The temptations of Biafra

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Biafran Flag
Biafran Flag

By Clement Udegbe

Do not be deceived, every Igbo man is a Biafran, irrespective of where he was born and grew up on this earth, whether he fought and witnessed the Nigerian civil war or not. He may not even know what Biafra is all about, and may not believe in the concept or idea of Biafra, but God knows why he was created an Igbo man.

Although as an individual, he may know his purpose, vision and mission on earth, he would be incomplete until he discovers his role as an Igbo man. A man who does not know his identity irrespective of his status in society needs help, and   many Igbos need help in this regard.

I was in Biafra as a 12-year-old during the civil war, and saw war fronts, the refugee camps, feeding, research and production centers, etc. I saw deaths, hunger, kwashiorkor, oppression by the soldiers on both sides of the war; intrigues: Biafrans killing Biafrans. But I found myself weeping uncontrollably the day it was announced that we lost the war because no one likes defeat, not even a child. Biafra was defeated in January 1970; so when you mention it now, some are tempted to avoid it, postpone the topic, kill it, suppress it, while others want to speak and stand by it.

Failure, they say, is an orphan, and the attitude of people when it seems that they have failed determines how far they will go. But did Biafra and Ndigbo fail ?

While some in Nigeria feel that Biafra and Ndigbo failed, many have realised from events in Nigeria 45 years after that war, that Biafra was an idea whose time was yet to come, and we are extremely proud and thankful to God for the positive attitude of Ndigbo to matters in Nigeria, in spite of all. Ndigbo have overcome and survived that war by excelling in spite of its effects. They are scattered all over Nigeria, thus becoming the single ethnic group found in all geopolitical zones of this country, peacefully making contributions, building their host societies and their economies, in spite of the hatred, disdain and aggravations from such host communities.

Only last week, the respected Deji of Akure, for example, found it comfortable to insult the sensibilities of Ndigbo by reducing the personality of Eze-Ndigbo in Ondo State, yet no Igbo king will dictate how an Oba should carry on with his affairs as a king in Igbo land.

Some of these Obas have become so confused about One Nigeria that rather than foster unity between Igbos and Yorubas, to take advantage of the huge and awesome opportunities God has given to them in the South of Nigeria, they devote so much time and energy creating divisions between the two ethnic groups, playing and falling into the hands and agenda of others in this geographical expression called Nigeria.

There is no record so far of any Eze of Igbo land disparaging any Oba, but that is what Igbos suffer very often. The experience of Igbos and the distinguished Oba of Lagos during the 2015 elections is still fresh in our minds. It is a form of brewing xenophobia against Igbos in Nigeria, and if Nigeria will not deal with it, Ndigbo will with time find ways round the whole gamut of insults. The key offense of Ndigbo is their competiveness and open attitude to life wherever they find themselves.

They believe truly in one Nigeria and live it, allowing their money, as small as it may be, to work for them where ever they live in Nigeria; but others pay lip service to One Nigeria, always on daggers-drawn when things do not suit them.

Last month, apparently overwhelmed by Buhari’s victory at the 2015 polls, a prominent Northern elite, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, taunted Ndigbo to secede if they could, and face the wrath of the North. Nothing happened to him, no Northern elder said a word, not even a rebuke from our President, lending credence to the belief in many quarters that Buhari does not care about Ndigbo. It is xenophobia against Ndigbo, but Ndigbo will not reject themselves if Nigeria under whichever President rejects them.

As long as this earth revolves on its axis, time will continue to change, and any idea whose time has come cannot be stopped. Wise people therefore flow with ideas whose time has come. But has the time for the true Biafra come ? I am tempted to say NO, because first, Igbos themselves are not ready spiritually, mentally and physically. Pointer: Their current five Governors became either confused or deliberately mischievous against this   common cause of Ndigbo. If the time for Biafra was here, they would be made to regret their recent utterances for life.

Second, Igbos are well scattered all over Nigeria, and whenever there is a little discomfort, they start running home, and have done this since 1966. But after almost 50 years Igbos ought to have developed a system of exercising control and influence in their home communities without having to be treated like castrated lambs all the time. When the time for Biafra arrives, Igbos will begin to effectively use their positions within their host communities, without having to fire a gunshot in Nigeria or within Igbo land.

Third, when the time for Biafra comes, Igbo youths will sit down, think deeply, and plan well concerning the development of Igbo land, making   support for the best interests of Ndigbo the basis for everything. They will begin to hold their leaders accountable and demand more than the current practice where their senators and NASS representatives only organise football matches during festive periods as their community projects. Ostentatious, greedy and deceptive governors will be resisted and rejected across Igbo land.

Finally, Igbo youths should avoid being part of the killing of the economy of the South East Zone. They disrupted trade and commerce during the Ekwulobia Prisons nonsense by this government, and now it is about Nnamdi Kanu. They need to understand that this Buhari government of APC does not care about Ndigbo and so should strategise to develop Igbo land first.

  • Mr. Udegbe, a legal practitioner, originally sent this piece to Vanguard.

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