Tuesday, May 30, 2017

BIAFRA: FIFTY YEARS AFTER

I think it's disrespectful not only to the memory of the dead, but also an insult to the living, when the Igbo are asked to simply forget about Biafra, especially because those talking about it, moreso agitating for a sovereign state of Biafra weren't born fifty years ago when more than a million Igbo died from the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War (1967 - 1970). Was it not our literary hero, the late Professor Chinua Achebe (of THINGS FALL APART fame) who admonished that those who do not know where the rain started beating them, won't know where it stopped, which was reechoed by the late Reggae icon, Robert Nester Marley who sang that if one must know his destination, he must know where he's coming from in BUFFALO SOLDIER. How far has the denigration of history taken Nigeria as a nation? Jews worldwide never forget the holocaust, even though the number of those who actually witnessed those sad days continue to dwindle exponentially. No Armenian alive saw what their forebears experienced at the hands of Ottoman Turks, yet they continue to relive the events in literature, arts, music and so on, but in Nigeria, the Igbo must forget Biafra to move on, just fifty years after it was declared, and forty-seven after it became defunct? Just like that? Even if it's for peace to reign in Nigeria, can there really be peace without justice?


Rather than berate the Igbo for not forgetting the horrors of their past, other Nigerians must encourage them, and take a cue from us. I received with joy the news that the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua foundation deemed it fit to hold a Biafra themed forum days back, seeing that years back it was unfathomable that a Northern Nigerian group could mention Biafra, for all it connotes, much less organize a symposium seeking a way forward from that ugly past, when in fact a son of theirs totally unimpressed with anything Biafra is in power. Even if that program wasn't meant to coincide with the anniversary of the declaration of Biafra, as an independent state, the coincidence a few days to the day cannot be overlooked. In a Nigeria where justice is not only delayed, but denied the best victims of state orchestrated violence and impunity, including inactions (and the list is exhaustive) can do is remember, and never forget peradventure a Pharaoh "which knew not Joseph" will come in future and right the wrongs of the past, even if by making a symbolic apology, or something in the likes, far beyond any form of physical rehabilitation of and for the Southeast for instance. Therefore, for me anything that's done to keep memories of Biafra alive works for me, from sitting at home, to organizing symposia and talk shops, to peaceful demonstrations, amongst many other avenues that can be explored to bring the issue to the fore, not just locally but internationally.


When a friend called me some minutes ago, from Obigbo area of Rivers State in the Niger Delta, that she couldn't go to work today because of the sit-at-home instruction by pro-Biafra groups, I was not in the least surprised, because I hadn't figured that there'd be solidarity beyond the core Igbo states, though during several visits to Rivers State in recent times, I'd found that RADIO BIAFRA signals were clearer with more faithful listeners there than even in the heart of Igbo land, regardless of the fact that a few of the listeners aren't Igbo but of any of the tribes in Nigeria's South-Southern region. Prior to today, most Niger Deltans have gone on social media to denounce Biafra, and dissociating themselves from the planned "strike", if I may borrow that word. Pictures that have been streaming in online, as well as from some news outlets, show compliance especially in the Southeastern states, with scant to no traffic on major federal as well as state roads in the region, including of the ever busy Head Bridge connecting the
EMPTY HEAD BRIDGE INTO ONITSHA FROM ASABA, AS A RESULT OF "SIT-AT-HOME" COMPLIED WITH BY IGBOS IN THE SOUTH EAST.

heartland of the Igbo nation with the rest of Nigeria, between Asaba and Onitsha. Even banks, schools and businesses were closed down in those states, while outside of the
OTHER PARTS OF NIGERIA'S SOUTHEAST WHERE COMPLIANCE RECORDED ALMOST A HUNDRED PERCENT TODAY.

states, markets where Igbo traders form the majority were deserted by Igbo traders. That for me is enough, including the fact that despite all of the flexing of muscles, and show of strength exhibited by the security agencies, notorious for mowing down pro-Biafran activists and peaceful demonstrators in the past with impunity, there hasn't been any record yet of any casualty.


As an advocate of a BIAFRA OF THE MIND, I'd made my views clear in https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/biafra/ two years ago, and I do not hold a contrary opinion to those yet, despite all the noise and clamour surrounding Nnamdi Kanu whose incarceration by the Muhammadu Buhari government, against court decisions granting him bail severally, made him a cult hero amongst many a Igbo people, even though much of his views aren't exactly supported by mainstream Igbo. Since his release on bail on health grounds, no day has passed without the social media especially, and other mass media outlets highlighting one activity or the other he'd gotten himself engaged in, some flagrantly flouting his bail conditions, which I think was intentionally set to trap him in the first place, though it seems his prosecutors and government of the day don't seem keen to pursue that matter for now, for obvious reasons that might pertain to unnecessarily heating up of the polity.


What I think the Igbo should do right now is an introspection. It's true that the conditions that led to the civil war hasn't until recently changed so much, maybe there'd have even been no war had some voices been heard in the first place, and people not headily gone into an unwinnable war sake of an injustice they felt couldn't be righted by meaningful dialogue. In recent days, some have even mentioned the fact that there was more pride than commonsense at play in the decision to secede from Nigeria, and by extension go to war, but really who am I to judge, and what do I know. The mistake of taking one man's view only, as sacred should be discountenanced this time around. We are Igbo. We are consensus builders. Today we made a point, that the Biafran issue cannot continue to be ignored, but we must move ahead from there, and if truly the majority of Igbo people want out of this contraption called Nigeria, there are peaceful means of going about it (even the case for a referendum can be politically driven by representatives of the Igbo at Nigeria's National Assembly), as confrontation will only earn us the ire and  non cooperation of our neighbors, whose understanding we need to drive that agenda. However, if the opposite is the case, then we should also be willing to pursue agendas, politically, diplomatically and otherwise, to ensure a better deal for the Igbo, as with other ethnic nationalities in the Nigerian project, but all voices must be heard while we are at it.


'kovich

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