Pro-Biafra Protests – the Hoffer Principle, by Tiko Emmanuel Okoye

Ojukwu as Biafran Head of  State
Ojukwu as Biafran Head of

Most Nigerians can hardly understand that Biafra is not just a location or geographic expression but a phenomenon as far Ndigbo are concerned. The declared intention of then military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, to reintegrate Ndigbo into the fabric of the Nigerian society at the end of the civil war with his 3R’s programme (Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction), ended up just being a mere pipe dream.

How could there be reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction when Ndigbo who fled to safety had their homes in Port Harcourt and its environs classified as ‘abandoned properties’ and seized without any monetary compensation and with active government support? When the government abruptly changed its currency just to impoverish Ndigbo with stacks of pre-war Nigerian currency? When returning Ndigbo were not reinstated in their previous positions even as the government ruled that they should be considered as having ‘resigned’ from their posts?

When every man was given a paltry twenty pounds irrespective of the money he/she had in the bank or the amount of pre-war Nigerian currency and Biafran currency they owned? When the Nigerian government hastily embarked on an indigenization policy even as erstwhile Igbo middle and upper classes were deliberately schemed out through impoverishment? When the entire Southeast lacked infrastructure and no single federal industry was in existence for decades?

When one considers the lot of Ndigbo more than 45 years after the civil war ended, one can readily concede that Nigeria is yet to become an equal-opportunity nation as far as we are concerned. The least number of states in the other five geopolitical zones is six – with the Northwest having as many as seven – but the Southeast has only five. The high opportunity cost of this deliberate attempt to suppress their political development can be seen in the disparity between the number of our elected representatives and that of other zones.

And of the three major tribes in Nigeria that constitute the WAZOBIA tripod, only the Igbo are yet to produce an elected president. The gross injustice that has been meted to – and continues to be meted against – Ndigbo in this nation cries to high heavens. Whatever Ndigbo have achieved individually and collectively is solely based on their industry and can-do spirit.

Despite tremendous odds and hurdles deliberately hurled in our paths by the ‘System,’ Ndigbo remain unbowed and undeterred in our business pursuits. Statistics show that outside the Southeast zone Ndigbo are the second most populous group of persons after the indigenous population in any state of Nigeria. These qualities ought to combine to make the Igbo ethnic nationality a very potent political force in the nation where we have sadly allowed ourselves to be cornered into playing a cameo role as “the beautiful bride” to every other ambitious presidential candidate.

It is only in the area of politics that Ndigbo have transformed into underachievers. We seem to have literally taken Greek mathematician Archimedes’ cry – “Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth” – to mean that we have to beg the rest of Nigeria to gift them political power. Power is taken and hardly given. The problem with Ndigbo seems to be the existence of a crop of leaders solely interested in what they can grab from the system using the rest of us as bargaining chips. It is a shame that Ndigbo elite are yet to fully comprehend that it is due to their inability to provide the right kind of leadership that that has culminated in the emergence of the likes of Nnamdi Kanu.

For crying out loud, in a zone where you have an Alex Ekwueme, a Peter Obi, an Ike Ekweremadu, an Orji Uzor Kalu, a Theophilus Orji, a Sam Egwu and their likes, it is an Nnamdi Kanu, driven by youthful exuberance, that majority of Ndigbo have chosen to respect and kowtow to! I almost puked when my attention was drawn to a speech senate deputy president Ike Ekweremadu reportedly gave at a recent Southeast PDP caucus meeting in Enugu, where he seemed to be more concerned with reaping political capital out of the raging protests threatening to bring the economy of the Southeast to a grinding halt, rather than helping to quell it.

His speech was spiced with ominous references to traders in Alaba International Market and Onitsha Main Market, among others, waking up in six months to discover to their chagrin that they have no wares to sell (presumably due to Buhari’s ‘economic mismanagement’). Ekweremadu’s vacuous remarks are doubtlessly aimed at stoking the embers of the pro-Biafra street protests and gaining maximum leverage from heightened anti-Buhari sentiments at a time the fortunes of the PDP are nosediving in the wake of revolting disclosures of how top members of the party looted the national treasury at will.

My take is that the present tactic of using uncontrollable mass street protests to draw worldwide attention to the plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria is wrong-headed. I worry too that Nigerians may soonest get tired of the ‘melodrama’ and ask Ndigbo to leave the Nigerian federation for our Utopian Biafra. And then what? Everyone – from the masses of unemployed youths thronging the streets who know no better to the elite in the Southeast – comprising politicians, religious leaders, traditional institutions and captains of business and industry – will end up being a sorry loser.

Ndigbo twice voted for PDP and Jonathan – “without regrets and apologies,” as we are wont to brag, but despite such a massive support not even a kilometre of our decrepit infrastructure was rehabilitated in the six years Jonathan held sway as president. But all of a sudden we are up in arms demanding that Buhari must perform a miracle within six months of assuming office! Those hypocritically shouting themselves hoarse over Biafra today had ironically supported a non-Igbo candidate and rejected Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a Biafran war hero who ran on the ticket of the Igbo-dominated All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), each of the three times he contested the presidential election.

They are largely the same ones now claiming that PDP should be supported because it is the party of Brother Jona, while APC should be preposterously villified because it is the party of Enemy Mahmoud. The more I consider it, the more it seems to me to be a replay of the Eric Hoffer principle. The American philosopher posited that “We (human beings) probably have a greater love for those we support than those who support us (because) our vanity carries more weight than our self-interest.” The only change I can regrettably make as far as Ndigbo are concerned in the present scheme of things is to replace ‘probably’ with ‘foolhardily’!

(Daily Independent)


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