Has anyone envisaged what Biafra would have been if Ojukwu had succeeded with the Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Ibibio, Okrika and other ethnic groups in Biafra? Creation of South Sudan is not far from our curious minds. As long as Africans cultivate ethnic champions within our communities, no African country will live up to or near its God given natural potential, it is not a curse. It’s the same empirical evidence Africans demonstrated since Independence yet want different results.
Igbo need Yoruba support as Ijaw did to become President. Zik got Hausa’s to become President. Hero’s welcome Yoruba gave Ojukwu in Lagos thrilled Igbo but no longer good for reconciliation. As long as Igbo feel marginalized in Nigeria, echo of Ojukwu, the Biafran rebel leader (not the reconciled Nigerian) will continue to resurrect anger. If it is not Boko Haram it is the Ijaw or Igbo. It has got the rest of the Country fed-up and ready for breakup, if that will solve our problems.
In the interest of full disclosure, this writer believes that Nigeria is richer with Ndi-Igbo and Igbo are better off in their indigenous Country where they have existed with Yoruba, Hausa, Ibibio, Igala and the rest of other ethnic groups since Nature created man in Africa. Nigeria is neither South Sudan, Somali nor Ethiopia-Eritrea. But as Africans, we must learn from Hutu and Tutsi.
Even in separation, the problem will not go away as evidence throughout Africa. The second round will be boundary disputes and the third round will be full scale civil war over oil, gold and diamond. As we are busy fighting one another, the “rescuers” will come to share our resources.
When Ethiopia and Eritrea separated in 1993, skirmishes and border dispute escalated into full-scale war in 1999. Biafra and South Sudan are more complicated than this writer can put in an article but the picture is clear. Ethnic rivalry always leads us to disaster. Power for life creates illusion of indispensability by their ethnic leaders that should have used another ethnic group to solidify the country instead of perpetuating themselves in power.
Some scholars fear that it is more than ethnicity. They introduced arsonists throwing bombs into each African society scattering the communities so that they can be easily captured which they called “rescuing” Africans from dictators like Gadhafi. We must temper our emotions and take this school of thought into consideration when planning our future. It must not deprive us of our sensibilities and responsibilities to one another as Africans.
Yes, Ojukwu was a young man, brilliant and well informed. He had so many advantages most of his cohorts lacked. He actually displayed it “On Aburi We Stand”. With that wide gap, he could have realized that since he took them to the cleaners, compromise for its ratification later. Even more to his advantage, he had Azikiwe’s matured instinct and guidance. However, his youthful exuberance, ambition and stubbornness compared to his maturity in later years, cut him short.
Ojukwu came back home to a hero’s welcome as a mature Nigerian that had learnt, if not his lessons, a different strategy to be elected as national leader. Came as a Nigerian leader suitable for his charisma, ability and wider perspective. Unfortunately, his hold on the people he left behind had slipped. During his absence, Igbo scholars and leaders sprung up to fill his vacuum. Whether he was rigged out of elections or defeated by lesser mortals became history passé.
Only if and if only we could find a compromise between the more mature Ojukwu that came back to hero’s welcome to all Nigerians and the one that stood firmly “On Aburi We Stand”, we could have avoided the anger and suspicion running in today’s politics of greed and selfishness.
This is what we see in South Sudan today, ethnic rivalry and communities that can longer hold itself together in spite of all hopes, rosy picture for the future and paradise. Like Nigeria, their oil production has multiplied their curses. Leaders scramble for power like elephants fight in the jungle. The grass, that is the people running for their lives fall into the hands of arsonists coming to their “rescue”. The new Country is in tatters. See Shattered Dreams
Our enemies are different now, they are not from outside our Continent, but from within. Pick any country in Africa, you will see ethnic rivalry within the community. It is destroying us but we refuse to accept it as a fact. Some Yoruba are nostalgic of their cousins from Egypt, some Igbo worship their cousins from Israel and some Hausa are still tracing their origin to Dan Fodio and Arabs. Yet, every scientific study traced the birth of man closer to Nigeria than anywhere else.
Indeed, you can see the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba in the Sudanese whether we accept it or not. What we cannot deny is that every civilization and Empire that existed in Africa were led by the great people now at one another’s throat base on an amorphous ethnic division created by adaptation to localized environment while the Barbarians were invading and destroying Europe.
Unfortunately, this commonality within us, either in Sudan or Nigeria only elicits brutal cravings for one ethnic domination over the other mainly fuel by selfish leaders whose greed has no bound and ready to sacrifice human suffering, blood and tears. Some scholars think it is more; otherwise we could have solved our civil wars in Somali. They are one people, one language and one religion. Yet they find reasons to annihilate one another.