around one political tendency within the two dominant political parties, PDP and ANPP.  
       The Ohaneze could not convince the Nigerian people that the need for an Igbo President has actually arrived.   It failed because it was pursued within the anti-Yoruba platform.   It should be a Nigerian platform.   Nigeria wants a President who just happens to be an Igbo and not an Igbo who just wants the office because it is the turn of Igbo.   There is nothing called turn by turn in politics where voters are concerned.  
        The Igbo leaders must think of how to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) that would develop an Agenda.   This Agenda would have to be negotiated with others with the purpose of searching for a common ground.    Nobody will make any Igbo man a President of Nigeria on the argument of Professor Ben Nwabueze. 
       I wish the people of the South-South would read Professor Ben Nwabueze’s argument on why the Igbo should take precedence over the South-South.   This is arrant nonsense.   Let me remind the learned Professor that the game in the politics of plural society like Nigeria is not based on spurious census figures of each ethnic groups in Nigeria.    It is based on the capacity of each group to form a coalition of ethnic nationalities.   Here the south-south is superior to the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria.   Here again the Igbo have not done well since 1970.   The reason could be because of the relative impotence of the Igbo after the Civil War.   Agreed!   But how do we explain the Igbo leaders’ preoccupation with those who wronged them in the past and with the Igbo leaders’ determination to find out what the “north” would like in Nigeria?   This cannot be an approach to Agenda Setting in a Plural Society.  
        Professor Ben Nwabueze, a fellow member of the Constituent Assembly would recall how we, the so-called minorities from the south and from the north dealt with the majorities from the north, southeast and southwest who paraded the flags of the tripod in 1977.   He would recall that some of us in the famed Club 19 vowed to destroy the tripod; we succeeded in the Constituent Assembly in 1977.   In the absence of an agenda from the military government, the minority caucus set the agenda of the Constituent Assembly when it came to the mode of governance (Presidential System) and religion in politics (Sharia).  
      My view is that politics of the tripod did not serve the country well in the past and presently and it will not serve the country well in the future.  This Ohaneze’s argument of Hausa had it for over 30 years and the Yoruba for about 8 years and it is the turn of the Igbo being the third leg in the tripod is anti-democratic.   I fought against this argument in the past and I made sure that the two party system made irrelevant the idea of the tripod in 1989-1993 when I had opportunity to make policy.  
       I am a firm believer in a federal system that has the States as the units of representation and not the ethnic groups whose number we do not know.  I am against the idea of zone that has no basis in the Constitution.   Professor Nwabueze and co forced the zones on General Abacha in 1994. 
       Professor Ben Nwabueze would still recall how the idea of the Eastern Bloc died in 1977 because it was conceived in bad faith as an attempt to undermine the new states created from the old Eastern Region in 1967.   It is sad that up till today Dim Ojukwu and some Igbo leaders still harbor some misgivings about the fact of new homes for the minorities in the old Eastern Region.   Unlike the attitude of the some Igbo leaders to the new states in the old east, the Yoruba leaders have since 1963/4 learnt to live with the fact of Midwest/Bendel/Edo/Delta.   One would hope the traditional northern leaders would reconcile themselves with the fact of states in the old North.   Politicians should accept the fact that what one could call the colonial Regions of North, West and East are gone forever.   Like a broken mirror, you cannot put the pieces back to form a whole.    Anyway, we in Edo in particular and in the south-south in general do not believe that any group in Nigeria should take precedence over us on the basis of census figures.   This is the view of the political leaders in the south-south and of the middle-belt.

    I have raised and addressed many questions as they bear on the Igbo Question in Nigerian Politics.   I hope the Ohaneze and other Igbo leaders would consider them for future action.   This cannot be done from the position of negativism.

   May I also advise Olisa Adigwe to read this along with the earlier essay that addressed the rationale for the classification of the presidential candidates into four categories.    


Professor Omo Omoruyi


March , 24, 2003


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