As Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo and a host of others spoke about Biafra, at an event commemorating the declaration of the failed Eastern Nigerian republic, I could not help but wonder what would have become of the Federal Republic of Biafra by now had it succeeded. Would Biafra have been a successful country and among nations to be reckoned with in the world? Would Biafra have been a struggling republic, like Nigeria, which is yet to attain its potentiality? Would Biafra have been worth the trouble and blood of the Igbo and South southerners, who believed in it and fought for it?
Well, one is not God, who knows everything and, therefore, could say what would have become of Biafra, as a country. However, if prevailing indices are anything to go by, perhaps, Biafra, had it succeeded, could have been a country, all things being equal, which would have advanced, in socio-economic development. Yes, a country at war, which was able to refine petroleum products, with a decrepit infrastructure, a nation at war, which was able to develop a bomb (Ogbunigwe), fabricate aircraft (Biafran Mosquito and others), armoured tank, warship and others, could have, in time of peace, done much more. Yes, a country at war, which fought for three years, with what could pass for bare hands, against a Nigeria that had the support of other nations, perhaps, could not have been a pushover. Indeed, a nation with enterprising citizens, who go out and make success in their environment could also have attained greatness or on the verge of it. However, for a Biafra, whose people are mobile and love to go to other places to conquer, is it possible that all Igbo investments now spread across Nigeria, in their trillions of dollars, could have been domiciled in the Biafran enclave and, therefore, ensures the development of the country? This is a food for thought.
Fifty years ago, then Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, military governor of Eastern Nigeria, after consultation with the people, had declared Biafra. Today, Biafra still resonates among the majority of those in its territory then. Has anybody wondered why this is so? I am persuaded that Biafra is still an issue because the fundamental issues Ojukwu raised, in declaring the country, are yet to be addressed. They bother on security, injustice and inequality.
For the avoidance of doubt, Ojukwu had stated on May 30, 1967: “Fellow countrymen and women, you, the people of Eastern Nigeria: Conscious of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourselves and prosperity; Aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria; Believing that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights, which can best be preserved by yourselves; Unwilling to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature; Rejecting the authority of any person or persons other than the Military Government of Eastern Nigeria to make any imposition of whatever kind or nature upon you; Determined to dissolve all political and other ties between you and the former Federal Republic of Nigeria; Prepared to enter into such association, treaty or alliance with any sovereign state within the former Federal Republic of Nigeria and elsewhere on such terms and conditions, as best to subserve your common good; Affirming your trust and confidence in me; Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name the Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic. Now, Therefore I, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.”
Today, Igbo still feel thus: “Aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria,” as, at every provocation and in matters they are not even involved, they are killed and their property destroyed, as it happens often in the North. Today, Igbo are still feeling this way: “Unwilling to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature,” as they face tough times where they live and ply their trade, owing to conscious and unconscious efforts by people, who either do not like them or afraid of them. Today, Igbo strongly feels thus: “Believing that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights, which can best be preserved by yourselves,” as they go places and, out of share hard work, vision and drive, conquer their environment and make success of it, no matter the odds.
This means that nothing much has changed from what they were in the days leading to the Civil War. However, I do appreciate Osinbajo’s approach to the whole matter. I do commend his thoughts about Biafra. I do appreciate his understanding that equity and justice are the things that provoke agitations. I do commend his handling of the recent sit-at-home order called by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which paralysed the South East and some parts of South South, as there was no report of extra-judicial killing by security agents. These are what were missing before. Now, where President Muhammadu Buhari used threat and force, Osinbajo used diplomacy and reason. Where President Buhari talked down on the people, Osinbajo raised their hopes, by saying that there was more to achieve together.
Yes, despite the fact that Biafra agitation continues, the tension has come down. The difference is the approach of the man at the helm of affairs. Some people accused President Buhari of fanning the embers of Biafra. Of course, this is true. He chose every talking opportunity to speak about Biafra in the most uncharitable and condescending manner. His government’s attitude towards Igbo is, to say the least, unfavourable, as seen in appointments and location of projects.
Taking all these together, there is an urgent need for a change of attitude by other Nigerians, as a people and government, as institution, towards the Igbo. Igbo are not asking for anything special, other than justice, fairness and equity. The Igbo are ready to compete on a level playing field. The Igbo have proved to be the most patriotic Nigerians, as they are, mostly, Nigerians, who go to other parts of the country and call it home, establishing business and building houses. Whereas most other Nigerians put their investments in their domain, Igbo move out, make effort, succeed and dig in. This may be foolishness, but it shows their belief in one nation, where love and fairness reign.
The Federal Government and indeed, other Nigerians ought to worry that IPOB and the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) asked the “Biafra” to stay indoors on May 30 and they did, without compulsion. They should be worried enough, to begin to do something that would make the Igbo, whether they were born before 1967 or not, to stop dreaming of Biafra, but have a sense of belonging in a country, where fate has made them part of. This should ginger them to action, to build an egalitarian society were there are no slaves and freeborn.
For the Biafra agitators, they should decide whether they want propaganda or out to cause a change. Inasmuch as I admire the likes of Ralph Uwazuruike and Nnamdi Kanu, who have the impetus to talk about Biafra and mobilise for it, I believe they should define what they are really up to. Now, for instance, is Kanu a political leader or religious leader? I heard that people now bow for him, as a Judaism adherent. What is this for? Kanu should know that if he makes Biafra a religious matter, tied round Judaism, he would be alienating some people, who may be Christians, Muslims or non-believers but believe in his cause. As someone said, “Igbo are Igbo”, while “Jews are Jews.” God had already created the Igbo and given them that special gift to excel. They have their identity. It is for them to use the God-given potentiality positively, purposely and tactfully. With this, they cannot be ignored, in Nigeria, or anywhere they find themselves. Never!
Source: daily Sun