By Ireke Kalu Onuma
Making comments on 50 years of the declaration of Biafra and the ensuing Biafran conflict and struggle has become a craze now. It is trending and the trend actually isn’t something new.
Some have intellectualized it, while others have ridden on its back to fame and wealth. The bottom line is that the few that have given it some serious studied look, are simply not listened to.
I have over the past few days read a few widely circulated comments. One by Chief Nnia Nwodo and the other from Prof. Uzodinma Nwala. Brilliant both. The essence and context of both is simply that we have as Ndigbo been on the wrong side of history and on the wrong end of the stick.
Often, when we break out to remind Nigeria of the innumerable injustices melted out to Ndigbo by the rest of the country, I cannot but wonder at the double speak and double standards we project. Yes, Nigeria has been unfair and unjust to us. This is not farfetched and open for all to see. But whoever comments on the destruction of Igbo land 50 years after by Ndigbo?
From 1970 when the war ended, we have done enough to provide for ourselves and undo the tyrannous stranglehold on our way of life. But these were done by individual efforts outside the whims of the government, either local or national.
While there exists an official policy of exclusion of the South East from the scheme of things, how can I explain to my teenage daughter, why there is a deliberate, albeit, monstrous efforts by the same south-eastern governments and political class to short change us?
I believe that the revision of the outcome of the Biafran questions, should start at our door steps. Our system does not in any way teach our people what the considered history of the crisis is. We rehash stories hardly backed by facts. The facts are simply swept under, believing it to be too distant from reality. The governments of the South East with their political collaborators, either military or civilian, are all to be blamed for the present setback.
We fought a war. We could have avoided it. But had to, to save our skin and make a statement. The statement we made. The world heard us. But we became mute and deaf to ourselves and our needs. If before the war, there was a common problem, a common vision, pursued and sought after collectively, today that is not the case. We are more difficult and more divided today; that prevents our own independence and presses for a very possible civil war in Igboland.
Remembrances must start from a set of content driven Igbo wide self soul searching. We must stop the present hedonistic self-driven and soul destructive tendencies, that have become our main characteristics. I have over the years commented on the bias we have developed towards our homeland. We are the biggest problem of Igboland today.
When there is no longer available those who can insist on getting the best for us, how can we then improve on this disappointed season? The money we get from the centre is stolen and shared before it gets to the states. When after 47 years, the governments of the South East put together are struggling to better Ọkpara’s achievements, no better judgement can be found than that.
Biafra has become a craze. A totem and a myth used by anyone for diverse reasons. The symbols it represents today is as divisive as never before. I am not sure we grasp the depth with which it has become distorted and devalued. Whether we finally arrive at Biafra as an independent Igbo nation or not, I feel we will fail woefully with the present mindset and leadership.
Rhetoric doesn’t build nations. Ideas concretized do. There are just too many different and conflicting ideas in contention today in Igbo land. Not one of them is complete on its own. Each has created small but aggressive cult of followers. None is definitive of our strengths and considerate of our fears. These bother me and the more I listen to the shouts of and for Biafra the more my confidence is eroded.
While we have invested and continue to invest all over Nigeria, isn’t it ironic, that we, the ones that shout loudest about the disintegration of Nigeria or for a loose center, in other words, restructuring, bothering on dissolution of Nigeria the way we know it today, should be the ones, the only ones investing everywhere. Those whom we’ve presented as opposed to the idea of Nigeria’s disintegration are comfortable in their enclosures and enclaves.
Either we are very stupid or we know something others don’t know. I think the first is the case. On the other hand, this exposes our ignorance, of ourselves, our people, the rest of the country and the consequences of our drunken and stupid behaviours. I have a feeling that other Nigerians do not take us serious. We simply don’t have the base, unlike before the Biafran conflict to command respect, communicate intents and drive our people towards a common goal.
While the calamities of the war, pre-war and its post-war injustices are rehashed, I don’t see any wounded feelings directed towards the aggressors. All over the country, I see my people kowtowing before the very men identified as the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against Ndigbo. Simply put, our collective memory is defective. We have been injured by our cowardice. And men seem to be in short supply in Igboland. Knowing and dinning with Obasanjo, Gowon, Danjuma and the rest of the clique that subjugated and murdered our people is considered cool today in Igbo land. Hypocrisy, simply put.
The men who pioneered and drove the Nigerian military state to kill and murder at random across Igboland are hugged and even celebrated by us. What a hypocrisy. If really we feel wronged and undone, our attitudes must really reflect it. There are no Igbo opinion leaders today. Not that there aren’t brilliant men and women out there. Everything is for some reason. Every group is for some limited, and often myopic pursuit. There is no personality, or group of people, out there, who draws us, drives us or represents our expectations.
The North and the Fulani hegemony has never been my problem or given me undue headache. I have had more cause for worry, from the rascals at the helm of affairs in Igbo land. They have undoubtedly caused more havoc than the politically motivated inhuman policies of Abuja. When men and women we know steal our purse and everything in it and are free to walk around and even venture to lecture us on political expediencies, then something is wrong with us all.
Biafra is a ruse. A lot is unknown about the movements springing up everywhere all in the name of liberating us. Am very wary of gift bearing Greeks…We can do better than this generation of restructure NOW, Biafra NOW or Secession NOW crave addicts. The way I see it, we have built up this place and it would be really preposterous to allow ourselves to be pushed out or allow our inconsiderate and wild generation X, with limited knowledge of the historic essentials of nation building, lead us down the blind alley of self-destructive action.
A while back, I told a few friends that Africa is too small a playground for Ndigbo. I made the statement based on a knowledge that we are so wide spread across the globe, and barring a tiny minority of those of our people on the wrong side of the law, our people are doing extremely well and doing more to promote Igbo identify and culture. Knowing this, I then pose the rather stupid question, why must we discard Nigeria, cut and run, and go box ourselves into the geographical real estate that would ensure we consume ourselves even before we take of?
The South-East as we know it today must be rescued from the thieves, kidnappers and surrealist extremists that hold it hostage today. Our loyalty must be to Igboland, but it must not be a blind one. We must encourage and be prepared to support those ready to roll up their sleeves and throw their hats into the ring.
Until men and women emerge, who would invest time, money, spirit and sweat to this venture, blaming Abuja for subjugating us would be whimsical at most.
The application process of getting the homeland of our dreams, starts from recognising that the meeting point isn’t at a conference table with Nigeria, but at a conference room with ourselves where truth would be spoken to each other.
Ndigbo are far too divided and disunited to pretend we can grow up a nation from the turbulent rhetoric of today. I find that hard to believe. The evidence is simply not there for me.
Biafra is in my soul. It was in the words of my late father, a rallying call for tall men to come out in the times of great flood. It is in the spirit of our youthful spring when the bandages of broken nerves were hidden from the public gaze and the hopes of the future nurtured through great pains. Biafra is the egalitarian consciousness of the Igbo race. Biafra was Enugu Rangers who through the war ravaged shrunken estate that was Igbo land played as if their lives depended on it, and within less than a decade put us back on the minds and map of the world.
Biafra is the best of our attitudes and collective drive for justice and an equality of opportunity.
Anything else is a lie and prevarication.
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