Biafra fever, by Femi Macaulay

Pro-Biafra demonstration in India
Pro-Biafra demonstration in India

When rebellion is inspired by hallucination, sooner or later the rebels will demonstrate that they operate beyond the realm of reason. The signs of disorientation are beginning to show more unmistakably in the affairs of Biafra’s promoters.

It is not that Nigeria’s federalism is perfect, but the imperfection can be perfected without the complication of hallucinatory revolters.

This must be Ralph Uwazuruike’s idea of taking things to the next level. After unveiling his group’s new identity on December 6 last year, and announcing his new leadership title, he has now released plans to set up a parallel government in the country’s Southeast and South-south.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was renamed Biafra Independence Movement (BIM), and Uwazuruike said he should be recognised as BIM leader instead of MASSOB leader.

”Old members will now belong to the new Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) while the MASSOB structure will be reorganised as the youth wing of the Biafra struggle,” Uwazuruike said during a meeting of his group’s zonal and regional administrators. In other words, the struggle is still alive, but will be carried on under a redesigned banner.

Uwazuruike must be under the impression that he moved closer to actualising his separatist dream by presenting what was called the 2016 Biafra Budget at the Ojukwu Memorial Library in Owerri, the Imo State capital. Is Biafra already a reality, and no longer an objective? Who was responsible for making the budget? Who approved it? Where will the funds to operate it come from? Does this budget presentation explain or justify the efforts to generate revenue internally by, for instance, selling so-called Biafra passports as well as MASSOB customised vehicle number plates? Of course, these specific examples were scams.

Also, Uwazuruike announced the appointment of Rev. Fr Samuel Aniebonam, a Catholic Priest, as the Chairman of the Biafra Independent National Electoral Commission (B-INEC). Uwazuruike said: “The chairman, with other anointed men and women of God as members, will supervise the internal election into the offices of the new Biafra Government on February 22.” How can a group’s “internal election” be for the election of Biafra government officials?

He continued: “Our election will not be like Nigeria’s election, it will be a transparent one. In Biafra, there won’t be electoral fraud. The tenure of the elected Regional Governor or Minister would be four years and nine months. There shall be no second tenure. Once you are defeated, you won’t appeal in a tribunal against your opponent. This is why members of the commission would be men and women of God.” He sounded like a Constitution, or like the Constitution. Is there a Biafra Constitution? Who drafted it? Who ratified it?

The group’s National Director of Information, Sunny Okereafor, was quoted as saying only members of MASSOB and BIM are qualified to vote and be voted for in the elections. Are these the only Biafrans, or the only enfranchised citizens of Biafra? Is the group the same thing as Biafra, or is Biafra the same thing as the group? Okereafor said: “The electioneering has begun; we are conducting elections into all offices from wards to the zones, to elect leaders to administer Biafra. We are going to show Nigeria how to conduct free and fair elections without rigging, intimidation and favouritism.”

He added: “Biafra will be a country where others would come to learn how democracy works… We want freedom; Biafra is the answer.” Okereafor reportedly said Biafra would re-introduce its currency as soon as the elections were concluded and winners sworn in.

Joking apart, don’t they sound like jokers? There is some confusion here, to put it mildly. Or there is some hallucination here, to put it less mildly. Planning to hold elections, and so on, in a non-existent Biafra must be a hallucinatory joke. Biafra remains imaginary and imagination cannot make it existent. It exists only in the imagination of the imaginers.

The reinvention that invented BIM should be appreciated in its proper context. As background, it is noteworthy that a faction of MASSOB led by Uchenna Madu had expelled Uwazuruike for alleged misappropriation of funds. Madu was the Director of Information under Uwazuruike in the old power structure.

The complexion of the conflict was obvious following Uwazuruike’s allegation that Madu got money from the Federal Government to stop pro-Biafra protests. In response, a statement by MASSOB’s Secretary, Ugwuoke Ibem, attacked Uwazuruike and threatened to expose his “atrocities, sabotage and deviation from Biafra’s actualiastion”.

The statement said: “As the closest officer to the former leader as well as the image maker, our new leader has vowed to expose Uwazuruike’s dealings with the Federal Government under Jonathan; Ezu River case, death of Innocent Ogbuehi (ex-Umuahia MASSOB leader), and other illicit affairs.” It added: “MASSOB, under Madu, will continue its non-violent agitation with other pro-Biafra groups.”

How many pro-Biafra groups exist today? This question is pertinent in the light of developments concerning what may be tagged “The Biafra Project”. It is no news that the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), another pro-Biafra group, continues to make the headlines on account of the detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is facing treason-related charges for illegally running Radio Biafra.

The truth is that problems arising from the country’s imperfect federalism may not necessarily be resolved by separatist impulses. Disunity among the various pro-Biafra groups is sufficient to illustrate this point.

As Nigeria celebrates Armed Forces Day, also known as Remembrance Day, on January 15, it is an apt time to further reflect on pro-Biafra separatists in particular. It was on January 15, 1970, that Biafran troops surrendered to the Federal side after a three-year conflict, bringing the Nigerian Civil War to an end, perhaps without ending the centrifugal tendencies in the country’s space.

There is no question that the present promoters of the past are too fixated on yesterday to give tomorrow a chance. Their extremism is a cause for concern. They are on the Path of Thunder, to employ the title of poetry by Christopher Okigbo, the talented poet who fought on the Biafran side and died on the battlefield. What kind of government will accommodate their provocative absurdities without a collision? (The Nation)

Leave a comment