With the ravages the first attempt by the Igbo and other peoples of Eastern Nigeria to declare their region an independent country of Biafra wrought on Eastern Nigeria, especially, Igbo land, it is perplexing that some Igbo are still agitating for Biafra. The previous attempt at secession dealt the Igbo a bludgeon blow: it decimated the youth, the flower and promise, of Igbo land, starved more than one million to death, left a horde of sorrowing widows and grief-stricken mothers, etc. And worst of all, it left deep and raw psychological scars on the Igbo. It left a talented, proud and progressive people paranoid and wallowing in self-pity and feeling of victimhood.
The earlier Igbo leaders realized that one Nigeria is most beneficial to the Igbo. Our boundless resourcefulness, barging industriousness and effervescent entrepreneurial spirit were to spill beyond the confines of our regional borders, and take us to the ends of Nigeria. When we wholeheartedly pursued this one Nigeria strategy, we excelled in every facet of Nigerian social life. We, even, became giddy with success that, in our triumphalism, we boasted of dominating not only Nigeria but the whole of Africa. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu rejected the one Nigeria policy and opted for secession. His secession was an impetuous enterprise that was to be a colossal waste of human efforts and lives; unavoidably, it ended in unmitigated disaster. Following those nightmare days, when the Igbo, defeated, battered and tattered, surrendered unconditionally and Igbo land laid completely prostrate, the Igbo made a phoenix-like resurgence. They again fanned out across the length and breadth of Nigeria and, once again, distinguished themselves across the entire spectrum of Nigerian life and gained the respect, confidence and admiration of other Nigerians. Neo-Biafran activism is distracting the Igbo and undermining our credibility. It portrays us as subversive elements and implacable, irredeemable rebels.
The leaders of the neo-Biafran movements are charlatans; I am baffled by the nonsense they spout. The father of neo-Biafranism, Ralph Uwazurike, of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said that, “When I started talking about Biafra, I did not know what I was doing. But, as democracy allowed me the right to express myself, I started talking about it, and as, people started listening, I continued”. That is, by his own admission, he started talking aimlessly (and could have been talking nonsense) because democracy guarantees his freedom of expression. It is recklessness and irresponsibility bordering on criminality to be talking about what has potential consequences for the peace of a country and the lives of millions without knowing what you are doing.
Nnamdi Kanu of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) does not sound like a man that does not know what he is doing. But when it comes to his reasons for secession, he makes absolutely no sense; the absurdity that is the hallmark of neo-Biafranism becomes evident. As to why the Igbo should secede from Nigeria, Kanu said, “all the Igbo are getting in Nigeria is punishment, death and disaster”. This is tendentious rubbish. Life is generally hard for the average Nigerian (not just the Igbo). The average Nigerian is buffeted by poverty, ignorance and misery. He is a victim of police brutality, official corruption, anti-people policies of the government, etc. To insinuate that only the Igbo are victims of the horrible realities of life in Nigeria is falsehood. All Nigerians, irrespective of ethnicity, are victims. Secondly, the Boko Haram terrorism that has visited much death and disaster on Nigerians is not an anti-Igbo crusade; it has not targeted the Igbo exclusively.
He said: “In Igbo land, you will see misery upon misery. Igbo land is decaying. We are not (just) marginalized, we are enslaved”. Yes, like in many other parts of Nigeria, there is heartrending decay in parts of Igbo land. But the state governments, more than any other level of government, are responsible for the decays in these states. The rot and squalor that pervade the city of Aba are ineffable; impossible to describe with any degree of accuracy. The rot in Aba and other parts of Igbo land is a testament to the failure of Igbo governors. Like most Nigerian governors, Igbo governors are corrupt, financially dishonest and not committed to the welfare of their people. To blame the failure of Igbo governors on the federal government is cheap propaganda. The Igbo are not enslaved. In the very few instances we have been subjected to a semblance of slavery, it was by Igbo state governors. In his buccaneering thievery and murderous intolerance, Chinweoke Mbadinuju enslaved Anambara State for four years.
The leaders of MASSOB and IPOB are rabble-rousers; intolerant of alternate views; and megalomaniacs with a false sense of messianism, they think they are the looked-for liberators of the Igbo. Without a legitimate cause, they invented enemies and demonize them, and are inciting the deepest hatred, amongst their followers, against them. They are preaching hate and inflaming the passion of Igbo youths against non-Igbo and Igbo opposed to secession. This is extremely dangerous as youthful idealism and exuberance can be fashioned by rabble-rousers into veritable tools of overwhelming hate, violence and destruction. In their intolerance, they castigate every Igbo opposed to secession, calling them vagabonds and saboteurs. In his delusion of messianic indispensability, Nnamdi Kanu, repeatedly, instructed his followers to “begin massive destruction of everything around you, if you do not hear my voice on the radio for up to four days.” So, he believes that his demise must spell doom for all, as it should ignite massive destruction of everything around? What nonsense – a figment of a megalomaniac imagination?
MASSOB and IPOB pose serious threat to the peace of the country and the wellbeing of the Igbo. They need to be totally rejected by the Igbo and ruthlessly suppressed by the federal government. The former attempt to create Biafra was a saga of human misery, the next will be a tale of collective suicide.
- Ezukanma wrote from Lagos