” What had started as a belief was transmuted to total conviction; that they could never again live with Nigerians. From this stems the primordial political reality of the present situation. Biafra cannot be killed by anything short of total eradication of the people that make her. For even under total occupation Biafra would sooner or without colonel Ojukwu rise up again”
– Frederick Forsyth
Let me start by disagreeing with Forsyth that apart from total eradication of Biafran people that Biafran spirit cannot be killed. The problem here is with the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and what Achebe described as the ‘Igbo problem.’
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not only incorporates the colonial mistakes of 1900s which made the Northern Nigeria a force to be reckoned with in the country’s politics but it created also a leviathan out of the federal government to such a nauseating level that the component units are seen as dependents and not co-ordinates.
Many people have asked : what do Igbo people want ? The answer is very simple! We want political inclusion, we want a society where fair play , justice and equity, rule of law and meritocracy reign – that’s just what Ndi Igbo want!
The resurgence in the agitation for Biafra lies on fact that the Igbo – 48 years after civil war – are yet to find their bearings in the Nigerian federalism. We are yet to distinguish between the dictionary and the political conception of the maxim: No Victor No Vanquished. Let us not forget Ojukwu’s question: What did he [Gowon] do to make the victor not being the victor and the vanquished not being the vanquished?
Buhari’s insistence on carrying on with what Chinwizu called caliphate Agenda irregardless of who cries foul is the reason behind the resonance of Biafra. During Yaradua’s government, not much was heard about Biafra because the government considered Nigeria as a single entity. He knew that if River Niger is dredged that his country men from the lower Niger will benefit from it ,so he started the dredging process. He knew that a government without an Igbo man playing a crucial role is bound to fail so he put them in significant positions. Good policies of Yaradua’s attenuated the Biafra spirit during his tenure.
Biafran spirit is still with us because nothing has changed in Nigeria since the civil war. The lopsided federal structure is still retained, the North-South dichotomy is still active, rotational presidency is a tale of unknown land, elections are still a fight to finish affairs and more importantly, Nigeria remains a marriage of lovelorn partners.
The level of anger ravaging the Igbo youths today – majority of whom did not smell the acrid smell of war, whom do not understand the protruding powers of kwashiorkor, whom did not know the implications of Awolowo’s post war economic policies and what the term ‘abandon property ‘ denote – stems from today’s government ‘winner takes it all’ conception of power. This is done in the crass ignorance of the compromise that always exist between the centripetal and centrifugal forces of the federation.
It is Buhari’s proclivity towards alienation and marginalization of the people that Rev. Bashen described as the ‘Ibos of Niger’ that made many unemployed graduates, market men and women, motor park touts, the haves and the have-nots to rally around the iconoclastic Nnanna Kanu- A new phenomenon in Biafran Nationalism.
They trekked from Asaba to Awka and from Awka to Enugu, and from Enugu to Owere. They grounded Portharcourt and then marched to Aba in demonstrating their solidarity with Kanu and his IPOB.
Presumably, they were not bewitched by the magic wand of Kanu but were moved by what Ted Gurr in his masterpiece ‘Why Men Rebel ‘ dubbed ‘Relative Deprivation and Frustration- aggression’ impulses.
When there is a gap between what men seek and what seems attainable, Gurr argued, men try to bridge the gap and when unable to do so , they become angry and when they become angry the most satisfying inherent response is to strike out at the source of the frustration. And this best explains what IPOB adherents are doing.
If Buhari’s government is doing what is expected of it, Kanu will neither has fame nor followers. But the government brimmed the pool of opportunism for him to dive in.
Come to think of it, what’s it in Kanu’s Radio Biafra that will convince any reasonable Igbo man to agitate for Biafra if Nigeria is good for him? The bottom-line is that Buhari created Kanu’s Radio Biafra by his policies and created the demonstration – which might metamorphose into revolution/ and or civil unrest – by kanu’s arrest and continued detention.
Prior to Kanu’s Radio Biafra, we have one that is being aired with the technological assistance of VOA . The broadcast here is matured and brimmed with intellectual engagements as well as constructive criticisms on Nigerian government. Today, this Radio that the Zionist Organization of B’Ephrayim was sponsoring has been supplanted by Kanu’s riff-raff adventurism called Radio Biafra.
To soothe Kanu and his armies, the federal government must read between the lines. It must dry out the pool of their anger. This should be done by provision of employment opportunities – If all these young men are meaningfully engaged in one work or another they won’t have time to listen to Kanu.
Buhari should diffuse the emanating centrifugal tendencies in Nigeria by employing the constitutional principle of Federal Character in distribution of powers and its appurtenances. The recommendations of the National Conference should be given consideration.
To underestimate Kanu might be the greatest mistake of the 21st century as it may usher in the beginning of the end of Nigeria. Buhari as an old soldier needs not to retire to Aso Villa’s library to know that the fire of revolution is always kindle by the downtrodden.
Using fire for fire approach will amounts to an invitation to war. Gaddafi was usurped and killed just because he locked the doors to all rooms for negotiations. Buhari , why not quench this embers of violence by retracing your steps.
Finally to my Igbo brothers : The earlier we define our aims and aspirations the better for us. If Biafra is what we want let us agitate for it vigorously and intelligently. If we still want ‘One Nigeria,’ then we have to attenuate the Biafra in us for proper political integration. Let’s stop engaging in what Igbo elders of yore called ‘aju aro anya.’
Asikason Jonathan – A political scientist wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu , Anambra State.
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