The recent arrest and continued detention of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the pro-Biafran activist, by Nigerian authorities have sparked divergent reactions from Nigerians. Most prominent of these reactions are the protests embarked upon by youths (some of who have been arrested, unjustly detained, brutalised using State force and killed while others arrested a various other times and places are rumoured to be awaiting the death sentence) in parts of the country in solidarity with Kanu. Also, many prominent Nigerians, world leaders and groups have risen in defence of the detainee, calling for his immediate and unconditional release while declaring that agitation for self-determination is not itself a crime but the legitimate right of the agitators.
Also worthy of note is the new-found doggedness, resilience and perseverance of the Biafra protagonists even in the face of glaring suppression, open threats and murderous brutality from those that are supposed to engage them meaningfully, genuinely and continuously.
There have also been some protests and demonstrations both here in Nigeria and abroad in solidarity with Nnamdi Kanu, his people and their cause. Even those who lack the courage to openly express their support for Kanu and the Biafran cause, wish in their heart of hearts that Nigeria would allow those who seek self-determination to go peacefully; and the reasons for these are not far-fetched.
The arrogance of those who consider themselves superior to tribes other than their own is unbearable. Their pride stinks and their postures always belligerent towards the Igbo. Recently, Gen Yakubu Gowon (rtd), former Military Head of State, gleefully declared in Nasarawa State, that the issue of Biafra is finished! Finished? That could only be possible in his dreams!
How can the issue of Biafra be finished when Lt Gen Tukur Buratai has been praised by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) for a job well done in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgents but Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika has been haunted by this same group of people and even more from the north for having dealt with the same insurgents?
How can the issue of Biafra be finished when Nigeria has not thought it wise enough to completely allow for the integration Ndigbo in to mainstream politics of the country at federal level with the northern region particularly working assiduously against the emergence of an Igbo son or daughter becoming our president?
How can this issue be declared finished when no Igbo man or woman has been found worthy enough to lead our security agencies for over 40 years after the civil war? Does it mean that despite proven track records of Nigerians of Igbo extraction in various areas of endeavour, none of them is trustworthy enough to assume leadership position in our security agencies? The only one that was elevated to such a position was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan in the person of Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, and he undoubtedly did a good job as he dealt deadly blows to Boko Haram to the pain and hurt of their
sponsors and protective kinsmen. Even at that, he was not allowed to concentrate on the job with different kinds of needless tantrums thrown at him by the Hausa/Fulani hegemony even long after leaving office.
How can this issue be declared finished when children from the Southern part of the country are made to study hard, their parents/guardians brave the odds despite the lack of economic opportunities and give up their all to ensure their children not only attend school but also do very well, yet, the child from the South-East who scores about 130 out of 200 is denied admission to Federal Government colleges just to pave way for a child from the north who scores just 2 out of 200? The same policy obtains in the admission processes of our higher institutions?
How can the sound of Biafra not resonate louder and stormier when the same northerners fill our civil service in great numbers far and above their southern counterparts despite the huge gulf in the number of educated and qualified people between the two sides? I am not against northerners or any other stock, but truth is sacred!
Why will there not be continuous agitation for independence for the Igbo when everything seems to be built against their progress and opportunities in Nigeria, when it is obvious that they will perpetually be punished for the genuine mistakes of their fathers as long as they remain in Nigeria and are Nigerians?
How can the voice of protestations ringing through the valleys of a “landlocked” region (as others would like to derisively refer to it) be silenced, when, more than 45 years after independence, there was no single airport in the whole of the South East except the one the people themselves built from self-help at Enugu and later upgraded just recently to an international status by the Jonathan administration?
You cannot continually beat a child and still flog him for crying! Fathers of today’s generation of Igbo told them of how Nigerian authorities seized their properties and termed them “abandoned” after the war despite the much mouthed 3R’s of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. Where did the Nigerian authorities keep the money of the Igbo after the civil war since they were given a paltry 20 pounds irrespective of whether anyone had millions of pounds in his bank account before the civil war? This led to the deliberate “de-industrialisation” and disempowerment of the Igbo as they could not participate in the indigenisation process of industries by the federal government in 1971.
Fathers of the Igbo have suffered for the adventure of the civil war, generations after them are suffering for it, and even the generations after the present generation might continue to suffer for it if nothing drastic is done now. No Igbo man will want his children to suffer the extreme isolation he is suffering today in our polity. The plague of continued political exclusion must stop with this generation, or you allow Biafra to be!
It was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, current Emir of Kano and former CBN Governor who captioned it rightly, forthrightly and poignantly when he declared thus: “…this nation must realise that Igbo have more than paid for their foolishness. They have been defeated in war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public sector appointments
and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity.
“The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Igbo out of the scheme of things. In the recent transition when the Igbo solidly supported the PDP in the hope of an Ekwueme presidency, the North and South-West treated this as a Biafra agenda. Every rule set for the primaries, every gentleman’s agreement was set aside to ensure that Obasanjo not Ekwueme emerged as the candidate. Things went as far as getting the federal government to hurriedly gazette a pardon.
“Now, with this government (Obasanjo), the marginalisation of the Igbo is more complete than ever before. The Igbos have taken all these quietly because, they reason, they brought it upon themselves. But the nation is sitting on a time bomb.
“After the First World War, the victors treated Germany with the same contempt Nigeria is treating (the) Igbo. Two decades later, there was a Second World War, far costlier than the first. Germany was again defeated but this time, they won a more honourable peace. Our political leaders have no sense of History. There is a new Igbo man, who was not born in 1966 and neither knows nor cares about Nzeogwu and Ojukwu. There are Igbo men on the street who were never Biafrans. They were born Nigerians, are Nigerians, but suffer because of actions of earlier generations. They will soon decide that it is better to fight their own war, and maybe find an honourable peace, than to remain in this contemptible state in perpetuity.
“The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have exacted their pound of flesh from the Igbo. For one Sardauna, one Tafawa Balewa, One Akintola and one Okotie-Eboh, hundreds of thousands have died and suffered. If this issue is not addressed immediately, no conference will solve Nigeria’s problems” (‘Issues in Restructuring Corporate Nigeria’, being text of a paper presented by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the National Conference on the 1999 Constitution, at Arewa House, Kaduna, in September, 1999).
Need we say more?
People like Gowon and his ilk should know that Biafra cannot be finished just by mere emotional declarations on television or at any public square; Biafra cannot be finished with extreme partiality, brutality and fatality but with deeper fraternity. Biafra is not just about a people, it is not just a geographical location; it is a movement, a belief, a spirit that has been allowed to hover around for too long as a result of the glaring and blatant injustices, inequities and humiliations the people have been subjected to over the years since the end of the unfortunate civil war. Not even the drones of America, Russia, France, China and or Nigeria put together can stop Biafra. The weapons that can stop Biafra are very inexpensive and not complicated; they are not in foreign lands but in our land: they are the simple instrumentality of love, equity, justice and fairness. Nigeria should transparently apply these and see how the indefeasible spirit and irrepressible voice of Biafra gracefully fades away into the thick wilderness of peace, silence and tranquillity!
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He tweets from@stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.