For some days now, Nigerians have been flooded with stories of Biafran agitators protesting the detention of Nnamndi Kanu by the federal government. Kanu had been arrested for operating an illegal, pro- Biafra radio station. Though Kanu had been granted bail, he is still in detention due to the fact that he has not been able to meet his bail conditions, according to reports. In reacting to his arrest, his deputy, Uche Mefor issued a statement that Kanu’s arrest “plays into the grand strategy of Biafrans”, he said the arrest would not stop the agitation as it would further escalate the “Biafran restoration cause to unimaginable corners of the world.”
Is this not what is playing out now? With the many protests across the east and southern parts of the country, the focus is now on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as the Kanu organisation is referred to. The protest began last Sunday in Enugu and has gradually moved to most parts of the south east states. In many instances, the agitation had turned violent with a few of the youths being killed in the process. One tends to ask, what is it that Kanu and its predecessor, the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB) want? A separate country?
How realistic is that proposition? Isn’t it a largely unrealizable dream? If in the 60s, this was not achievable, leading to about four years of civil war with its attendant loss of lives, property and the trauma, how possible is that about 40 years later, with the wider integration that had taken place since then. There have been intermarriages across the ethnic divide.
Not only that, there is practically no part of this country that my Igbo brothers, some of who are very good friends and colleagues, are not operating one form of business or the other. In fact, they have constituted themselves into the commerce and economic live-wires of the communities they had settled in over the years. Are we going to be talking about the Ladipo spare parts market in Lagos?
So what happens, if in the remotest possibility that their agitation becomes successful? The Yorubas, who know next to nothing would now take over that market, selling all manners of ‘original fake spare parts’. Such is best left to the imagination. What about the traders themselves? They all have to relocate to the east before their adventurous spirit plays up and they start coming back, either legitimately or illegitimately. How would that horde of people leaving the different parts of the country be accommodated in the east where we have always known, has limited land mass? Of course, that is not peculiar to the east alone. Imagine telling all the Yorubas across Nigeria to return to the south west with all they have. Where would they all be accommodated? What our people have not critically looked at is the fact of cross-state, cross- ethnic movement. We have been able to accommodate each other conveniently because of the movement of people from one part of the country to the other. Let me explain this further.
As people move from one part of the country, leaving their own ethnic space, they make room for others to come in. It is this constant movement and shifting that has made it possible for us to accommodate one another. Imagine people of the south west not moving beyond their particular enclave and my eastern people start trooping into the west, how would they be accommodated? Except maybe in the northern part of the country which has a wide expanse of unoccupied land.
Another scenario. What is that geographical entity called Biafra? Are we talking of Biafra of the pre-civil war era which constitutes the present day south east and south south? Is the new Biafra that the agitators want to carve out as a separate entity going to constitute only the five south east states? These are the questions. I am not sure the south south would want to be part of the new Biafra. They, of course would not want their identity subsumed under the new Biafra. So what’s the agitation for then? I know the leaders of those agitating for a separate entity must have thought about something this obvious. So the question is; what’s the agitation all about? Is it for recognition? There’s no doubt that more still needs to be done for the south eastern part of the country, just like in other parts of the country. The south east has always cried of marginalization and treated as second class citizens in the country. That cry which has percolated into what we are witnessing today should be looked into.
There are hordes of brilliant youths in that part of the country, most of them have no job. And the good book, the Bible has said the devil finds work for an idle hand. Most of the kidnapping in the eastern part of the country have been perpetrated by these young men. Something needs to be urgently done to harness the potentials lying unattended to in the south east. I recall reading about five students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University producing a minibus. What happens to these brilliant students after graduation? To be thrown into the unemployment market like others before them, their invention forgotten.
Something needs to be urgently done to arrest the situation. But a word of advice for our brothers east of the Niger? They need to get their politics right. How ready are they to work with other Nigerians to actualise the Igbo presidency which they have always agitated for? History has shown their unwillingness to work or collaborate with the south west, except for a few, preferring the north instead.
But how trusting of the east is the north? But that’s really beyond the point, as often said, the east must put collective interest ahead of personal interest, they should be willing to work with any segment of the country to actualise their objective. This country is ours, nobody should be seen or treated as a stranger in his father’s house. The south east man should aspire to the highest office in the land and he should get the support of all. Fair is fair
Tunji is a columnist for The Sun