Lets Think Before Taking The Biafra Issue Further, By Chidi Obi

biafra

Biafra is not the Igbo nation, but the Igbo nation was part of Biafra. I think those agitating for BIAFRA should clearly state what Biafra is. And to make Biafra a reality, all Igbo speaking and non-Igbo speaking Easterners (SS/SE), who were part of the original Biafra must be involved. Otherwise we are mistaking the Igbo nation for Biafra. The circumstances that led to the declaration of Republic of Biafra cannot be wished away; and that was why the region as it were gave Ojukwu their support and looked up to him. And there is the general view that there was sabotage from non-Igbo speaking members of that union.

Nigeria as a nation has come a long way after the civil war. In reality, as much as we want to deny it, there has been much more integration among and within ethnic nationalities in Nigeria after the war. Be that as it may, I am proudly Igbo and can’t exchange my “Igboness” with anything else. But I think we are better off in a prosperous Nigeria. Igbos have sacrificed a lot to get Nigeria to its present state and we would be short-changing ourselves to leave and then start nursing another country. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Igbo man has helped in developing other parts of Nigeria where he lives than he has developed Igboland. So we cannot be building and developing businesses all over Nigeria and not Igboland, yet clamour for a country in a region that has no economic base whatsoever. Maybe we think it is buying and selling in Aba and Onitsha that will determine our economic prosperity as a nation.

Let’s forget our unalloyed support for former President Goodluck Jonathan; our people were entitled to their conscience and whoever they want to support. But the truth is that there is mutual distrust between the core Igbos and our Riverine neighbours, who incidentally are Biafrans as well. But are they ready to go along this revival of the Biafran nation? If yes, then that’s a starting block. But their body language does not suggest that. Therefore the result of the agitation will now be a Republic of Igboland and not Biafra.

Inasmuch as we complain of marginalisation, there have always been Igbo sons and daughters around our “oppressors” who are only interested in personal gains. Have we got real and charismatic Leaders in the mould of Ojukwu, Azikiwe, Okpara, or even Sam Mbakwe in Igboland now? Maybe one can say Ekwueme and Anyaoku, but those ones without disrespect are almost past their prime presently in terms of the physical rigour required to lead a new nation. We are likely going to be between the rock and hard surface.

And if that is the case, we will now be a landlocked nation, surrounded on every corner by Nigeria. Do we even have enough space for everyone coming back? My mind runs back to chaotic situations during Christmas and festive periods. Let no one deceive you, life will be pretty more difficult economically than we might imagine. And because there are no industries in Igboland, even our “traders” will have to pay the only country surrounding us to bring in goods. There needs to be collective and intelligent thinking here.

I strongly believe that we are marginalised, or are meant to believe. Most developments, which are phenomenal, in Igboland are individual and community funded. That is why the Igbos are the only region doing one launch after the other, one fundraising after the other to bring basic amenities to the people. I know Igbo students have to endure high cut off points to gain admissions into schools and Universities. I know, and I personally suffered this, that our names alone rule us out of some jobs in Nigeria. But we have to unfortunately accept the fact that this was compounded after the war. Igbos were in high and mighty places before that period and deservedly the first of this or that in the army, police, business, politics etc. We have gradually built ourselves to that level and beyond. It is not our fault that whatever we lay our hands on prosper, even in the face of oppression. But agitating to be move on alone with some of the reasons being postulated is like playing the victim always. We are part of our marginalisation. Where are our Igbo leaders and politicians?

The probable Igbo nation’s leaders are the present day governors, senators, National Assembly members, etc. Your guess is as good as mine on their capabilities. Let’s be sincere with ourselves, in the 16 years of PDP government in Nigeria the only position Igbos did not hold was just the Presidency. We have had about five Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, the Army chief, Immigration boss, the Prisons boss, Central Bank governor, ministers in key ministries of Power, Finance, Education, Petroleum, and Health. What has Igboland got to show for these positions other than installation of one chieftaincy title or the other? As much as the majority of our complaint are genuine, we are part of the problem as well.

Inasmuch as we complain of marginalisation, there have always been Igbo sons and daughters around our “oppressors” who are only interested in personal gains. Have we got real and charismatic Leaders in the mould of Ojukwu, Azikiwe, Okpara, or even Sam Mbakwe in Igboland now? Maybe one can say Ekwueme and Anyaoku, but those ones without disrespect are almost past their prime presently in terms of the physical rigour required to lead a new nation. We are likely going to be between the rock and hard surface. The probable Igbo nation’s leaders are the present day governors, senators, National Assembly members, etc. Your guess is as good as mine on their capabilities. Let’s be sincere with ourselves, in the 16 years of PDP government in Nigeria the only position Igbos did not hold was just the Presidency. We have had about five Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, the Army chief, Immigration boss, the Prisons boss, Central Bank governor, ministers in key ministries of Power, Finance, Education, Petroleum, and Health. What has Igboland got to show for these positions other than installation of one chieftaincy title or the other? As much as the majority of our complaint are genuine, we are part of the problem as well.

The Igbos should not shy away from requesting what is due to them. The Igbo politicians should fight for the Igbo cause in Abuja, no one from another tribe will do it for us. But to me that should be within the Nigeria nation, in a prescribed and orderly manner.

I am of the opinion that the Igbos’ should continuously agitate not to be marginalised or side-lined in the scheme of things in the Nigerian federation. We should shout it to the roof tops without being violent when over a dozen-and-half political appointments are made and no Igbo person is there; when other regions have at least six states each and the South-East has only five. You are entitled to use any radio station at your disposal to alert the world of the vindictive actions of the government against the race.

Marginalising Igbos is a sad reminder of a war mentality; of people who have been “defeated.” And it can only lead to agitations and more agitations for sovereignty.

The Igbos should not shy away from requesting what is due to them. The Igbo politicians should fight for the Igbo cause in Abuja, no one from another tribe will do it for us. But to me that should be within the Nigeria nation, in a prescribed and orderly manner. Marginalising Igbos is a sad reminder of a war mentality; of the attitude to a people who have been “defeated.” And it can only lead to agitations and more agitations for sovereignty. So the present government should be addressing the anomalies that are making the Igbo seek to go it alone. Let there be a level playing ground for all Nigerians.

In agitating for Biafra, we should be careful what we wish for and give it thorough thinking. Igbos fought a war, lost the war, lost a million people, lost properties in several cities of Nigeria. And these are things we should never lose again. Igbos are dynamic and very mobile people; the large Nigeria nation enables us to express our ingenuity and doggedness. Igbos have invested a lot in making Nigeria what it is today. Inter-ethnic marriages, business and personal relationships have been built across the bridge, and we cannot not wish these away.

Let us think before we take this Biafra issue further. Let us study South Sudan, Eritrea, Ukraine before we plunge into the lake of ice or fire.

Chidi Obi, from Imo State, writes from London.

4 Comments

  1. A whole lot of truths either ignored or not known by those without a sense of Nigeria’s history.

    However, I don’t agree that any ethnic group should shout to the high Heavens just because it has none of its natives among 18 Presidential appointments when there are thousands of positions yet to be filled. And what’s it about asking people to use any radio station to propagate their agenda even when operating such a medium is illegal?

  2. Thank you Chidi for your articulate treatise on the concept of Biafra and the attitude of my Igbo brothers about Nigeria. I have always been concerned about the position of my Igbo brothers on the Nigeria question. It always bother me to read Igbo comments on National issues. Nigeria is for all of us and we should see it as such. No country can be great except her people are united and always think of the common goal. We are too inter-woven to start any seprationist project that could turn us against each other like the Biafran war. It is often said that no country survives two civil wars. Nigeria will not fold her arms and watch the country degerate to another war. We should engage each other in trust and in truth. Once again Chidi, thanks for your honest opinion. You are refreshingly different in the ways you marshalled your thoughts. I hope my brothers will toe your line of reasoning and do away with hate nurtured in their minds against Nigeria. I am very proud of your loyalty to Nigeria. God bless you, God bless Nigeria.

  3. It is sad that some people still continue to silently promote this sense of entitlement and divisions in Nigeria. The author on one hand clearly articulated the problems facing the Igbo part of the South East while at the same time silently encouraging agitation for an Igboland. This type of language and “double-talk” will only reinforce the beliefs that some leaders in the North as well as in the South that the Igbos will never be happy in Nigeria even when they control some of the key positions in the Federation in the past 16 years of PDP. Did these Igbo appointments or leaders try to use their positions and resources to develop the Igboland and help foster a sense of unity such that NIGERIANS from other parts of the Federation will gladly go there to settle and enjoy the hospitality of the Igbo people? I am getting tired of people writing about things that do very little to promote unity amongst all ethnic groups but instead continue to sow the seeds of discontent that will eventually lead to another civil war just as the author gave examples of South Sudan, Eritrea and war ravaged parts of Africa.

    A friend who is also a very proud highly educated Igboman said to me that if the Igbos could get one “Tinunbu” in Igboland, the place will be a different place than it is today. When will somebody write an article about how to encourage people from other parts of Nigeria to come and invest in Igboland because it is the most welcoming, the friendliest,, the safest, the best place to live happily and conduct business regardless of your ethnicity or state of origin. There are so many things that unite us and we should focus and encourage these things rather than the retrograde thinking about Biafra and Igbloland. Be careful what you are silently wishing for because it may come true and the consequences may be more than you bargained for.

    Next time Chidi write an article about the virtues of a prominent and important ethnic group in Nigeria, the Igbos who are very friendly , industrious and welcoming to people from all parts of Nigeria. I am sure this type of article will go a long way in fostering brotherhood and help reduce the fears (rightly so because of experiences during the civil war) which Igbos continue to have. As you rightly put it, forming or agitating for a landlocked Igboland with no resources and surrounded by people they do not want to associate themselves with is a losing and useless aspiration.

    • Femi I don’t really know how to reply to your well articulated declaration but to agree with you. That is we all should promote positive incentives that result in unity in Nigeria. Classic revisionisms like the article is nothing but divisive ethic bating.

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