This elastic agitation for the illusion called Biafara is rapidly snowballing into a painful anathema. But must this grow unguardedly or a final stop should be put to it? We fought a civil war which was decisively concluded with an agreement of “no victor, no vanquished”.
That was universally acclaimed as magnanimous at the time. Nigerians of both “divide” then easily came together and assumed the worst was over.
In spite of the early forgiving at home, outside the shores of this country, there were pockets of agitators for Biafra for commercial and selfish reasons. I recall in 1972 at the Suddeutsche Zeiting (South Germany Newspaper) my boss, Herrn Helmut Hess told me that the editor wanted to see me. In his office were some Nigerian Biafrans who were there to solicit for money to prosecute the war. I made it explicitly clear to them that the war had ended and the prevalence of peace in Nigeria then, which put paid to their request. Even as late as 1974 in Europe there were still pockets of Biafra sympathisers who played on the ignorance of “merciful” society foiled by Nigeria’s weak publicity outreach. This definitely allows for constant revisit to this so-called republic, perhaps buoyed by the poor governance that allows for cases of marginalisation, claims any section of Nigeria, in fairness can make.
The continuity of this selective primordial sentiment still prevails among a section of many South eastern Nigerians particularly youths most of whom were born after the civil war, majority of them not grounded with the issues involved in the uprising except emotions and the love of adventure. In one of their recent map, Biafra covered the whole of Anioma, Ukwuani Isoko even extending to some enclaves in Urhoboland. This is an unripe imagination. Hence the prompt reaction of one Chief Tuesday Onoge, an Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) member and the recent clarification by the Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for the status quo must be noted.
This is what many prominent Igbo leaders had not done though few had spoken out against this dream which died some 46years ago. What is missing in the current flag bearing outing for resurrection of a different homeland is the deep philosophical approach the originator of the dream, late Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi invoked. What we are now seeing is an ephemeral periphery of the idea of a strong man who equally saw the end of his ambition and who made a timely retreat. None among those shouting now has half the charisma and oratory power of Ojukwu to whip up emotions and evoke followership for a course. The originator of dream saw the novalike movement of the Biafra project before all of them. And we are in a different era and time where this romanticism with adventure will fade away but for the socio-economic disturbances.
The irony of the whole episode is traceable to government’s inaction. The Oromo people in Ethiopia had this same recurring secessionist demand. But with some strange wisdom they found their answer in the redrafting of a constitution which stipulated that any section of the country wishing to go away can get the right to do so in their national assembly with just a simple majority vote. That put paid to the Oromo demand for their own country. Our Chief Ben Nwabueze (SAN) was a party to the drafting of the new Ethiopian constitution. I had severally demanded for a clause of this type to be inserted into our constitution.
Late Chief Anthony Enahoro, the second man to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, as his last major contribution also said same thing in his submission for a 19-state Nigeria. Since then the Federal Government of Nigeria under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan organised two national conferences without any attempt to find a final solution to this perenimal agitation. The National Assembly since 1999 till now has variously told the nation of the inadequacies in the nation’s constitution without any action to rectify them.
This same approach has equally been beamed on the need to diversify the economy to remove focus from the monolithic source of revenue which is crude oil without any practical move. But now with the price of oil hovering between S24 and S25 per a barrel, from over S100 a year ago, it needs a pragmatic approach, same thing the nation should have done about this simmering sentimentality about Biafra. Why must this agitation become a regular issue to disturb the nation’s political clime. The United States of America fought a civil war. For 100years, the south were not allowed to rule that nation until ex-President Jimmy Carter emerged in 1976. Nobody ever raised his or her head to take their nation to that era again not to talk of expanding the land mass of their agitation. That in Nigeria, 46years after a new constant horizon of rebellion theatre unfolds shows that an action is needed to stop it once and for all. This is why the position of the Delta State governor,Dr. Okowa comes for commendation.
In a timely message to dispel claims of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPDB) that “Anioma Nation in Delta State belongs to Biafra Republic,” he equally decried the move to scrap Maritime University, Ekerekoko, Warri South West, LGA. With this the governor has delivered a serious burden of leadership. Okowa also stated that despite the corollary or similarity in language does not make them same because of the contiguous geography. He said, “Biafran agitation, we have criticised it. Anioma land as it is said, from here, was part of Bendel State; it was part of Midwest Region. We were never part of the South East and obviously we cannot be said to be part of them. We may speak the same language, but we were never part of the South East. We were part of the Midwest; we were part of Bendel. We are now Delta State and we are Deltans.” It cannot be more emphatic than this.
- Etaghene is the editorial director of The Bulletin, Sapele, Delta State.