Over 50 years after the tragic Nigeria’s civil war that wasted millions of lives, the troubling issues behind the ill-fated war are still threatening to foist yet another frightening uncertainty on the continued existence of our nation.
More than anything else, the Igbos have over the years, demonstrated the prowess of intellectual coercion to restate their claim of being marginalized despite the lofty achievements recorded in assuaging pains of the unfortunate war.
On a personal note, my knowledge of what transpired during those dark years is largely from books and people’s narration. I was told by relatives that my aunt lost a husband in the war. At the commencement of the civil insurrection, according to one of my uncle, who was old enough at that time, the young Igbo man was persuaded not to embark on the tragic journey. After passionate pleadings to remain in my village and exercise patience until the perilous wind of war passed, he dared the dangerous journey to the South-east. He never returned after the war to claim his wife as he promised.
Baba Chukwu, another Igbo man, who lived for many years in our village, according to narrators, agreed to be relocated to a farther village away from the prying eyes of soldiers at the train station. He would later return to Kamuru Station in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area to continue with his shop business after the storm. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he would declare without hesitation that he was an Igbo Ankulu.
In my nearly two scores and half years of earthly existence, I have never seen a people so committed in actualising their potentials in all spheres of human endeavours like the Igbos. More than any ethnic group in Nigeria; the Igbos have demonstrated an enduring knack to survive the harshest of condition. That explains their dominance in commerce and ubiquitous presence in all parts of the world. Like the Jews of Israel, they had survived all forms of persecution and conspiracies from their traducers even when their wealth was reduced to 20 pounds per head when the war ended in January 1970.
Emerging from the sunset of Biafra that reduced them into vanquished skeletons of human deprivations and still remains a raking stain in the moral conscience of humanity, they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to begin an upward climb on the economic ladder.
Less than 20 years after the war, an Igbo man, Dr Alex Ekwueme, was elected Nigeria’s Vice President. Less than 50 years after the Biafran guns were silenced, the Igbos have been elected and appointed as Senate Presidents, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), Chief of Defence Staff, Chief Of Army Staff, Chief of Air Force, Chief of Naval Staff, ministers, among several other positions. However, despite these grandeur of accomplishments attained by this once vanquished ethnic group, the South-east people have remained anguished by their inability to ascend the nation’s presidency.
Despite their influence in commerce, education and other spheres of human endeavours, the people who claim ancestral kinship with the Jews are goaded by the pains of not occupying the presidency. Presently, the soul of the Nigerian nation is troubled by implacable drums of secession led by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu. He now has the fire in his bosom to walk through the fiery tunnel of secession that once turned the South-east into a horrifying global cynosure of human catastrophe.
After one and half years as guest of Kuje Prison, Kanu’s vision in leading his supposed oppressed people out of this hole of injustice called Nigeria has not been incinerated. The greatest threat to Kanu’s struggle lies in its ability to encourage and convince other groups to either demand for restructuring or balkanizing the “Mistake of 1914.”
Kanu’s dream of leading his people out of Nigeria has not been devoid of opposition from within and without the South-east. The political and religious leaders are quick to dismiss the new Moses of the Igbos, insisting that justice can still be obtained in a restructured Nigeria. The yawning disconnection among stakeholders of the resurrected Biafran struggle remains the biggest challenge. After surmounting the mountain and hills of impossibilities to reach the economic peak, wealthy sons and daughters of the Igbo extraction will rather support a restructured Nigeria.
My good friends, Obong and Priye, are hell bent in opposing the return of old Biafra where their parents were subjected to humiliation and made to suffer shame and all forms of indignities in the presence of their family members. As far as they are concerned, Biafra has become a fruitless mental project that cannot be achieved within the context of emasculating the southern states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, among others.
Obong and Priye are symbols of growing opposition of Southern minorities against Biafra. Much as doubts over the possibility of a Biafra is growing in leaps and bounds, the new Biafra’s Moses is not helping matter, as he is reported to have declared Judaism as the religion of the yet to be freed nation of Biafra.
Igbos outside the South-east are treating the clamour for Biafra as a cruel joke that will continue to remain in the realm of imagination. With their flourishing business in real estate in many states, they are reported to own not less than 70 per cent of landed property in Abuja. It remains undecipherable how these wealthy individuals will abandon their sweat to join Kanu whom many consider as petty trouble maker with no viable means of livelihood.
More worrisome, the demand for Biafra is not hinged on any ideological thrust capable of delivering a different narrative from Nigeria’s nightmare of oppression. Despotic policies like the federal character syndrome may have marred the potentials of many; there are no signals that Kanu and his co-travelers may not turn out worst oppressors.
The naked truth is: We have continued to remain too divisive to warrant any meaningful development. There is need to restructure the system to provide a platform for justice and equity. We must avoid a situation where we simplify our woes on a faulty structure of a federation in order to intimidate other groups for submission.
Beyond doubt, there is no ethnic group in this country that has surpassed the Igbos in realising their full potentials. They remain the bond that holds the unity of this country. What they should be engaged in doing is building consensus with other groups to evolve a just country where the doors of opportunities will be available and open to all.
Musa Simon Reef, a media practitioner, wrote from Abuja and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org