Biafra: The missing link

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THE Biafran struggle is a legitimate one. This has been attested to by both foreign and Nigerian commentators. The attempt to muzzle it by force will only escalate the situation and even cause the Nigerian government more embarrassment. The people have a genuine right to determine who they want to associate and live together with as a nation. When you suppress justice, you only postpone the evil day.

Nnamdi Kanu is today a hero to his people because the Federal government caused it to happen that way. He has become a hero of the cult-like status and there is nothing anyone can do to suppress the growing sentiment. I hope those in authority have wizened up.

All over the world, people now want to determine how they are governed – Spain, UK and many other places. Dialogue under very peaceful and conducive atmosphere is what gives the desired result. So far, the case of Biafra should follow that option. The Igbo ethnic group inhabit all parts of Nigeria, In fact, there is a saying, that “if you arrive  in any town and do not find an Igbo man there, take your bag and run away”. Since they are found across Nigeria, I doubt if all of them will choose the option of a new Biafran nation, that is if a clear referendum is held on the issue. That again, is left for the federal government to decide.

We have always known that a strong and united Nigeria, with one focus and goal, will be a great force in the comity of nations and an envy of other powers but, that is not enough to enforce an unworkable association. So far, in reality, it is becoming increasingly difficult to effect a one and united Nigerian nation. I believe we can only achieve this if the government subject the choice to a true referendum, involving the people. If the people are allowed to decide fairly, through their individual vote, they are bound to respect the outcome of the referendum. But this is not the focus of this piece.

Although I empathise with the philosophies of the Biafran agitators, I have come to the conclusion that, they will not be able to achieve their goal of a Biafran nation if their mode of operations continue this way. I came to this conclusion after closely examining their methods, it is like history repeating itself. An analysis of the Biafran war of the sixties will help buttress the point that I am making here. The eastern region of 1960 covers the whole of present day South east and South south states except Delta and Edo.

The Biafra war was a culmination of genocidal tendencies against the Igbos and people of the south by extreme elements in the northern part of Nigeria but the manner Odumegwu Ojukwu responded was not in tandem with other tribes of the south south. Although he had such people like Colonel Effiong in his team, the south south did not fully support the Biafrans in the war and this is because, Ojukwu did not carry out effective/meaningful consultations with his neighbours and fellow south south brothers. The Aburi documents revealed that, then Col. David Ejoor, a South south officer, told the body that: “we want to see our commander in chief”, at a time nobody knew where Aguiyi Ironsi, the assassinated head of state  was. That kind of person should have been courted properly to join the struggle, instead, they chose to go it alone, believing in their superior strength over their neighbours. Under that superior and arrogant stance that the Igbos have been accused of till today, they embarked on that expedition and the rest is  history.

When the Biafrans invaded the then Mid west region, present day Edo and Delta states, the military governor of the state, then Col. David Ejoor, was forced to run away from Benin to Lagos to take refuge. The story then was that he rode on a bicycle from Benin to Lagos. You cannot force a people into a relationship that they do not desire. As a result of the Biafran actions, the South south turned their back on the Biafran cause  and helped the federal troops gain foothold on the Biafran territories through the creeks and hinterlands. If the Igbos and the minority South south tribes had been united in the Biafran course, the outcome of the civil war would have been different.

The Igbos saw the South south minority tribes as inconsequential and as a people they can over ride and that was their greatest undoing. When the Igbos,  they  were surprised at the hostility shown to them by their fellow Igbo speaking Ikwerres of Port Harcourt city. Till date, Igbo abandoned properties have not been returned to their original owners like it happened elsewhere.

For me that was where Biafra lost it in the sixties and they have started the same way again. A close look at the Biafra map  currently in circulation have states like Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, part of Ondo and even Benue and Kogi as Biafra land. Biafrans want these people to be part of  them,yet no line of dialogue  has been initiated  with these states or their consent sought for. Everything been done is in the realm of   assumption.  No decision on how the proposed nation is to run and how the resources are to be managed. This is very wrong.

If the Igbo nation refuses to properly carry along the minority South south in their fight for a Biafran nation, I am afraid their aspiration will certainly be a  mountain, too high to climb. To begin with, let us test this with an open referendum.

Mr.  Sunny Ikhioya.  www. southsouthecho.com Twitter: @SunnyIkhioya

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