Ghost of Biafra will continue to haunt Nigeria, by Onuoha Ukeh

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Biafran Flag
Biafran Flag

If Chief Duro Onabule were an Igbo man, I am sure many people would have accused him of Biaframania. Perhaps, others would have accused him of Igbocentrism because of his profound article: “Britain toys with woes of another Biafra,” published in Daily Sun of November 6, 2015. The High Chief is not Igbo, but a true Nigerian, who chose to call a spade by its name, without caring whose ox is gored.

Yes, in the article, Chief Onabule exposed the hypocrisy of Britain, regarding Nigerian situation in relation to Biafran agitation, underlining what could pass for the double standards of this former colonialist. He highlight- ed how Britain supported the independence of some countries born out of agitation. He talk- ed about Malaysia, Singapore, Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Zambia (Southern Rhodesia) and Malawi (Nyasaland), among others.

He had stated: “Obviously, only for its self-serving economic and political interests, Britain will ever muddle Nigeria’s political problems to further relics of its political past. Otherwise, why did Britain not preserve the sanctity of the national borders of the federation of Malaysia and Singapore? On the contrary, Britain granted independence to the two countries as separate nations. Similarly, why did Britain not preserve the sanctity of the national border of the federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland? Remarkably, Britain carved out three separate independent countries, namely northern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe)’ southern Rhodesia (today’s Zambia) and Nyasaland (now known as Malawi). Britain’s record of experimenting with federal form of government n its colonial territories collapsed all over.

“In flaunting its so-called record of preserving Nigerian national border, Britain is engaging in diplomatic fraud. After Nigeria’s civil war, what was Britain’s record on preservation of national borders in Africa and other parts of the world? Was Britain not a major party to the enunciation of the United Nation’s principle of self-determination for citizens all over the world? Did Britain not spearhead the break-up of Sudan into two independent nations of Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan through United Nation’s principle of self-determination? Did Britain not support the break-up of erstwhile Ethiopia into the current two independent nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea through the United Nations principle of self-determination? What therefore, is peculiar in Nigeria to make its good or bad prospects a matter of life or death for Britain? Whether Nigeria will or should break up or not will and should be the mutual agreement of its various peoples, but surely NOT in any way a choice for Britain. This intruder should, therefore, shut up and keep off.”

Chief Onabule also talked about how Britain would respect fundamental human rights in treating Scotland, Wales and other components of its present day kingdom, while being harsh on the Nigerian affairs, as it concerns self-determination. Said he: “When Britain was threatened with disintegration, the response of the central authorities in London, even if in panic, was to grant substantial political autonomy to Wales and Scotland. Even then, Scotland insisted on complete independence from Britain and two years ago, only narrowly lost a referendum to that effect. Scotland unilaterally organised its referendum instead of waiting for Britain’s grace.”

Away from Britain’s pretension, Chief Onabule also went ahead to explain why “Biafra” would continue to resonate in Nigeria. For him, “Biafra” is not only about the struggle by the Igbo in South East to have a separate state, but also protest by all sections of the country, who feel cheated, at one time and another, in the nation. He recalled how the South West and North have, in the past, ex- pressed their reservations about the way they were treated in the country, saying that their misgivings could be likened to the agitation for “Biafra.”

Indeed, Chief Onabule could not have put it better. The situation in the country has made people to lose faith and, therefore, wish that they be in another republic. The Igbo, for in- stance, feel battered, bruised and clobbered. In their frustration, they hold unto Biafra as a source of hope. It could be an illusion, but they appear not to care. As it stands, the spirit if Biafra will continue to haunt Nigeria and Nigerian leaders, so long as there is marginalisation and unfair treatment of Igbo in the country. Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, ex-gover- nor of Anambra State, is right when he said that Nigerian leaders were the ones laying the foundation for Biafra. When a people are singled out for persecution and suppression, they would feel alienated. Now the Nigerians Army has issued threat of invoking the Rule of Engagement to deal with those who are marching in the streets to protest the detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. In the coming days, the threat could be carried out and people who are exercising their fundamental human rights, to protest, in a non-violent way, may be shot in the streets of South East and South South. That’s the way Igbo are treated. When they do something, punitive measures are taken. When others do it, people see this as normal.

Today, everybody is hysterical about Radio Biafra. I do not have any problem with the government going after Radio Biafra, as the station is, indeed, a thorn in its flesh. However, how do we explain that some Nigerians, and indeed, those who did similar thing in the past, are now making noise about a pirate ra- dio station? At one time in Nigeria, there was Radio Kudirat, which was an anti-government organ. While it operated and attacked the Sani Abacha government, the majority of the elite in the South West, for example, praised and funded it. Now that Radio Biafra is doing the same thing, it must be wrong. Some of those who used Radio Kudirat against the Abacha government are criticising Radio Biafra. That’s the lot of the Igbo.

Make no mistake about it; I am not in any way campaigning for a sovereign state of Biafra. I can’t because in the event of the balkanisation of Nigeria, the Igbo will be the worst losers. Across the country, Igbo are the ones that have invested massively outside their geopolitical zones. Be it in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Ibadan and any major city in the country, the investments of Igbo, in property, industries and companies, run into trillions of naira. If Nigeria divides, all these will be lost. It will be lost not because it’s the convention that investments of nationals of other countries in nations other than theirs ought to be forfeited, but because Nigeria is a place where international convention and law of natural justice do not appear to mean much. What happened in Port Harcourt, for instance, after the civil war, when buildings of Igbo were declared, as “abandoned property” is an eye opener. Therefore, it’s not in the interest of the Igbo for Nigeria to divide.

However, I must add that the spirit if Biafra will continue to be invoked by Igbo because of the way they are treated in the country. When an Oba threatens Igbo with death if they vote for a candidate of their choice, which is different from the one the traditional ruler endorses, Igbo invoke Biafra. When Igbo are killed and their business premises looted in a protest caused by an article against Prophet Mohammed, which they have no hand in, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When Igbo cannot get Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os) for their property in some states because of the accident of their birth, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When close to 50 appointments are made by a president and no single Igbo man/ women from South East is among them, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When roads in South East are neglected and left in the most terrible condition, the spirit of Biafra will be invoked. When Igbo are told they committed political suicide by voting for their choice in a presidential election, the spirit of Biafra is invoke.

I believe that the Igbo man will prefer to be in a larger Nigeria, so that he would operate in a big territory, where he would feel more fulfilled by his accomplishments than to be a champion in a tiny enclave. What they demand is equal rights and justice. They want to be treated like others, and not as second-class citizens in their country. The government and Nigerians would kill the spirit of Biafra by addressing those things that make Igbo alienated: Fix their roads, provide electricity and security and provide enabling environment. And the mean thing: Concede the presidency to the Igbo. Yes, concede the presidency! In 1999, Nigeria conceded the presidency to the Yoruba to appease them for the June 12, 1993 fiasco, which explains why the three political parties at that time fielded only Yoruba candidates. What is wrong if such concession is made to the Igbo? Nothing wrong whatsoever. It will rather kill Biafra permanently. (Daily Sun)

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