The unrest in South-eastern Nigeria and the general unease around the country, is hard to ignore. Secession, restructuring, freedom, human rights, marginalisation etc., themes like this are hitting headlines and conversations, there is no hiding place.
Like most Nigerians, I have allowed my mind take a bite of these issues, taste them, chew on them and found much of the debate distasteful. Most of the actions from active participants remain hard to swallow.
The Nigerian army, after its decision to engage in the very dangerous act of pushing Pythons into dances, against the informed counsel of veterinarians and animal rights groups all over the world, has declared the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a terrorist organisation. The implications of this declaration are profound and far reaching. An understanding of this decision and its importance in a reductionist view is simple. A state cannot exist within a state. Protesting against marginalisation and demanding a referendum is well within a group’s rights. Creating state apparatus like security services is another thing altogether.
It was the great writer Chinua Achebe, an Igbo man, who wrote “When a handshake goes below the elbow it has become something else.” Those of us who lived in Maiduguri years before you ever heard of Shekau, know how a group of persons were allowed to gather “peacefully” and given way too much elbow room. Then some morally bankrupt and malicious political entrepreneurs hijacked it and the rest is now painful history.
Nipping things in the bud is reasonable. What equipment is used and the technique with which it is wielded most pertinent. So, for an organisation that has decided to add a circus act of Python dancing to its fine repertoire of international peace keeping and domestic “terrorist technical defeating,” it is yet to be seen how a positive outcome is certain.
To an extent, the proactive and commendable attempts of governments in the North and South East to calm palpable tensions is most welcome.
For me, Nnamdi Kanu has the markings of a despotic ignoramus. Unlike Odumegwu Ojukwu who was at least a very brave reactionary. See how he carries himself with the airs and graces of a messiah, wearing a pseudo-royal garb while the people he is “fighting” for don tattered Jeans and T-shirts with hunger and anger to boot. It is a mark of the failings of the past and present political leadership of the country that thousands of people, mostly young men whose energies and resourcefulness could be better deployed, diligently follow a man who lives with his parents while his wife and children live abroad.
What is Nnamdi Kanu’s political and economic ideology for his Biafra? Or is he asking for secession on the basis that he and his supporters are Igbos who feel marginalised? This isn’t really such a bad reason, I feel the Igbos have been marginalised too. They haven’t fielded a presidential candidate through any of the two main political parties since 1999. Same with the Idomas, the Tivs, the Tangales, the Igalas…
Someone could say I am being ridiculous as none of these tribes is one of the “major tribes” in the country. That very much is true.
Hold on though. Isn’t this struggle about the desire to kill the idea that one kind of Nigerian is superior to another kind of Nigerian? An Igbo man has been President of the Senate, the third highest political office in the land, since “democracy” returned; Adolphus Wabara; Ken Nnamani; Pius Anyim. Oh, I forgot, to the real Igbos, Anyim who is from Ebonyi doesn’t really count- I’ll get back to this later. Every state in Nigeria gets a Minister and Governors. How much have the South East Governors and Ministers done to better the lives of the ordinary Igbo man? Guess who has been Senate Committee Chairman on Constitution Amendment these past years, without thinking it important to make an amendment which gives rights and guidelines for secession to liberate his marginalised kinsmen and the ones who want Biafra amongst them or even restructure the country? Surprise; it’s Ike Ekweremadu.
I am asking these questions for two reasons. One, a nation state should never be formed on feelings alone but on clearly defined political and economic ideologies. The Soviets for instance fought their civil war with weapons wielded by their hands and firm ideologies shielded in their tomes and hearts. So did the Americans and the Spaniards. Wars were waged which led to, at the very least, an improvement in the lives of the majority of the people and structural renaissance of the physical landmass.
In Nigeria’s case, the civil war involving Biafra was fought in the simplest terms on the pretext that a new nation could be built on a successful genocide (Yakubu Gowon) and the emotional reaction to a genocide began (Ojukwu).
I heard Gowon has given his life to Christ. Good for him, he found the One who forgives. If he had fallen into the hands of Buddha, he would have to reincarnate as a football to be used as a training prop at Carrington and continually fall at the feet of Romelu Lukaku for the rest of his existence. How can you go to war against a people you were supposed to protect at least? And yet you failed to do so as they were massacred in Northern Nigeria? Then after killing and making lifeless millions of them. You traipse out to say “No Victor, no vanquished.” Really sir?
If I wandered into the ring against Anthony Joshua for five minutes and was coached by Muhammad Ali, someone will definitely be vanquished. What any sensible group of Homo sapiens compos mentis would have done was; sit down, dialogue constructively and consistently. Next up would be to restructure the physical, political, economic and social orientation of the country based on the causes of the war and how to forestall future occurrences. Of course, this never happened and we are here again, 47 years later. I already feel weak.
Secondly, I can assure you that my friend Chris Nwakwoagbara in Imo does not care if you restructure, use true federalism, false unitary, white lie barbarism etc. As long as the roads are good, power supply is constant, there’s a ready market for his business and he feels secure while sleeping at night, the man is most likely good. This speaks for most ordinary Nigerians in the South East or North West (no, not Kanye West’s son).
Let us engage in a simple thought exercise. If those after Biafra see that a secession is granted next week, and it takes about six months for the new state to settle down. With elections to be conducted, who will be the political elite, having the economic and political capacities to prosecute a campaign? Who will be possible candidates for the presidency? Governorship positions? Parliament? Are they not already political elites in Nigeria at present? Don’t they represent in its entirety all that can be said to be Nigerian? Especially the wrong things? And are my guys from Ebonyi really part of Biafra? See ehn, we never start.
Meanwhile, let us continue to engage in constructive dialogue and behaviour in our spheres of influence and circles of interaction. Preaching peace, respectful disagreement, constructive criticism, freedom and the surpassing greatness of Nigeria’s Jollof rice.