Neo-Biafra: Of sense and nonsense By Louis Odion, FNGE

General Emeka Ojukwu The Visioner of Biafra

Just when the rest of the
nation on Wednesday began a postmortem of the Biafra Day celebration following media reports of “total
compliance” in Igbo land of a
sit-at-home-order by IPOB/MASSOB, the
following are excerpts from the riposte by one Ken Henshaw (obviously from the South-South) trended in the social
media: “I think the current
generation of ‘Biafrans’ are the most (unprintable) so far. How dare you sit in
your home or offices and draw your Biafra map and include places like Rivers,
Cross River, Akwa Ibom etc as part of of your empire? Did you consult them? Did
you seek their opinions?
“You
are forcing people to join a country whose commander-in-chief you have already
anointed – Nnamdi Kanu; whose currency you have already decided – Biafran
Pounds; whose official religion you have already adopted – Judaism; whose God
you have already chosen – Chukwu Abiama?
“Do
you not realize that you are doing to those people the same thing you accuse
the British and Nigeria of doing to you?”


With this, Henshaw no doubt reopens the untold stories of counter-agitation
within the Biafran enclave for the 30
months it lasted. Stories passed down by surviving older generations of
co-opted minorities in present-day South-South hardly suggest the new lords of Biafra then were any better than the
feudal overlords they were running away from the so-called rickety wedlock Lord Frederick Lugard had cobbled
together in 1914 in terms of the way they related with non-Igbo conscripted into the rebellion against the Nigerian state.

Lord Lugard….The Architect of Nigeria

Legitimate as Henshaw’s observations of the neo-Biafran agitation sound, there is
however no denying that Biafra as an
idea lives. With major streets deserted across the South-East out of civil disobedience and Igbo community in Diaspora
reportedly staging marches in key countries across the world, it is evident
that attempts by the Nigerian establishment over the past half century to
exorcise its spirit has failed woefully.
This official failing, in turn,
speaks directly to a more dire frailty: collective failure of the estimated 386
ethnic nationalities to make a nation of the contraption Lugard bequeathed. Rather, what we continue to see is the pathetic
self-cancelling struggle of serpents and scorpions trapped in a squalid basket.

Nnamdi Kanu the man who wants to raise Biafra from the dead

But forget the saber-rattling by the
exuberant IPOB ideologues raising
hell on the airwaves. If we are observant, we would recognize that the cry of Biafra today is only the formula of the Igbo elite to protest being schemed out
of Nigeria’s power equation in continuation of what has become a rat race for
bargain, control and dominion. 
Beneath this hell-raising would
appear some cold calculations.

Can this logo come to stand in Global Politics?

 It seems being perceived in the “land
of the rising sun” that the momentum for Obasanjo’s political coronation in 1999 was made irreversible
by sustained resistance by Yoruba
intelligentsia after June 12 coupled
with OPC’s guttural brinkmanship. So much that, for the first time in
Nigeria’s political history, the two main political parties were tele-guided by
the retreating military oligarchy to field Yoruba
candidates in the presidential contest of 1999.

General Olusegun Obasanjo….His Hausa/Ijaw Concept worked till 2015

 

Such mindset also assumes that, but
for the sustained pipeline bombing and other calculated acts of economic
sabotage by Niger Delta militants
during the Obasanjo administration, an
Ijaw
would not have been “planted” as Yar’Adua’s running-mate in
2007 in what, in hindsight, would now appear a complex chess game to sneak in a
South-South minority as a substantive president on May 5, 2010.
The neo-Biafrans also seem to reckon too that Buhari’s ascendancy in 2015 was substantially aided, abetted and
made inevitable by Boko Haram’s
genocidal insurrection in parts of the north once a southern Christian minority
was declared winner of the 2011 presidential election.

Yar ‘Adua/Jonathan….A Segun Obasanjo’s initiative

So, they now seem to have concluded
that without raising hell or threatening to levy war no one will give Igbo their dues in the bazaar Nigeria has always been. It explains the
various mutations of the Biafran
franchise since the return of democracy 18 years ago. First was Ralph Nwazurike’s MASSOB during the Obasanjo years with the beatification of
Emeka Ojukwu even while still alive
and merchandizing Biafran memorabilia
on the side. APGA, as a political
party, would tap into the same emotion. 
Then enter the social media-savvy Daniel Kanu-led IPOB with far more thunderous words and apocalyptic pronouncements.

Author Louis Odion FNGE….Making a Quick History for Biafra narratives

But it must be recognized that the neo-Biafran cry attained the present
crescendo only after the winner-takes-all culture instituted by Buhari upon ascending power two years
ago. While the Igbo were prospering
under Goodluck Jonathan on account of
key political appointments and patronage, we never saw this sort of
scare-mongering, the separatist rhetoric was at best muffled then.
Truth be told, this is a
dangerous mentality to cultivate in the context of genuine nation-building.
History already teaches us that no durable nation ever germinates from
such make-shift arrangement that seems to reward only the biggest bully. The
first condition is to create a climate of mutual respect and incentives for all
to realize their full potentials.

The Old & The New….The Ijaw concepts versus Hausa & Yoruba idea

That is why I think the colloquium
held in Abuja on May 25 to mark Biafra’s
50th
anniversary was significant
indeed. That such a talk shop held at all and drew a quality audience
including no less a personage than the Acting President is very unprecedented
in history. It should be seen as official shift from living in denial. Once
upon a time, such idea would have been unthinkable, taken as an affront to the “constituted authorities” in Abuja. Once the news broke, the security
establishment would immediately have taken steps to abort it. 

So, for this, I think we are making
progress. 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo….Seems to understand the rules of connection better than his boss

But the real challenge is to institute
a culture that gives every section of the country a sense of belonging.
Speaking that day, acting President Yemi
Osinbajo
, I believe, used the right words by sounding conciliatory and
harping on the sentiment that we are “greater together than apart”. 
Truly, nationhood is a shared
commitment. Otherwise, it is a bondage fated to break some day.
But, words remain what they are:
cheap. Indeed, while the erudite professor of law with demonstrable progressive
credentials was pontificating that day, genuine patriots truly committed to
national reconciliation and integration must have wished the voice was Buhari’s. Were Osinbajo’s boss in his shoes on the dais that day at the iconic Yar’Adua Centre, it is very doubtful if
he, judging by the maximalist tendencies he has exhibited since assuming power
in 2015, would have spoken in the same conciliatory tone or evince a
disposition to engage those in the cold. 
If the dominant feeling in
South-East and South-South today is that of alienation, the exclusionist governance
model Buhari has pursued with
zealotry is largely to be blamed. 
Indeed, the challenge today, as
always, is to have a leader who can look beyond the narrow prism of the
voting pattern in the last election, rise above pettiness and give every section
of the country a sense of belonging. In case Buhari does not know, he needs to be told that nation-building is
not helped when a leader goes ahead to fill all key national positions with
only people from his locality.

Yet, Nigeria needs Buhari

 

To be fair, Buhari is not a pioneer here. He could only be accused of improving
on the existing records of political greed and nepotism. Under Jonathan, it was Ijaw triumphalism we
witnessed, thus putting to shame all those who earlier championed the crusade
that he be declared acting president early in 2010 in the name of natural
justice once it increasingly became clear that Umar Yar’Adua would not make it back to Aso Rock from his sick bay in Saudi
Arabia
Jonathan, in turn,
only chose to break the record of Yar’Adua
who, despite his impressive academic standing, seemed detained all the way by
the little god of the province. When he still had the presence of mind, his
inner circle were drawn largely from a small district in Katsina. And as pericarditis – a rare medical condition – began to
sap the last drops of vitality from his anatomy, his executive staff was
summarily hijacked by a tiny cabal from the same provincial stock.

General Ibrahim Babangida….From June 12 to Kata-Kata

 

But to birth a more cohesive Nigeria is not the only duty of a
broad-minded leader. Patriotism should oblige citizens themselves to stand
and speak against injustice wherever it occurs regardless of ethnicity or
faith. Only this could explain why when self-styled military president Ibrahim Babangida mindlessly
annulled June 12 won MKO Abiola, the push for its re validation
largely became mostly a Yoruba project eventually. 

Late MKO Abiola….Hope aborted by Military Boys

Today, on a milder scale, we are
witnessing a reenactment of the same civic complicity in the continued public
silence, in the loss of the sense of national outrage, over the indefinite
incarceration of the Shiite leader despite repeated court orders. 
But nationhood is not an abstract
construct. One of the key pillars is social justice. 

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