The time has come for us to think more than twice, as Igbos, and realize that the Biafran phenomenon has evolved through time and transformed into a new being that can neither be correctly defined or nurtured in the context of a geographical enclave with prevalent weaknesses fostered by caustic ignorance and poor leadership at different levels. Biafra is deeper than hate speech and rudderless street carnivals. Biafra calls for a shift in the perception of its ‘anti-Nigerian context’ in tandem with current realities. It calls for a new agenda on the part of leaders of the South-East.
The Nigerian authorities, on their part, must realize that Biafran consciousness can never be suppressed by force of arms, especially when almost everything that triggered the Nigeria-Biafra war are still being experienced 45 years after the war ended. They must come to terms with the fact that the only reasonable response to rising ethnic nationalism, including agitations for the actualization of Biafra, is to revisit history, locate issues in proper perspective and apply solutions that will make Nigeria begin to “make sense for its constituent elements”, in the words of Okey Ndibe.
Instructively, a study of the primary and remote causes of the Kano riots of 1953; Tiv riots led by Joseph Sarwuan Tarka of the then Middle Belt in 1961; Agbekoya Revolt of 1968-1969 in the former Western Region of Nigeria; the Niger Delta revolts led by Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro and the more recent uprisings in the region; etc, would underscore elements of the Biafran Principle as enunciated in Ojukwu’s Ahiara Declaration: the fight for justice and equity.
Viewed dispassionately, the Biafran Principle was not exclusively opposed to Nigeria’s national unity, but communicated Ojukwu’s “firm conviction that a modern African government worth the trust placed in it by the people, must build a progressive state that ensures the reign of social and economic justice, and of the rule of law”. Thus, it was and remains cardinally about the humanity and welfare of the people in a territory, be it Biafra or Nigeria, expressed in social and economic justice and the rule of law.
Accordingly, nobody really condemns Nigeria for the sake of it. Nigeria is well-loved by her citizens. What is condemned is the prevalent and persistent social injustice and disregard for the rule of law which has ostensibly defined Nigeria as a country that does not care for its citizens. Nigerian authorities at all levels must begin to address this with renewed commitment.
Conversely, nobody aligns with a secessionist movement for the sake of it. The movement must inspire hope by being perceived as a potential solution to the ills of the erstwhile political union. Therefore the challenge for Nigerian authorities at every level is to adopt relevant aspects of the Biafran Principle as key components of the national development agenda, while Biafran agitators must begin to explore the prospects of a united Nigeria strengthened by leadership with functional conscience and uncompromising humanism, underscored by a firm pursuit of social and economic justice and the rule of law.
Our different positions on the foregoing issue notwithstanding, it may help for us to think deeply on the following lines taken once again from Ojukwu’s Ahiara Declaration:
“Our struggle has far-reaching significance. It is the latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. We are the latest victims of a wicked collusion between the three traditional scourges of the black man – racism, Arab-Muslim expansionism and white economic imperialism. Playing a subsidiary role is Bolshevik Russia seeking for a place in the African sun. Our struggle is a total and vehement rejection of all those evils which blighted Nigeria, evils which were bound to lead to the disintegration of that ill-fated federation. Our struggle is not a mere resistance – that would be purely negative. It is a positive commitment to build a healthy, dynamic and progressive state, such as would be the pride of black men the world over…”
Let us be wise. Let us define and work towards the future we wish to bequeath to future generations.
Victor Nwokocha wrote from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reach through email@example.com
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