Biafra, Biafran war, Nigerian politics, ethnic divide in Nigeria, ethnic tensions in Nigeria, ethnicity in Nigeria, ethnic bias
The current pro-Biafra sentiment amongst some Igbos is entrenched in the perception that Igbos are being marginalization at levels reminiscent of treatments meted out to Igbos in 1967. Before examining the concept of any likely state of Biafra, it is appropriate to first take a look at how Nigerians are responding to the current pro-Biafra sentiment. There is a school of thought that believes that the current push for the state of Biafra is nothing but a political gimmick; an attempt to disrupt a Northern-led government. Contrary to 1967 though, a decent chunk of educated Igbos do not see the sense in embarking upon another bloody war in the name of Biafra. In an article titled; “Time to finish off the Biafra nonsense” on Niaj.com some months ago, Chidi Okoye referred to the current agitation for the state of Biafra as a “misguided push for secession.” He went further to state that Biafra died in 1970. More recently in the Sun Newspaper, Arewa Consultative Forum borrowed the same line by stating that Biafra is dead and that is should stay dead. Let me state clearly that I do not subscribe to the argument or push for a state of Biafra. However, human emotions can be quite fickle and at the same time powerful beyond measure.
If Biafra were truly dead, then, we would not have the current situation on our hands. Waving off the current agitation for the state of Biafra as NONSENSE does nothing but fuel the passion and desire of pro-Biafra Igbos to double their efforts to make their voices heard. Humans are driven to a reasonable extent by ego, and when a man’s ego is insulted, some people are willing to put their lives on the line to rebuild their battered self-image. We must not forget the former Yugoslavia, a nation forged out of an uneasy agreement between Slovenes, Croats and Serbs to coexist as a nation. Although they signed an agreement to coexist, which kept them together for several years, it did not necessarily end the uneasy tension between the constituting states. Closer to home, the battle for the establishment of the state of Eritrea started in 1958 only to be actualized in 1991. So, do we then stick our heads in the sand like an Ostrich and disregard the threat to the existence of Nigeria by pro-Biafra Igbos? Does referring to their cause and belief as nonsense or dead solve the problem? Is there a chance that apart from any political undertone to this agitation that some truths may exist in their arguemnt?
For instance, federal roads in the South East have for as long as I can remember been in total shambles. This is a massive cog in the economic wheel of the region, and stands as a testament to the argument of pro-Biafra Igbos that the region has been vastly neglected by the federal government over the years. According to an article on Reuters on December 1, Okereke Chukwunolye, a political analyst said, “The issues that brought about the Biafran-Nigerian civil war have remained unresolved.” The quest for the state of Biafra is a response to chronic failure in the system; a response to an absolute degeneration of the so called democratic machinery at all levels in Nigeria. When the British were in control in Nigeria we fought them, armed to the teeth to gain independence. The fathers of this nation believed in their ability to run and build a better nation for themselves and their children (all of us today). Well, look at what we have succeeded in building. The same emotions that drove the founding fathers of this nation to take their destinies in their own hands drive pro-Biafran Igbos today to end the circus called democratic governance in Nigeria. There is a sense of apathy amongst Igbos who have waited for real change to take root in Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, Aba, Abakaliki and Okigwi, only to watch their towns and cities drift further into economic oblivion.
Therefore, to refer to their sentiments as nonsense sounds nonsensical in itself. To say that Biafra died in 1970 without doing anything about the state of the South East and most of all, the nation at large is akin to the worst case of blindness. The youth are the ones who have taken up arms in the North East fighting under the aegis of Boko Haram. Young able bodied and mostly educated and grossly disillusioned youth in the South East may become susceptible to the same trend if the government continues to fail to find meaningful ways to put them to work. I was a student leader at University back in the day and I understand how it feels to have my opinions and beliefs thrashed as nonsense by the authorities without engaging us (the student leaders) in a dialogue. We must begin to talk openly about the decay in our system and most of all, take up our tools and go to work in rebuilding this nation; healing the quiescent wounds that are so often poked to life by reprehensible ineptitude on the part of our leaders. Even the white supremacists in the USA are allowed to go about their businesses despite the repulsive and abhorrent nature of their belief. This stems from the premise that banning them completely by the government would flush them underground from where they could do real damage to the government and the country at large. By allowing them to run their organizations, the government is able to keep a closer eye on them. It is imperative that the government allows people to speak their minds and most of all listen to, and attend to their grievances.
Quite frankly, where do you begin to draw national lines for the state of Biafra? Do you include Deltans? Or rather, would Deltans want to be a part of Biafra? How about people from Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States? It is easy to think that the state of Biafra would solve all the problems in the South East. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe and their peers had the same idea about Nigeria during the fight for independence. We do not need another nation to solve Nigeria’s numerous problems. During Obasanjo’s first term in government, the senate president was zoned to the Igbos, and how many senate Igbo senate presidents did we have in a period of four years? How comfortable is an Enugu man with an Anambra man? He refers to him as “Onye Agbaenu” – a frugal and thrifty fellow who looks to outwit everyone else. Conversely, an Anambra man looks down on an Enugu man, referring to him as “Onye Wawa”. People from Imo and Abia take whatever the Anambra man tells them with a pinch of salt. He is not to be trusted. He is a shrewd, cunning and domineering fellow in their opinion. Igbos don’t trust people from Rivers State. After the incidents of the civil war, they concluded that the man from Rivers cannot be trusted. The man from Rivers on the other hand has absolutely zero trust in the Igbo man. Does that look like a united front? Is that the foundation upon which the current agitators want to build a nation?
To point accusing fingers at the federal government for lack of projects in the South East and exonerate the State governments in Igbo land would be tantamount to an utter and incongruous case of double standards. An Igbo adage says that “He who is rejected does not reject himself.” So how have the governors in the South East tried to plug the gap in government? What steps have they taken with their allocations to honestly and vehemently tackle the economic problems in the region? What are the lasting legacies they have created to galvanize the economy of the region? To agitate for the state of Biafra on a premise that points accusing fingers at the federal government alone attempts to suggest that if Biafra were to be achieved, brand new leaders; a heaven-sent breed will fall off the sky to manage the affairs of Biafra. If the current breed of leaders in the South East were to remain in control, it seems painfully nebulous to be placing anyone’s faith in them; to be putting a whole nation’s faith in them (if that nation were to ever exist). We must heal the nation we already have and not kill one another for a new one. Disregarding the agitations of unhappy folks as nonsense and dead will only fuel the fire. Dialogue; honest and meaningful dialogue backed by action; decisive action is what we need - not the same old, boring rhetoric!
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