Exigent circumstances exist in Nigeria which make ethnic agitations possible or sustained. And so, Nigeria has had to contend with the collective nuisances of ethnic militia and their agitations, and sometimes, these agitations take on militant and violent tones, as with OPC, MASSOB and NVPF of Mujahideen Dukubo and others? I must state quickly that I have no preference for any ethnic chauvinists, whether they are ACF, MASSOB, OPC, Egbesu or whatever, so long as they pursue parochial interests that are not necessarily Nigeria’s national interests or consistent with Nigerian oneness.
Nigerian causes have not been advanced or helped and will not be helped by ethnic chauvinists. Whether such chauvinists are Hausas, Ndiigbo or Yorubas and all the other ethnicities that are embedded in, and of which Nigeria is diversely comprised.
According to Dr. Okenwa Nwosu in his article “Is Biafra Alive, Dead Or On Life Support?”, ‘Amongst the Igbo, therefore, Biafra continues to be a subject that readily elicits profound emotions despite the fact that the Civil War ended more than 35 years ago. On one end of the spectrum, we have those who are willing to bet their lives on the fact that Biafra lives and offers Ndiigbo a clear path to their redemption while on the other end, the Igbo political establishment operates with the mindset that Biafra belongs to history?’
Allow me to be the first to admit and acknowledge that the word Biafra is an emotion laden word. It conjures the best and the worst among disparate peoples.
Biafra is a very delicate and sensitive word particularly among Ndiigbo, and that is understandable. I for instance, have repeatedly and publicly stated my raw emotion of about 38 years ago, when for the first time, I saw my father bawl and wail as if a child, as he notified and received the sorrowful news, a notification to the effect that Christopher, his second son, my brother, was killed by Nigerian Third Marine Commandoes at ‘Abagana Sector’ and until that day, I did not know that grown men cried, and if they did, it could not include my father, our family protector, our family fortress and my father, my family’s lord of stoicism. It remained a strong imprimatur in my indelible child mind, hence wars still elicit an almost automatic rejection response from me when people talk carelessly about needless wars that they seek to foist or impose on Nigeria?
As an impressionable child, I saw the gory effects and horrors of war! I saw soldiers with guns and bayonets, I saw trailers and lorries hauling dead bodies or corpses, some part decomposed and dripping fetid body liquid of decay and decomposition of war dead, and I was deprived of so much, I was not allowed to play in nearby bushes as my parents feared and heard constant machine gun fire, sounds of which I can still recite precisely, they sounded tooooook, tooook-kaaaay, gaaaar, gaaaar, toooook, tooook, tooook, gaaaar, gaaaaar, gaaaar day and night, more so at evenings and nightfall
All children of my neighborhood were forbidden from entering bushes and shrubs for fear of running into soldiers or weapons or booby-traps set between Biafra and Federal troops, but for us children, we all just wanted to play, but the frequency of bursts of machine gun fire usually drove home our parents’ concerns to us, sounds that I still recollect so clearly, it is scary!
They do not know what the horror and barbarities of wars are like, and they do not know the magnitude of personal loss to families, the collateral damage, in today’s parlance and euphemism. And warmongers are unable to understand that war is senseless! War mongers are unable to reject the Clauswietzian mantra of war is pursuit of policy by other means. No, war is a horrible machinery and a most brutal instrument of failed policy, and warmongers are oblivious of ultimate sacrifices made by many, sacrifices that I do not wish even upon my enemy now.
Regarding Nigeria, there have been this developing trend, a troubling trend, by some, some too young to know what the suffering was like, among the families like mine, who took no direct hit or felt the impact of the Biafra Nigerian war in a very personal, more than national sense! A developing trend whereby threats of war are issued as a means of nudging ahead important political negotiations or as means of fending off perennial marginalization, but war is not friendly.
War is Horrible! It is horrible horrible! We must negotiate our future and Nigeria’s future without war, without the threat of war or promise of anarchy upon ourselves or anyone? We must negotiate smartly, even if we have to hold our noses! Even an imperfect peace is infinitely better than war!
I have been equally troubled by this trend, just as Dr. Nwosu indicated in his very analytical article, as he described this seeming ambivalence amongst Ndiigbo, a feeling of to-be-or-not-to-be and a sort of crossroads feelings of not being entirely Nigerian and not being entirely Biafran! And this hesitation is a distraction and time consuming, I have myself wrestled with these and have wanted to make a public debate of it since and most recently, I was dissuaded from doing so, as I was told that I will promptly receive the hostile treatment meted out to Olisa H. Osita, just because he dared to be different and think outside the box perspective-wise, regarding Biafra and such other issues Ndiigbo.
Just as I also worry that Ndiigbo has not started to tally presidential hopefuls and rally round a possible consensus candidate, despite the explanations or defense mounted by Chief Joe Achuzia, the Secretary-General of Ohaneze in his recent news briefing in preparation of this year’s Igbo Day Celebrations. Chief Achuzia suggests it is a matter of strategy, and that time is not yet ripe for Ndiigbo to announce a consensus candidate(s) but other political gladiators are already getting name recognitions, as they have already thrown their hats into the presidential bid ring. Chief Achuzia, of course, also mentioned another worry, what he described as ‘Part of our problems as Ndiigbo is the emphasis on individuality’ even as he urged unity and cohesion amongst Ndiigbo. It must be pointed out, that there are already dashes in the race for 2007, in leaps and bounds, hence, there should be no snoozing on the part of Ndiigbo, even now.
My first draft of this article was several months ago, what motivated me then was an article by a Nigerian who referred to himself and adamantly stated his preference to be known, and described as a something he called Biafra!
I have variously thought of this subject matter and title in different ways. Eventually, I refrained from completing and sending my first writing of this article for publication because I was dissuaded by another Nigerian who I had intimated of my frustrations with the Mr. Biafra and those with similar inclinations and mindsets as his. The advice that I got was that I should ignore the ranting which amounted to nothing instead of appear to give it more importance than it deserved. But ranting and raving got louder and even violent.
But so much has transpired and changed since I received that advice, including the fact that a so-called Biafra Pound now circulates in Nigeria and most of West Africa! And there were some Nigerians of Igbo origin, who were celebrating the existence of the illegal and worthless Biafran Pound Sterling, some such celebrations were for pure nostalgia, while others, used it to perpetuate fraud upon the gullible and unsuspecting simpletons.
Something that is worse has also occurred. MASSOB has ostentatiously announced its intentions to disrupt Nigeria’s Population Census formerly scheduled for November and even disrupt the dry-run by the Census Commission. MASSOB has also c
hosen to identify with the Osama bin Ladin loving Mujaheedeen Dukubo, a Robbin Hood wannabe and a very violent version of it, at that! So handshake between Dukubo and Ojukwu!
More and more pronouncements are being made by advocates and adherents of the dream or make-belief nation of Biafra. I know that I am now walking into the lion’s den or the equivalent of a snake pit, full of venomous vipers, but this must however be said and done in the interest of our national interests, our oneness, our benefit in unity and diversity in our collective Nigeria-ness, Ndiigbo genuine aspirations and that of all other ethnic groups of Nigeria, in Nigeria, are realizable within the confines of the potpourri of Nigeria’s wondrous diversities, without bullets flying or without firing any weapon. And without invoking or threatening mayhem and anarchy!
The time has therefore come to speak up, time for those of us who believe in one indivisible Nigeria as sacrosanct, time for us to raise awareness and perhaps raise alarm as well, regarding the increasing specter of the spread of the phantom excitement thing that, is, the so-called Biafra!
Some of us Nigerians are sadly consumed by dead and useless causes. I have been in rooms where people made incendiary statements like Nigeria should still not trust the Igbo because of the declaration of Biafra and the civil war that followed…and such discussants are quick to gloss over the antecedent grievances that led to or culminated in the Nigerian civil war… Biafra and now MASSOB, but those who harp on separation, of Ndiigbo as Biafra and away from Nigeria, give Ndiigbo’s detractors ample ammunitions, to classify Ndiigbo as non-Nigerians undeserving of presidential powers.
A reading of the article “I am Biafra” is a symptom of the contradicting aspirations by some Nigerians! How else would anyone excuse, let alone explain the obvious ambivalence of some who would seek and should concentrate on producing the next president but are also engaging in the irritatingly futile efforts of clamoring for the moribund and long defunct and dead fabled republic of Biafra? What a useless exercise indeed?
Why are some continually engaged in these self distracting exercise, which has done no good but defeat the main purpose? While at the same time busily offending every friend and well wishers?
We cannot afford to be simplistic or be dismissive of feelings…raw feelings that existed….we all need to reconcile or to reconstruct and heal and we can neither fan embers of hatred, we cannot act as if we are not full citizens, even if that is what others wish that we feel. African Americans and Jews are good precedents for what I suggest here. These groups have been devalued and defined downwards, but these groups continue to define themselves and hold their heads high as full citizens of the world, with meaningful contributions to make to the world, Ndiigbo is similar.
It is now time that all Nigerians say enough to these energy sapping and dissipating dispiritingly useless mutual suspicions, which only ensures a backward march for us as a collective and as a nation with purpose and for Nigeria as a nation that must advance to its destiny for greatness.
In my opinion, those who continue to fan the sores and scars of events leading to the declaration of Biafra, and its demise, actually make life difficult for all Igbos, regardless of belief or support and non-belief and non-support of Biafra as it then was, and as it is now hoped.
My father of blessed memory spoke Igbo Hausa and Yoruba and he like Azikiwe, IK Dairo and Aminu Kano and Fela and Enahoro believed in one united Nigeria and so do I, and so will I, until I die! I am an Igbo man, as I am a Hausa man and a Yoruba man! For I am Nigeria and Nigeria is me!
We accept that Nigeria is complex, just as our families are and the world is. Even among Igbo families, there can be differences. Abum and Awum onye Igbo! And among the Igbos in my family, some actually claim superiority to the other Igbos! Because those from Nnewi in the former Anambra state are always accused and labeled as peripheral Igbos by my other family members from Oguta in the former Imo state, who shamelessly assert their authentic Igbo-ness, Ndi-Imo, which they insist is superior to the ‘adulterated’ Igbo-ness of Anambrarians, as poor Anambrarians are accused of being too close to the Bendel people of the lower, and across the Niger Bridge, possessing only flimsy claim to Igboland, but we all joke over this these days!
It is a mini Nigeria when my family gathers! Where everyone is superior in our equality and equal-ness, we are all equal in my family as Nigerians are all equal, my family constantly argues, just as Nigerians at large argue about our place in Nigeria and our rights, duties, obligations and responsibilities of full citizenship, etc., and our competing and sometimes conflicting interests. As is often the case in multicultural and plural societies, Nigeria is no exception.
A time will come when religion, region, ethnicities, such ancillaries and seeming extraneous prefixes are no longer major factors or determinants of political and economic outcomes in Nigeria. But unfortunately, Nigeria has not matured economically and politically as yet.
Apparently some NIGERIANS never received the memorandum or e-mail? We are all God’s children, whatever ethnicities in Nigeria we may claim or belong, or have as our heritage. All Nigerians certainly need to be patient with other Nigerians! Nigeria is God’s and in so many ways, the story of my family, is the same as Nigeria’s. And this is the story of Nigeria… We are all God’s own and we are assuredly needing patience, with each other, so we can co-exist with all fellow Nigerians, just as all Nigerians reap the benefits of our Nigerian-ness, and unity of our national purpose….Forget Biafra, Biko!
In the past I have written in a series of articles “Genuine Aspirations; Ndiigbo and 2007” again, “From Biafra to MASSOB What Do Ndiigbo Want?” expressed my desire and opinion in seeing a citizen of Ndiigbo become president come 2007, but now, it has become difficult to harp on such. Utterances and actions by those who should be marshalling and corralling others to the aforementioned presidential efforts are busily insulting everyone else with seemingly immature public discourse that has only inflamed national nerves
I cannot fathom the logic or rational of those who are adamantly advocating a cause that is NOT coming to fruition even in a million years! We ought to pay more attention to what is attainable, reasonable and possible, as opposed to a dead dream, and the pursuit of this dead Biafra dream, some give weapons to those who would distract us, and detract from real and worthy goals. Ndiigbo ought to focus on what is really important.
So much energy has been dissipated by those who ought to be working assiduously and most diligently in the attainment of the more worthy cause of full citizenship in our national scheme of things? Ndiigbo ought to be engrossed now, in earnest, plotting strategies and drawing graphs for 2007. There ought to a clear demand, an insistent demand for respect for the collective will of Ndiigbo as full citizens of Nigeria, within Nigeria, not outside of it.
But what we have instead are some of our citizens who seem to be more interested in annoying the daylight out of would be supporters and well wishers in the more plausible cause, making one of our own, from Ndiigbo, president of Nigeria, for all Nigerians in 2007!
This is what Ndiigbo need, from Biafra to MASSO
B, Ndiigbo? Genuine Aspiration Within Nigeria!