The Biafran Secessionist And Unsaid Actualities
FIRST of all, and for the benefit of reporting media, a distinction must be drawn between elements in Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and Igbos who are loyal Nigerian citizens. IPOB is no more Igbo than Boko Haram is Hausa, for instance. And if Hausa people cannot be held accountable for the activities of a terrorist group, it is highly irresponsible of anyone to cast stones at the Igbo ethnic group for the misdeed of IPOB.
On Saturday 24th October 2015, at 9 am, one Segun hosted “View Point” on 93.7 Rhythm FM, a Port Harcourt-based station. From all intents, the program was conceived to whip up hatred for Ndigbo. Segun allowed his guests to threaten Igbos for allegedly burning our national flag when reports emanating from that condemnable incident indicted Nnamdi Kanu’s followers in IPOB as the culprits.
Ndigbo is sufficiently informed that the daily prayer of some unhappy persons is for another civil war. For them, Igbos were the reason why they could not get a job in the oil company, as one participant told listeners.
It is possible to suspect the Ojukwu god in a death involving Ogwugwu. What may eventually trigger off a national crisis could come from a station other than Radio Biafra. For the record, Igbos have repeatedly expressed their willingness to work with President Muhammadu Buhari in keeping Nigeria safe, even though some commentators prefer to hear the voice of IPOB. But no amount of incitement, blackmail or ill will can frighten Ndigbo from Rivers.
Secondly, Igbos are against the criminality of Nnamdi Kanu. With our own ears, we heard him on Radio Biafra call for the
assassination of Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Theophilus Danjuma and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Was that sheer madness or selfishness? If Kanu is prepared for war has he asked other Igbos if they are also prepared? Obviously his wife and children are safe overseas, so he cares less about the security of the wives and children of other Igbos living in Kafanchan, Ilorin or Akure. He is excited hearing his own voice over the airwave, not minding the mortal danger his utterances are exposing Igbo children to.
Recall the events leading to the mass starvation of one million Igbo children between 1967 and 1970: At independence the Igbo were not doing badly. The President of Nigeria was Dr. Nnamdi (Zik) Azikiwe, an Igbo. The President of Senate, Nwafor Orizu, was also Igbo. Minister of External Affairs, Jaja Nwachukwu, was Igbo. The General Officer Commanding, GOC, Nigerian Armed Forces in the personality of General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi was Igbo. In form and content, First Republic was an Igbo government. Tell me why Igbo officers themselves had to overthrow it 15th January 1966?
Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and company did what they did never reckoning on the backlash. To my mind that singular event exposed in no small measure the black spot of Igbo nationalism still prevalent today -the Okonkwo (of Umuofia) Complex that privileges blustering bravado over reason. Anyone who must condemn the starvation of Igbo children by deemphasizing 15th January is doomed with the ignorant Kanu who toys with the idea of killing those whose fathers were needlessly assassinated by Ifeajuna. The countdown to Igbo Holocaust started on 15th January; the day reason was overthrown in Igboland. Kanu is incapable of interpreting history.
But does it mean I’m contented and happy with the way Nigeria is treating Igbos today? My answer is NO. I am against the wholesale exclusion of Ndigbo from the leadership of this country since 1970 by the Hausa/Fulani/Yoruba entente. Reading meaning into the October 30th, 2015 media statement of General Olusegun Obasanjo, Ndigbo would have to wait for a hundred years to rule Nigeria. No Nigerian should be optimistic with such proposition as the bell does not toll for Ndigbo alone. In Africa, Nigeria inclusive, internal change is always stimulated from outside. Sociologists call this cultural diffusion. Obasanjo is but a beneficiary, not the ultimate arbiter.
But if you put Igbo presidency side by side with Igbo business, my choice will always be the latter as an economically self-sufficient Igbo cannot be easily dominated politically, quote Chika Onyeani’s Capitalist Nigger. A hungry Igbo, in the other hand, will always be marginalized politically even with an Igbo figurehead as president. You cannot dominate self-reliant Aliko Dangote who commands more prestige than any president from Cape to Cairo.
I am against the domineering attitude of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, at the expense of true federalism. All major institutions are located in the North and South West leaving the South East and South fallow. Even without Boko Haram this country will still experience hiccups when six out of every ten Nigerians in uniform are northerners. Power is so concentrated in the North that the very notion of federalism becomes an irksome anachronism for northerners. So if the excessive weight of the overfed North does not kill Nigeria, then ultimately, the chronic anemia of malnourished South East will.
In the face of northern opposition to Goodluck Jonathan’s 2011 presidency the revered General Yakubu Jack Gowon appeared on African Independent Television, AIT, declaring that; “The North must protect its interests.” By this declaration, Gowon made a clear distinction between national interests and northern interests. This instance shows the ambivalence of the North to one Nigerian. Also, note how Gowon’s utterance fuels disunity. If an elder statesman like him can be so sectarian what do you expect the young Biafran secessionist to say? Is the opposite of northern interests not South Eastern interests? Self-determination is self-determination; does it matter if Gowon calls the North “Arewa” and Ralph Uwazurike calls the South East “Biafra”?
But I draw your attention to two Nigerian paradoxes latent in Gowon’s comment. One, what constitutes treason is not so much a declaration as the declarant. “If the issue of June 12 is revisited, there will be a bloodbath unprecedented in the annals of this country,” a northern youth threatened 1994 in the full view of the helpless Nigerian police. But Asari Dokubo repeated the same threat twenty years later and Danjuma called for his immediate arrest. The reason why a Fulani youth can go scot-free and Ijaw youth arrested for the same crime is because all Nigerians are not equal.
Two, secession has been deplored as the sickness while marginalization is glossed over as a symptom. This misdiagnosis means no remedy administered can cure Nigeria. Clearly, the sickness is the political marginalization of Igbos while its symptom is secession. Fix Igbo marginalization and you’ve fixed secession. But in as much as power is exercised to the exclusion of Ndigbo then there will always be call for Biafra.
I am against the divisive antics of the so-called civil war hero who keeps this country permanently divided to remain relevant. The esteemed Ibrahim Coomassie and Gowon have been loudest condemning the Biafran secessionist for wanting to breakup Nigeria while saying nothing about the civil war hero that mortgaged it. But the civil war hero who passes as “patriot” is more dangerous than the Biafran secessionist ostracized as “rebel.” Gowon must recall that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu once proposed they jointly tour Nigeria and remind everyone that the war was over. Ojukwu’s proposal was in response to the perpetual victory dance of the civil war hero who refused to let the ghost of Biafra be.
In the history of revolution the despotic patriot must, as a matter of self-preservation, create the rebel even when none exists. The debate is cleverly shifted from content to form if you can create a common enemy to take the blame of the regime’s shortcomings. In Nazi Germany, it was the Jew. In Jim Crow America, it was Negro. In Nigeria, it is the Igbo. Soon, an outlaw is actually heard outside the city gate cursing king and country. Without wavering, let me engage the content of the civil war hero’s patriotism and Biafran secessionist’s rebellion.
I define the Nigerian civil war hero as an extremely greedy and uncaring entity having amassed immense wealth while Nigerians suffer penury. He will be the death of Nigeria yet as no regime takes root without his blessing, which comes at a prize. He pays lip service to one Nigeria while being careful not to build even a bungalow in Igboland. By contrast, the Biafran secessionist is an irascible youth whose heart is full because he knows too much. He sees no way out of the Igbo man’s marginalization. The sight of the Hausa boy on the gravy train evokes in him an extreme contempt for Zik and Ohaneze Ndigbo. He vows to die to change things.
Steve Biko once observed that the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. This plays out when the civil war hero provokes the compromised Biafran secessionist into frightening Nigerians with threats of violence. Without this fear the civil war hero has no control over his victims – the Nigerian public and Biafran secessionist. But imagine what could happen if the Biafran secessionist reshuffles the card by pledging loyalty to Buhari? The Abiku’s eternal circle of evil is then broken, as the civil war hero will have nothing to blackmail Igbo presidency with.
• Eke writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.