When the “sit at home” was announced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the state of Biafra on May 30 this year, I knew it will be “successful”. Biafra as a country was first declared on May 30, 1967. This was a period that the country was seized of blood; delicate in all ramifications and tensed as much as could be cut with knife. Looks though like nothing could have prevented the shedding of blood. Because like we can see and feel, the air was thick in the smell of blood. Many had been killed prior to this time 50 years ago. It was as if the angel of death hovered above the Nigerian federation. It was that bad.
Fifty years after, we appear to be back to where we began. What is however true is the federal government mismanaged or did not anticipate the strong sentiments for Biafra, otherwise it could have arranged the release of Nnamdi Kanu after the remembrance. The government did not put into consideration that the golden jubilee was at hand. It was as if Kanu was released to come and celebrate the anniversary with his fellow agitators. Also, the government should have planned some kind of public relations perception management to divert attention of the South East prior to May 30th. Now don’t get me wrong, I am seeing things from a Nigerian government perspective. They may have felt comfortable for people to freely express themselves. If so, then give it to the government too because at times, PR jobs can go awry.
Coming back to the agitation for Biafra, my position has not changed. Instead, it has toughened. I do not believe in Biafra. I believe that whatever sentiments that have characterised this modern resort to 50 years ago are in two folds: one is the sentimental, which drives many young people towards anything fatalistic and (or) utopian; secondly, there is a mercantilist approach to the struggle, which is subsumed in the political survival instincts of a lot of politicians in the South East. Because sentiments for Biafra are hugely popular among Igbo people, the Biafran surrogates now rely on politicians who failed to improve the lot of their electorate since they began holding public office. With elections approaching and the possibility of losing out, the brightest option is to engage in needless Biafran sentiments to curry patronage from Biafran sympathisers for monetary gains.
The truth is that when you ask these agitators what they want, of course they say they “want to go”. When you ask them to where, they say to “Biafra land”. When you ask them why they say it is because they have right to self-determination and then begin to list all the troubles with Nigeria. They claim that Igbo is “marginalised” from the day to day running of Nigeria. They say the current administration has not handed many Igbo people good pies and positions. They also claim that the federal government’s quota system and federal character principle are skewed against the Igbo. In fact they say President Muhammadu Buhari did not appoint an Igbo as his chief of staff or EFCC chairman. Ah!
When you remind them that they may not be wrong after all, except that these appointments are for the glory and benefit of the appointees, they revert to their usual refrain: “let my people go”! Not like anyone is holding the Biafrans but let it be clear that not all Igbos are Biafrans. Indeed, I make bold to say that Biafran agitators are not just arrogant; they are enemies of the Igbo. And they have also shown that they do not have a full grasp of the issues as it relates to the Igbo. Most of the issues they raise are contemporary issues of nation building. There is no society that hasn’t got issues that define what government will intervene on. It gets even messier for the Igbo because as the most dispersed of all the groupings in this land, one wonders how letting the people go will enhance their economic prosperity? Except they think they will have Biafra and Nigeria at the same time.
Understanding the problem of Africa will help the Biafran agitators. Most of the issues highlighted before the war were vestiges of colonial heritage. But we cannot continue to blame Britain for our woes. My thinking is that Europe did us a favour. We cannot not imagine what Africa will be today if there was no balkanization into modern states as we have them today in Africa? I am pretty sure there was no Igbo land before Europeans came here. Each of the thousands of towns and villages in Igbo land were states of their own. So you cannot come in 2017 to ask for a state or promote a so called Biafran state that is made up of Igboland and some other parts of Nigeria.
While Biafran agitators ask for referendum from Nigerian authorities, they have not permitted referendum to include parts that are not Igbo to their infantile map. More importantly, how are they sure that various communities as they were before the advent of European influence want to have a state that includes other communities? How are you sure that Onitsha in Anambra state does not want to be a country by itself; why do you think they want to be a country with Nnewi and Awka? Like it was in various parts of Nigeria including Yoruba land, what we have today as Ogun state is for administrative convenience. There is a strong probability that a typical Ijebu will not want to be in the same country with the Egba if the Yoruba wants a separate country. It is then we will be told how Ijebu ran its affairs without any input from any other Yoruba community until the advent of the Europeans.