When I wrote my last article on “BIAFRA: THE DANGER OF THE SINGLE STORY AND THE MISTAKE OF THE PAST”, I got a potpourri of reactions. Some hailed my courage for calling for unity in Nigeria while others condemn me for even daring to talk about Biafra. Something struck me significantly on my Facebook page. Most of my friends of Igbo extraction were glaringly misrepresenting the contents of my article in their comments. I was shocked. I went back to read the article several times after such comments, wondering whether they were not seeing what I wrote.
Then I decided to tackle one of them. One young Igbo friend of mine. He kept lambasting me while I kept pointing him to the fact that he is misrepresenting my write-up and failing to take cognizance of some points I raised in the article. At the end he said “I’m sorry, if I have offended you… But you are not Igbo, you won’t understand the feelings… when Biafra is mentioned.” He is right I’m not Igbo; but I don’t have to be Igbo to understand such feelings.
I think he was wrong. He has concluded that I can’t understand because I’m not Igbo. That is why he didn’t trust me. That is why he didn’t take time to digest all the points I raised in my article. As far as he is concerned, I have no business talking Biafra because I’m not Igbo, not even minding the fact that most Igbos agreed with the points I raised in my write-up. I might not feel the feelings but I understand the feelings.
Biafra invoke powerful feelings. The Igbo is a high achiever. The Igbo specie of humanity has achievement written into his DNA. He doesn’t know how to fail. The Igbo will give anything and do anything to succeed in any project he sets out to undertake. This attitude of the Igbos has been a blessing to the nation and to the world. You only have to look around to see countless businesses, institutions, establishments and projects we all enjoy being piloted by our dogged, creative and brave Igbo brothers.
So for a people who don’t know how to fail, Biafra will always invoke happy-sad powerful feelings. Biafra will always remind the Igbos of a time when circumstances and people tried to crush their dogged spirit. Biafra is a project that fell through for a people who don’t know how to fail. Biafra will always remind the Igbos of the graves of their brothers and the mighty sacrifices they made for this country called Nigeria.
As Joe Igbokwe puts it “Igbo fought a civil war of self-determination between 1967 and 1970 and lost about one million people. This should be taken as a huge price for the unity of this country. Having paid this monumental supreme price I think Igbo should work for the unity of this country based on social justice, equity and fair play.”
Biafra cannot be forgotten. The feelings Biafra invokes should be a blessing to this nation. These feelings can enrich our history without endangering our future. These feelings can be used to agitate for change without killing each other and burning our properties to the ground… again.
These good feelings can also become a fertile ground for mischief makers. They are exploiting these feelings for dangerous ends. They are beating the drums of war and making the blood boil. But a Nigerian proverb has it that: “Only a child who does not know the meaning of war thinks it’s a piece of yam.”
Again Igbokwe wonders “Monumental inter marriages between Igbo and Yoruba and other ethnic groups have thrived for close to 70 years now that we cannot just dismiss all these with a wave of hand. Igbo own huge and massive investments in property in Lagos and Abuja, and other State capitals in Nigeria. Now are you going to wish all this away? Other Nigerian cities have provided safe haven for Igbo as places to run to cool off whenever self-inflicted crisis arise or other problems. When kidnapping became a way of life in the South East, our people moved to other parts of Nigeria to settle. Now where will Igbo go when confronted with these problems in Biafra? How can Igbo thrive without their Lagos and Abuja or Port-Harcourt? What happens to all their connections and relationships in these places?” The point is we need each other.
John Chukwu the ace comedian and talented compere, who lived through the civil war and later died in 1990 once said that ‘I believe we needed that war to know how much we needed each other.”
Those who exploit these powerful feelings for evil gains tell a lot of lies to oil their machinations. The lies are built on some facts and so beautifully told that they are difficult to dictate. And with the soundtrack provided by the feelings Biafra evokes, it is becoming almost impossible to see the truth.
The common line of the-give-us-Biafra emperors is that the Igbos are being marginalized, mistreated and cheated. This is the truth but not the whole truth. This truth has three legs. To balance it, the other two legs of the truth must be investigated and told.
First, is there any part of this country having it really better than the South-East? To my knowledge the answer is no. I know the problems of this nation are enormous, but we can work it out together. Creating a new country won’t automatically solve the problems.
Secondly, who is marginalizing the Igbos? Has any decision been made in this country without the input of the Igbos? In this present democratic experience that began in 1999 the South East has produced ministers, senate presidents and deputies, deputy speakers, Secretary to the Federal Government, INEC Chairman, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Head of the Civil Service, Heads of Educational Bodies, etc. So who is marginalizing the Igbos?
A man from Kastina has never been the governor of Abia. So who is responsible for the backwardness in Imo, Abia or Ebonyi? Is it the governor of Borno or the South Eastern governors? Is Kastina, Jigawa or Ekiti even better than Anambra or Enugu? What are all these governors doing with our commonwealth? These are the questions MASSOB, Radio Biafra and all those who want an empire to be carved out for them to rule don’t want you to ask. They are telling you dangerous lies and using the name of Biafra to invoke the powerful feelings needed to make you blood boil and war ready.
The pains and deprivation the Igbos suffer is real but so do we all. Don’t let people use lies to invoke that special feelings Biafra represents. Even a self-proclaimed Igbo hater like Femi Fani Kayode has discovered this hot button. He has spent his entire life denigrating the Igbos, then a week or so ago he wrote in support of Nnamdi Kanu, the Radio Biafra leader. I think Igbos should consider that an insult. He is using the name Biafra to manipulate the Igbos.
Let’s rise together as one and confront the problems assailing us. Let’s demand a better deal from our elected leaders, from Ebonyi to Borno and from Cross Rivers to Lagos. Let a man from Abia not take up guns to shoot another man from Adamawa who is suffering the same fate with him while those who have made life miserable for all of us escape to London in their private jets. Let’s halt the drums of discord before we all drown in its rhythms.
First Baba Isa (FBI) writes from Abuja