It seems like, of late, I have been running into (and reading) too many articles about Biafra. Maybe it’s because of the continued incarceration of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu (which I think the Nigerian Federal Government has to fix as soon as possible) or just because the question of Biafra has loomed large in various stages of my life so far – especially considering I’m a Nigerian Igbo man. Let me just right out say (for the benefit of those who don’t like reading long articles) that I’m not in support of a Biafra. And for those who are patient enough to read and comprehend before responding, here are my reasons why:
- THERE IS NO PLAN FOR BIAFRA: It’s funny how I hear a lot of Igbo people talk about Biafra and how wonderful it would be and how much better than Nigeria it would be – but not a lot of people exactly know what it would be, how it would run, the system of government it would adopt, how it would manage its resources and generate revenue – in essence, all it’s plans for the present and the future. Even those I’ve engaged to tell me exactly what the plan for Biafra is have not been able to come up with one largely unified blueprint for a country they are clamouring about. And that’s the absolute worst way to run a country. Why? Because the leaders would run the country whichever way they see fit because even the citizens don’t know how it should be run. Anyone knows this is not a good idea because it would lead to a pseudo-authoritarian state where the leaders’ words are law because they make the rules and not the people.
Also, it’s funny to think that we, the Igbo people have not come together to agree on what we want for ourselves, how we want to achieve it and within what time frame we hope to achieve those goals. We just want a country first before thinking of how that country would actually work. You know who else did that? South Sudan. See how well it turned out for them. The country is still mired in strife and conflict IN SPITE of getting the secession they clamoured for – because they never agreed on what exactly their country would be and how it would run. This is like a child seeing a toy in a supermarket and asking its parents to buy it without knowing exactly what the toy is supposed to do. However, unlike the child and the toy, the handing a people a country they haven’t properly planned for is way costlier and has way more lasting consequences.
- “BIAFRANS” ARE STILL, ESSENTIALLY, NIGERIANS: At times I hear people talk about Nigeria and Biafra like we across the Niger act differently from those on the other side. Igbo people act just like every other Nigerian. We celebrate riches even if the rich person is extremely mediocre at the expense of true skill and achievement. We are corrupt just like every other Nigerian. We like to cut corners same as our fellow Nigerians. We do not actively engage our government to keep it accountable – just like all Nigerians. Why do we suddenly think that with a Biafra, all these traits would disappear and we would be patriotic, united Biafrans. The fact is that whatever problems Nigeria is facing would definitely creep into Biafra because we Igbo people still have this essentially “Nigerian” mindset. If we have shown ourselves to be entirely uniquely different from other Nigerians, then I would say we legitimately have a case for our own country – but that’s not the case. We are the same as everyone else. Being Igbo does not make us magically better than the Hausas, Yorubas, Fulanis and other tribes that make up this entity called Nigeria. We have Igbos who have made a name for themselves in their various fields and are trailblazers. You know what? There are also Yorubas and Hausas and people from all the other tribes that are equally distinguished in their field so those making the argument that we Igbos are better than the other tribes need to come up with a better argument. And that brings me to my next point:
- WE HAVE BASICALLY NOT DONE BETTER IN OUR REGION: For the Christians; remember the parable of the talents – where the master said “because you have been prudent with little, I will set you over much more”? Well, Ndigbo, let’s present our report card: what have we done with what we have been given? It is funny how some people are insistent on blaming “marginalisation” for the current state of Igboland. Is it people from other tribes that have been our leaders since the return to civilian rule? Isn’t it our fellow Igbo men and women who have occupied offices in our state and local governments and represented us at the state and national assemblies? What have they done for us? What have we done for ourselves? We would have a solid argument for our country if we had transformed it into a hub of innovation, creativity and productivity. But instead, we choose to blame the federal government year in, year out for marginalising us when it is our very own regional leaders that are looting us dry. You see a state government road in an utter state of disrepair and the governor would be crying for federal intervention. For what again? What have our state governors and state houses of assembly done to provide affordable health care, clean water, affordable and quality education, affordable housing, a good intra-state transport system and all the other amenities that are their primary responsibilities? Nothing! But ask them why and the next thing you hear is marginalisation. Who is marginalising who? As far as I know, the South Eastern states aren’t being denied Federal allocations. Neither are we denied representation at the houses of assembly. Nor are we denied leaders from amongst themselves to lead us at state and local levels. These three alone should be enough for any people that are committed to building a productive and rewarding society for themselves. But we haven’t done anything with them. What makes us think we would fare better on our own when in our small way, we can’t take care of our responsibilities. Come on!
- BUT IGBOS ARE SECOND CLASS CITIZENS! NO – ALL COMMON NIGERIANS ARE SECOND CLASS CITIZENS: I have heard this line by so many people clamouring for Biafra: “Igbos are treated as second-class citizens in our own country. We aren’t respected or given positions of authority or management just because of our tribe. Why should we stay in a country where we are not equal to every other person?”. This is patently not true. You know what determines how you are treated in this country? How rich you are, your connections and how well you can ingratiate yourself with whoever you are dealing with. An Igbo man with connections has as much opportunities as any other Nigerian citizen with connections – same as an ordinary Yoruba or Hausa man would be denied those opportunities if they don’t have the right connections like an ordinary Igbo man. They say it like the elite in this country think “Oh, he has connections but he is Igbo. Let’s deny him opportunities.” Hah! If you have the right connect in this country, you can get anywhere and do anything regardless of your religion or tribe. The funny fact is that most of the people being treated as second-class citizens in Nigeria would still be treated as second class citizens in Biafra.
“So how come Igbos aren’t appointed or elected into positions of power or influence?”. Well that’s my next point:
- WE STILL DON’T SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE: It might interest you to know that while the IPOB is the current trending Biafra secession advocacy group right now, MASSOB still very much exists. Remember MASSOB, that was led by Ralph Uwazuruike who had his own fair share of run-ins with the Nigerian Government? That group still exists – and if you consider what both groups are clamouring for, you would find that getting a Biafra may be their only common ground. Asides that, they differ on ideology, method, approach and every other thing that would have made them more formidable as a united group. Wasn’t there even a splinter IPOB group not too long ago with it’s own leaders and agendas? The South Eastern part of Nigeria suffers “marginalisation” because we are so fragmented. The fact is that at the Nigerian table, there is only one slot for each region. Multiple slots would not be created for diverse groups from the same region. Even our politics tells this story of unhappy disunity. Before the formation of the APC, the South West was predominantly ACN led by Chief Bola Tinubu while the North was largely CPC under the leadership of current president Muhammadu Buhari. Both leaders realised that they had a better chance of unseating the PDP led previous government by merging and even expanding their reach in their respective regions – which is what they did and the rest is history. The South East? Till now, we are not even sure what party speaks for the South East: PDP? It’s not like Igbos exactly got the juiciest of government appointments in the party. APGA? A party that has been on a downward spiral for quite some time now and is only clinging to life in Anambra state. The South East is the only region in Nigeria that has three different parties shared amongst the state governments – the other regions are either PDP or APC. This is indicative of a fractious region that struggles to speak with one voice so that it can be heard.
- BIAFRA IS MAINLY JUST AN ESCAPIST FANTASY FOR DISILLUSIONED IGBO NIGERIANS: I shared a story on this Nairaland thread about my experience in a danfo bus in Lagos. the driver was an Igbo man and he got into an argument with a passenger, a Yoruba man. After the passenger alighted, I heard the driver muse that he was only taking “this nonsense” because he’s still in Nigeria and that once a Biafra is actualised, he wouldn’t even be anywhere near Lagos. I was quite frankly amused. What makes him think he would be any better than a bus driver in Biafra? Does he think that he would magically become a senator or an industry captain in Biafra, just because he’s an Igbo man? And it became obvious to me that a fair number of those calling for Biafra are disillusioned with the current state of Nigeria and fantasize about instead being citizens of a country that actually works and the most realistic chance of that happening for most is Biafra. They forget that there is no assurance that Biafra would be a better country than Nigeria. Isn’t it funny that most Igbos who have become citizens of other countries aren’t/have stopped clamouring for Biafra? It’s largely because their personal fantasy of not being citizens of an underdeveloped, corruption-ridden country has been realised – thus no more need for Biafra. If they were so personally invested in the Biafra project, don’t you think they would be here, fighting the cause instead of taking up foreign nationalities and going silent?
This is just the first part. I would outline them all out but I really need to get some sleep. I’m not saying that the call for a Biafra is invalid, so those that think I’m just opposing their views or plans should not get me wrong. I am just saying that with the way things are right now and with the fact that we haven’t really considered the implications of a sudden split, a Biafra would just not work right now.