By Odoh Michael
“All over Nigeria, there is Biafra but that Biafra of Today is the Biafra of the Nigerians and not the Biafra of the Igbos: the Biafra of the mind not of the fields”— Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (Because I am Involved).
Chido Onumah in his usual way of writing as can be seen from his previous books, “Time to Reclaim Nigeria and Nigeria is Negotiable” has once again in the book, “We are all Biafrans” warned Nigeria’s ruling elite on the need to learn from history and save Nigeria from a situation of near collapse. This raises the question: can a nation tackle its present problems when its troubled past is never acknowledged?
This 214-page book, We are all Biafrans presents the Biafra agitation not from an ethnic view point but from a national perspective. For Chido, the Biafra agitation is an agitation for all Nigerians, an agitation for the Nigerian masses from various parts of the country who have continued to suffer under bad and clueless leadership in Nigeria today.
The way forward can be seen in page 43, when the author asserts that, “Nobody can fix Nigeria, the way it is presently structured” and therefore a constitutional change is needed. The recent constitutional amendment by the National Assembly is just a mockery of the system, an amendment that rejected the devolution of power to states. Nigeria needs a new constitutional agreed upon by the people, a constitution that will be able to answer the following questions, who is a Nigerian? What are the benefits of being a Nigerian?… Nigeria needs a new constitution, one that can answer the problem of national cohesion.
The recent constitutional amendment just goes to show that the problem of Nigeria lies with a few elites who are benefiting from the present structure against the will of the general public. For Chido, Nigeria needs a new constitution, a people’s constitution different from the 1999 constitution that was imposed on Nigerians by the military and is full of deceit right from the first page where it states, “We the people of Nigeria”, a people that had no say in the crafting of the constitution. The country needs a constitution where Nigeria is made up of federating units that contribute to the running of the center not the present 1999 constitution that is made up of federating states that must always run to the center every month for money.
Chido points out that the Biafra agitation and sundry agitations that threaten the unity and stability of the country should be seen as a Nigerian problem and not a problem of a group or people pushing it because the real enemies of Nigeria are bad leaders who can be found across all the parts of Nigeria and who have continued to benefit from this present structure where they are entitled to monthly allocations every month without working.
Since the national question goes beyond an “ethnic or identity problem”, Nigerians must come together and dialogue in other to build a perfect union. When we come to this realization according to the author, we can then begin the long and arduous task of framing a collective national ethos which will accommodate every Nigerian.
Quoting the author in page 164, “I don’t think there is anything criminal or immoral for Nigerians—from the East, West, North or South—who feel justifiably aggrieved or oppressed in a federation to seek to address such grievances or oppression. While the current agitation by Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement to wage war against Nigeria can’t be the solution, it affords us the opportunity to, once again interrogate Nigeria. And it is simply because we have refused to do so that Kanu and others like him across the country have thrived over the years.
“That interrogation will, among other things, help the young men and women lining up behind Nnamdi Kanu understand why the question of independence for Biafra, whatever it means, is no answer to the problem of poverty and unemployment currently facing them. That interrogation will explain why our states and local governments in a supposed federation have abdicated their responsibilities and become mere appendages of the federal government; why our state governors run to Abuja every month to collect their share of the national cake; why the states in the federation have nothing to show for the trillions of naira that have accrued to them in the last 16years since the return to civil rule. Of course, this is not about the governors of the states in the south-east zone of the country, but for the purposes of argument, it will be interesting to find out how much the governors in the zone have collected and generated since 1999 and how that has impacted the lives of citizens in the zone.”
In his memoir, Because I am involved, former Biafra warlord, Emeka Ojukwu noted, “All over Nigeria, there is Biafra but that Biafra of Today is the Biafra of the Nigerians and not the Biafra of the Igbos: the Biafra of the mind not of the fields”. The Biafra agitation is a national agitation for good governance because bad governance is not an ethnic issue but one that affects everybody from every walk of life. As it has been seen recently, the amount of money that has been stolen from Nigeria has been traced to politicians from every part of Nigeria and the consequences are manifesting in the military where soldiers are dying in the North East because of lack of standard weapons, all over the country where bad roads are killing motorists, in our educational system where our leaders are busying sending their kids to school abroad.
In the words Prof P.L.O Lumumba, “This is because our leaders do not trust our system, they give us free education that is free of knowledge and it does not matter where you come from, the impact is felt all over”, in the medical sector where our leaders run abroad for medical treatment despite budgeting huge sums to the health sector. “
We Are All Biafrans” is a participant-observer’s intervention in a country sleepwalking to disaster and there is the need for the people to stand up and talk and demand for what is right because according to Karl Marx in his Das Kapital, justice will thrive in a people’s government and not in an elite government as can be seen in Nigeria today.
Chido Onumah has done Nigeria a great service with this book and we are all called to listen to the voice of wisdom.
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