Biafra, the sensible options
It is not surprising that the groups pushing for the actualization of Biafra dream are in a heightened burst of activities. Call it frenzy. Next week Tuesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The dress rehearsal in a way started on Monday. There was a rally in Owerri which the organizers called peaceful awareness rally and there were scattered ones in Ebonyi State according to reports. Predictably, there was awareness march in Onitsha. The Owerri rally is to sensitize their brethren who are sold on their cause to sit at home. The wave of the Biafra campaign is not likely to abate soon.
Those born when Ojukwu made the declaration are 50 years old today. As more young men grow up equipped with sound education the likelihood is that we will need to learn to live with the agitation. Their education will drive them to ask questions continually. Educated youths in other parts of the country are also bound to be asking the question: What really happened? The country will then have to confront the issue frontally.
Use of force to silence the campaigners which was implied in President Buhari’s remarks in Katsina in May last year will be futile. He said on the occasion that he was ready to lay down his life for the unity of Nigeria. He said he would not tolerate Biafra because he was a participant in the war to keep the country together and that two million people died in that war. He did not talk about those permanently impaired psychologically by the horrors of the war or those who were maimed.
It stands to reason that if there should be war the casualties will swell to a new high from the two million of the 1967-1970 war. In other words, if the huge loss of lives was intolerable, deaths that would arise from Buhari’s own war in the event he is unable to rein in the agitators and coupled with the veiled threats by Paul Unongo and Tanko Yakassai would worsen the figure further. Fixated as Buhari seems to be on war as the inevitable weapon should the agitation get out of hand would defeat his own argument and concern about deaths that come with war—especially as he has not spoken about any other options to keep Nigeria one and yet the talk of self-determination would not go away. This is why the call by former Senate President Ken Nnamani for a sitting at a round table by Nigerians to negotiate the basis for their staying together in one country must strike the right cord in sane circles. Mr. Nnamani argued that the first attempt at using force through the civil war failed. He went on to say that there is no sane Igbo man who would advocate war for solving the country’s problems, but noted that the “various groups that make up Nigeria cannot run away from discussing the basis of their continued existence.”
General Alani Akinrinade in his characteristic bluntness said it is still possible to have true federalism. Referring to the diversities right from 1914, he said the only policy that would make Nigeria to be intact and peaceful is when there is true federalism. There is resurgence in the agitation for restructuring and most fittingly it is being spearheaded by the former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and he is not mincing words. From Kaduna to Ife, from Ife to Lagos and from Lagos to Abuja, it is Atiku’s ringing voice: Let us talk and remake Nigeria. Speaking at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where he called for immediate restructuring, he said the current system had made the country economically unproductive and politically weak. Immediate restructuring would enable the citizens of Nigeria to live better and leave a worthy legacy for the generations unborn. Just this last Tuesday he reiterated the call, saying it would encourage states to compete to attract investments and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocation from Abuja. This will also include establishment of state police for the states that so desire so as to improve security. For Nigeria to develop or even make any appreciable progress, we must restructure Nigeria’s political, administrative and political architecture. “Restructuring will facilitate the emergence of a leaner bureaucracy, enhance efficiency, block wastages and promote more prudent management. It will make for happier constituent units more committed to the progress and unity of the country and the emergence of a sense of nationhood. What is more instructive is his speech at the General Usman Katsina Memorial Conference held in Kaduna. Said he: “I suggest we resolve today to support calls for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation in order to strengthen its unity and stabilize its democracy. I believe restructuring will eventually happen whether we like and support it or not. The question is whether it will happen around a conference table in a direction influenced by us and whether we will be equal partner in the process. Or it will be in a more unpredictable arena and in a manner over which we have little influence? It should be at a table and we need to be at that table. A nation is an organism; it grows, it evolves, it changes, it adapts. And like other organisms if it does not adapt, it dies.” Everywhere there is the opportunity Atiku speaks on the danger of a standstill of the present political structure.
If I may go back to General Akinrinade, he did say in the City People magazine: “Why must we force ourselves to live together in an entity created by Whites? Hausa, Fulanis, Yorubas, Igbos, Nupe and Kanuri among others do not have any genealogical, cultural, language, beliefs, ideological and even looks affiliations. Good you allow people to make choices. You also said it is good to allow people decide their fate. This present agitation by the Igbos, garbed in the Biafra Movement, in retrospect, wouldn’t we now begin to admit that the fight to keep Nigeria one, based on contemporary realities, is futile, a fool’s errand that is not worth it? The ideals that people had in keeping Nigeria one, appear to have been thrown out of the window.”
The question is, what is going on? What has given rise to the new thinking by a well-known valiant soldier in the 3rd Marine Commando of Benjamin Adekunle, the group to which Alabi Isama belonged? It was their Division that collected the instrument of surrender later under the leadership of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Why is Atiku so concerned and determined that to save Nigeria she must be restructured?
Mankind is in new times the principal feature of which is abundance of power being poured into our world. It is a feature of New Cosmic Turning-Point which drags men to a new light and to the recognition of how far strayed human beings have gone in the wilderness and how far they have deviated from the ordinance and principles that govern life. The currents of the power in reference cannot be halted by any nation or any power, technology and what have you. What are these principles? What are the principles that govern or should govern the formation of nation states? We must first recognize who we are as human beings and the reason and purpose of nation-state, the mechanisms that bring this about and how people gather under the umbrella called nations.
The Almighty Creator created human beings. Human beings in turn created their nations. This should suggest unequivocally to us that human beings were not created for nations; it is nations that were created for human beings. The reason for the existence of a nation is to facilitate the spiritual development of human beings. We human beings just do not carry spirits we are spirits. Therefore, the purpose of our existence on earth is spiritual. It is to attain spiritual maturity so we can engage in joyful activities for all eternity which will involve in the participation of expansion and spiritualization of the world that is to be “without end.”
There are laws which put people together to form nations, families, friendship and groups with their languages and cultures which, in any case, are manifestation of the degree of maturity each people have attained. This law ensures that no group is allowed to disturb, slow down or hurry other groups; they must move at their own pace. To hurry them is to make them jump steps of development and fall. To slow any group down is a spiritual crime. The objective of this law of creation is to enable different groups live and develop in peace and harmony, and for their society to flourish in the beauty of culture and good living, and ennoble themselves and their environment. We are by our constitution to be the connecting link between this world and the Beyond so that the Power of the Creator pulsating through Creation can be absorbed by men and used to ennoble our environment. We have cut off this alternating current through proving to know better than He who created us! This law is the Law of attraction of Homogeneous Species. It ensures that only people who have things in common, who share relative strengths and weaknesses live together. Is it not so obvious that it is easier for people who have a lot in common to live together than those from whom they differ? See what happens when we travel? You will readily approach a man or woman of your own pigmentation for direction than you will feel drawn to one whose pigmentation is dissimilar. This is not what any power can legislate against. But we human beings have everywhere disarranged this order of life. The result is that a great many feel choked in the artificial arrangement. The spirit longing for freedom to be able to fulfill the purpose of its sojourn here on earth begins to agitate, and this is promptly classified as treason! Yet it is each person who has responsibility for his life; he alone is accountable before His Creator and His immutable laws. There is also the Law of Reciprocal Action which has been variously described as the Law of Karma, or the Law of Sowing and Reaping or the Law of Retributive Justice. It determines the society into which or group into which one is born.
A man who was in former life a slave owner who is now permitted another opportunity of an earth life so he can atone for his crime in former times by fighting for the dignity of the race he had mistreated, how does he achieve this if he were to live in a communist society where he is a child of the state and his freedom of choice is circumscribed? The restlessness of such spirits makes for the instability of their societies or nations. There must also be free choice of where one desires to live. Free Will is an inalienable quality of the human spirit. Where and when it is suppressed it can only be for a while. Therefore, the best form of political arrangement that can engender stability is that that takes into account of what people have in common, people of the same nationality and for them to form their own union and nation. That is the Law which has its validity, immutability and self-acting mechanism in the Perfection of the Creator. Sardauna Sir Ahmadu Bello sensed the correctness of the law and the differences among peoples. When Dr. Azikiwe said to the Sardauna, let us forget our differences, Sir Ahmadu quickly replied: No, we should not forget our differences but understand and respect them. Chief Awolowo in his writings and speeches spent his whole life pressing for a political arrangement along ethnic and linguistic lines, whether in his book, My thoughts on Nigerian Constitution or Strategies and of Peoples Republic.
General Akinrinade says since Nigerian leaders refuse to toe the line of true federalism, the best line of action is that those who want to go their way like the Igbos should be allowed to go but it should be done through referendum.
That is the course the Scots are toeing. First Minister Miss Sturgeon is unrelenting in taking Scotland away from the United Kingdom. The first referendum failed to achieve the separation. The Scots have filed their paper in line with Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty for the second referendum. The spur this time is Brexit. While the UK as a whole voted 38 per cent to leave the EU, Scotland voted 62 per cent against. The young men and women in the East who are pressing for a separation are educated and are reading the development in the world. So, the new way out is referendum, not the corking of guns.
However, attractive as developments around us may be, given Nigeria’s low level of maturity and enlightenment there are grave implications for any attempt to dismember Nigeria at the moment. Other options such as are being advocated by Atiku and the leaders of South-West are reasonable and should be considered, which is to say restructuring for a true federalism will meet the yearnings of a majority of Nigerians for now. The Report of the National Conference is closest to the dreams of all peoples and nationalities, including the Biafra agitators. It is easy to see that a majority of those who are opposed to it have not read it. The Report is a product of the experience and wisdom of leaders of thought, the wise men and women in our land.