OPINION: Self-determination, Biafrans, and deluions


Africa has a glorious past. Before the advent of white imperialists , Africans had their own systems of  government. We had the ancient Benin Kingdom, Oyo Empire, Ghana Empire, the reign of Mansa Musa in Mali, and others.  

Indigenous People of Biafra protest

In the pre-colonial lgboland, the cultural practices and norms of the people were embedded in their republicanism, which used to be their system of government. Achebe’s anthropological novels documented the historical past of the Igbo people

The white people came to the African continent with Christianity, western education, and representative government.  Today, millions of black Africans belong to the Christendom, and democracy is the acceptable form of government in Africa and elsewhere. Even countries with theocracy and monarchy are reforming, and embracing democratic norms.

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Nigeria is now a democratic country. We owe ours to colonialism. Nigerians suffered under colonial rule. But the irrefutable truth is this: irrespective of our sufferings and humiliations during the colonial era, the advantages of colonialism far outweigh its flipsides or disadvantages, in my own estimation.

But the imperialists erred gravely in their lumping of disparate ethnic groups together as one country on the African continentwithout consideration for cultural and religious affinities. In Nigeria, even before the attainment of political freedom in 1960, religious conflicts and ethnic hatred are the centrifugal forces tearing the country apart. Nigerians are very conscious of their ethnic origins and heritage; and they place their primordial and ethnic interests above national considerations.

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So , the Hausa-Fulani people  threatened secession in their nine point programme in the early 1950s. And the Ijaw people declared the Niger-Delta republic in 1963, which was shortlived. And the late Col Emeka Ojukwu led the Igbo people of South-east Nigeria to fight a secessionist war between 1967 and 1970.So Nigeria could be liken to a cat with nine lives. Whenever our country got to the precipice, it would be pulled back instead of bowling over and dismembering.

Now, a wave of renewed agitation for the creation of the  sovereign state of Biafra has gained momentum and is sweeping across the south-east of Nigeria. The Independent people of Biafra, IPOB, is championing the cause. The arrow-head of the group is the detained and erudite director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. MASSOB, another secessionist group, is in disarray with its leader, Mr. Uwazurike, discredited and thought to be a sell-out.

But,  IPOB had successfully paralyzed economic activities and curtailed movement of people several times in the past with its stay- at- home order. Sadly, the clampdown as well as violence being  visited on the group has led to the detention and deaths of  many IPOB members. Members of the group are being killed and hunted down for exerting their right.

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Globally, homogenous groups are clamouring for political emancipation. In Britain, the Scottish people want out of the British union. The Basque people in Spain are still agitating for a separate country of their own. The Oromo people in Ethiopia are disaffected as the Ethiopian leadership has been giving them a raw deal. But why are the Igbo people of South-east of Nigeria clamouring for the state of Biafra now? Feelings of marginalisation are the chief incitement and motivation for Igbo people’s agitation for a sovereign state.

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Truly, they are being shortchanged in the scheme of things in the country. But the Igbos are their own worst enemies. In 1999, Dr. Alex Ekwueme stood a good chance of becoming the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential flag bearer and winning the presidential election.

But his ethnic compatriots sabotaged his efforts and sold him out. If he had won that election, he would have corrected the imbalances and injustices being meted out to the Igbos. It is obvious that Igbo people are disunited;  that is why an Igbo person hasn’t led Nigeria in the true sense of the word.

Now, the agitators for the creation of the state of Biafra believe that the South-east would become economically prosperous if the region becomes the state of Biafra. And those idealistic young people, most of whom are lumpen proletariats, believe that they would be entitled to receiving handsome salaries monthly as idlers if  the Biafran state is a reality.

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They believe, and rightly so, that Biafrans in the diaspora are with skills, expertise, and knowledge, which they can deploy to build an economically prosperous and technologically advanced country. Yes, we can reenact the technological feat the Biafran engineers achieved during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War.

But nation – building is an ardous task that requires dedicated, honest, visionary, and competent political leadership. The south-east is a landlocked area, and oil is not produced in large commercial quantities in the region as it is in the Niger-Delta region. So if Biafra became a reality, its  leaders would explore the non-oil sector to boost its revenue profile. To achieve the state of Biafra cannot translate to transforming the south-east to a prosperous  paradise overnight.

Just has ethnicity and corruption have divided and ruined  Nigeria, so would these divide the Biafran State.

So would clannishness, statism and corruption bifurcate and threaten the survival of  Biafra. Are Biafrans immune to being corrupt? Are most of the Biafrans’ dreams not utopia?

Mr.Chiedu Okoye, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Uruowulu Obosi, Anambra State


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