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Restructuring, IPOB, nationhood


By Donu kpogbara

LAST week, I complained about the Senate’s failure to act on widespread calls for restructuring by refusing to pass bills relating to proposed devolution of legislative powers to states and proposed deletion of the Land Use Act from the Constitution.

I feel that the status quo in Nigeria is toxic generally and especially unjust to my region, the long-suffering, oil-producing Niger Delta. I feel that restructuring, though not necessarily the ideal long-term solution to existing problems, will be better than nothing in the short-term. And I blamed Northern Senators – enemies of progress, if you ask me! – for being the main opponents of the above bills.

But the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, feel differently; and the organisation’s Media & Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, issued a statement in which he reminded anyone who was listening that IPOB is “under the command and leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the prophet of our time” and sarcastically congratulated the Senate for “summoning the courage to vindicate” Kanu by rejecting restructuring, which IPOB feels “cannot benefit anyone in Nigeria” [which was described as being “politically, socially and economically structured by Hausa Fulani oligarchs and cabals…to cater for the very few political criminals”].

“We Biafrans and other sensible Nigerians,” the Comrade continued, “now believe that Northern Senators have demonstrated, through their rejection of restructuring, that IPOB remains the only legitimate voice that understands the plight of the masses and is prepared to do something about it. Only a referendum can resolve the issue of Biafra…It remains the only way the masses can decide their future in Nigeria….and resolve the perennial issue of resource control.”

Comrade then listed “heroes and elders” who have campaigned for restructuring since the pre-Independence era, including Ojukwu, Isaac Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa and concluded that “all these people are Biafrans or better put Eastern Nigerians who saw the decay in the Nigeria system and called for a peaceful settlement…”

I have few bones to pick with Comrade and his ilk.

 Lavish adoration of Kanu

Firstly, I strongly disapprove of ALL cults of personality because no mere mortal should be deified. And I abhor the adoration that IPOB folks lavish on Kanu.

“Prophet” indeed! Don’t blame anyone except yourselves if the young man becomes unbearably arrogant as a result of being treated like an infallible genius.

Secondly, some of the language used by IPOB is downright offensive. I know that certain unpleasant Igbophobist characters also use offensive language, but IPOB should rise above the fray if it wants to gain more sympathy in civilised circles.

 Niger Deltans not Biafrans

Thirdly, IPOB’s attempts to rope South-South individuals and tribes into their Biafran project is not being warmly welcomed in the South-South.

Sure, a handful of Niger Deltans empathise with  IPOB and many Niger Deltans understand why many Igbos are disgruntled; but the majority of Niger Deltans want IPOB to do its own thing and leave Niger Deltans to do their own thing…as in fight their own self-determination battles separately and in their own way…

Most Niger Deltans do not wish Kanu or his spokesmen to speak on their behalf…and (perhaps unfairly) suspect IPOB of being interested in embracing the South-South, not because of any sincere sense of brotherhood but because if Biafra ever happens, it will be more viable if it has access to oil/gas reserves wells and the sea.

Oh and, by the way, I think it is fair to say that Ken Saro Wiwa, an Ogoni man, was not deeply fond of Igbos and anything BUT a Biafran! So his inclusion on Comrade Powerful’s powerful list is puzzling.

And before the more extreme and unchivalrous elements in the IPOB firmament start bombarding me with insults via email, text and social media platforms (as they did last year when I wondered, on facebook, why Donald Trump had so many Igbo fans), let me point out that my mother is a core Igbo from Imo, that my father was Ojukwu’s ambassador to London during the original Biafran struggle and that I wept buckets of tears when Daddy told me that we had lost the civil war!

In other words, Igbo blood runs in my veins and I was in this secession game long before the youths who constitute the bulk of IPOB’s membership were born! So they should please try to believe that though we do not agree on every issue, I am their half-sister and fellow traveller, to some extent, not their sworn enemy!

ANYWAY, a referendum is not a bad idea – as long as it can be rigorously, honestly, fearlessly and objectively monitored by an external referee such as the United Nations, to prevent it from being rigged by obsessive unionists (who are convinced that we will all die or become globally irrelevant if Nigeria dares to break up!).

In the meantime, I’ve noticed that most of the Southern Nigerians I know personally are schizophrenic about the whole nationhood thing.

On the one hand, they regularly grumble about the North, accusing it of being parasitical, domineering, backward or whatever. On the other hand, these frequent Southern grumblers don’t really want radical change or divorce!

I’ve been conducting an informal opinion poll by quizzing various Southern friends who have expressed grave reservations about Northerners in the recent past. I’ve asked them whether they’d like to be permanently liberated from the North.

“No!” they say.

“But I thought you said that the North had nothing to offer!” I remind them.

“Eh, but we are still better together,” they say sheepishly.

“Why?” I ask.

Often, they can’t provide a rational answer and just shrug. Sometimes, they say that they prefer bigger countries because they are more influential or say that ethnically diverse nations are more interesting and potentially more creative.

 South emotionall committed to north

But the impression I’ve gained is that the REAL reason they don’t want schism is that they are (secretly!) EMOTIONALLY committed to the North because they have, against all the odds, developed a detribalised Nigerian Identity that transcends whatever they perceive as the North’s transgressions.

Some may say that such Southerners have also developed a slave mentality – like battered wives who pathetically cling to lousy marriages, despite being beaten up incessantly. Or like Winston in George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984,” who eventually decided that he loved his tormentor and oppressor, Big Brother.

Others may see it as heart-warming that so many Southerners feel bonded to the North for whatever reason, despite our hard history and the myriad tribal, cultural, religious and regional tensions that have scarred the relationship between the two halves of Nigeria.

I certainly have close Northern friends like M.M Ibrahim – one of the most principled and most intelligent gentleman I have ever been privileged to know – from whom I would not like to be parted because of the antics of selfish rulers. And I would love to know whether my Northern Vanguard readers feel the same deep sense of kinship with Southerners generally or any Southern individuals.


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