By Ochereome Nnanna
WHAT is Biafra? Is it an ideology or a country? Or both? I see it more as an ideology, but it could end up being both an ideology and a country. Biafra my way is a struggle for freedom; a rejection of internal colonialism after independence from British colonialism.
I refuse to be a second class citizen in my own country. I reject any notion that I am inferior to anyone in a country governed by a constitution that says we are all equal. On the equality of all Nigerians irrespective of their circumstances of birth, religion, tribe, region and political belief I stand. Anything to the contrary I not only reject but I fight. I have fought Muhammadu Buhari’s “97%/5%” evil formula from the first day he pronounced it, and I have the backing of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
I am not like Dr. Chris Ngige, Buhari’s Labour and Employment Minister who only labours but does not employ. He demonstrated his slave mentality by endorsing Buhari’s illegal deployment of his “97%/5%” formula to deny the South East and to some extent, South-South of their constitutional entitlement to equal share of the commonwealth of this great nation.
Ngige and his co-travellers are not perturbed by the fact that Buhari intends to borrow Nigeria blind to the tune of $30 billion to build/reconstruct roads and railways all over the country except in the South East. Yet, when the repayment for this crippling loan starts, the people of the South East will be made to pay for goodies they will only enjoy when they travel out of their homeland.
Buhari and Ngige have proved themselves ignorant of our constitution, especially Sections 14 to 18, which lavishly describe Nigeria as a country where all citizens and groups must be treated equally and given a sense of belonging to bring out their utmost patriotic instincts. The framers of the constitution knew that the non-inclusive governance that Buhari is running would trigger the type of alienation that is propelling the Biafra agitators.
But the Biafra agitation goes way beyond Buhari’s ultra-reactionary government of nepotism. It has its roots in the doubts raised in the minds of the Easterners, especially the Igbo, as to their real place in Nigeria based on how they were treated in the wake of some historical events. For instance, the first military coup of 1st January 1966 was dubbed an “Igbo coup”. Coups usually don’t bear ethnic names.
Usually when a coup takes place and it is crushed, those implicated in it would be apprehended and dealt with according to the law. Rather than insist that the law must take its course, its inciting branding as an “Igbo coup” led to massive pogroms against innocent and defenceless Igbos, especially in the North. Thousands were murdered in an orgy of violence that went on for months. Eventually, Ironsi was also killed and a Northerner, Col. Yakubu Gowon, took over as Head of State. The killings continued and the Federal Government seemed unwilling to stop it.
Biafra would not have come up if the coup plotters who killed Northern leaders were arrested and punished according to the law. Biafra only came up when it became clear that the East had to do something drastic to protect its people who were no longer safe in their supposed country. Biafra was pushed or forced to fight a war of self-preservation. Secession was never in their political calculation just two years earlier. Smarting from the loss of the cream of their leadership, the North convinced the rest of the country to join it in a “war to keep Nigeria one”, though vengeance and consolidation of regional power were their hidden motives.
After the war, General Gowon’s declaration of “No victor, no vanquished” was just on paper. The confiscation of the savings of Ndi-Igbo in exchange for Twenty Pounds, the declaration of Abandoned Property in Rivers State and the promulgation of Indigenisation Decrees that favoured only Western and Northern aristocrats betrayed the real intentions of the “victors” over the “vanquished”. Usually after a civil war, a Marshall Plan is created to rebuild the theatre of war. But in Nigeria, policies were made to subjugate and exclude the former Biafrans from full participation in the affairs of the country they were forced to return to.
Fifty years after Biafra, with no end in sight to the sidelining of Igbo people which the Buhari regime has made no pretences about, the Igbo youth are fed up. Most of them want out. They want Biafra, where they will live like free people. It does not matter if Biafra is just the South East zone. After all, Rwanda and Botswana are among the best-governed countries in Africa with thriving economies despite being landlocked.
But the silent majority of Igbo people do not believe in pulling out of Nigeria. I am one of those. Our reason is simple. Igbos are part of the owners of the Nigeria commonwealth. They led the fight for independence. They demonstrate their co-ownership of this country with massive investment of their wealth. They cannot run away from what belongs to them.
The battle for restructuring, which is gathering more steam, will afford everyone the freedom to develop their homelands within the Nigerian commonwealth. I am a Biafran-Nigerian, just as Northerners are Arewa-Nigerians and the Yorubas may be Oódua-Nigerians, and so on. The battle for restructuring is viable, and it will be won sooner than later. That is Biafra my way.
But if, sadly, Nigeria breaks up, no one need to shed blood. The day the Soviet Union collapsed or the Berlin Wall went down, it did not cost a drop of blood because its time had come. I am willing and ready to join hands in getting Nigeria restructured to bring out it greatness and make all its various peoples truly at home. But I respect the wishes of those who want out.