Between Igbo nation and the agitations for Biafra
According to the former head of state of the defunct Biafra, Emeka Odimegwu- Ojukwu, in his short treatise, Why I am involved, Biafra was a line of safety drawn, so that any Igbo who crossed into it could be safe from the punitive reprisals against them, in the immediate aftermath of the1966 military coup, claimed to be master-minded by officers and soldiers of Igbo extraction in the Nigerian military. He further argued that Biafra was created as a last refuge for a people threatened with extermination and targeted for ethnic cleansing in the then Nigeria’s ethno-political configuration.
In other words, according to the late leader of the defunct Biafra, it was imposed on the Igbo nation as a last resort for survival following the collapse of the last lap of efforts at Aburi in Ghana then, to work out a loose framework of co-habitation, pending restoration of confidence. The proclamation of Biafra then, therefore, was an act of resistance rather than a rebellion.
Given the short historical synopsis of Biafra as the categorical desiderata for the existence and survival of the Igbo nation, how does the contemporary agitation for Biafra by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) and others, approximate the existential need of Ndigbo in the present context of broad marginalisation of all working people, including peasants, artisans, professionals, women and children of all ethnic nationalities and social categories in Nigeria?
Biafra was not a political wild cart, played by dreamers of new empire or political manipulators, but an existential necessity, forced on the natural instinct and impulse of a people to survive in the face of mortal danger. The profound historical import and lessons of the defunct republic, most graphically illustrated in the Igbo adage of oeozo emezi-kwana must not be lost in the contemporary purveyors of the restoration of Biafra: The Igbo nation did not ask for the sufferings, the human and material losses that accompanied the struggle for Biafra and is now, in no absolute mood to re-enact the tragedy of the defunct Biafra which then, had no other viable option or choice.
The contemporary decomposition and destruction of the Nigerian state, fuels all kinds of political imaginations, including separation and secessions but the alluring political semantics of separation or secession is only the first step in the overall illusion in seeking the construction of modern state, without the benefit of examining all of its several dimensions.
Among thousands of Mediterranean Sea migrants today, are a large numbers of Eritreans, who fought a long war to separate from Ethiopia in 1991. Landlocked and reclusive, Eritrea’s former freedom fighters are voting with their feet in the long and perilous journey to Europe for an Eldorado that exists in their imaginations.
Even at that, Eritrea has more cogent reasons to seek separation from Ethiopia but the leadership is learning the hard way, that the easy rhetoric of separation and freedom, are not the same thing as the practical challenge of building a modern state with all the factors of internal contradictions and fast changing global geo-political and economic landscape.
Given the sophisticated ideological insight and liberation trajectories of the Eritrean leadership in the struggle for a separate state from Ethiopia, the current purveyors of Biafra are jokers, yet Eritrea is far from a successful experiment.
South Sudan, Africa’s newest and its 54th State is a continuing decisive debacle, having fallen into the abyss of murderous clannish discontents, barely a year after gaining the long sought-for statehood from the former Sudan. Now, a repulsive killing field, more South Sudanese have violently died or displaced at independence than in the whole period of the struggle to separate from Sudan, which spanned more than 50 years of on and off wars. While the country is laid to waste,, its former freedom fighters and now its political elite elevate corruption and predatory politics to new and higherlands. Even by the sheer longevity, sacrifice and consistency of their struggle, the freedom fighters of the South Sudan are head and toe, above the upstarts of the contemporary Biafra agitators but the mess they have made of their new country cannot be undone in several generations.
The Igbo nation is therefore, invited to closely interrogate their new freedom fighters on the motives, strategies and inquire even more rigorously their vision of what the new Biafra will look like. And because, I am nwa-afo of the Igbo nation, I am concerned about these questions.
The Nigerian State and most other Africa’s States have been largely and incrementally dysfunctional, fostering bitter popular alienation of the majority of their peoples. The gradual degeneration of the formal State as the frontier of rogue public office holders sap the modest popular legitimacy that the state enjoyed, in the aftermath of the collapse of colonialism.
The fact of Nigeria today, is that, it is in desperate need of transformation of its core idea of statehood and the mechanisms it deploys for its practical expression. The popular maxims of key Nigerian political gladiators to re-structure the country to its immediate post independence framework, do not actually take into account, the several tectonic shifts and changes both in Nigeria and the world that have taken place and still taking place today.
The prosperity and better life that the ordinary Nigerian working people seek and aspire to, cannot be guaranteed in the puritan ethnic state or quasi geo-political enclave that is variously on offer, in the current political discourse.
The most serious contradiction is the growing need of the people for a prosperous life and the declining resources to meet the need and even the primitive method to create and increase the resources.
The modern agitations for Biafra may be a well-oiled campaign to ingratiate a section of the parasitic elite to the mainstream of Nigeria’s decadent politics, for the political crumbs of more states or local governments in the South East, which would in the main, create more fat cats in the region as it did in others, but would not ameliorate the dire socio-economic conditions of the majority of Ndigbo.
Onunaiju, public commentator wrote from Utako, Abuja.