A Yoruba Pacifist Confronts Biafran Apologists

Separatist merchants and supplanters of our national unity have invaded the cyber highway and with clannish chutzpah have crowded out available space with irrational apologetics for a climatic manifestation of Igbo nation. Some of these apologists have colonised NVS, and in a classic resurrection of Stalinesque cropping of propaganda, they have employed flag solidarity, nationalism, tribal jingoism, veiled threat, the vision of Nirvana, Biafran nostalgia and syrupy hope to embellish discourse and fuddled readers into supporting a new, Eastern nihilistic sectarian agenda.

It is profoundly sad that in less than 40 years of our civil war, the Igbo people could be working assiduously for the dismemberment of Nigeria to further a selfish illusion of Ndigbo homeland. What this seems to suggest is that Ndigbo memory is still replete with regret, marginalisation, denial and perceived antagonism from Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani. This collection of festering emotional garbage has grown into a millstone on the neck of an average Igbo, especially the tribalist variants who are still calibrating anger, bitterness, frustration and warped desire to rebirth a new Igbo homeland.

Bereft of fresh and accommodating ideas, Biafra evangelists are now infecting and endangering the public sphere with overwhelming pained polemics of self-induced sufferings of our civil war and the dislocation of the Ndigbo from the commonwealth of Nigeria.  Also, what has become noticeable from the public domain was the absence of objective analysis of the civil war, the futility of Igbo blame game, the Igbo predilection to play God, its impotent and disorganised leadership and the rascality of the proletarian MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra) with its weakened commanders and foot soldiers.

For far too long, the Ndigbo have deified the old rebel and traitor-warrior, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to a level of a heroic God who is all-knowing and all-seeing. Ojukwu’s war against his fatherland was justified by the power of his logic which was anchored on his professed mission to rescue the Igboman from a perceived servitude and persecution of the Nigerian state. Ojukwu’s divine mission, according to the Ndigbo, could not be faulted and like sheep to the slaughter house, brave hearts across the Niger embarked on lobbing ‘ogwiligbe’ in a 30- month long war of bitter attrition which claimed 1 million Igbo and untold number in the Federal side.

Certainly Igbos are brave, courageous and resilient but you do not test these virtues against guns and bullets. When Ikemba assumed the mantle of Demon-King for the Ndigbo during the war years, he filled a vacuum that was crying for his kind of personality. Ojukwu is the son of a millionaire father, confident, arrogant, educated, handsome, brave, self-opinionated and ambitious. He epitomised the attributes every Igbo man, woman or child pretends to possess.

These ‘chartered’ character traits of Ojukwu have always created hobbles in the political, social and economic fortune of the Ndigbos in Nigeria. First, Igbos have always had a ruinous perception of themselves as not belonging to the Nigerian family. They believe that Nigeria or better still, the Northern oligarch has pushed them to the fringe and treated like pariahs in Nigeria. This ongoing crisis of confidence and acceptance can be located in their confused identity of who they really are as a tribe. Seen in this context, Igbo blindness and their self-loathing secessionist tendency represent the first hobble imperilling their full association with the rest of Nigeria.

Second, when a tribe descends into intellectual, economic, social, political and cultural comparison with other competing tribes in a tribally volatile country like Nigeria, what we shall see is tribal animosity, tension and distrust. When a tribe see themselves as infallible and too clever for other tribes, what we shall see is the desire for another Biafra. The Igbo have a supreme sense of self-assurance that they are born to rule and not to serve and this unfulfilled dream account for their relentless assault on the composition of power in Nigerian polity.

This character flaw apart, another banal reason why Biafra’s flag has to be hoisted in Mbaise or Owerri is the shameless ranting about marginalisation. This is a specious allegation that has no foundation.  Combined the tribes together, the Igbo have had a sustained financial, social, material, education and cultural progress more than any tribe in Nigeria since the end of the civil war. We may probably place this good fortune on their nomadic, pioneering and adventurous spirit. Any talk of marginalisation should probably be met with accusation of Igbo grand greed and covetousness.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who, most Igbo commentators now pilloried for misrule and other misdemeanours, showed an expansive trait for accommodation and inclusion during his eight years regime. Obasanjo, a detribalised and avowed nationalist wooed the Igbo and gave them juicy government jobs while containing his own Yoruba tribe all through his presidency. He brought on board his cabinet technocrats like Ezekwesili, Okonjo-Iweala, Onwuyili, Soludo and rewarded their talent with crown that fitted their talent perfectly. Under Obasanjo, Igbos have never had it so good. It was a kind of twilight years for their recognition, acceptance and rehabilitation. But no, Obasanjo the Igbo messiah is seen as another Yoruba devil who festooned them with an unbroken chain of marginalisation.

When Igbo are resentful of the achievements of Obasanjo, a fellow Southerner, then Youba and the Ndigbo would always be seen as useful tools in Hausa-Fulani grand political showmanship. When there is no moral commitment to tell the bleeding truth of the support from other perceived tribal enemy, then Igbo are not sincere with their true friends. Igbo must tell the world if Obasanjo’s presidency benefitted them or not.

Then there is the abhorrent ritual of regurgitating the tired cliché of Igbo suffering during the civil war. We are forever reminded that the majority of those who saw the war are still reeling from all the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological trauma.  The human embodiment of our war disaster could be seen under the scorching midday sun at Enugu-Onitsha expressway and at the Oji River and Ugwuoba sector. Old war veterans or better still heroes are left to rot and beg for survival. Yet Igbos are sounding the drum of a second Biafran Armageddon!

It must be said that this is not a psychic affliction from the Yorubas and Hausa-Fulani but a man made, self inflicted disaster from a Sandhurst-trained master-strategist who hallucinate on turning Onitsha into Tokyo and Nnewi into Taiwan. Forty years on, Ojukwu’s scorched dream is about to undergo an Eastern renaissance and Republic Of Biafra must stand as an emblem of atonement for Igbo lost pride and glory.

The dream for a Biafran nation state represents a new form of Igbo collective anger against the Nigerian nation. Many of the disabling arguments for Igbo self determination show no rational proof of any sustained oppression, brutality, alienation and participation from the Nigerian project. It is the lie of the devil to believe that Igbo progress and civilisation are doomed if they are still locked in a united Nigeria. We should also note that despite the theoretical attraction of a possible new Biafra, Ojukwu is a tired warlord who is more interested in pampering Bianca with her 4 children than leading a moribund cause that had lost its shinning moment. He also needs time to enjoy the large pension money he was recently awarded by Yar’Adua. A timely inducement, you might say, to keep the old man quiet.

Even Igbo odenigwes, igwes, diokpas, intellectuals, businessmen and women, many of whom are seasoned realists, are not queuing up for conscription. Majority of the Igbos I know would not contemplate an exchange of the comfort of Lekki and plush mansions in Abuja for the muddy trenches of Umuahia, Enugu and Owerri. They are content with their dominion of business, banking and economic destiny of Nigeria while debates are ongoing for a shot at the presidency.

Within this clamour for a Biafran super state, there is a gaping absence of lateral thinking among Southerners. We, the Yoruba and Igbo still gamble our shared destiny away through a mutually-induced and massive political gulf. Hausa-Fulani domination remains a potent force in Nigeria’s political life principally because of the petty squabbles between the South-South, South-East and South –West. Igbo collective dislike of Obafemi Awolowo is often ignorantly mixed up with a passionate hatred of all Yorubas. Nnamdi Aikiwe’s political indiscretions become a generational curse on all living Ndigbo. We see the minority South-South in less flattering terms. We see them as people with no political clout until Asari Dokubo started bombing the system. The Arewans, watching our almost unhealable mutual hatred, then drive in the political wedge which further polarises us.

The trouble with the Yoruba, Igbo and the South-South is our intellectual blindness to see that we are our own worse enemy. Northern hegemony is a figment. Kaduna mafia is a myth deliberately created to add a gloss to the fictitious Hausa-Fulani political omnipotence. The criminal stagnation of Nigeria is the fault of the Southerners. Yoruba is not the enemy of Igbo political destiny nor the Igbo the Yoruba enemy. Our old blinkers have to be removed in light of Arewa political agenda of domination and oppression. In this respect, an ‘Abiolarite’ character has to emerge among the ranks of the Ndigbo. They need a detribalised, lovable and nationalistic figure with cutting edge vision that could build bridges and end the clannish enmity between us. Yoruba too need to nurture another Abiola who could enjoy isi-ewu, edikaikong and ogbonno as much as ila and ewedu. The lesson of June 12, 1993 with its unifying undertone does not need retelling.

There is no need to dismember Nigeria because of a desire to create Dubai, Tokyo, New York, Taiwan and Singapore of Eastern Nigeria. I would hate to queue for Biafra visa to see Igbo friends in the future paradise of Nnewi, Enugu, Onitsha and Owerri. Biafra is an affordable luxury but let us redirect the resources and energy at working out our difference. Ralph Uwazuruike, that mobiliser of mass Biafran emotion, should disarm his battle ready battalion of Igbo Special Forces. We need solidarity not politics of difference and tribal identity.

Igbo leaders must refocus the energy and genius of the entire Ndigbos to building an egalitarian Nigerian society.  Also, they must reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and work out who their true partners are in a democratically-driven and indivisible one Nigeria. Ndigbo should learn to relate in binary dimensions-inwardly with themselves and outwardly with other tribes. They are currently deficient in those two realms. The current realities suggest that they must forge a new alliance with the Yoruba based on shared social values, world view, religion and affiliation.

Igbo must repackage and reinvent themselves and come down from that golden horse of ‘I better pass other tribes’ syndrome.  Intellectuals within Aka Ikenga, the robust Igbo think tank could initiate a national reconciliatory conversation and denounce the educated warmongers calling for a new Biafran autonomy. The old enmity and political chasm between the Yoruba and Ndigbo should be closed and in their place, let there be a resurgent momentum of tribo-politico co-operation and an end to febrile dream of monolithic Biafra!  Above all, we have to stop our filthy patronage for filthy lucre from Hausa-Fulani political fixers.  At a superficial level, this statement could be interpreted as a pacifist plea for Igbo inclusion and solidarity in a vibrant and strong Nigeria.  Yet at another level, it could well be the visionary musing of an observer of Igbo’s past, present and future.