Lets Think Before Taking The Biafra Issue Further -By Chidi Obi

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Chidi Obi

Chidi Obi

 

I am proudly Igbo and can`t exchange my “Igboness” with anything else. But I think we are better off in a prosperous Nigeria. Igbos has sacrificed a lot to get Nigeria to its present state and we would be short-changing themselves to leave and then start nursing another country. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Igbo man has helped in developing other parts of Nigeria where he lives than he has developed Igboland. So we cannot be building and developing businesses all over Nigeria and not Igboland yet clamour for a country in a region that has no economic base whatsoever.

Biafra is not the Igbo nation, but the Igbo nation was part of Biafra. I think those agitating for BIAFRA should clearly state what Biafra is. And to make Biafra a reality, all Igbo speaking and non-Igbo speaking Easterners (SS/SE), who were part of the original Biafra must be involved. Otherwise we are mistaking the Igbo nation for Biafra. The circumstances that led to the declaration of Republic of Biafra cannot be wished away; and that was why the region as it were gave Ojukwu their support and looked up to him. And there is the general view that there was sabotage from non-Igbo speaking members of that union.

Nigeria as a nation has come a long way after the civil war. In reality, as much as we want to deny it, there has been much more integration among and within ethnic nationalities in Nigeria after the war. Be that as it may, I am proudly Igbo and can`t exchange my “Igboness” with anything else. But I think we are better off in a prosperous Nigeria. Igbos has sacrificed a lot to get Nigeria to its present state and we would be short-changing themselves to leave and then start nursing another country. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Igbo man has helped in developing other parts of Nigeria where he lives than he has developed Igboland. So we cannot be building and developing businesses all over Nigeria and not Igboland yet clamour for a country in a region that has no economic base whatsoever. Maybe we think it is buying and selling in Aba and Onitsha that will determine our economic prosperity as a nation.

Let’s forget our unalloyed support for former President Goodluck Jonathan; our people were entitled to their conscience and whoever they want to support. But the truth is that there is mutual distrust between the core Igbos and our Riverine neighbours, who incidentally are Biafrans as well. But are they ready to go along this revival of the Biafran nation? If yes, then that’s a starting block. But their body language does not suggest that. Therefore the result of the agitation will now be a Republic of Igboland and not Biafra.

Inasmuch as we complain of marginalisation, there have always been Igbo sons and daughters around our “oppressors” who are only interested in personal gains. Have we got real and charismatic Leaders in the mould of Ojukwu, Azikiwe, Okpara, or even Sam Mbakwe in Igboland now? Maybe one can say Ekwueme and Anyaoku, but those ones without disrespect are almost past their prime presently in terms of the physical rigour required to lead a new nation. We are likely going to be between the rock and hard surface.

And if that is the case, we will now be a landlocked nation, surrounded on every corner by Nigeria. Do we even have enough space for everyone coming back? My mind runs back to chaotic situations during Christmas and festive periods. Let no one deceive you, life will be pretty more difficult economically than we might imagine. And because there are no industries in Igboland, even our “traders” will have to pay the only country surrounding us to bring in goods. There needs to be collective and intelligent thinking here.

I strongly believe that we are marginalised, or are meant to believe. Most developments, which are phenomenal, in Igboland are individual and community funded. That is why the Igbos are the only region doing one launch after the other, one fundraising after the other to bring basic amenities to the people. I know Igbo students have to endure high cut off points to gain admissions into schools and Universities. I know, and I personally suffered this, that our names alone rule us out of some jobs in Nigeria. But we have to unfortunately accept the fact that this was compounded after the war. Igbos were in high and mighty places before that period and deservedly the first of this or that in the army, police, business, politics etc. We have gradually built ourselves to that level and beyond. It is not our fault that whatever we lay our hands on prosper, even in the face of oppression. But agitating to be move on alone with some of the reasons being postulated is like playing the victim always. We are part of our marginalisation. Where are our Igbo leaders and politicians?

The probable Igbo nation’s leaders are the present day governors, senators, National Assembly members, etc. Your guess is as good as mine on their capabilities. Let’s be sincere with ourselves, in the 16 years of PDP government in Nigeria the only position Igbos did not hold was just the Presidency. We have had about five Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, the Army chief, Immigration boss, the Prisons boss, Central Bank governor, ministers in key ministries of Power, Finance, Education, Petroleum, and Health. What has Igboland got to show for these positions other than installation of one chieftaincy title or the other? As much as the majority of our complaint are genuine, we are part of the problem as well.

Inasmuch as we complain of marginalisation, there have always been Igbo sons and daughters around our “oppressors” who are only interested in personal gains. Have we got real and charismatic Leaders in the mould of Ojukwu, Azikiwe, Okpara, or even Sam Mbakwe in Igboland now? Maybe one can say Ekwueme and Anyaoku, but those ones without disrespect are almost past their prime presently in terms of the physical rigour required to lead a new nation. We are likely going to be between the rock and hard surface. The probable Igbo nation’s leaders are the present day governors, senators, National Assembly members, etc. Your guess is as good as mine on their capabilities. Let’s be sincere with ourselves, in the 16 years of PDP government in Nigeria the only position Igbos did not hold was just the Presidency. We have had about five Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, the Army chief, Immigration boss, the Prisons boss, Central Bank governor, ministers in key ministries of Power, Finance, Education, Petroleum, and Health. What has Igboland got to show for these positions other than installation of one chieftaincy title or the other? As much as the majority of our complaint are genuine, we are part of the problem as well.

The Igbos should not shy away from requesting what is due to them. The Igbo politicians should fight for the Igbo cause in Abuja, no one from another tribe will do it for us. But to me that should be within the Nigeria nation, in a prescribed and orderly manner.

I am of the opinion that the Igbos’ should continuously agitate not to be marginalised or side-lined in the scheme of things in the Nigerian federation. We should shout it to the roof tops without being violent when over a dozen-and-half political appointments are made and no Igbo person is there; when other regions have at least six states each and the South-East has only five. You are entitled to use any radio station at your disposal to alert the world of the vindictive actions of the government against the race.

Marginalising Igbos is a sad reminder of a war mentality; of people who have been “defeated.” And it can only lead to agitations and more agitations for sovereignty.

The Igbos should not shy away from requesting what is due to them. The Igbo politicians should fight for the Igbo cause in Abuja, no one from another tribe will do it for us. But to me that should be within the Nigeria nation, in a prescribed and orderly manner. Marginalising Igbos is a sad reminder of a war mentality; of the attitude to a people who have been “defeated.” And it can only lead to agitations and more agitations for sovereignty. So the present government should be addressing the anomalies that are making the Igbo seek to go it alone. Let there be a level playing ground for all Nigerians.

In agitating for Biafra, we should be careful what we wish for and give it thorough thinking. Igbos fought a war, lost the war, lost a million people, lost properties in several cities of Nigeria. And these are things we should never lose again. Igbos are dynamic and very mobile people; the large Nigeria nation enables us to express our ingenuity and doggedness. Igbos have invested a lot in making Nigeria what it is today. Inter-ethnic marriages, business and personal relationships have been built across the bridge, and we cannot not wish these away.

Let us think before we take this Biafra issue further. Let us study South Sudan, Eritrea, Ukraine before we plunge into the lake of ice or fire.

Chidi Obi, from Imo State, writes from London.

 

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