Nigeria: sorry, but ‘Biafra’ lives, by Abu Najakku

Biafran Flag
Biafran Flag

I like the “Biafran” flag; it has alluring colours of red, black and green running horizontally. Emblazoned inside the black colour in the middle of the flag is the “rising sun” that has eleven rays each of which represented the provinces of Biafran Republic’s proclaimed territory. The Biafran flag is more animating than the green white green of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Nigerian flag is rather dull and made even more so by having two portions of the same green colour. The war for the establishment of “Republic of Biafra” was led by the ambitious Col Odumegwu Ojukwu who couldn’t stomach taking orders from “Jack” and other junior Nigerian military officers. The Biafran war was also caused by “pogrom” directed at the Igbos in Northern Nigeria in retaliation for the overthrow and assassination of Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello as well as dozens of other military and civilian leaders. The Biafran war which began in 1967 ended on 15th January, 1970 when General Philip Effiong, Ojukwu’s number two, went to Dodan Barracks along with a number of his “compatriots” to surrender before the Supreme Commander of Nigerian Armed Forces, General Yakubu Gowon and other war commanders. While it lasted, the war caused the death of thousands of lives on both sides.

In the last few weeks, some people, mainly Igbos, who call themselves “Biafrans’, have been demonstrating in the streets, principally in the South East demanding for independence for the “Republic of Biafra” from Nigeria. What immediately triggered the demonstration was the arrest and detention of one Nnamdi Kanu, the founder and Director of “Radio Biafra”. On Friday, 6th November, 2015, “a multitude of youths were said to have held Asaba, the capital of Delta State hostage.” Emeka Ndu, a spokesman for the demonstrators calling for the release of Kanu, was quoted as saying “We have gone to all the Biafran (sic) lands, Igbo is not Biafra, it is the language of a people. Kogi, Edo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Anambra, are Biafran states. What we want now is for the federal government to release our Director (Nnamdi Kanu) and give us freedom to control ourselves.” Since then, there have been several street demonstrations in Aba, Asaba, Enugu, Onitsha, Owerri, Port Harcourt, etc. calling for independence for Biafra.

Radio Biafra has been broadcasting hate speech and other slanderous items against individuals and groups in Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu, who calls himself leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB), says he has been chosen by God to lead the new struggle on behalf of his people for the independence of Biafra.

Ohaneze Ndigbo has said the Igbos didn’t vote for Buhari and have nothing to regret about their choice. A leading light of the group, Professor Ben Nwabueze, has repeatedly rebuked Buhari, maintaining that restructuring the country was more urgent than the new President’s fight against corruption. Did Buhari say restructuring the country is his priority?

In his first coming as Head of State following the 31st December, 1983 coup d’état, Buhari had a Yoruba deputy, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, who was named Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, and the Igbos were piqued by this combination. In 2015, Buhari was elected President of Nigeria and again his deputy is not Igbo but Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Yoruba man. Buhari’s appointments into his kitchen cabinet in which no Igbo is named have confirmed the worst fears of the people that the President is an enemy. Since then, the people of the South East have become distraught about the Nigerian project.

Different groups in the South East have different attitude to this new struggle for Biafra. Some are very passionate about having their own country carved out of present day Nigeria and are ready to lay down their lives to achieve the dream. There is another group whose members have one foot in Nigeria and another in Biafra, when they meet Nigerians they make the right noise and if they are in the company of Biafrans, they identify with the struggle. However, there is yet another group for whom the call for the independence of Biafra causes deep embarrassment.

As Jideofor Adibe has posited, the bulk of the clamour for Biafra is for admittance into the corridors of power to enable the advocates get access to a bigger slice of the national cake. This may well be true of MASSOB and its leader, Ralph Uwazuruike, who was accused of enlisting his organisation’s support for the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan, having allegedly been mobilised with campaign funds. For this reason, MASSOB has broken into factions and those who think Uwazuruike has sold out have gone their own way.

The Igbos have not been successful at political leadership of Nigeria since the return of party politics. Both in 1979 and 1983, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe lost the presidential elections to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, and in 1999, despite starting as a favourite, Dr Alex Ekwueme lost the presidential ticket of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the party’s convention in Jos. Dr Ekwueme, you would recall, was a founding member of the PDP.

What is the objective of those agitating for “Republic of Biafra”? How can “Biafra” be realised? How does President Muhammadu Buhari handle a renewed agitation for “Biafra”? Is he perturbed by this renewed campaign for “Biafra”? (Daily Trust)


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