THE AGITATION FOR BIAFRA: A REMAKE OF A MODERN DAY GREEK TREGEDY
here is power in unity. There is power in dialogue. There is power in prayer. As much as there is power in brotherly love. A family in crisis comes together and everyone joins hands in prayer. We look onto the heavens asking God to intercede and bring peace and healing in our time. We fast and meditate and take steps backwards to re-tune the mind and a temperament juiced with anger and on this premise come together as one united family to bring the best out of one another and march into the future like Brothers and Sisters on a common cause, overcoming the embers of war in this trying moment of our history as a nation.
This should be our prayer and mantra in this phase of our national discourse, when multiple forces of hegemonies fuel a centrifuge of destruction and carnage at a time when our nation should be consolidating on the gains of diversity, religious tolerance and national unity.
The birth of any nation has never been an accident of history. The amalgamation of the North and South by Lord Luggard in 1914 was not an accident of history. Rather it was a remix of the biblical tower of Babel with new instructions to seek God in spirit and love rather than earthly sustenance.
The proponents of a Biafra nation are fine men and women who mean well for the ideals they pursue. They are our brothers and sisters and we share the same blood. They must not be disparaged. But we must not forget the words of our progenitor, the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu. In paraphrasing his words, wars are an aberration. Across the world, wars have never solved any problems but have ended up creating more problems than solutions.
True reconciliation comes with revisiting history and performing a root-cause analysis of what went wrong and taking responsibility for one’s actions. True reconciliation comes with holding each other’s hands as we build a bridge across our void of differences.
As mortals we have permitted the vicissitudes of earthly and human sentiments to overshadow our innate spiritual endowment, the power of love, acceptance and accommodation. We are losing grip of a torch passed on to us by our forbearers, men and women who fought and died that this nation may live.
It is true that 47 years after the civil war the Igbos, as a group still feel excluded from the center of our political discourse. But it is also true that the Igbos are the least united when it comes to civil discourse and dialogue. This has come at a huge cost to the Igbo ensemble, as we have been unable to present a common ideology and framework at any national conference. We have used the cloak of freedom of expression to sabotage each other, as the pursuit of political relevance is one often built on a template of self – aggrandizement.
The chronology of events preceding the civil war and leading to the coup of 1966 need to be revisited and form the bedrock of our national reconciliation. We must explain under what circumstances the North lost Prime Minister Balewa and the Sarduana of Sokoto in one day in a coup primarily spearheaded by an Officer of Igbo extraction and if this was to sanitize Nigeria, why the East did not pay a similar prize.
It is true that in the sixties the South had more opportunities with respect to western education. But this was not so until the British Colonial Master decided to partner with the African, teaching him his language, building schools and Churches, using him as Court Interpreters. However, the same Colonial Master who introduced religion to the East, South and West of Nigeria, hopped over to the North and introduced Politics and the essence of dominating power, hence the emergence of a militarized north. This divide and conquer apparatus has been Nigeria’s nightmare for decades. It is the enemy within created by an external force that never had the interest of the Nigerian Nation at heart.
A similar legion of White explorers had sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean and upon arrival found a new haven. This time, this newfound land was too far to operate from Europe. Thus the consolidated effort to exterminate the native Indians who were the original inhabitants of North America, thus establishing dominion over the North American hemisphere.
The scramble and partition for Africa has continued to bear fruits of discord amongst our people as neocolonialism employs covert mechanisms to destabilize emerging democracies in Africa by pitching brother against brother.
Until the black man wakes up from slumber, he will continue to be a victim of a well-orchestrated vicious cycle, which continues to exploit his areas of vulnerability, namely language, ethnic heritage and religion. The call for the emancipation of the Indigenous People of Biafra( IPOB ) is one such example.
It is a call to destroy 57 years of Independence. It is a call to set the hand of the national clock backwards. Indeed many of the protagonists of IPOB had not been born at the time of Biafra. None ever heard the sound of a machine gun, never saw a limb severed, nor watched a comrade fall in battle. The war songs by this young brigade may be melodious, nostalgic and emotional but beyond the melody is nothing but utter destruction, of precious human lives, of a lifetime of investments, and infrastructure. At the end there will be no victor or vanquished but bereaved families on both sides of the isle.
Where are the likes of Azikiwe, Balewa, Shehu Shagari, Aminu Kano, Michael Imoudu, Samuel Manuwa, Alhaji Barkin Zuwo, Solomon Lar, Murtala Muhammed, Ibrahim Rimi, Michael Okpara, Aderniran Ogunsanya, Margaret Ekpo, Isa Kaita.
Did they live and die in vain?
I will remind Nigerians wherever they live to reflect for a moment on what transpires in a hospital when an accident victim arrives a hospital emergency room and is in need of blood transfusion. The doctor requests blood from the blood bank. Here the blood bank technologist scrambles to find a matching sample. The blood types are groups A, B ,AB and O. The victim, a southern Christian with type B blood could not find a match among his Christian Brothers and Sisters. However, he found a match from a Northern Muslim trader who heard about a humanitarian blood drive and volunteered as a donor. The victim survived not because he was Christian but because the same blood runs in our veins regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or religion.
Our national healing begins with seeing your neighbor in the morning and in holding his hands saying: “ Brother, you are precious to me, I love you.” Say this as many times as you can because love is contagious and powerful. For it is only when we see each other in this light that I believe we would have succeeded in changing the trajectory of our National discourse in the direction of lasting peace and unity.
Rome was not built in a day. Democracies like the United States of America despite 200 years or more of Independence is still struggling with racism and only recently
Elected a Black man to the Presidency of that country. Yet there are still unresolved civil rights issues involving minority rights to vote. No one has called for dissolution of the American Nation.
It was only a few years ago that South Africa as a nation abandoned apartheid and elected her first black President in the person of Nelson Mandela. Since then, the blacks have dominated the leadership of this country the question to be asked is: How well have they fared?
The emergence of Kabila in the Congo is another example of where self –determination ends with catastrophe. The same could be said of Southern Sudan, Liberia and Rwanda. The right to self-determination must be balanced against other variables including a peoples wish for self-governance or rather, a self-motivated militancy where there are no constitutional provisions in place for a smooth landing.
Even amongst the Igbos there are all forms of discrimination perpetrated by the Igbos against their own brothers. For example, when Theodore Oji was Governor of Abia State, he drove out all civil servants of Imo origin asking them to return to Imo State and find their feet. Yet in Lagos State, Governor Fashola appointed Igbos in his cabinet.
Among the Igbos The Osu caste system is rife and other Igbos are prohibited from inter-marrying with this group. The use of House helps in Igbo land is another form of modern slavery as these house helps are subjected to dehumanizing treatment.
Since 1979, the Igbos have produced a Vice president of Nigeria. What was his accomplishment? Building more prisons in the East. Since 1979 the Igbos have produced State governors, Ministers of Health, Education, Aviation, Ambassadors, just to mention a few. Let us take stock of their accomplishment. No local Government Chairman ever built a road, school, hospital or civic center but instead left their communities barren, with youth unemployment reaching rooftop. This has resulted in restiveness amongst our youths and the outcome is the emergence of groups like the Niger Delta Avengers, MASSOB, IPOB and the like. At the other end of the spectrum is the Ohaneze Ndigbo, a group saddled with in- fighting and political gimmickry. Without a constitutional conference to define separation of powers, an emerging Biafra Nation will be a conundrum of blood bath. It is an experiment in the making and the whole world is watching to see how it plays out. But it is also worth the while to reflect on the old adage: The Devil you know is better than the Angel you don’t know. Nigeria may well be the Devil the Igbos have known for more than 50 years. But it is also true that in this time frame the Igbos have come a long way in earning their place of relevance in the national equation. It is not that we cannot get to the top once more, but it only calls for a change of ideology and manifesto rather than the pursuit of a separatist agenda.