Radio Biafra: The Case for Perspective -By Zizi Nwadike

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Zizi Nwadike

Zizi Nwadike

 

Let’s not kid ourselves, we are a stronger bunch together. Our different cultures and perspectives, our economics of numbers, that’s what makes us the crown jewel of Africa. Surely any medium that pursues an agenda directed to the geographical division of our country, even by non-violent means, should be engaged, tackled and made to see the lack of sense in their motives. My quibble, however, is that some of the contents, tone and tenor of those conversations about “Radio Biafra” (and of course the “bants” on Twitter; surely that is the only way to rationalise some of the obnoxious stuff that passes as commentary there) will only, perhaps unwittingly, further alienate the same people who we are so keen on keeping as our fellow countrymen.

In 1999, I was arrested for possessing Biafran currency and possibly for being a Biafran irredentist. Charles Okafor, male, Nigerian citizen and factory worker of the Ikotun suburb of Lagos is a living witness. The years that followed did not make me bitter.

My grandfather had fought in the Civil War just like many young Igbo men of his generation. He was formerly of the Nigerian military intelligence and had received a United Nations medal for service in Congo. You could always find Biafran currency laying waste on the floor in the family compound in Isu, Nwangele. I had brought back a few of those Biafran notes to Lagos and would clumsily try trading with them at the local stores. In one of those playful attempts, I recall a stern looking man in dark uniform was there; he rushes quickly at me, hits me hard on the face, grips my shorts, flashes a handcuff and inquiries furiously where I got the currency from. Though, I don’t recall exactly now if it was my father or my mother who came for my release.

During those Byzantine days at the University of Lagos, I would never tire of locking horns with my course mates and Law lecturers about Nigerian history, which inevitably would lead to the Civil War. I drove a hard bargain in those debates. I wasn’t having any of those, “The Igbos caused it, they always cause everything”; “Both sides committed atrocities, both sides committed genocide”; “Only a few hundred thousands died and not three million”; “Are you kidding me, which kwashiorkor? No child starved, it was all propaganda”.

I had read a lot of literature on the matter. I knew excerpts from local and foreign newspapers at the time of those events should have to the most authentic accounts as against the after-thoughts of so-called participants. I know that Mr. Wole Soyinka is a witness of truth. I read The Man Died a dozen times. Surely there was enough blame to go round but I thought that if we were to be honest, there wasn’t a lot for us to argue about. Still, it wasn’t lost on me that in regard to our history, especially about the Civil War, we had become a nation of cowards, afraid of our own shadow, a dark brooding past.

I thought that the parallels sought to be drawn by some of the commentary on the issue between “Radio Biafra” and the Rwandan genocide, as aided in the main by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC), was rash and absent in the evidence.

In recent weeks, I have tried to follow the conversation about “Radio Biafra” as closely as a Lagosian beholden to the madness of a vicious capitalist cycle can quite afford to. I have read Ahmad Salkida and Chinedu Edwin, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, a few editorials, among others on the subject. Let’s not kid ourselves, we are a stronger bunch together. Our different cultures and perspectives, our economics of numbers, that’s what makes us the crown jewel of Africa. Surely any medium that pursues an agenda directed to the geographical division of our country, even by non-violent means, should be engaged, tackled and made to see the lack of sense in their motives. My quibble, however, is that some of the contents, tone and tenor of those conversations about “Radio Biafra” (and of course the “bants” on Twitter; surely that is the only way to rationalise some of the obnoxious stuff that passes as commentary there) will only, perhaps unwittingly, further alienate the same people who we are so keen on keeping as our fellow countrymen.

These conversations are mostly devoid of what Biafra means for the people of the old Eastern Nigeria. For what it means for me as a young Igbo man accosted and hit hard on the face as a child for possessing Biafran currency and for what it means for a generation of young people ostracised and isolated from the state and whose only path to a livable life is by small businesses built calloused hands by calloused hands. The other day on Twitter, Kayode Ogundamisi, a very active Nigerian on social media, retweeted a user who suggested that it was bad enough just to even mention the word ‘Biafra’ and as the bants go on Twitter; retweets are not endorsements.

If anyone wants an independent state, we should rather be debating on the issues, running a political party, campaigning for a referendum and holding peaceful rallies, as it is done in most civilised countries of the world.

I found Mr. Joe Igbokwe’s piece especially off-putting and to whom this piece was originally supposed to be a rejoinder, but contrary to the urban legend that Igbos have no respect for their elders, I detoured. I thought that the parallels sought to be drawn by some of the commentary on the issue between “Radio Biafra” and the Rwandan genocide, as aided in the main by Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC), was rash and absent in the evidence. Before the present Boko Haram rampage, the Igbos have always been at the receiving end of this country’s history of mass killings and pogroms. It would be too much to portend the Biafran activism of the last thirty years, whether the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB) or “Radio Biafra” with calls for genocide and mass killings. I thought that Mr. Joe Igbokwe’s condescending tone and fear-mongering ineffective in addressing the questions underlying the seeming large support among a certain section of young Igbo people for “Radio Biafra”.

I have never listened to the pirate Radio. However, the unimaginative choice of words and apparent prejudice and lies spewed on their Twitter feed is condemnable. If anyone wants an independent state, we should rather be debating on the issues, running a political party, campaigning for a referendum and holding peaceful rallies, as it is done in most civilised countries of the world. ‎

…“Radio Biafra” is a sinister ideology which nevertheless makes a demand on us. It calls on us to ask legitimate questions on our approach to nationhood, justice and fairness.

The truth is that nobody can ever take away romanticism about Biafra from majority of Igbos. It is our history, perhaps punishment from our “Chi” for some hideous act in our collective past. I am not suggesting that “Radio Biafra” is some sort of sanctimonious pastime by some Igbo romantics lost in the chivalry of the 1960s. Rather “Radio Biafra” is a sinister ideology which nevertheless makes a demand on us. It calls on us to ask legitimate questions on our approach to nationhood, justice and fairness.

It calls upon us to end the cowardice and tell the truth about our history. “Radio Biafra” is an apology by the Nigerian state about the fratricidal turn which the Civil War took and three million Igbo deaths. It is another South-Eastern state in fairness and common sense. It is the sense of belonging which made the Igbos adopt an Ijaw man as its own and which singularly settled a century of distrust going back to the old days of Eastern Nigeria. “Radio Biafra” is recognising that some people like to be loquacious, independent and aggressive; it doesn’t mean that they mean you any harm. It is fair taxation in our big cities and government support for small businesses.

Zizi Nwadike, a legal practitioner, writes from Lagos. You can follow him on Twitter at @bslder‎.

 

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