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Biafra: The Referendum Ignored ~ By Dr. Nze Anizor


As we say in Pidgin English, ‘Confusion don break bone’ in the matter of the desire of some people in the Igbo states of South Eastern Nigeria to secede and become an independent nation of Biafra. As is natural, confusion negates clear thinking. 

Wrong decisions easily snowball into violence, with the attendant blood – letting. As a concerned citizen, I will proceed to point the agitators towards realizing their objectives, in fact, the only alternative I see, the other option being a war. 

It is common to hear calls for a referendum to determine whether the South East should leave Nigeria or not. As has been pointed out severally by legal experts, referendum is alien to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

A constitutional amendment is required to allow for such an exercise. Considering the requirements for such an amendment, it is safe to say that any attempt to amend our Constitution to allow for a referendum will be dead on arrival under the present circumstances. 

It will require huge consensus building across the entire country. The chances of that happening is almost nil consequent upon the acrimony generated by the present quest.

Since a war is out of question, seeing as it will not achieve any meaningful purpose, and will definitely not result in a secession, we must turn our minds to the only viable option.

The ill–fated attempt to create a Biafra state in 1967 got off the ground because then General Ojukwu was the legitimate leader of then Eastern Nigeria. He was the known and accepted representative of the people. 

He could therefore declare the new nation, and levy war on behalf of that nation. 2017 is a far cry from 1967. Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) do not represent the generality of the South East. 

IPOB is at best a popular private organization. It is not the legitimate representative of Igbos at any level. Igbos have elected leaders and representatives at all levels of the government. IPOB cannot declare a new state and be taken serious by any reasonable person. 

It can neither declare nor levy war on behalf of the South East. Therein lies the conundrum it faces. Granted it seemingly has a wide – appeal, but that has its limits. Who are those open in their acceptance of IPOB’s leadership? 

Some Igbos resident abroad, who probably believe they are out of harm’s way and romanticise about the Biafra quest; many people who operate within a certain economic sphere of the society;

Some non – Igbo members of the opposition party, who see the Biafra agitation as a grand opportunity to discomfiture the Federal Government; some Igbo politicians who perceive that the grassroots appeal of the IPOB will net votes for them in the next general election. 

Note that I totally ignored those whose support for IPOB starts and ends in the social media. In this business, they do not count, and they hardly ever vote. No elected representative of the South East has openly and formally called for a referendum yet. 

They will not because it is very far from their agenda. If things continue this way, in about five years or less, Nnamdi Kanu will lose influence or voluntarily de–escalate the agitation and another person and group will rise up. 

At its best, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was as popular as IPOB is today. They had Igbos eating out of their hands and could shut markets at will. Their sun has set, and IPOB’s is rising.

While the agitators dissipate energy on a national referendum which is at best a phantom under the present circumstances, they overlook another referendum which is easier to achieve, and with such implications that it may be said to hold the key to the success or failure of the struggle for independence. 

That referendum is the gubernatorial election scheduled to hold in Anambra state on Saturday, 18th November, 2017. To make matters easier, Nnamdi Kanu has already publicly declared that no election conducted by the Federal Government can hold in the South East until a referendum is held to determine Biafra. 

Thus neither he nor his members can validly claim to lack motivation in the matter of the Anambra election, which I prefer to call the ‘Anambra referendum’. To get any hope of success, IPOB must carry out its threat to stop that election from holding. 

They do not need a violent confrontation to do achieve this feat. A simple sit-at-home on November 18, 2017 will suffice. To achieve success, all they need is to ensure that less than 10% of the registered voters participate in that election. 

That will be the first real message to both Nigeria and the international community that IPOB has the control. If they fail, they will just be another group of wannabes craving public attention and adulation. 

Since they already have those persons who normally have the highest turn out in elections, the task won’t be difficult to achieve. Currently, some gubernatorial candidates have openly identified with the ‘Biafra’ agenda. 

Fortunately, they are all contesting for the governorship under the same political party, the UPP. The first step will be for them to withdraw their candidacy in obedience to Nnamdi Kanu’s vow that the election will not hold. 

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