The Biafra protests By Muyiwa Adetiba

biafraThe  pro-Biafra protests have entered the second week. What started as unco-ordinated voices of dissent reached a crescendo last week when the arrested director of radio Biafra was not released by the DSS. Many reports claimed that major cities in the South-East were shut down by the protesters although at least one Governor has come out to say the phrase ‘shut down’ was overstretching things a bit.

And what would be the long term effects to the Nation of broadcasts that are not exactly grounded on truth and facts?

Did DSS disregard court instructions and if it did, was it right to do so? In other words, have either sides flouted the laws of the country one way or another?

I looked at the faces of some of the agitators on TV and I was worried. The gravity of their actions seems to be lost on some of them. Theirs were youthful, carefree faces. None of them could have witnessed the 30 month old Biafran War politely called the Nigerian Civil War. Even the fall out of the war—the psychological, spiritual and material set back—must have escaped many of them.

Also many of them from their diction and grammar are not particularly lettered. So they might not have thought the whole thing through. They might not have realised that they stand to lose the most when law and order break down.

They may not have realised that the road to sovereignty is a long, winding road that is not paved with gold but with land mines in the form of betrayals, intrigues and deaths. Or that sovereignty is not an end by itself. It is not an Eldorado. They might also not be alive to the possibility that they could be used by more calculating, more discerning but more selfish minds.

The young people I saw on TV also did not seem to have the wherewithal for the massive protests as witnessed by the country. Feeding, transportation, accommodation and general mobilisation which includes printed materials and flags must have been thought of and financed by deeper pockets.

Probably by the same people who used some of them as thugs during the elections and discarded them. Unfortunately, many of the youths live for the moment. They have no work or schools to return to. They are in dire need of hope which the idea of Biafra seems to proffer.

The Police, the DSS and the Nation’s other security agencies don’t seem to be too sure of how to handle the situation either. This is a pity because Nigeria has had too many sectional upheavals not to learn from history. In the past ten years, only the western zones of the country have been free from sectional upheavals.

We have the Niger-Delta upheaval which is still simmering as we speak because there was no firm response from the Federal Government when discontent broke out. We have the upheaval in the North-Central zone which again is still simmering because response has not been swift, firm and fair.

We have the Boko Haram in the North-East which we all agree could have been better handled. All these upheavals have cost the Nation trillions of Naira in direct and indirect costs. We have also lost many lives and have done incalculable damage to our psyche as Nigerians. We cannot afford a repeat of history in the South-East.

The security agencies must be swift and firm with fairness as their watch word in containing the upheaval in the South-East before it becomes another theatre of attrition. Meanwhile, it cannot escape any discerning mind that a sectional upheaval has occurred whenever a section feels disconnected from the Federal Government.

Sharia came up when a Southern Christian became the President. But Obasanjo was too wily to take the bait. Soon resource control reared its head when certain South-South leaders fell out with the centre. This metamorphosed into Niger-Delta militancy where kidnaps, terror with wanton vandalisation and looting reigned.

A South-South President calmed things somewhat only to find that the Sharia in the North-East has metamorphosed into something else. Now we have agitations in the South-East. It seems to me that in many of these upheavals the puppeteers are politicians and big time government contractors who feel they might be left out of the change of guard.

It seems to me that the losers are the youths who are used as cannon fodders and the nation at large which bears the brunt of the human and material losses. The Niger-Delta is not that much better today despite the trillions of oil resources that have been lost to the Nation. What has emerged are a few fat cats who have enriched themselves tremendously during the years of militancy and amnesty.

How many of them have invested in Niger-Delta? Yet lives have been lost and families dislocated. A few fat cats will also most likely emerge from the North-East when all these are over and reconstruction work begins. Will they bring the lost lives back? Will memories of rape, hunger and fear be obliterated from the consciousness of the survivors?

Those who are egging the youths in the South-East on either through IPOB or MASSOB should have a rethink. Even the Arab Spring, as justified as it is, has not achieved much. Most Arab leaders would probably wish the Spring never happened.

One of the solutions to all of these sectional upheavals is to find jobs for our youths and stop the abuses of our future generation. There are too many idle hands among our youths. Another solution is to stop forthwith, the winner takes all attitude of whoever gets into power.

Already, some of the Northern leaders are behaving as if they have gotten their trophy back and whoever is not satisfied should go and jump from the mountain top (apologies El-Rufai). What every section of this country wants is to be part of governance and to feel the effect of governance. This turn by turn attitude is disruptive and destructive.

Protests will be seriously curtailed when our leaders across board stop being greedy and selfish; when the wealth of the nation flows into every nook and cranny of the country; when the poor can genuinely feel that they are not forsaken.