There is war across the River Niger in the east, a war for Biafran nationhood. It is one hell of a war for the soul of Biafra, albeit an undeclared one. Daily the news emanating from the oriental part of Nigeria is frightening if not sickening. The so-called unknown gunmen are terrorizing state institutions and officials. Prisons are being ransacked and burnt down with inmates, including heartless hardened criminals, freed. Police stations are being invaded and officers on duty killed. And arms and ammunitions looted. Most of the police formations attacked were set ablaze afterwards.
The major objective of the gunmen whose identities are still shrouded in mystery appears to be the unleashing of brutal violence sowing fear and suspicion in the minds of those they consider their enemies.
Igboland today appears to be a territory ruled by arms and armed men. From Enugu to Ebonyi, Anambra to Imo down to Abia everything points to a region at the mercy of mercenaries and bandits. Arms and ammunitions are circulating freely and many are in the wrong hands! If you happen to possess an AK-47 then you dictate the pace of the impending doom.
Even the ‘Supreme Cult’ Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma’s country home in Omuma, Oru East Local Government Area was not spared as it came under attack recently. The house was partially burnt as two security officers keeping watch over the property were killed.
The Eastern Security Network (ESN) Commander, Ikonso Don, and a couple of his men were killed some days ago in his family house in Awomama village, Oru East Local Government Area. Both Governor Uzodinma and the late Ikonso hail from the same local government area in Imo State. But they were in different political camps, irreconciliably opposed to each other. One was a Supreme Court-imposed Governor and the other, now late, was a ‘terrorist’ who commanded a military wing of the so-called ‘terrorist’ organization.
When the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, declared the Republic of Biafra in 1967 effectively seceding from the Nigerian central government the prevailing circumstances that led to that historic move were much different from the situation today. Then Nigeria was a young nation, barely seven years old.
As the Union Jack was lowered in Lagos signalling the colonial end of British century-old colonialism and their departure from our shores the Lugardian 1914 amalgamation began to unravel in earnest. Coups and counter-coups and internal wranglings made sure that social tensions mounted. Among the ruling elite (especially the military) there was discord over how to run the then potentially great nation.
Following a northern counter coup that claimed the life of the then Head of State, General Aguiyi-Ironsi and the massacre of Igbos residing in the north, Colonel Ojukwu decided to opt out of the union pulling his south-eastern region out of the central government in Lagos. But the then Head of State, the youthful General Yakubu Gowon, would not allow such to happen. So the drum of war began beating at dizzying pace.
The Aburi Accord signed in Ghana between the Nigerian Gowon and the Biafran Ojukwu failed to avert the worst from happening. In the end after almost three years of barbaric genocide presented to the outside world as civil war over three million Igbos had been massacred while the regional economy and infrastructure suffered incalculable damage. While hundreds of thousands died on the different war fronts hundreds of thousands died from starvation, diseases and psychological torture.
When the pogrom was declared over following the Biafran surrender Gen. Gowon and the winning Nigerian party had declared “no-victor-no-vanquished” as the state policy post-rebellion. The triple ‘R’ (Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction) was put in place to put the war behind the protagonists. Yet today there is a general sense of the vanquished and the victorious. There is little or no reconciliation, rehabilitation or reconstruction anywhere in Biafraland. The average Igboman still feel cheated in the system, by the system.
Today in the south-east a war-like situation prevails. It is an undeclared unsanctioned war for the Biafran nationhood. Almost half-a-century on, the issues that led to the declaration of Biafra are still very much with us: injustice, marginalisation and neglect.
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the fugitive leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the supreme Commander of the ESN cannot be compared to the late Ojukwu for obvious reasons. One, Kanu is not trained as a military officer. He is a ‘bloody’ civilian. Two, he does not enjoy the broad support of the Igbos in the protracted Biafran agitation. He has a large followership but the elite detest his methods and tactics. Three, his late father was not rich and influential as the late father of Ojukwu who was a billionaire when richness in Igboland was a rare blessing.
However, like Ojukwu Kanu is highly intelligent but unlike the heroic warlord from Nnewi the Afaraukwu Abia state-born man is globally connected by the grace of the digital age we live in. He regularly makes himself heard loud and clear through the social media and the Radio Biafra. Ojukwu lived in an analogue age and generation. He was an enigma very much like Kanu!
Fifty years down the line a whole lot of water has indeed passed through the federal bridge. Since the Biafran war act one happened act two seems to be in the offing. The Biafrans could be said to be much more prepared for any eventuality. They are today much larger, much richer and much wiser compared to the Ojukwu era.
To avoid a repeat of what gruesomely took place in the late 60s there is an urgent need in our reckoning for negotiations. Two scenarios are imposingly discernible: organize a free and fair referendum in the south-east where the Biafrans would pronounce electorally their choice, to wit: whether to remain inside the Nigerian federation or go their seperate ways in peace. Or cede power to their region as a matter of state priority come 2023 thereby pacifying them to feel part of the troubled Nigerian federation.
Whether one of the above happens or not, however, the Biafran question must be resolved in our generation one way or the other. Peacefully or violently the question must be resolved sooner or later. Yet we are not under any illusion that in the event of another Biafran war exploding what happened before would repeat itself.
This time around the monkeys and baboons and wild animals in the large ‘zoo’ would all be soaked in blood! To avert that disaster looming dangerously in the horizon something must give! Give Biafra to Biafrans or risk a catastrophic consequencies.