In recent times, our earlobes have had to be ‘acclimatised’ to the word, Biafra. And I ask myself, why so much ado about Biafra in 2015? It’s been almost fifty years since the agitation for the secession and eventual sovereign independence of the Republic of Biafra. This (agitation) eventually led to the civil war of 1967 – 1970, which was definitely avoidable, but for the egocentric nature of the major actors at the time – General Yakubu Gowon, the Head of the Military Government of Nigeria and General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Military Governor of the Eastern Region.
In Chinua Achebe’s last work, titled There Was A Country, one could see that there was no love lost, as he evidently brandished his patriotism to a country that was never to be in his lifetime. However, in his clairvoyant and prescient ways, one is left to ruminate and give it a serious second thought if really Biafra was, is, or is to be in the nearest future.
Reading from a friend’s recent article, titled The New Biafra Is A Confused Cause, he questioned the authenticity and veracity of one Kanu who has taken it upon himself to spearhead, or should I say ‘re-spearhead’ this cause. He is of the very strong opinion that if the Ikemba himself, with all the gusto he had as a warlord could surrender the cause and eventually go on a thirteen-year exile to Ivory Coast, who is this new kid on the block who is putting his infinitesimal foot into the overwhelming shoe of Ikemba?
No doubt, the Igbos have been side-lined from the political scheme of things in Nigeria. Well, not like it was a deliberate attempt by the nation, called Nigeria. I will say that this phenomenon is being greased by the Igbos themselves. In my few years of existence and consciousness, I have not seen the Igbos fight a cause in unison, well maybe apart from the Biafran/Nigerian civil war epoch. I mean, how do you explain a situation where we had about five senate presidents from 1999 – 2007, when it was the turn of the Igbos to occupy the number 3 position in the land? That same position was occupied by only one man from 2007 to 2015 – Senator David Bonaventure Mark from the North-Central part of Nigeria.
Like former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a recent interview he granted Sahara Reporters, he was emphatic by calling those people who are agitating for the actualisation of the sovereign state of Biafra as miscreants. That’s a heavy word. But realistically, isn’t he right? Who is Nnamdi Kanu? Who …? Where were they when Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu ran for the highest political position of the land in the 2003 and 2007? If Ojukwu, who later returned to Nigeria as a Nigerian, could found a party and run for presidency afterwards, what gives these people the locus standi to want to secede?
Again, like Obasanjo said, all the things that were agitated by the forbears have been accentuated by successive governments. Of course, there are still some slight nuances of lop-sidedness and probably of distrusts here and there. But is it room enough to want to secede? Why are the Igbos not speaking in one voice? What is the viewpoint of the Igbo elder statesmen, why haven’t we heard the voices of the likes of Chief Emeka Anyaoku and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme? Have the secessionist propagandists thought of what will happen to the likes of Tony Elumelu and their business empires in Lagos? At this point in Nigeria’s consciousness as a nation, where the flesh has mixed with the bone, won’t it be injurious to start an agitation that the totality of the Igbos are not in support of? Winston Churchill said, “it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war”. We all have rights. But there is an extent to which rights are expressed…where one’s rights end is where another starts.
What is the strength of allegiance of the Niger Delta folks in this cause? Unlike during the war when there were only three strong major regions – the western region, the eastern region and the northern region, now virtually all the regions have been dissected to smaller prominent bits. Hence, this has led to more consciousness of identity. Are the Igbos ready to pull out alone peradventure the Niger Deltans refuse to go with them? MEND is still not totally expunged from our national subconscious.
Is there any possibility whatsoever of a secession in the nearest future? What feeders are we getting from the political atmosphere? Like I said earlier about the Igbos being the cause of their own woes as not speaking together with one voice, it is believed that they have been put away in the scheme of things in this country. Well, it is unfortunate that the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari isn’t tolerant in this regard; we are yet to grasp a full knowledge of what is up his sleeves. It is still rather too early to judge the new administration.
However, as history would make us know that there was an agreement reached in Aburi in 1967. But the Federal Military Government of Nigeria and the leadership of the eastern region of Nigeria had interpretation problems; this eventually led to the civil war. On Aburi we stand was a major slogan at the time. Whatever it is, the best way to find a lasting solution to any problem is always to dialogue at the roundtable. Even after the war has been fought, the roundtable discussion will always be the next meeting point after the battlefield.
In conclusion, I will like to categorically state here that I do not have any issue against the Igbos. I respect the idiosyncrasies of the different peoples that comprise the nation, Nigeria. We all have our foibles and weaknesses. This is where we will preach tolerance. One of our major problems in Nigeria is the lack of tolerance. The United States of America has fifty states. These states definitely aren’t the same. They may be homogenous compared to our heterogeneous nation, but they are united today because of tolerance. Many of the states joined the union after independence because they realise that there is strength in unity. It is not just a streak of fortune that the United States is one of the greatest countries on earth today. It didn’t just happen. The defunct USSR, the broken China, the split Korea, the divided Sudan; these disintegrated countries do not have the full capacity as they would have had if they were still together as a whole. There is strength in diversity/unity. I will always respect the United Kingdom. Scotland only last year voted against their own independence. They were criticised though, but they realised that in the long run, sticking to the union will pay off than being one small entity that might have no impact. Nigeria, this is one opportunity we have to remain one indivisible nation with our diversity. Let it be to our gain, rather than our pain.
Oluwadaisi D. T. Olaseinde
the man behind the lens