Friday, 13 November 2015

The Biafra of My Dreams (Part 1)

On the 30th of May 1967, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra as a secessionist state from Nigeria. This sparked off the Nigerian civil war that lasted from 7th of July 1967 until January of 1970. Fortunately or unfortunately, at the end of the war, Biafra was not to be.  It is no news that Nigeria as it is was born out of the selfish desires of the British for easier control of their interests across the different regions of the country with oil being the most important, and as it were the Nigerian Government was backed militarily by the British in their quest to retain the oil rich Biafran region. The truth is that if Nigeria had no oil, or if the bulk of the oil was found elsewhere but the southern region, or if the southern region had made Shell/BP a better deal than they had with Nigeria, Biafra would have been in existence today.

The agitation for Biafra in Ojukwu’s time was mainly as a result of the massacre of Easterners in the north and by the distrust, unhealthy and often fatal rivalry between soldiers from these regions in the Nigerian Army. It was also relatively easy -for lack of a better word- for the old Biafra to rise because Nigeria then was set-up in regions with each region having a Governor and a set of elites in its consultative assembly. As soon as Ojukwu - being the governor of the eastern region - decided that Biafra should rise, and the elites in the consultative assembly voted for it, the wheels were set in motion. The Eastern region was made up of the present day Rivers, Delta, Akwa-ibom, Cross-river, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Anambra and Enugu states; therefore, Biafra would have been a very viable country. 

Fast forward to this day, Nigeria has been split into 36 states and six geo-political zones: south-west, south-east, south-south, north-west, north-east and north-central. The geopolitical zones were said to have been created in order to bring states with similar culture, ethnic groups and common history together. As plausible as this may seem, it did a huge disservice to the former Eastern Nigeria and to any future talk of a Biafran State. A look at the map of Nigeria as it concerns the geopolitical zones shows the anomaly in the south-east/south-southern region. Whilst the other regions appear to be in geographical lumps, the south-south region almost circled the south-east. The south-eastern region consisting of the Igbos is the smallest in landmass, and apart from that, this zoning has repainted the mental picture of Biafra from that a region of 9 states to that of 5 and from a region of about 3 ethnic groups to that of 1. Biafra has become mainly an Igbo affair.

Ojukwu's argument for a Biafran state was plausible - with the then constant massacre of Ndi-Igbo in the North, the retaliation in the eastern region and the mass migration of Ndi-Igbo from the north, it made sense that for peace to reign these peoples should go their separate ways. Whilst such inter-ethnic violence is not commonplace today, some Igbos feel that they are being politically marginalised and hence the present day agitation for Biafra. But is this plausible? To address this issue, I shall look at the problems of Ndi-Igbo, the practicality of a Biafran State solving these problems, and the way forward.

I can boldly say that the problems of Ndi-Igbo in the present day Nigeria isn't about political posts in the Federal government or lack thereof. A pointer would be considering that the Northern region has produced the most Heads of State and Presidents in Nigeria, yet many States in the Northern region remain very backward. In contrast, an Eastern region that was ravaged by the civil war has somehow managed to shed itself of the dilapidation and destruction following the war even without producing a single head of state since then. Truth be told, it would only be fair that every ethnic group is given a fair chance and opportunity to contribute to the development of Nigeria and anything short of that breeds disunity, however I believe that Ndi-Igbo should be more in pursuit of substance i.e. the development of Ala-Igbo which wouldn't come just by producing the President of Nigeria or occupying juicy positions in the Federal Government. Igbo Governors and elites remain the source of their major problems more than the Federal Government is, so breaking away from Nigeria as a means of solving an in-house problem that would still follow them is very unwise.

Take for instance the issue of marginalisation, even in Igboland as in other parts of Nigeria; Ndi-Igbo are segmented in senatorial zones (the state-level of geopolitical zones) within states and some feel marginalised. Go to Imo State, the Owerri and Okigwe senatorial zones are of the opinion that the Orlu zone has marginalised them in terms of the number of times it has produced Governors and the juicy positions occupied by Ndi-Orlu in Imo State. This problem is inbred, communities fighting over the right to Ezeships; appointments at the State level seemingly lopsided and consisting of some zone than the others; admissions into tertiary institutions being based on States, senatorial zones and Local government Areas (LGA) of origin; and was it not just a few years ago that former Governor Theodore Orji of Abia state sacked every Igbo who wasn't an indigene of Abia State from the Abia State civil service. So, assuming Biafra comes to be, should every State, geopolitical zone, LGA and community start agitating for a breakaway whenever they feel they are being marginalised? Or do those who are agitating for Biafra think these issues would automatically fix themselves?

Additionally, the continued agitation for Biafra in the guise of marginalisation only serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is so because if Ndi-Igbo keep trying to break away because they have not produced a Nigerian President; other parts of the country would keep looking at them with suspicion and therefore keep denying them the chance to produce a President in the fear that an Igbo President would facilitate the establishment of Biafra.

As earlier mentioned, Ojukwu’s agitation for Biafra was not only plausible; it was backed by elite in the eastern region and actively so. Today, Nnamdi Kalu -the leader of the group called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) - in the face of lack of any reasoned argument for the need to create a Biafran state - had decided to use propaganda to drum up support. In essence, he had decided to lie to none others than the Igbos; he had decided to use the message of hate instead of reason; in essence...he is using deception to persuade gullible Igbos into supporting his group. However, the gullible are usually the uneducated and that is why you would hardly see educated Igbo elite supporting him. Yes there may be some, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. In the name of supporting Biafra, some people even go as far as ripping their Nigerian passports apart and sharing videos of the act on social media; and yes they get praised for it. I have noticed that almost all the passport-rippers have very poor command of the English language and are definitely the uneducated who have managed to make their way abroad with no intent of coming home. Whilst some Igbo brothers back home will be motivated to fight for Biafra by seeing such videos, those abroad tearing their Nigerian passports and agitating for Biafra wouldn't be home to fight when the war eventually starts; after all they do not have Nigerian passports and to get to the so-called Biafra you will need a Nigerian passport or visa.

That brings me to the issue of war. It is very obvious that no Nigerian president would want a part of Nigeria to secede under his watch; therefore, the creation of Biafra would not happen over a cup of tea, some signatures and a would need war. Nnamdi Kalu and his group have been spreading lies about United Nations having a charter which states that if a people have pushed for self-determination after X number of years, they should be allowed to secede from their host country. According to them, this charter gives Biafra the right to self-determination having struggled for over 45 years. This as usual is a blatant lie and was meant to deceive. Just twice did the charter of the United Nations and statute of the International Court of Justice mention the term "self-determination" and it was to dissuade the control of 'smaller/weaker' countries by foreign powers. You can see a copy of the charter here.  IPOB has also lied about the African Union and United Nations having accepted Biafra as a member state of the AU and UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  Visit here to see the lie; visit here for a list of the AU's ECOSOC members, and here for UN's ECOSOC members. These lies were meant to give unsuspecting Igbos the false hope that Biafra has been recognised internationally and that only Nigeria stands in its way. It tries to misinform Ndi-Igbo that since Biafra already has the support of international bodies, all that is needed is for Nigeria to allow the secession preferably over a cup of tea; and that failure to do so may result to war which Biafra will win since the UN and AU both support them. All lies.

There is no doubt that Igbos who survived the civil war will be bothered about the current agitation and demonstrations for Biafra; and it is quite obvious that those who are out in the streets are those who have never experienced war. One can commend them for their 'bravery' but I think they do need to sit back and think more about what they are doing and are asking for; these are my reasons:

  1. Their leader’s base: Nnamdi Kalu is based in the United Kingdom and has always boasted about not having a Nigerian passport. Since he can travel to the US and other parts of the world, he does have a passport and that is most probably the UK passport. He isn't based in Nigeria and perchance his lies eventually lead to war, he most probably wouldn't be in Nigeria not to talk of Eastern Nigeria to fight alongside his brother-agitators. It is also a curious case that most of those who are educated and who support the current agitation for Biafra all appear to stay abroad. Why don't they come home and join the agitation instead of 'safely' carrying placards in the USA, Canada, Thailand, UK and other parts of the world while those in Nigeria get shot at? 

  2. A Biafran state after the war: I keep telling people that had Biafra been established by war under Ojukwu, maybe...just wouldn't have been the country Biafrans thought it would be. There was every chance that Ojukwu’s Biafra would have been a state under dictatorship with the Ojukwus and/or their cronies being leaders for life...some sort of North Korea or Eritrea if you may. There was also every chance that different warlords would have emerged and the leadership of Biafra would be a constant bone of contention...some sort of Libya or South Sudan if you may. Presently, Biafra has MASSOB and IPOB and there seems to be some friction between the two groups. If there is a Nigerian-Biafran war which ends up with Biafra being created, the war may have just begun as MASSOB, IPOB and some other groups that may emerge could battle over who leads the new Biafra.

To be continued...

The Oracle has Spoken!!


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  3. Informative and well thought out write-up, (Aham Mgbawaanya). Charity begins at home. I urge Umu Igbo to seek proper governance in their respective states ahead of agitating against the federal government. A war is more than just Nzogbu Nzogbu & some long distance inciting radio messages. Which way forward??