Revolt and the other Biafrans
WITH a fresh impetus from some Igbo youths, the resurgent clamour for Biafra has taken a contagious character. Both at home and abroad, these youths have openly demonstrated their resolve to actualise the dream of a Biafra Republic.
While the youths have embarked on protests in some south eastern states in support of their quest, their relations in overseas countries like France are tearing their Nigerian passports. Still, others are threatening to bomb the Nigerian embassy as President Muhammadu Buhari visits India for the third summit of the India-Africa Forum holding in Delhi.
This is happening at a time that the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has broken into various factions. But even at the height of its influence, MASSOB did not make as much impact that the youths under the aegis of the Indigenous People of Biafra are making.
But the government’s reaction to the development should go beyond the official preoccupation with squelching the agitation for Biafra. Even though most of these youths calling for secession from Nigeria did not witness the civil war of between 1967 and 1970, there is the possibility of the haunting memory of the crisis.
This is especially so when they read books on the period that depict the immiseration triggered by the war. But it is on account of such a memory on which is etched the picture of grisly deaths in their millions, the starvation and malnutrition of children in their millions and the wanton rapes of mothers and daughters that the youths should hesitate to call for war to prise themselves out of Nigeria. Perhaps, these youths are not even familiar with the war literature of Biafra and other wars in which human suffering is the common denominator. This is likelihood since most of the pictures of the protesters show youths who were obviously born before the war.
The relevance of Biafra to the polity today should not be its identification with a specific geographical location occupied only by the Igbo. For since independence, all state policies and programmes have been designed in a way to aid the perpetuation of the oppression of the majority of the citizens.
In the north, west, south and east of this country, the citizens have always been oppressed in every sphere of life: there are no roads, no educational opportunities, the political and economic spaces have been hijacked by the rich and powerful in the society, among others. These rich and powerful Nigerians who constitute the leadership in different parts of the country have neglected to improve the well-being of their fellow citizens. What have the northern elite who have been in power done for the poor people in their midst? While the children of the elite are in some of the best schools overseas, they neglect the citizens at home so that they could perpetually be their political thugs.
After using the poor, they would prefer their children to remain as almajiris so that they can also serve the children of the elite as a means of getting political power and economic prosperity. How about the south south? The oil resources of the region have only made a handful of people stupendously rich. The bulk of the population is still living in abject penury.
Thus, the ogre on the back of the Igbo today is not just the rest part of the country. It is the ruling class that does not want to share the resources of the state equitably. The upshot is that even if a republic of Biafra is created today, the hope of those youths who are ready to die for it now to benefit from it would remain an intractable mirage .
A new Biafra would emerge with a new set of oppressors who would deny the bulk of the population equitable access to the wealth of their country. In fact, the so-called leaders in the south east who are watching from the sidelines now would transform into new the leaders of a Biafra Republic that is created out of the south east. Worse still, they would bring back their children from overseas to lord it over the youths who are now fighting for a separate country.
The protesting Igbo youths should find better channels to express their energies. There is no doubt that despite their marginalisation, the Igbo have recorded tremendous successes in business. In fact, there is no area of life in contemporary Nigeria where they have not excelled except in being at the centre where they can control the political levers.
However, if their commitment to Biafra remains inflexible despite the odds against them, they could make it less onerous and selfish. For one, they must realise that we have been told that one reason the Biafran dream was aborted was its alienation of prominent leaders of the south east such as Nnamdi Azikiwe who felt not being carried along by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Now, the contemporary Igbo leaders as represented by the governors have not hidden their disdain for the quest for Biafra.
The south east youths should remove the concept of Biafra from the context that limits it to only Igbo people. They should expand it to include all those who have and are still suffering marginalisation in different parts of the country . In this regard, they would come to understand that even those they now regard as their enemies are suffering the same fate like them. They all have a common enemy. And this is the predatory leadership of the country that would not allow the equitable distribution of the nation’s resources. When the Igbo Biafrans align with other Nigerians in different parts of the country who have been marginalised, then they could chart a path to freedom from their oppressors and secure a Biafra Republic – a country devoid of the haunting injustice and inequality that stalk Nigeria today.