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Secessionist Movements: Biafra Has Come to Stay



Biafra is just one of the separatist movements scattered around the globe. Most people do not know that there is an autonomist and secessionist movement in the United State of America. In the hours after president Barrack Obama was re-elected in November 2012, Texas was the second state after Louisiana to be represented in online petitions on the White House website calling for secession from the U.S.  

This agitation by the people of Texas did not start today. It has been on for many years. Texas is one of the only four states that joined the United Sates from the position of an independent state applying for admission. Others are Vermont, Hawaii and California. The membership of the Texas Nationalist movement has grown over the years.

Not too long ago, Catalonia, a rich region in northeastern Spain shot into international limelight for its shocking separatist tendencies. This part of Spain has long considered itself less Spanish because of closer cultural and linguistic affinities to France. This same agitation is at work among Italy’s northern separatists and Belgium’s Flemish ones. There are also separatist movements in Galicia and the Basque country.  

Students of history will readily remember the Quebec Sovereignty movement. It is a political movement that advocates sovereignty for the Canadian province of Quebec.  Most people that are part of this movement seek to gain independence through non-violent approach; using negotiation- based diplomatic intervention.  But there are minority elements that have advocated the use of violent means.  The primary mainstream political vehicle for the movement is the Partti Quebecois, which has governed Quebec on multiple occasions.

There is also the agitation for the creation of the Azawad Republic from Mali. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad is dominated by the Tuareg. These nomadic people that are related to the Berbers occupy the arid, sparsely populated northern part of Mali. They have been fighting for the liberation of their vast landlocked Sahara homeland. 

Unfortunately, the struggle has been high jacked by two radical Islamic armies: Ansar al-Dine and the Algerian based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. The Kurds that can be found in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria are also agitating for a separate nation. And they have been reluctantly granted a measure of autonomy in Turkey.   It could also be recalled that the Kurds in Northern Iraq became a de facto independent region in the 1990s during the ‘no fly zone the U.S imposed on Saddam Hussein.

There is a movement to partition Belgium into Flanders and Wallonia. The province of Baluchistan in Pakistan wants to be a separate country. South Yemen wants to secede from the republic of Yemen. We also have a strong campaign for northern Italy to secede as Padania. This is spearheaded by their charismatic leader, Umberto Bossi. We have also a declaration of autonomy in the Cyrenaica region of Eastern Libya. 

We also have this agitation in Indonesia’s far –eastern Papua and West Papua. There is a Muslim separatist movement in Mombasa, Kenya; Zanzibar separatist movement in Tanzania. Jubaland in the war ravaged Somalia is a concern for the weak government in Mogadishu. The battle of the People’s Republic of China with Tibetans is fresh in our memory. The struggle for self-determination by Tibetans has led to self-immolation by Buddhist monks in protest over the political situation in that region. Zambia is still struggling with the agitation for the independence of Barotseland.

Autonomism and secessionism are endemic to the human condition. Biafra, for me, is an ideology of values, concepts and ideas. Like Dim Emeka Ojukwu, I now believe in the Biafra of the mind. But there are those who believe in the territorial Biafra and they must have their say. The right to self-determination is enshrined in International Law. 

There is a disturbing mismatch between Biafran agitators and government brutal response to it.   The Federal government needs to call our security forces to order. We all know that Nigerian soldiers have the most egregious human rights record, including summary execution. Governance in Nigeria is a place more susceptible than ever to rogue provocateurs fermenting violent upheavals. Evil politicians are always ready to ignite the combustible mix of ignorance and suspicion.  A little wrong move by the government can put a match to the tinderbox.

At the moment, Nigerian is an enduring disaster. A country of vast resources and 150 million people do not have any reason to be in such a hot mess. In a situation like this, people will resort to self-help. The highly promising government of President Muhammad Buhari needs to be responsive to the needs of the Eastern part of this country. These agitators are not delusional. You cannot overlook historic grievances.  In life, it is the unexpected and unimaginable things that matter. The actions and inaction of the government will determine if president Buhari will be an overseer of Biafran extraordinary regeneration.

We have three outstanding groups fighting for the actualization of the Sovereign state of Biafra. They are MASSOB of Ralph Uwazuruike, Biafra Zionist Movement led by Barrister Benjamin Onwuka and the Indigenous People of Biafra led by Nnamdi Kanu.  Nothing of these agitators has Ojukwu’s lighting reactions and precision. I am not an admirer of Radio Biafra. It traffics in demagoguery and hatemongering. 

Despite how passionate I am on any issue, I do not forget the fact that I am a believer in the teachings of Jesus the Christ. According to Obi Nwakanma of the Vanguard, Kanu’s politics is bad and unrefined. ‘Kanu’s Radio Biafra is a blustery affront to professional broadcasting or even professional propaganda, because it often mouths misinformation, and broadcasts serous libel against those perceived to be against the Biafra movement.” But these are not enough to deny him of his rights as a citizen of this country.  He still has the right to agitate for a separate Biafran Republic.

The spirit behind Biafra remains a determining factor in this current struggle. Biafra was a vortex of disaster, starvation, disease and babies with flies in their eyes. Igbo men and women were among the cast of characters in that tragedy.  The pre-civil war violence is still fresh in their minds. It was all violence and subversion against the Igbos. 

The mob got encouragement from the establishment- that gave them air to bloviate and a political culture that makes little effort to take away their oxygen. In that era, the industry of outrage was allowed to flourish without check. Those attacks were not spontaneous or amateurish.  The instigators and executors worked in concert. The then government was irresponsibly lazy in confronting the killings. That insouciant response by the Gowon government was hugely responsible for the civil war.

These things are facts of history that cannot be wished away. Everything should be done by the government of the day to look into the grievances of the people from this part of country.  I was part of Buhari’s Media team during the electioneering campaign. I worked and voted for him partly because of his hatred for corruption and partly because of Goodluck Jonathan‘s insensitivity to the plight of the poor and the depraved. 

I still believe that Buhari is responsible and responsive. He needs to handle the current agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra with caution and a great deal of tact.

Orji is a Journalist. 08023624097, ikechukwuorji@yahoo.com

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