Recently, there were protests in the Southeast of Nigeria over the relocation of prisoners to Anambra State. These prisoners happened to be suspected members of the dreaded BOKO HARAM that’s been terrorizing Nigerians in the Northeast especially, for a few years now in their JIHAD to bring about the implementation of a stricter form of the SHARIA (Islamic Jurisprudence) in Nigeria.
The protests which culminated in a shutdown of all MARKETS in the Southeast (the equivalent of what happens in the Southwest when workers at state and federal level embark on a strike), to press home their demand for the relocation of the prisoners, mostly of northern Nigeria extraction, irked the powers that be, especially as it was that the prisoners had been long relocated to the prison in Ekwulobia, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria months before now, but made to look like it was a recent event, to the extent that it has been suggested in some quarters that the action was meant to pay back the Igbo (the homogenous group in the Southeast of Nigeria, and third largest ethnic group yet most marginalized of the tripod politically) for rejecting the ruling party in the last GENERAL ELECTIONS.
The crux of the matter is that this incident, that is of transfer of prisoners is routine and movements like that are never in the purview of the public, except that somehow this one got leaked months after the action was effected, and made to sound as if it was a recent action, by none other than a clandestinely operating radio station, feeding sentiments of a section of the Igbo people (Nigeria’s Southeasterners) – RADIO BIAFRA.
Dunno if I should go into a brief history of BIAFRA at this point, for those who may not know, and Google is always there and free for all, but Biafra existed as a secessionist state between 6 July 1967 and 15 January 1970, when it was returned reluctantly into the contraption that’s NIGERIA, and though “NO VICTOR, NO VANQUISHED” was mouthed after the war by General Yakubu Gowon at the time, the RECONCILIATION, REHABILITATION & RECONSTRUCTION (The 3R’s) plan for the reintegration of the South-South and Southeast (which seceded to form Biafra) never got off the papers on which they were written while Gowon was in power, and was totally jettisoned by subsequent military as well as civilian (democratically elected) governments, leading to years of rapid deterioration owing to neglect of the regions, and especially of the South-South/Niger Delta because of oil exploration activities, which led to agitations for Niger Deltans for redistribution of the national wealth, in favour of the region seeing that it is where the bulk of Nigeria’s revenue emanates from. Agitations soon led to militancy, and attempts at military solutions soon gave way to negotiations and an AMNESTY PROGRAM for the militants, with the side aim of addressing the environmental challenges of the region as well as infrastructural and human capital development, by increasing DERIVATION FUNDS to the region, creation of a NIGER DELTA DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, NDDC and a MINISTRY OF THE NIGER DELTA amongst other national and foreign interventions.
The Southeast people were effectively shut out of these, except for a few states bordering the Niger Delta states, with accruals not close to that enjoyed by core Niger Delta States, though much of the enhanced funding ended up in private pockets because of corruption. The Southeast unlike the Southwest has not enjoyed the luxury of governors with development of the zone as their main objectives, hence much of the development except in very few, countable instances have been of self help, usually by moneybags seeking to buy over the people because of a political or traditional/chieftaincy position or of the collective village and town “meetings” with funding from their counterparts in the diaspora.
This, coupled with the marginalization the ethnic group suffers within Nigeria (politically and otherwise), with many of the belief that no other group has shed more blood for the unity of Nigeria than the Igbo, as they have suffered and continue to suffer indignities at the hands of their hosts at several times, including massacres and pogroms at the slightest provocation in many parts of the North (even before Boko Haram) and in the South as with most recently before the General Elections when the Oba of Lagos warned that any Igbo who voted against his candidate in the gubernatorial elections stands the risk of drowning in the Lagos Lagoon.
Each time unfortunate incidents affect the Igbo either in the homeland or outside of it, there comes this nostalgic feeling about the Biafra of their dream,
as it is Nirvana for the Igbo, and many groups have leveraged on this in times past, as now for mostly their selfish reasons, of which the most notable at some point was MASSOB, the MOVEMENT for the ACTUALIZATION of the SOVEREIGN STATE OF BIAFRA, whose leader Ralph Uwazuruike spent years in prison on trumped up charges, while leaders of other ethnic “militia” who were armed to the teeth, unlike the MASSOB spent just a few months, got out and got for themselves juicy contracts from the government for themselves and their peers to keep their groups quiet. The fear of what the Igbo have managed to do once (secession), must have been behind Uwazuruike’s extended incarceration and release without compensation, and is silently agreed to have informed the lack of military men of Igbo extraction not considered for positions in the military hierarchy (including holding sensitive positions in the security agencies), even having a ceiling beyond which no Igbo military officer could pass (except for a select few) or be further elevated before 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (former General and Head of State) became President and changed the status quo, leading to an Igbo Army General, Azubuike Ihejirika (who didn’t lead a coup nor cause Igbos to secede) and Head of the Army, whose efforts at combatting Boko Haram is now a subject of controversy with Northern Elders and Political Elite accusing him of war crimes and human rights abuse of civilian inhabitants of areas under the State of Emergency occasioned by the ongoing war against Boko Haram by the Army under his command.
This Uwazuruike later hobnobbed with politicians and in so doing performed MASSOB’s requiem howbeit untimely, such that the last time the group called for markets to be shutdown not even the Mama stalls in the villages paid them any heed, but Igbos continued to yearn for Nirvana, even when they were failed by their South-South brothers for a second time (after selling out during the ’67 to ’70 war, and went ahead to takeover and hold Igbo properties in their domain, while Igbos largely recovered the ones in other regions of Nigeria after varying degrees of antagonism), after they failed to include the Southeast in the scope of massive infrastructural developments under the presidency or the Niger Deltan President Goodluck Jonathan, who though had an Igbo-sounding IJAW (Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group) middle name, “Ebele” couldn’t do more than to appease Igbo sensitivities just a bit more than his predecessors had done, by going beyond merely promising a SECOND NIGER BRIDGE to initiating the preliminary stages that was far from the building of the bridge thereof, which many expect to join the list of ABANDONED PROJECTS following President Jonathan’s loss to General Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential elections despite block votes thrown in his favour by the Igbo in the Southeast and their South-South/Niger Delta cousins, while overlooking the past, remote and immediate.
The crisis in the parliament controlled by the ruling ALL PROGRESSIVES’ CONGRESS, APC is seen by many a Igbo as more in anger by the APC leadership over how an Igbo from the opposition party (former ruling PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY, PDP) was made Deputy Senate President in an unprecedented manner occasioned by an alliance between a rebel arm of the APC that installed itself the head of the Senate, and even the House of Representatives, against the wishes of the party leaders, with the help of the opposition party (who claimed the price of deputy presidency of the senate as due reward for their assistance), and (disgruntled leaders of the APC) have gone ahead to orchestrate a campaign of calumny against the Igbo Deputy Senate President Ike Ekwerenmadu, with a view to see him ousted from office by other means besides that of impeachment allowed by the constitution, which for now amounts to an impossibility, even beside the fact that the parliament is on recess till a week to the end of this month.
So far, no Igbo has been named in any of the appointments made by President Buhari since assuming office more than a month ago, making the claim by Radio Biafra of the transfer of Boko Haram suspects to Ekwulobia Prisons as vendetta for the Igbo rejection of Buhari seem ever more plausible. The confirmation of the “thwarted” truth thereby causing many Igbos to once again rally around the voice behind the radio using the soft spot for the Igbo as launching pad, to what many view (and maybe rightfully so) as aimed towards their own selfish gains like the others preceding it.
Other Nigerians wondering why the Igbo always cling to Biafra, even while most of today’s instigators were but kids, or not born when the state existed and suffered gravely for it, is akin to asking Jews to forget the holocaust because they weren’t born when six million (or more) Jews died in concentration camps in Europe.
Many of the Igbo children who didn’t witness the war, were told stories of the events, even had their way of life dictated by the Nigeria-Biafra war (I know someone who cannot skip breakfast for any reason, even couldn’t fast as a religious obligation because his mother had beaten it into him and his siblings to always eat breakfast, after she missed breakfast she had cooked while serving others, but had to then move from their location to another during the war for four days without food, after their location was shelled) that most can visualize events of the war as told through the eyes of their parents. Though many mistake the Biafra the Igbo yearn for as merely a country or nation of their own, the reason for the fear entertained by the other ethnic groups in Nigeria. They fail to see that many Igbos are far from thinking in that direction, especially based on their penchant for investing heavily outside of their homeland, and hence will have so much to lose should Nigeria be divided and the groups made to go their separate ways, more so following a war.
These Igbo for whom Biafra is Nirvana are not angry with the rest of Nigeria, they in fact thrive in all their fields of endeavour within it, but are heavily saddened by what is happening back home. Of how governors have turned themselves into Gods that must be worshiped and the Republican society they had once been turned into enclaves ruled by Chiefs (known as Igwe), in what is now variously known as autonomous communities, thwarting tradition in the guise of upholding same, while appearing to taking it upon themselves to make the lives of their subjects a misery. With unemployment rife, youths have taken to crime and criminality, outdoing the armed robbers of western Nigeria in their trade, as well as the kidnappers of the South-South and Niger Delta (by ensuring that captives in their custody are killed most of the time after ransom have been paid for their release), something for which JIDENNA an American artiste with a Nigerian (Igbo) father was cut no slack (of and by Nigerians, mainly of Igbo extraction), when he stated that he had to get AK47-totting bodyguards for protection (something of the like I had mentioned in my post about Igbo Funerals many months back) during his father’s burial in the east for fear of being kidnapped due to his fair skin, which is one huge criteria for being a kidnap victim in Nigeria (especially in the Southeast), but makes him escape racial profiling by police in the United States unlike less fortunate “darker” BLACKS that pay the ultimate price at the least provocation (or none) when they encounter white police officers.
These Igbo, want for their land to be the place of peace where not only retirees will come home to die, but one that will fend for all and sundry, while opening up itself to others by shedding its insular present nature, and allow the best of her people scattered the world over to bring their expertise to bear in the much needed development of their land, beyond just the building of architectural wonders in the middle of jungles accessible only via unpaved lateritic soil.
To them, Biafra is even more than the idea enshrined in the AHIARA DECLARATION of 1969, which amongst others states that – “The Biafran revolution believes in the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person. The Biafran sees the wilful and wanton destruction of human life not only as a grave crime, but also as an abominable sin. In our society every human life is holy, every individual person counts. No Biafran wants to be taken for granted or ignored, neither does he ignore or take others for granted. This explains why such degrading practices as begging for alms were unknown in Biafran society. Therefore, all forms of disabilities and inequalities, which reduce the dignity of the individual or destroy his sense of person, have no place in the new Biafran social order. The Biafran revolution upholds the dignity of man. The Biafran revolution stands firmly against genocide, against any attempt to destroy a people, its security, its right to life, property and progress. Any attempt to deprive a community of its identity is abhorrent to the Biafran people. Having ourselves suffered genocide, we are all the more determined to take a clear stand now and at all times against this crime.” – and though that utopian society failed to germinate at first attempt, the idea behind it remains indelible in the minds of those who believe in these ideals, Biafrans or not.