Biafra, a territory of the once Eastern region of Nigeria calling for secession, which led to a bloody civil war between the Federal Troops of Nigeria and the Biafran army now belongs to a distant past fifty years on. Until recently, the name tilts more to represent a struggle for a particular ethnicity (majority of them) for inclusiveness than a call for secession as they believe they have been marginalised for so long—even after the war that was fought to integrate them into a system they were part of before the war—and for another fifty years after the war.
Although, a call for secession is a potent threat to a referendum for self-determination, its actualization remains much in doubt especially considering their geographical location on the map of the country. Surrounded by the coastal areas inhabited by the Urhobos, Istekiri, Ijaws, Efik, Ibibios, Biafra lies in the heart of Nigeria but it is obviously not the heart of Nigeria (not for now). These communities as mentioned are the heart beat on which Nigeria lives on till today. This is evident from Nigeria’s economics recession largely due to an unsteady price for crude and a dwindling foreign reserve.
Hence a call for secession will be jealously resisted. This is however not to say that the Igbos of the Eastern Region do not contribute to the GDP of the Country—they significantly contribute to it and may diversify our exportable products away from crude if proper investment is channelled to the region.
The IPOB Struggle:
The MASOB/IPOB struggle has gained more momentum in popularity, courtesy of the energetically exponential zest of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu to the awe of Nigerians and the seemingly lethargy on the part of the Nigerian Government to treat Kanu and his cronies in MASOB and IPOB as a substantial secessionist group but as attention seekers—of course without hesitating to use the law were necessary.
Igbos in diaspora have also learnt their concerns for the realisation of an independent State and this has helped to grow the international profile of the struggle. Some foreign organisations have reached out to sympathize with Kanu, such as members of the Jewish community of Israel and others. There is no doubt Kanu is receiving myriads of attention and is basking in the freedom of a bail just granted him by the Court on health grounds.
Celebrating the Biafra at 50 (yesterday), Kanu was seen among a cheering crowd to address them despite his alleged ill health and violating one of his bail condition. He also granted an interview with Al Jazeera where he was quoted as saying “Nigeria is a stupid country”.
IPOB’s Strategy for Secession
Like the Progenitor of Biafra, Kanu’s strategy on propaganda is somewhat similar. However, much has changed since Ojukwu’s failed attempt at secession and various struggles have since sprung up since then, for instance Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom against white oppression, Malcom X, Martin Luther King fights for equal rights for the African Americans, and close to home, Isaac Adaka Boro’s agitation against environmental degradation of the Ijaw communities, just to mention a few. Kanu’s exclusionist strategy by calling for secession which is a violation of the provisions of the Constitution, and also spreading hate messages against a President from the North is a far cry from the position of his progenitor.
Largely due to the circumstances of time, Kanu has capitalised on a failing system of Government to advance his cause. For Kanu, his Igbo brothers and sisters have been on the receiving end of ethnic violence most of which have not been addressed. Also the marginalization of Igbos from key political positions in the Country has widened the disparity between the North and the South. For him, an exclusionist view by opting out of Nigeria is the only road to nirvana for Biafra.
Kanu has also capitalised on the Western sympathy for freedom from oppression and the growing popularity of the right to self-determination, to gain ground for his struggle. Hence he has employed the use of the Constitution which jealously guides the unity of Nigeria to show to the world that in the process the same law has denied him his right to liberty and peaceful association.
The Nigerian System of Governnace and IPOB
For Nigerians, all regions of the Country are befuddled with its challenges, from the Boko Haram fighting for an Islamic state to the Southern Kaduna crisis. The question these Nigerians ask is if their local/state leaders are held accountable when things go wrong. This school of Nigerians believe that if the right system of government is in place, the country will be better off.
It is obvious that the failure of leadership from past to present has widened the divide along ethnic and religious lines. The state government who are closer to the people have also failed to look for ways of improving the lives of people in their state. Instead, corruption, greed, and nepotism has eaten deep into the system that was created to ensure even development in every state of the country.
Until a good system of governance is put in place, the country will continually inch towards disaster if the likes of Kanu whose only method of freedom fighting (which is in it-self ethnocentric) are still aloud to preach hate message to propagate his cause. His approach may be questionable with so many unguarded statements to his credit, which put his credibility in doubt. What he fails to realise is that his Biafran struggle is indeed a nationalistic struggle for better governance devoid of ethnicity and nepotism.
He should be wary not to plunge the country into chaos. Millions of lives were lost during the Civil war although majority of these lives were from the Biafran side. The war has taught us a timeless lesson that it solves no problem but adds to woes of humanity. It has made men, women and children cry and filled with regrets. Kanu should not draw Nigerian youths and her future leaders along ethnic lines. That vicious circle should stop.