By Uche Chris
I have never been an ardent supporter of Biafra; I believed in its sentiment but remained skeptical of its practical usefulness and feasibility. My position was informed by a clear and in-depth understanding of the historical and political dynamics of the Nigerian conundrum and the Igbo debacle. I was too young to understand the issues that precipitated the war but I have spent the last 40 years studying, discussing and writing about those issues.
The civil war was a terrible mistake that should not have been if reason, mutual respect and collective will had prevailed. But it was an experience better forgotten, because not to let go of it will do us more harm than good both politically and psychologically. However, inherent in the historical developments preceding the war were the same attitudes of ethnic and political domination, based on superiority complex that is still present in today’s Nigeria. But it is no longer an Igbo problem unlike in the case of Biafra…
At the heat of the IPOB agitations in 2017, I addressed the situation in an article entitled “Igbo and the curse of Biafra” published in BusinessHallmark on September 10, 2017, which is being reproduced hereunder as a confirmation of current developments in the South East. The Igbo have embarked on a suicidal mission that will end in a repeat of history, which, rather than improve them, will destroy whatever recovery and achievements they have recorded since the war to the envy and even hatred by others.
I was in the East recently, which coincided with the implementation of the presidential mandate on security in the region, and the experience was traumatic, instructive, and an eye opener. Igbo are their own worst enemy and what is happening in the area now is a foretaste of the evil agenda awaiting them.
Now read: Igbo and the curse of Biafra
“What is the attachment of the Igbo to the Utopian idea of Biafra that it has become the only political agenda and a unifying force half a century after they were defeated in a suicidal war that virtually destroyed them as a strong component in Nigeria?
This is a question confronting most Nigerians given that it has become a sour point in the relationship between them and the federal government. Has Biafra become a stronghold, a curse, on the Igbo that will continue to perpetuate and reinforce their marginalization?
Biafra was fought for and lost 50 years ago by the Igbo. At the time it was declared, a generality of the Igbo agreed that it was necessary, even though not inevitable, to protest the injustice and mindless massacres of their people across the north without government intervention; and to assert their right to protect themselves and for self determination…
Before the war, the Igbo dominated every aspect of national life and government. The Igbo were Governor General, Senate president, head of the army and controlled its officers’ corps, the academia with the only two federal universities – Ibadan and Lagos – headed by them and the bureaucracy, etc.
Biafra took away all these influence and political power and also one million lives of the best of their youths and future; beside the unprecedented and massive destruction of its infrastructure, which was never rebuilt in spite of the pretentious and deceitful declaration of the three Rs – Reconciliation, reconstruction and reintegration. They were the envy of the other regions and the war was auspicious to cut them to size.
Furthermore, there were deliberate government policies to ensure that they never recover fast enough to challenge the other groups.
For instance, every Igbo was entitled to only 20 Nigeria pounds as the equivalent exchange value for any amount of Biafra pounds in their possession. Its effect was the complete impoverishment of the Igbo who were just emerging from 30 months of suffering and privations, and turned everybody into beggars. It was an act of blatant and wicked vindictiveness which was intended to cripple them permanently economically. Or so they thought!
To further consolidate their malicious vendetta the government chose to introduce the indigenization policy which transferred the ownership of foreign companies in the country to Nigerians in 1972. Needless to say, the Igbo were not considered in its formulation, because those saddled with the challenge of basic survival could not be the target or beneficiary of corporate investment policy. The effect is the near absence of the Igbo in corporate Nigeria today, belying the fact that an Igbo was the first indigenous president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange.
Then quota system was introduced for recruitment and admission into federal service and schools. With only one state in a 12 state structure, they were virtually obliterated from any presence and representation in federal government. This structural injustice and marginalization has been perpetuated through the creation of more states and local governments with the Igbo, who were, by the 1964 census, the third largest ethnic group, having the least of everything – states, local government, senators, House members, revenue allocations, etc.
All these were not accidental, but conscious and deliberate policies to keep them down.
Surprisingly, the policies have not succeeded, and even their worse traducers and detractors are perplex and bewildered by their incredible capacity to rebound and mount a credible challenge for leadership especially in the economic front.
The fact is not lost on them that the Igbo still possess the potential to demand for their own pound of flesh and cause mischief. And they are waiting to finish what they naively left undone after the war – the extermination of the rebellious trouble makers. It is a mistake their antagonists still regret and the agitation for Biafra is providing a convenient excuse to whet such appetite.
As a mental or ideological construct to draw attention to the persisting inequities in the system, Biafra may be relevant; but as a political objective to resurrect that which was dead 50 years ago, it will be a curse that may eventually destroy them. If Nigeria will not be, as many have come to believe, the Igbo will not be the catalyst for that eventuality. They have played their card and lost; they should let others try also….”
Three reasons inform my absolute conviction that those agitating for Biafra are the real enemies of the Igbo, and these reasons are simply unmistakable and starkly obvious for any objective observer; yet we have all missed it because our attention is focused on what is not, rather than what is – like most human being who are dying for what they do not have rather thank God for what they have.
The Igbo focus on what Nigeria has not given to them but easily and quickly forget what they have gained since the war. Indeed, the Nigeria state, particularly under this government has been unjust and inequitable to the Igbo in the distribution of benefits, but is this the only index to determine the usefulness of Nigeria to us? Apart from government largesse, which is tremendous but temporary, the Igbo have benefited most from Nigeria than any other group at the individual level.
Truth told: Nigeria, typified by President Buhari is discriminating against the Igbo out of anger and envy. If you miss this fact, then you don’t understand what is going on; and they are looking for righteous justification to express it. Igbo have so surpassed the expectations of their victors, who now regret their mistake of leniency toward them after the war.
Just an example: Awada in Onitsha, Anambra state. There is no piece of real estate like it in this country. The state government has been gracious to construct access roads through the area to Obosi, and most interstate motorist resort to it to beat the usual Onitsha traffic. It is a wonder out of this world. It stretches from Upper Iweka to Nkpor through Obosi to Oba, and toward Nnewi. This is what we want to throw away out of foolishness.
Since the end of the war, the Igbo have come to represent the best potential Nigeria can be, but is not; and all that is wrong with the country. In other words, the Igbo have become what Nigeria could be but is not and what it should not be but is. Indeed the Igbo symbolize all that is wrong with and antithetical to development in Nigeria – victimization, discrimination, injustice, hatred and suspicion, etc.
The second reason is the wicked and exploitative attitude of our own brothers, who now take undue advantage of the mobility difficulties imposed on the people by the occupying federal forces that use everything in the arsenal to inflict as much hardship and suffering on the people as possible. There is curfew between 6pm and 8am – sometimes stretching to 10am if there is any report of attack anywhere.
Even during the non-curfew time, traffic is reduced to one lane around the five super check points along the Onitsha-Owerri road starting at Ihiala. Also no vehicle navigates the winding checkpoints with passengers; everybody must come down and walk through. The result of these tortuous modalities is a horrendous traffic that takes hours to ease.
However, the villagers mount tollgates on any alternative apian routes to escape the traffic and extort their own people who are trying to escape from their oppressors. On one meandering road of less than one kilometer they erected 13 tollgates collecting between N50-N100 “for the sake of Biafra.”
It was such a scandal and outage that one had to be restrained to go through it. Even in Lagos where such practice is rampart, it does not get to this ridiculous and heartless height. This is their solution to the ordeal of their fellow Biafrans.
The final point is the vicious and mindless actions of the soldiers and their minders. It is so shocking that in this age and time, Nigerian soldiers could visit such inhumanity on hapless and innocent people who have nothing to do with the killings, and even IPOB. They simply criminalized everyone for who they are not for anything they have done.
It is a clear warning to the Igbo: Cut your losses and run. The agitators do not mean well for the people. War or separation is not for the people. Igbo have been de-conscientized that there is no more love for one another unlike in Biafra. In fact love of money and self had conquered the psychology of an average Igbo that Nigeria is the saving grace from self destruction.
Remember, it was money that introduced the bogey of saboteur in Biafra, which was its ultimate downfall.