By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
From the great heights of Ikemba Ojukwu to the wretchedness and mediocrity of an Nnamdi Kanu. What a tragedy! “As long as your mother ties a two piece wrapper you are a Biafran, you are a descendant of light.…Why would anyone go to church to worship the Son of God when we have many Nwachukwus( sons of God) in our midst?”
At some point Nnamdi Kanu will jump off the bus, plead insanity, and walk away. “There was a blood moon in 1967, astronomers say there will be a blood moon this year, if we don’t get Biafra everybody will perish”. His insanity defense is clearly made out.
But what should sane Igbos who are passionate about Biafra or sick of Nigeria rather do? They should not succumb to the seductions of the tales of the seeming peripatetic luxury bus medicine dealer, so they should not embrace Nnamdi Kanu , his Radio Biafra and their desperate and devious schemes. They cannot afford lunacy.
Lucidity must be deployed to defuse the confused euphoria of some of our youths. Perhaps the nobility in ignoring the charlatans and waiting out their folly has lapsed. The fire that has been lit is spreading on the fuel of mischief, political disgruntlement, perceived marginalization, joblessness and hopelessness. And men of goodwill must speak up and douse the inferno with the water of reason. And the government must think jobs and devolution of powers.
Some Igbo professionals in diaspora for reasons that are more fantastical than pragmatic find Kanu and his Radio Biafra fascinating. They are at a protective remove and thus have a luxury the Igbo trader in Alaba or Zungeru does not have. They can fantasize from afar about secession because for them, from their safe distance, Biafra is also excitement.
Any calamitous consequences of that divorce will not trouble directly their everyday lives. They may promise participation but even that will retain the optionality which will elude the Igbo woman in Kano. But like the Abakiliki chief who called me to discuss the first part of this article asked – what should those who are genuinely interested and passionate about realizing Biafra do under the present circumstance?
They can subject their obsession to the redemptive therapy of sober clear- eyed rational analysis which would inform circumspection. Yes, but passion is often , unfortunately, refractory to such cold rationality. Should they hold onto it, explore it, in exercise of their right to self determination? Whether buoyed by passion or reason, they would need to overcome some immediate questions. Because millions of lives are involved, morality will leave no room for sentimentality and indulgence of whims and superstitions. Is secession the answer to the plight of Igbos? Is it the minimum needed to cure the mischiefs that agonize them? South Sudan is a cautionary tale. My answer to that question will be the conclusion of this article.
They must answer other subsidiary questions. Why are secessions, generally, not common despite the ubiquity of sectarian political strife and social injustices? Why are the Hutus and Tutsis still of one country? It is because secession is a problematic slippery slope. It is because, though an expression of freedom, it negates and circumvents democracy.
The idea that a dissatisfied minority in any political equation can ride on a certain right to self determination and pull out and become a country is a recipe for unmitigated disaster. Nuclear families will become nations and we’ll be back to the pre political era. These moral burdens do not foreclose secession but make the conditions that could morally warrant unilateral secession more stringent.
What are the boundaries of this new Biafra? All kinds of maps have been bandied but nothing suggests that any ethnic minority is comfortable with any scenario that makes it a minority where Igbos will be overwhelmingly dominant. Haven’t lessons of history been learnt? Eziokwubundu. Because the welcome given Biafran flags in PortHarcout some days ago is a Greek gift.
It smacks of shameless opportunism in the face of the prospects of a repeat governorship elections there. No one should be carried away. Personalities from Ikwerre land and other groups who had torn their dresses in the past to prove their distinctness are now vocal about their Igbo identities. Change of hearts, any such repentance, must begin with some restitution .
So wouldn’these gimmicks be tested for altruism by asking the Rivers government questions about ‘abandoned property’? They know the stolen assets. So, verify victims, assess the properties and commensurately compensate them with fresh land allocations in Port Harcourt. When pretentions are shed, states outside the southeast will resist inclusion in Biafra.
These proponents of Biafra are particularly expansive. They want the Niger Delta, accusations of naked greed and covetousness notwithstanding. Assuming they limit themselves to the Southeast only , they must consider if they have the moral legitimacy to railroad other Igbos into a secession. It is not enough to dismiss dissenters as efulefus or slaves, their dissent must be countered by superior arguments and they must have the support of a convincing majority of Igbos.
They will have to show that secession is either an immediate necessity or that it has such an appeal that it makes the status quo, the ‘zoo’, utterly detestable. Pathetic propaganda aimed at seeding fear in clear disregard for facts is immoraland unhelpful. Lies wont sell.
Unlike 1967, Igbos do not currently face any serious threat of immediate selective violence supported by acts of commission or omission of the national government. There is no lopsided distribution of social evils in Nigeria such that the southeast and Igbos are especially imperiled.
Boko Haram has damaged Igbo lives and livelihoods but it has left the north east utterly desolate. The continued existence of Igbos and Igbo culture is not in any present or foreseeable danger. Igbos despite structured, systemic , disadvantages have flourished, on the aggregate, more than other groups.
If the appeal or promise of Biafra rather than its necessity is the argument, then that appeal must be demonstrated. It is possible that a land locked Biafra, without the Niger Delta and its oil, may yet do much better than an unwieldy and fractious Nigeria economically.
But nothing factual supports the proposition that such a Biafra will do better politically. A theoretical argument founded on appeal would only have force if it articulates the social position of Igbos today , enunciates the impacts of secession before prognosticating about a landlocked Biafra. Even then a practical demonstration of the appeal must be provided even if in just one local government area. Prophesies and superstitions won’t do.
Igbos are willing and able to compete fairly, they seek only a stable platform where equity and fairness reign. Igbos feel marginalized by successive federal governments. But any feelings of such deprivations must be tempered by the universality of poverty and under development in Nigeria.
Igbos, in their own states, haven’t distinguished themselves politically either. Embezzlement of public funds and general misgovernment have done damage to states and local councils in the south east run by Igbos as it has done at the federal level where Igbos insist they have been left out. But they haven’t quite been totally left out in the looting of the federal treasury.
But passion, the sort furnished by obsession, wouldn’t let the agitators for secession appreciate the enormous inherent draw backs of secession. That secession may beget further uncontrolled secessions and ultimately political instability. Because inter and intra ethnic feuds and squabbles and rights of smaller groups to self determination will not die with the birth of Biafra.
That since Aguleri and Umuleri nearly exterminated themselves, unprompted by the Hausa Fulani, Igbo cohesion needs effort and is not guaranteed even by Biafra. That the Osu’s plight is not linked to Hausa Fulani hegemony but to the bigotry of Dialas and Biafra doesn’t guarantee equality.
Assuming the appeal of a Biafran paradise is so overwhelming that the proponents of secession consider the effects of secession on the lives and properties and livelihoods of Igbos in far flung parts of Nigeria as dispensable, assuming they make a consequential argument that many more would be happier in Biafra, the instigators of secession must meet further moral requirements.
The great philosopher Immaneul Kant would insist that humans be not used merely as a means to an end. And to that extent the consent of Igbos must constitute a factor in the moral legitimacy of any secessionist engagement. The 1967 Biafra sought and obtained Igbo consent even though it could have dispensed with it in the face of the massacres.
To stay somewhere in diaspora and claim the existence and leadership of a certain independent peoples of Biafra and begin to solicit for arms to fight the Hausa Fulanis is delusion. Jeopardizing the peace the Igbo trader in Potiskum needs to fend for his family is callous nonsense at the best and perhaps mindless cruelty. The lives of these Igbos begin and end in their small shops which are neither insured nor indemnified against fickle mobs. True freedom fighters bother about the intrinsic rightness of their actions
Ojukwu would have advised them to join APGA. And Ojukwu was not stupid. Create a party or join one. Make Biafra a significant zonal autonomy, in the first instance , a priority and test its popularity within the southeast. If your party wins then you can claim popular consent. But to assume consent without a test beyond mobs running through Port Harcourt’s streets is not only presumptuous , it is also contemptuous of the dignity of the Igbos.
It presupposes a herd mentality for a people renowned for independent mindedness. Ojukwu didn’t promote APGA because of cowardice. If those who seek Biafra can win democratic control of Southeast states and demonstrate through innovative people oriented governance the distinction that Biafra represents then their Biafra agitation will acquire ‘purposive legitimacy’- moral legitimacy acquired by being true to purpose.
And all of these must precede a formal referendum because consent secured by mere propaganda is not informed consent. And I guess Ojukwu opted for APGA to further this objective. But they wont contest elections yet they claim popularity
Self determination needs informed consent of the Igbo.Will they,who preach Eldorado , allow Igbos to have a glimpse or perhaps a taste of their political ‘Nkwobi’ or ‘Nmanyankwu’ before a bargain is forced on them? Other groups are largely sequestered in their homelands but not Igbos.
Igbos are too deeply entrenched in the Nigerian matrix that they can only be teased out, not forcefully separated from Nigeria. This new agitation cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be in the interest of Igbos who own over 50% of commerce in Lagos and 70% of real estate in Abuja.
Is this agitation for Biafra in 2015 in the interest of the average poor Igbo man? I don’t think so. Some degree of regional autonomy first.