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Nigeria and Biafra’s bloody memory


Sir: It has well been 50 years since Nigeria erupted into civil war when the South East attempted to secede thereby plunging the country into a bloody internecine war of attrition. So deep were the wounds of that war that half a century later, true healing is yet to take place.

Sadly, some of the genuine reasons that stoked the fires of Biafran secession have remained. They have not only remained largely unattended to, some of them have festered and become hydra-headed monsters haunting Nigeria`s every waking hour. The right to self-determination lies at the core of international law and its recognition as the cornerstone of sovereignty is decidedly behind the force the international community accords it when the reasons for its agitation are clear and compelling. However, this right, momentous as it always is, has often received a bloody nose especially in Africa. Any agitation for the right to self-determination is more often than not met with ferocious resistance from the entity that resents any form of division. Bloody conflicts have signalled this resistance in some parts of Africa.

In Spain, imprisonment, a chief instrument of the law, has largely been deployed to quell the Catalan agitation for independence. It was to keep its soul together that Nigeria went to war and for three years perpetrated a great slaughter of Biafrans including children and women. Fifty years down the line and with the twin benefits of history and hindsight that soul stands on the verge of being ripped apart by the same winds that stoked the fires of Biafran agitation.

Fifty years down the line, with the scions of men whose ancestors were felled in Biafra raising the battle cry, Biafra remains a mirror of Nigeria`s past and present. It also bears a prophetic reflection of Nigeria`s future as broken unless critical steps are taken. This is unlikely given the insidious inertia that swirls through the Nigerian corridors of power. Tribalism remains rife and ripe with nepotism, its hideous right hand. Corruption continues to sweep through the country like a gale, ripping the conscience out of men and institutions. Insecurity is the new Nigerian reality and Nigerians who mostly carry empty stomachs about also have to live in fear of the guns and bayonets of criminal elements.

It is sobering that Biafra was a direct result of what many saw as marginalisation. That marginalisation largely remains today with religion and state of origin taking centre stage in national affairs and public offices to effectively consign merit to the background. The direct result of such debilitating reality is the immovable stagnation that has crippled national development rendering many facets of national life comatose. Biafra must be having a laugh.

Nigeria thought it had quelled the problem decisively and finally in 1970 but 50 years down the line, the Biafra continues to erupt not just in the South East but occasionally become volcanoes in other parts of Nigeria and around the world. There can be no quick fix to the problem for as long as the source of the bracken water is not treated, those who drink it will continue to come away with stained teeth.
Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.

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