By Ochereome Nnanna
IT is not easy to have a troublesome child. Right now, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo is growing grey hairs because one of his sons named the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, is out of control. He is very disruptive and calling his father vile names for the whole world to hear. Have you listened to Radio Biafra?
I was in Aba a couple of months ago. I travel with my transistor radio because I am a radio man. I still nurse the dream of starting a radio station. I fiddled around with the potentiometre and Radio Biafra came on, loud and clear. There was this young man who said he was from Igbo Delta. He was raining abuses on the people of Aba for their “docility”. As a communication specialist I know you can never win people to your side by insulting and dehumanising them with words. But this IPOB guy went on and on, not in bad faith really, but because he felt it was the only way he could rouse Aba people to be more responsive to IPOB’s agenda for a faster actualisation of Biafra.
Yet, it is on record that groups like the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, INTERSOCIETY, and Amnesty International, AI, had, in February 2016, openly accused the Nigerian Army of murdering and burying in mass graves, at least 22 unarmed suspected members of IPOB who had gathered for a prayer meeting in Aba. Aba remains the epicentre of Biafra agitation, but it is not possible for every resident of that city to subscribe to the manner in which IPOB is pursuing its actualisation. How I wish that those who are pushing the Biafra agenda the IPOB way understood that the best way to get people to your side is through persuasion and inspiration.
But no. IPOB keeps stalking the pan-Igbo interest group, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, causing commotion, disrupting the programmes aimed at pushing Igbo interests within the admittedly flawed Nigerian commonwealth. What have they gained from this except portraying themselves in bad light in the eyes of reasonable people?
I don’t want to mention the explosions that took place in the residences of President of Ohanaeze, the revered Dr. Nnia Nwodo, and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu. I don’t believe IPOB or any of the Biafra agitators committed these evil deeds. No true Igbo person would do that. This is the kind of thing that agents provocateurs working for the system that we all despise can do to sustain their laughable lie that IPOB is a terrorist organisation. We saw it during Abacha’s rule. IPOB remains non-violent, at least in terms of using firearms to pursue their objectives. But verbally and in body language they have a lot of calming down to do.
If IPOB or any Igbo group thinks they can get what they want by fighting Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, they are jokers. What I expect is that when Ohanaeze gathers to articulate Igbo interests towards reclaiming their rightful place in Nigeria, IPOB and any other group that has a contrary view should come and present their positions. Nobody will deny them that right. The recently-held restructuring summit in Awka, which IPOB failed to disrupt due to adequate security arrangement, was a workshop or marketplace of ideas.
The Biafra agitators should have seized the opportunity to update us on how far they have gone in resolving the issues of having the non-Igbo groups of Eastern Nigeria as part of Biafra. How many more have signed on? What is the Plan “B” if the Igbo people were forced to go it alone as some opponent groups have been threatening? What are the economic and political master-plans that will make Biafra a better option to a restructured Nigeria that Ohanaeze is pursuing? No father will fail to be proud of a son who is full of fascinating, even if contrary, ideas. It is a different thing altogether if one of your children is in the habit of coming out to abuse elders of the community and threaten them whenever they gather in the village square to discuss relationships with neighbouring communities. IPOB should learn to disagree with his father, Ohanaeze, like a truly-rooted, well-bred Igbo son.
If Biafra comes today and people approach it with this misguided IPOB mentality the republic will be a basket full of scorpions. Before you know it we will have another South Sudan on our hands. That is not the type of Biafra I look forward to.
Yes indeed, every Igbo person is a Biafran within the Nigerian commonwealth. Every Igbo person is part and parcel of the Nigerian heritage. Igbo people fronted the fight for Nigeria’s independence, but they did not do it alone. That a section of the country, in conspiracy with the departed British colonial masters, have imposed themselves as the indigenous overlords does not vitiate the fact that Nigeria is our collective patrimony. Igbo people have contributed more than any other group in building Nigeria, despite the Biafra war. Why should they abandon their own patrimony? It is better to fight, along with other legitimately aggrieved Nigerians, to right the wrongs in the system than to bolt.
Biafra is my own Plan “B” if restructuring fails. Nobody will need to shoot a bullet when that time comes. Biafra may come suddenly; judging from the direction the Muhammadu Buhari dispensation is going, especially if we have five more years of it to endure. Let us just have that strongly at the back of our minds, and let’s be ready, like Boy Scouts.
Even when Biafra comes (in whatever shape) it will still live among its current neighbours. It does not pay to cultivate them into hostile neighbours. IPOB and other Biafra agitators should use their heads, not hearts.