Of Igbos and the illusory Biafran dream
One was a military officer and the governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria. He commanded both military and political leadership of the region. He started what has now turned into an unrelenting mania amongst those from the Eastern region – the clamour for the utopian state of Biafra. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu went to war to actualise Biafra and lost out badly. Some will argue to this day that he did not need Biafra to resolve the prevailing problems of those days. Something, however, was not in doubt, in pursuit of Biafra, ostensibly to liberate his people from the suffocating hegemony almost bothering on fratricide on the part of the Northern oligarchy, Odumegwu Ojukwu saw an opportunity to actualise a power ambition. The consequences of the disastrous Biafran experiment are yet to fade from conscious memory.
The other is nothing but an upstart, a son of an Eze from Isiama Afara in Abia State. Here was a boy who abandoned his studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to proceed to the United Kingdom where he eventually graduated from Guildhall University (London Metropolitan University, LMU). Nnamdi has no political background, experience or structure to command. Neither has he any military command as back-up. Yet, he talks with reckless abandon, boasting that Nigeria has never seen anything like him. He preaches hate and sows the seeds of ethnic discord, rancour and acrimony. Here was a jobless Nigerian youngster in the UK employed by Ralph Uwazuruike to man the Radio Biafra arm of MASSOB in England. Being an opportunist, Nnamdi saw an avenue to carve a niche for himself. He thought of nothing better than to stir the sentiments of Ojukwu’s abandoned dream. Knowing fully well that his people, the Igbo people, are in dire need of ego massaging, he employed the smart use of Biafra rhetoric coupled with fiery propaganda of hate to mobilise gullible people. Here we are now, with the stupid, unfocussed and once again, bitter demand for Biafra.
Not to be mistaken, Nigeria is not a state many are proud to call a country. It is a bastardised contraption built on fallacy and sustained on falsehood, subjugation, repression and mind-boggling corruption. Nigeria, being a faulty entity, consequently bred a faulty set of citizenry where wickedness and negativity are the orders of the day. Nigerians are inherently wicked and deceitful with very myopic viewpoint. Our moral compass was deflected eons ago such that we lack the clarity of mind and purpose to effectively diagnose our national and social dilemma. The resulting chaos we still refer to as a country is nothing but a thatch house built on shifty sand. It could collapse sooner than anyone thinks unless we constructively devote our resources to a complete re-engineering. And it must be stressed that all ethnic groups contributed to the mess of a country we have, Igbos inclusive. In fact, Igbos played a very major part – please refer to the events that led to the collapse of the First Republic.
The problems confronting Nigeria as a country are the ingredients of discord and agitation. No doubt, Nnamdi Kanu’s reactivation of agitation for Biafra has a fertile ground on which to germinate. Something is however very clear: the Biafra of Kanu’s dream is nothing but a pipe dream. It will never materialize. The Biafra Kanu has been selling to some gullible people is illusory and impracticable. This is not to say that Biafra can never materialise. No, Biafra could be but not with Kanu and definitely not the way he has been going about it.
A bitter Biafra is what Kanu is selling to gullible Igbo people. A Biafra that can only exist in the midst of antagonistic neighbours. The resultant acrimony will be worse than that between Israel and her Arab neighbours. Kanu has succeeded so far because the Igbo as a people have a problem. For a people with exaggerated sense of self-worth and grandiose view of ethnic achievements to find themselves at the back bench of political leadership is a bitter pill difficult to swallow. Despite their much publicised entrepreneurial skills, the fact is that the Igbo are very bad politicians. This is the truth they know and cannot accept. Opting out of the Nigerian federation is a refusal and lack of will to accept their ethnic insufficiency in matter of politics. This detriment is the basis of their tenacious hold to an illusory dream of a utopian Biafra.
Entrepreneurial skill? Perhaps an opportunity to address this maligned expression. From the Hausa man that rears and sells cows to the Yoruba man that buys from Hausa to re-sell and also engages in other trade ventures, to the Bini man that farms and sells clothing materials, to the Calabar man that engages in farming and fishing, virtually every ethnic group in Nigeria exhibits entrepreneurial skills to different degrees. The fact that a particular ethnic group presents itself as very aggressive in trading matters and will not hesitate to indulge in unwholesome practices, including fake and sub-standard products and embarrassing indulgence in immoral drug trade, does not confer the myth of supreme entrepreneurial skill on this ethnic group. This unbridled lust for materialism has been translated in the warped minds of members of this group into superiority such that they look down in disdain on other ethnic groups. Igbo are arrogant, pompous and uncouth in their interactions with other ethnic groupings in Nigeria. They have been rude, aggressive and abusive to their various hosts across the land. When the uncivilised behaviour of the Igbo elicits reaction from others, they cry marginalisation. Igbo can abuse and insult virtually anyone and they expect the whole country to keep quiet. When others reply, they shout hatred and demand Biafra. This is very vexatious!
Back to Nnamdi Kanu. What Odumegwu-Ojukwu failed to achieve, a million Nnamdi Kanu cannot achieve. Nnamdi Kanu is on a futile trip. Of course, Nigeria cannot be allowed to continue on its shameful path where truth and justice are asunder. What it takes to rescue Nigeria is a resistance to oppression and injustice that cuts across ethnic lines. It requires a moral re-birth to turn our sick country to a healthy one. Kanu has even tremendously damaged the Igbo cause. The extent of the damage will only be visible in years to come. Kanu is a disease which we have all allowed to fester for far too long. It is time to call an end to an unprofitable venture.
Nwachukwu wrote from Lagos.