By Chris Odinaka Nwedo
Monday May 23, 2021
Nigeria in the judgments of the wider world was a country with endless prospects of greatness at its inception as a self-determining nation bestowed with vast populations of assorted tribes and tongues. It was a country perceived as a spring board for an emergence of potent Negro nations until things progressively slipped out of total control became bad and intolerable. Nigeria had at the beginnings combinations of factors and dispositions that could have been invaluable assets for renascent Africa, if the leaders were decisive. Nigeria started superlatively well, as a beacon of hope, encouraging and inspiring robust nationalism that culminated in political independence of many states in Africa. In the apartheid era, Nigeria was an indispensable partner providing logistics, protection and leadership for all shades of people and movements against the bigoted regime in South Africa.
From the mid-1960s Nigeria began to perfunctorily exfoliate this toga of greatness and respect with an insensitive handling of secession agitations. The agitation culminated in an avoidable civil war with massive loss of lives. Till day from then, Nigeria has been continuously dropping, running over and destroying good leaders. An incessant military interventions into the politics created platforms from where inappropriate politicians began to rule Nigeria the same way drunken drivers rule vehicle steering. In the regimes of the indiscretion, no productive ideas, no innovative policies and no patriotic programs were articulated to halt the rapidly fading nation. Nigerian economy, equally, was down-profiled through mishandling and expropriations to private uses. More efficient leaders were substituted with the unproductive, indolent and jingoists using sectional agendas to further despicable personal ambitions over the collective interest of Nigerians.
Today, Nigeria is handcuffed and preponderantly weighed down by the most vicious kinds of narcissist egoism using ethnic and religious programs as covers for ‘legitimacy’. For the interest of the vicious politicians, Nigeria is unprecedentedly polarized along religion and tribe. In the polarity, the ordinary Nigerians are endlessly losing everything for the power related profits of the current crops of obstinate politicians. The catastrophic evils of the current politics have cursed Nigeria to become vulnerable tail where he was the head and destined to lead with incontrovertible capacity and vast resources. Nigeria has become a case of a potent protector de-enervated, weakened and seeking refuge, a savior defenselessly in need of succor or a benefactor denuded of potency.
Nigeria now is out of shapes and dreams of Nigerians. It is no longer a home that inspires joy. Nigerians are having nostalgic feelings of days in the country when there was peace and security, times when Nigerians were actively thinking of businesses and ways of growing personal material fortunes. Today, Nigerians are preoccupied with thoughts of safety no more investment. Most people are soliciting God for opportunity to be safe even in the mist of hunger and deprivations. It is seeming that the faces of the predicaments Nigerians are contending with are becoming bolder and frightening and the prospects of victories diminishing with the uselessness of the leaders making daily news headlines.
With the diminishing prospects of the ‘better-soon’, the desperation is expressed in individuals calling for unbundling of Nigeria so that the groups making up the country can go separate ways as the situations are assuming irremediable and togetherness unworkable. The obvious logic for the proposition is that Nigeria as it is today is unsafe to live, unsafe to visit and unsafe for anything legitimate to thrive including peaceful co-existence with the heterogeneous communities. This proposition is inviolably made true because the denigrating circumstances are palpable. You can feel the situations from afar and it is too intense nearer.
Today, we have many groups holding and brandishing the separation logics and slogans with extremity of passions. As at this time, Nigeria has the following secession groups: Biafra, Oduduwa, Savannah and Arewa ( the order is) according to the intensities and commitments.
In May 22, 2021, Pro-Yoruba nation agitations rocked some parts of the South western of states of Nigeria. The agitators are demanding for a breakaway of the ethnic Yoruba nation from Nigeria. During the rally, a Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, threatened to disrupt the 2023 general elections in Yoruba land if the demand for separate nation is ignored. Meanwhile, “some high profile Nigerians have argued that only an urgent restructuring would save Nigeria from breaking up. It would be recalled that 17 southern governors in Nigeria also called for restructuring but President Muhammadu Buhari appears not to be perturbed by the development.1 However, beside every other agitator group, I am interested in Biafra.
Biafra, is the most popular separationist movement in Nigeria. It is also the most misconstrued and the one whose contexts are most misappropriated. In the middle of 1960, Biafra was absolutely a movement founded for South Eastern Nigeria to exit from the union called Federal Republic of Nigeria. Despite the wars and unfortunate waste of human lives it failed to succeed. After, the defeat of the agitation by ruthless application of kinetic solutions, the leader of the group, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu retraced his steps and abandoned the Biafran project as an exit vehicle from Nigeria. The abandonment of the agitation for a separate nation was confirmed by the Ojukwu’s triumphant entrance into Nigerian mainstream politics. Subsequently, he became a legislator in the Upper Chamber of the Nigerian National Assembly when he won senatorial seat from his own constituency. He later formed and became a political leader of All Progress Grand Alliance (APGA). APGA was a platform with which he contested for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In the election, his party became the third biggest party in Nigeria based on the followership and votes.
Ojukwu is an intellectual, in his speeches and writings, the former Military Officer continuously emphasized the imperativeness of the secession war he championed. He stressed that the war was necessary to save the south-eastern state from an imminent pillage, the war thus was defensive. He insisted that even when the war was an indispensable defense the experiences in the war gave lessons that it should not be repeated. He accentuated his eternal support for Biafra, an ‘Ideological Biafra’. Ojukwu talked extensively about Philosophical Biafra, the ‘Biafra of the mind’. He designated Philosophical Biafra as an irredentist consciousness of the being-of-Ndi Igbo, the-who- of- an Igbo individual. The philosophy targets the reinvention of the Igbos’ spirits of greatness, an achievement driven propensities. He spoke of the South easterners going home, being at home and thinking home. For Ojukwu, Biafra is an active consciousness for reinventing the Igbo personality after the misfortunes of calamitous civil war. The re-invention is embedded in the re-identification of the strength and uniqueness of the Igbos in equipment and quality development of the home. The sage despised the confounding ideas of Igbos’ vast investments outside their homes. Until his departure, it is not known that Ojukwu supported or wished that south east should dismantle from Nigeria.
As much as I understood, Ojukwu’s recent ‘thesis’ on Biafra is philosophical. Philosophical Biafra is the only way Biafra can be both valid and impactful in the light of the Igbo people’s nature and vast aspirations. For many Southeasterners, the Biafra that makes sense is an ideological Biafra, a sentient movement that works to eliminate injustices anywhere and everywhere in Nigeria, a consciousness that Nigerians have the right to good government and a productive governance that does not compromise duties and responsibilities to the citizens. The conception of Nigeria as a home and not as a temporal camp explained more demonstratively the reasons why the Easterners invested indiscriminately everywhere in Nigeria. They see Nigeria as a home, a place of peace and safety. In this context, Biafra is an action against political, socio-cultural and economic and injustices.
In this broader perspective, Biafran agitations cannot be southeastern phenomena alone, it should be nationwide. A Biafran is that man or woman in Borno, Yobe, Kastina, Zamfra, Benue, Ebony or Adamawa that is heavily yoked with perpetual burden of servitude, poverty and treacherously repressed by the Nigeria’s elite classes. Biafrans are those feeling the pains of injustices and deprivations of rights to life and descent living. Biafrans are those indigenes of Kastina, Kaduna, Kebbi or Bayelsa who were forced to become cannon folders making despicable politicians and other oppressive elites invincible. Biafra is a sign symbolizing the vast majority of Nigerians that were given empty caste of religion and tribe to play with as their patrimony are redistributed without their consent or knowledge.
Biafra as a philosophical project against denigration of any Nigerian irrespective of tribe or creed is contra distinguishable from the cacophonous noise self-style messiahs with confusing signals and relentless efforts to implode Nigeria. The self-style messiahs are whistling for wars and have directly or indirectly caused agonizing deaths of so many people. Like the works of the evil ones, they gloated the social media with false propaganda. They endlessly spew messages of desperation and comments capable of inciting groups of Nigerians against the others.
It is good to make this clarification, not every Igbo person sees secession as a solution to Nigerian perennial imbroglio. Everyone with Igbo linage is a Biafran, however, many millions of Biafrans despise the idea of exiting Nigeria not because they do not feel the intensity of the crisis but because such plan, for now, is nonsensical, a superfluous distraction and counterproductive. The secessionists are few but noisy and cacophonous. Some of the secessionists are those who believed that secession can give them the extra-ordinary advantages they cannot get when Nigeria begins to function productively, others are those so confused and ignorant that they feed on repertoires of fanciful images and propaganda narratives from the champions of strife and anarchy. We find the secessionists among the ideological factions of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Note, some elements in the ranks of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) talk and perceive values in the secession propositions but not every IPOB member or sympathizer sees the agitation to separate as rational and functional. The secession ideas are deeply contentious issues among IPOB family. They are the dividing lines. The secession arguments are anchored on the propositions that situations are grave and the threats of extinctions are potent, there are serious threats to the survival of people in the East and Christians in the Southern Nigeria, just as it is hard to save one’s life in Nigeria at large and above all the political representatives are dumb and careless about this impending disaster/annihilation. As such the people must rise to fight for their lives. It is a natural law. The only valid way to fight to save one’s life is to move away from the danger Nigeria represents.
Among the Mainstream Igbo business people and intelligentsia, exiting Nigeria is the weakest solution to the problems of the southeasterners and in deed other Nigerians. For many in this bracket, readjustment of the polity to make it functional and productive to varied needs of every Nigerian is more credible, coherent and objective. Exiting Nigeria can never be done impetuously. There is need to look for a commensurate strategy to face this ugly and devastating situation. It will be ruinous to confront the dangers of the situations devoid of prudence. Many elements in this group have expansive investments across the Federation and cannot countenance forceful vacation of Nigeria based on plans and proposals that have not been accurately re-examined for objectivity. Some argued that the Southeasterners are not the only victims of the gravely unjust order but they have the credit for creating the atmospheres for awakening of the consciousness of the Nigerians that where the nation is now is undesirable and unpardonable. However, there is an expression of optimism that Nigeria is not unworkable, rather, it is in need of courageous leaders and active followers to drive the Nigerian projection to a successful point where it becomes fit for purposes.
Among the recommendations for a successful future Nigeria are giving the federating units rights of expressions in manners that are consistent with devolution of powers and reframing of the constitution to reflect the true nature of Nigeria and the peculiarities. The devolution of power is consistent with the call by Southern governors for the restructuring of Nigeria. Absolutely, there is need to build an impenetrable resistance against the evils and the sources in Nigeria. In addition, all the political and religious leaders in Nigeria should be relentless in shouting out against the injustice and killings now ongoing in Nigeria. Political representatives must be ready to truly work for and with the people in get things right. This is a better way of assuring and restoring the lost confidence.