I have always been reluctant to get involved in the issue of modern day Biafra partly in order not to stoke the flames of an already burning fire and also in order not to contribute to an environment that makes reconciliation more difficult. However, I always knew that history often does not afford one the opportunity to be neutral in circumstances like this. In a way, a desire for neutrality can be described as tantamount to playing the trumpet while the fire rages. Nnamdi Kanu arriving court escorted by DSS agents
The irony of the current agitations Biafra and the arguments in support of it is that the first time the Biafrans tried to secede from Nigeria in 1960s in pursuit of their right to self-determination the clearest evidence provided in support of their recognition of every people’s right to self-determination was the invasion of minority then Midwestern, western and parts of current delta region of Nigeria. These ethnic groups were not a party to the decision to secede nor could they be described as culturally or historically Igbo. But they were invaded anyway and an Igbo man, Dr. Albert Okonkwo, was appointed governor of the predominantly non-Igbo Midwestern Region.
I have always believed and continue to believe that a people that cannot be protected by an existing governmental structure have a right to self-determination. How this self-determination is carried out depends on the nature, context and circumstances of the threat to the people. I believe that the Hausas/Fulanis and later the Igbos had a right to self-determination in the window between January 1966 and July 1967 for reasons that are obvious and need not be regurgitated here.
I grew up with a lot of respect for the late Odimegwu Ojukwu and I still do. At the very least, I admired him for his brilliance and oratory. However, this admiration has not obscured my willingness and ability to examine whether Biafra was fully prepared for the war which he launched against Nigeria in 1967. Yakubu Gowon’s May 5, 1967 decision to create twelve states out of the existing regions in Nigeria and undoubtedly a covert attempt to weaken Ojukwu’s power and support base and Odimegwu Ojukwu’s fear of replacement as governor and consequent decision to declare the republic of Biafra and invariably war on Nigeria on May 30, 1967 have been viewed by some as an act of self-preservation dressed in the garb of Igbo nationalism. As much as I admired Odimeguw Ojukwu and supported his arguments for self-determination as I will support that of any other ethnic group, empirical evidence shows that he was not tactically and logically prepared for a war he had a reasonable basis for believing he could win. His army’s invasion of the minorities put a lie to his claimed understanding of the right to self-determination.
The evidence from the first Biafra/Nigeria war tells us that a Biafra Republic will not be content with having only Igbo citizens. Its invasion of Midwest and Western regions and attempts to subjugate the minorities of the Niger Delta by force undercuts the self-determination argument. Despite this, I am not prepared to argue against the right of Biafra advocates to self-determination. However, they must not expect Nigeria and Nigerians to submit to unreasonable demands. Since they believe that the current structure of the country is oppressive to them, an argument which may not be completely wrong as far as each and every group is concerned depending on their views of oppression, and the progenitor of Biafra, Odimegwu Ojukwu once said that “since oppression is maintained by force, it is only possible to remove that oppression by a counterforce” those who support and desire Biafra must be ready and prepared to fight to overthrow the system they view as oppressive by force. Those on the other side have an obligation to resist and crush any insurrection. I see the arguments from both sides but I also recognize the right of Nigeria to resist Biafra’s threat of secession. No one but the totality of Nigerians have a right to balkanize the country. Whoever must do so must be prepared to use force and do so successfully or face the consequences. After all “a revolution is not a dinner party.”
Before the idea of Biafra can gain traction and sympathy with other non-Igbo Nigerians, the pro Biafra Nigerians have a lot to do in explaining to other Nigerians why the Igbos in their earlier quest for the realization of Biafra, attempted to swallow up other minorities like those in the then Midwest and current Niger Delta and why they should be trusted not to attempt the same again. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander!
(Source: Sahara Reporters)