For days now a number of protests have been organised by the group known as the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, a group clamouring for the independence of the defunct Republic of Biafra, a Republic that was short-lived owing to the conspiracy of the Western World and the fiery fire power of the Nigerian side.
These protests, which relatively have been peaceful, have again shown that all is not well with the Nigerian nation and that despite our claims to being a united country, Nigeria is still very far from that unity. My fellow countrymen, pray how did we come to this point? How far have we travelled down this road?
In the years that followed our independence, a number of issues did arise that much exposed our unity as fragile. Right from the moment Princess Alexandra of Kent handed over the instruments of Independence to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was our country dogged with a number of crises. You name it, first was the census crisis of 1963 and then the Western Region crisis of 1964 culminating into a sequence of events such as the Wetie Crisis as well as the January 15th coup of 1966, the counter coup and finally the civil war.
And so it was thought that what dialogue and compromise could not help resolve as was seen in the run up to the civil war, perhaps the show of force, coupled with its resultant of sorrow, tears and blood could. And so to Mars, the mythical god of war did our fathers turn, and estranged brothers fought each other, one for independence the other to keep the country one.
No doubt, my Biafran fathers were heroes, and for three years fought a just cause with a determination read about only in the Third Punic War or the Battle of the Bulge but in the end, our surrender was inevitable for as Mao Tse Tsung did say, “Power comes from the barrel of a gun” Sadly, Biafra had no guns.
So to Nigeria we returned, assured of our place in the Nigerian sun, but without our properties which they termed as abandoned, with only twenty pounds for whatever you had in your accounts then before the war, and at the receiving end of a number of policies which further marginalised the Igbo people.
Despite the warnings and the appeals made by a number of Igbo leaders and activists, past leaders of the Nigerian nation remained adamant, believing that the generation of Igbos who had seen the war and had etched in their minds the sufferings that came with the war would never go into it again, but we forget that new generations of Igbos who had never seen the war, and emboldened by activities all over the world would come and ask questions.
And so let’s face it, Nigeria has a Biafra problem or is it an Igbo problem and with the insurgency in the North East parts of the Nigerian federation, a crisis emanating from the struggle for Biafra will do us all no good.
This Igbo problem, no matter how we see it is real and requires deft handling by a statesman to heal these wounds and give the Igbo man his own place in the Nigerian sun.
Let’s face it, the state of infrastructure in Nigeria is quite poor, but it is poorest in Igbo land. The levels of fairness in Nigeria are quite poor, but to the Igbo man it is worse.
Thus the demands for Biafra no matter how realistic or unrealistic it appears to be is a culmination of the failure of us all as Nigerians to fully end the war. We forget that Biafra was never a selfish struggle to secede but a last line of defence for the survival of the Igbo people. To continue to punish us, three generations after for that war is to also ask us to continue to resort to the demands of self-determination, since the conditions that led to the first agitation are still here with us.
I believe that Ndigbo need Nigeria just as Nigerians need Ndigbo, and if we search ourselves the trouble with us has never been that we see ourselves as lasting enemies but that we have glorified that fear within that friendship, within the brotherhood we all lay claim to, causing us to engage in that zero sum game and further strained our unity.
In this challenge lies President Buhari’s golden opportunity to strengthen the nation’s unity, it is in this challenge that President Buhari can break away from the past and chart a new course for us all.
The options that lie before President Buhari are numerous; he can seek to reconcile Ndigbo and Nigeria by looking into our grievances and fixing them methodically. To do otherwise or wish away these grievances may not augur well for the true unity of this great country.
Follow on twitter @IanIgboeli
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