Biafra: Yes or No 

900 views | Clem Aguiyi | May 24, 2021

Many reasonable voices had before now spoken on the precarious State of the Nation. Wide-ranging solutions had also been proffered, the least being for the President to address the nation.  There are times when silence is not golden. This is such a time. Only God knows why the president is mute at a time we needed to be reassured that help is on the way, and that we will pull through this difficult period as one people.

While Nigeria burns and we wait for Nero, let me address fellow South Easterners on the following words as first written by Chief Emma Oyilofor in his article titled ‘’First  Time You be Fool, Second time you be  Big fool’’.  With Oyilofor’s permission, I am reproducing the said article with few redactions.

Like every South Easterner,  I am a Biafran.  Biafra lives in me and I live and breathe Biafra. The territorial Biafra was defeated in 1970,  but the Biafra of the mind lives on and can never be defeated by any military weapon. Biafra of the mind is the resilient spirit of the Igbo, the indomitable spirit of the Igbo, the passion to excel, the zeal to work hard, and desire to triumph over all adversities. Biafra of the mind is the can-do spirit that inspires Igbo greatness. The Biafra of the mind is not at war with Nigeria but demands respect. That’s the Biafra that I confess.

‘Prior to the commencement of the civil war that lasted between 1967-1970, Eastern Nigeria was reputed to be the fastest-growing economy in Africa. The Premier of Eastern Nigeria (Dr Michael Okpara) and the government he led was implementing an aggressive sustainable development plan which was shattered by the civil war.’

Part of the plan was “a 200km industrial corridor running from Emene Airport through Nkalagu where the cement plant was located to PH through Calabar. The corridor was to focus on auto assembly and industrial automation.  A steel plant was already located in Emene and Kaiser in California was contracted to locate a car assembly plant and a plant for engines and turbines there. The first roll out of a Made in Nigeria car was schedule  for 1968. The corridor was to mimic  the Ruhr Industrial  Valley in Germany under Otto Von Bismarck. The civil war destroyed all that”.

“Onitsha was to drive the retail economy – a shopping Emporium for West Africans. It was opened in 1956, and by 1960, it had attained its purpose.  Umuahia and Umudike, Umuagwo and Ohaji were to drive our agro based and biotechnology industries. That is why the root research lab and brewery were located there”.

“Enugu was to be the intellectual headquarters and the headquarters for our mechanical engineering industries. Zik had earlier brought in the US firm – Arthur D. Little as macroeconomic consultants. They advised that a university be set up to train manpower to feed these emerging industries. University of Nigeria Nsukka with campus in Enugu thus was the first university in the country to offer degree programs in engineering, business, marketing, accounting, law and Medicine. The Institute of Management Technology Enugu was modelled after the United States Massachusetts Institute of Technology “.

This was the trajectory that Eastern Nigeria was blazing, when the civil war came upon us. The massacre of Igbo civilians in Northern Nigeria ratcheted emotions very high in the East. We felt the need to defend ourselves against extermination. We fought a war of survival. We fought and lost gallantly.

However, with the benefit of hind sight, it is debatable if we had to fight that war – this debate is not the subject of this piece. Suffice to note that our decision to fight, was a high-risk decision.  We fought the war because 30,000 Igbos were massacred in the north and we ended up losing another 3 million people and a total destruction of our wealth, including aborting our developmental stride. The marginalization of Igbos today, which our youths are reacting to is a consequence of that unfortunate war.

Marginalization notwithstanding, we have recreated ourselves through hard work in the last 50 years. We arguably are the most prosperous people in Nigeria. Our prosperity is democratized. Ours is not the prosperity of a few. The irony is that much of Igbo prosperity is outside Igboland and therefore vulnerable to the risk of wide scale violence.

Despite the marginalization, there is no public position the Igbos have not attained, except for the presidency. All other glass ceilings have been shattered.  Having come thus far in 50 years, the Igbos are yet at a turning point. Our youths are justifiably angry. But is it desirable to deploy another high-risk strategy to redress the wrongs without  thorough thinking?

Nigeria like in 1965 is at war with itself. This is a time that Igboland should have stability and peace within its borders, in the event that the current gathering storm leads to full blown anarchy. If anarchy erupts, Igbos scattered across Nigeria need a stable homeland to take refuge.

Unfortunately, this is the time when unknown gun men are attacking the institutions of law and order within Igboland.  Some say that the unknown gun men are not Igbos. That they are fifth columnists who want to set up Igboland for destruction. If that is the case, then there is the need for us working with our governments at all levels to unearth evidence that proves the point, so that it will be evident to the world that there is a conspiracy to set up the South East for destruction.

If, however, the unknown gun men are our people, it is time to point out to them that they have adopted another high-risk strategy that could destroy the hard-earned prosperity we have acquired in the last 50 years. I do not want to believe that we are destined to allow extraneous circumstances to destroy all we have accomplished for a second time. A prosperous people do not engage in warfare in their homeland. It is totally counter-productive.

When national security forces go on the offensive in response to the killing of security officials and destruction of public institutions, the aftermath can only lead to so much collateral damages to our economy, setting us back many decades. If in doubt, check the North East where the collateral damages inflicted on the region because of Boko Haram, will take another generation to rebuild.

Allowing our homeland to be battle ground is an ill wind that will do us no good. Head or tail we lose. We do not need two high risk misadventures within a generation. This is a time  to rethink the struggle and our strategy. I will advocate for a Biafra of the mind which no military weapon can destroy.

In looking at the general insecurity pervading the land, I hear some of us say that 2021 is not 1967. Yes, I agree that a lot has changed. For example, in 1967 Islamic insurgency that has a vision of establishing a global caliphate did not exist. Today it exists and is causing wars and spreading terror across the world. The problem with Islamic insurgency is that it creates never ending wars or never-ending insecurity.

We make the mistake of focusing on the Fulani as the problem. Yes, in Nigeria they are part of the foot soldiers. We however forget that Boko Haram is predominantly Kanuri and they have over stretched our military in the last ten years. With the exception of a few West African countries , the Fulani do not exist in the other countries. The big picture therefore is ISIS and Al ‘Qaeda. This requires far more creative and innovative thinking than I perceive us exhibiting at the moment. We need to wear our thinking cap to avert the gathering storm.’

 

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