Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Biafra: Time we have that talk

Biafra protests
by: Denrele Animasaun

“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.” — Herbert Hoover
In war, they say, there are no winners and yet, there seems to be calls to arms and calls for war or threats for one if Nigeria does not allow a section of Nigerians to go their own way. 

In fact, some have taken to the social media, to denounce their allegiance to Nigeria and some go as far as burn their Nigerian passports, they argue, that for them, they no longer want to be part of the Zoo, the Zoo, being Nigeria. Really, what ever gave them that idea?

They have been listening to too much radio.

The motivation to leave Nigeria seems to be deep and seeped hatred and they show their abhorrence for anyone that has a different view from theirs. Instead of them to better their point, they take to abuse, ridicule and threats. Whatever for? They look for champions for their cause, when they should be making changes in their own lives so that they can be better citizens rather than being spectators and trolls. It is a pity that sometimes when you talk sense to a fool, he calls you foolish.

In the meantime, others are hell-bent on carving a separate country from Nigeria for distinct ethnic groups that also pose its own dilemma: do we know who really wants to go and what happens to those who want to stay in Nigeria? As of last week, some groups who are thought to belong to the same geo-political group are registering their non-committal to join in the secession should it happen. So who wants to join Biafra or a revival of Biafra? For those who are ready (or so they think) they are quick to put down those who have refused to join the movement, they say, they did not need them anyway.

Suddenly it is not looking as clear cut as it was heralded; it was sold as the answer to every problem and a Shangri-La. The reality is that nothing is that idyllic, far from it. If people don’t feel at home in Nigeria, what makes them feel they will feel differently when they secede? They isolate themselves, create animosity and as they don’t want to be part of the solution, they then become part of the problem. If you are born in Nigeria, no matter what tribe, religion or political party affiliations, then you are Nigerians. QED.

The issue here is some feel that the country owes them, no, it does not, what have they done to make Nigeria proud? It is easy to make demands, when you do not invest in making Nigeria great. Talk, I believe is, cheap. Action is needed or put and shut up as they say.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a genuine need from those that feel aggrieved; there is a need for some to have a place where they can call home and a sense of belonging. That does not have to be another country, it should be within Nigeria. Having a country of a homogenous group, is not the panacea and the answer to those who have felt they have been marginalized by the country, other religions and other tribes for so long.

History does not support this and we know that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. What are the plans and what are the strategies in place for the new citizens. There are so many suppositions and not enough evidence to support the emergence of a new place. People are sold an idyllic place, and utopic existence and they are leading people down the river to line their own pockets and give themselves grand positions while others will be living in grinding poverty. What are the grounds for secession and what are the plans in the future and what is the identity of these people? Those who do not want to join the exodus, will they need a visa to visit, and can there be a dual nationality for those born in Nigeria and residing in Biafra? And would it be self-sufficient? Or is there a get out clause so that when the new independent state does not work out, people could leave and start all over again.

It could be like East and West Germany all over again. Maybe that is a wrong example as the East Germany then was a miserable place and the poorer relation to the West. I know, I was there during the iron curtain. They built a wall so their citizens cannot escape to the other side. People need to understand that freedom comes with responsibility. There is no easy route to freedom. It is all well and good for those who say they will do anything for a state of their own. When the time comes, I am sure the noise will go silent in the cold light of day.

This has been long time coming and it is no use to hide under the bushel, this drum is getting louder and from those who are bloodthirsty and have no clue what war does to the people and generations unborn, they do not have the foggiest idea. And beside the war is not going to be fought by the rich and the privileged, no, it is going to be fought by the poor, uneducated, the delusional and the gullible. I have said it in my column that although I was young during the war but, I was old enough to experience the horror of the war from the safe confines of Lagos. I witnessed the bombardment and our Igbo neighbours who never came back. I saw sick soldiers coming back from the war with gaping wounds and life threatening wounds, their eyes boring into the very souls of what they must have seen and done.

The problem with Nigeria is that a collection of people all come together pre-1914; Ijaw, Igbo, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Nupe, Kanuri, Ogoni, Gwari, Kataf, Edo, Ibibio, Efik, Idoma, Tiv, Junkun, Biroms, Agana, Ogoja and many more. We did not have a border prior that and people did business and co-existed with one another within various kingdoms like, Oyo, Lagos, Calabar, Brass, Itsekiri, Benin, Tiv, Borno, Sokoto Caliphate, Kano,Ilorin, Zaria and so on. Colonisation did more than to bring us together and create a wedge between tribes and the resentment continues to this day in terms of preferential treatment by the former colonial masters.

This is a shame that instead of closing ranks post-independence, we have widened the gap and are more separated by tribes, religion and politics. We have become so cruel and retrogressive as a people and as a country. We can no longer continue to lay the blame on colonisation. It is about time we put the mirror to our faces and accept that the failure is the part and parcel of being Nigerians and Nigeria. Having said that, there have been great highlights and a low time in Nigeria and the secession was one big blot in the history of Nigeria.

For those calling for Biafra, and for Ojukwu they know nothing of the time, the history, and events of the time. For instance, medecins sans frontiers was established as a result of the human tragedy of war. Over a million people died and many more displaced and many lost their family members, property and status.

The war was not a sanitized and romantic notion for the protection of the Igbo people. No, it started with the assassination of eleven senior politicians from the north by young soldiers led by Kaduna Nzeogwu (an Igbo man) and General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (Igbo man). This was the very first coup we had in Nigeria and it was on the pretext that they were saving Nigeria’s democratic future. One of the prominent northern politicians killed was Sir Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, died in the hands of a group of Igbo army mutineers led by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Captain Okafor in Lagos on the night of Jan 15th 1966

Then along came a counter coup led by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed which resulted to the murder of Gen Aguiyi Ironsi as a reaction to the killings of Northern politicians and Officers by mostly Igbo soldiers. This led to persecution of Igbos in the north and the blood bath of people on both side of the North and East.

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