Image: The author
Let me begin this intervention by making a solemn confession: by the time the great idea of Biafra was mooted and its attempted actualisation militarily aborted I was not yet a member of this world; I was delivered to humanity years after the Biafran issue was decisively settled with forces of unity prevailing over forces of secession. Yes, I did not see Biafra and the 3-year brutal war for its making was a tale told by witnesses and partakers. An ambitious nationhood project that claimed millions of lives history made us to understand that the war was as gory as it was cruel with deliberate state policy of starvation probably killing more Igbos than the war itself.
I had met and shook hands with Ojukwu in the early 80’s as a young boy in my village! My late father had taken me to our village square to see and meet the late Biafran warlord who was stopping over on a meet-the-people tour after his triumphant return from exile in the Ivory Coast. He came in in a convoy of cars marked “IF” (Ikemba Front) and decked in blue jeans. While he spoke my father was telling me about his heroic exploits during the war joining other villagers to cheer him on. The man was as eloquent as he was handsome!
The late “Ikemba Nnewi” had launched the Biafran separatist project in the late 60’s as he stoutly stood on the Aburi Accord, signed between him and the then Head of state Gen. Gowon which the latter later repudiated on returning home! With military bravado and youthful exuberance (which later metamorphosed into a personality cult), Ojukwu took the Igbos unwittingly to ‘Golgotha’ where millions were ruthlessly slaughtered by the rampaging federal forces. Some commentators had called it an organized pogrom!
Today four decades on the infrastructural effects of the war is still noticable in the eastern region. Though the Igbos have done greatly to erase the psychological scar of the conflict it remains very difficult an issue to be forgotten. A proud hard-working people had been deeply ‘wounded’ and they are bearing this perceived continuing collective persecution with equanimity. They deserve every compassion and solidarity from the conquering agents of unity.
For weeks now Biafra has been in the news globally for wrong or right reasons (depending on which side of the divide one belongs). Ever since one Nnamdi Kanu of Radio Biafra was arrested by the DSS there has been often violent street protests across many cities in the east. From Enugu to Onitsha, Aba to Port Harcourt the rampaging youths are demanding immediate freedom for their champion. And their leaders had issued a one-week ultimatum to the federal government to release Kanu or face serious insurrection.
Before now, of course, we have heard or seen online some misguided Igbomen in France especially tearing apart their Nigerian passports thereby renouncing their nationality and pledging allegiance to the still-born Biafra. In some states in the east some protesters had torn to shreds the Nigerian flag brandishing in its stead that of Biafra. According to some online reports some agitators were shot dead on the streets by trigger-happy soldiers or policemen. What is unfolding generally from all indications is unfortunate to say the least and portends grave danger for the unity of the nation. That is why one is urging the Buhari administration to exercise maximum caution and diligence in the handling of this serious matter that concerns millions of our people. Kanu should either be charged to court or released forthwith if he had committed no crime. Keeping him in solitary confinement does not help matters.
The dream of Biafra was a great one by the great one — now deceased. The dreamers of Biafra today, however, are being manipulated by frustrated politicians and misguided elements. Whilst the dream lives on the dreamers must let Nigeria be! Biafra, in my reckoning, belonged to the distant past and not the present. Trying to revive it can only amount to a generational hubris if not outright folly! The futility of the cause ought to be understood clearly in today’s Nigeria where the Ngiges, Onus, Onyemas and other Igbo sons and daughters are in Buhari’s cabinet working as Ministers or holding other federal positions of authority.
As an Igboman (in his early 40’s) from the heartland of ‘Ndigbo’ where the originator of Biafra hailed from, I make bold to declare here that I do not have any Biafran feeling or attachment whatsoever. And I know a whole lot of people of Igbo extraction share this sentiment. While one recognises that millions of our hard-working people feel strongly about Biafra and bear strong attachment to same, those legitimately campaigning for its actualisation must go about it in a civilised pacific manner that would not compromise peace and tranquility of the nation, a democratic society headed for greatness.
I hold without equivocation that if Biafra, their Biafra, were to be delivered today, founded as it were as a new nation, tomorrow may well witness catastrophic scenarios similar to Somalia or Libya! Given the Igboman’s republican nature and the traditional “Igbo-ama-eze’ mentality coupled with manifest cupidity and egoism leadership tussle would soon erupt in the event of Biafra becoming a nation, eventually leading to fratricidal conflagration that would make South Sudan’s situation a child’s play.
One hopes that the new Biafra ‘uprising’ is not the handiwork of defeated politicians and anarchists to destabilize the Buhari administration. If the self-proclaimed leader of the “Indigenous People of Biafra” (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested and detained for operating a pirate radio station without licence then the rule of law must take its natural course. Kanu is not above the law and he cannot be involved in acts inimical to the sustenance of peace and unity and expect the authorities to keep quiet and watch him sow some seeds of discord.
I believe in the unity and indivisibility of the Nigerian nation. We have come a whole long way together and weathered the storm together. We are better together as brothers and sisters under God or Allah! We are, indeed, better together! Let there be peace and concord please.
SOC Okenwa, firstname.lastname@example.org
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