The growing clamour for independent Biafran state in the Eastern region and the menace of the radio Biafra is giving the federal government concerns as the Arewa Consultative Forum has accused Igbo leaders of fanning the embers of war and secession. EZUGWU OBINNA reports
As a result of the increasing agitations for an independent state of Biafra mainly in the South East geopolitical zone in recent times, some political leaders in the zone have expressed their views on why the quest for Biafra has remained strong and ways of addressing it. They also point to the fundamental right of individuals or groups to air their grievances.
Pro-Biafran groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, which is operating the intractable Radio Biafra, as well as the Chief Ralph Uwazurike’s Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB) and Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) led by Barr Benjamin Onwuka have intensified campaigns aimed at mobilizing mass support for the Biafra project.
Over the weekend, more than 6,000 members of MASSOB marched in the streets of Asaba, Delta State capital with placards demanding Biafra freedom from Nigeria.
The protesters had revealed that MASSOB now runs a radio station, website cable television network and has secured a meeting place at Oneh Primary School, Asaba where they will be holding their meetings every Sunday as from 2pm.
This is even as Radio Biafra anchored by the IPOB leader, Mr. Kanu has, after being temporarily jammed by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), returned to the airwaves in the South East and some parts of the South-South. Speaking on the progress of the station, Mr. Kanu boasted of its followership, while promising that Biafra TV will equally be in the offing soon.
“Radio Biafra’s listenership indisputably remains awesome and continues to grow. In order to live up to the promise of making Radio Biafra signal ubiquitous – being in any and every platform imaginably possible for greater reach and easy access for humanity, Radio Biafra has once again re-launched itself on shortwave frequency. The kick-off is scheduled to tally with the debut of Biafra Television in this Month of August 2015,” he said in a statement.
“In fact, any moment from now or as you read this message, Radio Biafra will be making history by her august launch of the “Monster” Shortwave broadcasting as promised by Director Nnamdi Kanu.”
“Interestingly,” he continued, “Shortwave radio is used for long distance communication by means of skywave or skips propagation, in which the radio waves are reflected or refracted back to Earth from the ionosphere, allowing communication around the curve of the Earth.
“As a result, shortwave radio is used for broadcasting of voice and music, and long-distance communication to ships and aircraft, or to remote areas out of reach of wired communication or other radio services.”
Meanwhile, various Igbo leaders have attributed the growing quest for self determination to the perpetual marginalization of the South East in the Nigerian affairs, insisting that platforms like Radio Biafra is one of the ways people are voicing their discontent with the situation.
“The issue of this Radio Biafra is about marginalization of the South East; it is about the South East being voiceless; it is about South East not being recognized in the Nigerian context by the successive governments of the country. Jonathan’s government did not even do better for the zone. Go and look at the amount of money he spent in the various zones of the country, South East is the least. In some cases, four times less. You see the quest for Biafra nation and the broadcast is to tell Nigeria that South East exists, and it is a civil protest because they are not carrying arms. And therefore, the radio station should be legalized and its content regulated,” explained Chief Anselm Njoku, the leader of Igbo APC Lagos.
He added, “NBC should legalize it and regulate it so that they can talk about their people; talk about what they want. It is only when you have a way of ventilating your grievance that that grievance will not get combusted into crisis.
“If you are disallowed from expressing your grievance, this grievance will get combusted in you and by the time it explodes, it becomes crisis, it becomes war. So any section of the country that has any grievance to air should be allowed to air it in whatever medium, in as much as they are not violent and when you see such a situation, you call them and dialogue with them. What we would disagree with is a resort to violence. But there is nothing in the conduct of those agitating for Biafra that suggests they are violent or want to use violence the way Boko Haram has used violence over the years to kill human beings.
In his own remarks, one time governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Barr Okechukwu Okoroji insisted that those behind Radio Biafra have not hurt anyone and there should not be clamped down on them.
“I do not think the agitators for Biafra have killed anyone; I don’t know of anybody they have bombed, I don’t know of any region they have destroyed. So they need to be listened to, they may have legitimate demands; it is not just enough to clamp them down, because the truth is that you can suppress an idea but not one whose time has come. If the time has come for the idea that these people are talking about, you can only delay it; you cannot stop it,” Okoroji said.
“One is not by any means supporting insurgency, or dismemberment of the country, but justice must be done to all… regions; all people and all religious groups. If there are internal injustices, people will naturally agitate. And it is their constitutional right to agitate, forget about the nomenclature, whether it is called Biafra or it is called Oduduwa Republic or whatever. Those are mere nomenclatures in the mode of agitation. But I don’t think they have done anything unconstitutional so far to deserve any criminalization. Their demands should be looked into in the interest of Nigeria,” he concluded.
Also speaking, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East, Mr. Abia Onyike noted that the quest for self determination was a fundamental human right and warned the Nigerian state against any further attempts to denigrate the Igbo nation.
“The quest for self determination is an inalienable right, and there is a specific provision in the United Nations Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which embodies in it that no human being or group should be oppressed to the extent that they are denied basic political rights. It has become eminently self evident in the Nigerian case that the Igbo people have been earmarked for not only extermination but also not to be allowed to be in charge of their own affairs,” he said.
“And you are talking about one of the 10 largest ethnic groups in the world. The Igbo ethnic nationality is large and substantial; it has enormous influence in the world. Any plans of emasculating and liquidating the Igbo; or marginalizing them, these are the things that give rise to the struggle for self determination, Onyike explained.
“I mean, it is a natural instinct. Even if you want to kill somebody, the person must struggle before being killed. It is natural. The rise in self determination struggle; the resurgence goes to demonstrate that the Igbo have not been integrated into the Nigerian state. And the way the leaders of Nigeria, especially the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba hegemony have been behaving towards them shows that they want to enslave them, and as far as you continue to play politics of enslavement, they will continue to react; they will continue to revolt against it and the idea of Biafra will continue to be very popular among them,”
“And like I said before, the Igbo are very large group, not minding the national population census that has always been fraudulent and used as a strategy for exercising political hegemony. They don’t want to be scientific; they come with the politics of oppressing the Igbo ethnic nationality through census. But the actual population of the Igbo presently is about 75 million which makes it larger than the population of any other existing independent African country, including Ethiopia which is the highest after Nigeria.
He warned that, “It is thus foolhardy and very stupid for the Nigerian rulers to continue their old ways because the way it is now, you cannot oppress and pocket the Igbo and have peace in Nigeria. This is the point we are making because it is more than 10 times qualified to be an independent country. So we should not be relying on what Britain did over 100 years ago. It is no longer realistic. If you don’t want the Igbo, you grant them independence. Let them be on their own. In terms of territory, language, population, location and economic resources available, they are viable to become an independent nation. You cannot oppress them the way you want to oppress ethnic minorities. The leaders have to stop their primitive tactics of trying to oppress the Igbo otherwise there would be no peace in Nigeria.”
Also speaking on the resurgent of Biafra, Chief Udoka Udeogaranya, leader Igbo Cultural Society of Nigeria re-echoed Onyike’s assertion, noting that the UN had recognized people’s right to self determination.
“The United Nations has recognized the people’s right to self determination. Therefore, if any group of persons feels that their rights are not being protected by their government, they have a right to demand for self determination,” he said.
“It would come to a point when such would be decided in a referendum. Where people will have to decide for themselves whether they want a separate state or not, it was done in Scotland and the Scots decided to remain in Britain, that is the thing,” he stressed.
Meanwhile the Arewa Consultative Forum has lashed out at Igbo leaders and accused them of supporting the clamour for separatist Biafra and war. Ibrahim Coomasie, chairman of the national executive council said that it is disturbing and worrisome that the renewed clamour for Biafra, adding that the case of Biafra was settled in 1970.