More than 40 years ago, the Igbos returned in droves to their ancestral home, the southeast that other Nigerians were killing them but this time around it is the Igbos that are attacking other Nigerians in what they assume to be the Biafra territory because they want to secede and also to threaten the government to release a fraudster they refer to as their leader. The radio Biafra guy who was recently arrested in Nigeria is the major inspiration behind the latest agitation for Biafra republic.
I first listened to radio biafra when I boarded a car from Enugu to Aba. It was a small car, I was in the front sit beside the driver with four other passengers behind. The car was quiet till the driver tuned to radio biafra and I noticed how everybody in the car became lively. I was confused at first as the only non Igbo guy in this small car but I quickly got up to speed and wanted to hear what this much talked about radio biafra has to say. The pirate radio station was dishing one lie after another to the amusement of the passengers. One of the passengers had the courage to tell the driver to tune to some thing else that the guy is deceiving them(Igbos) but the driver replied that “are you not a biafran?” and the other passengers descended on the chap verbally. One passenger said why he loves the radio biafra guy is that he exposes the secrets of northerners a lot and so many other rubbish. It was strange that they saw nothing wrong in his call for genocide.
Another instance I saw that the message of the radio biafra guy is getting to many igbos is one evening I sat in Enugu around Maryland at a roadside garden to drink out the evening. As I was chilling with my bottle of beer, there were some young men behind me discussing politics. This guy that was on top of his voice lecturing his friends was telling them how Buhari has betrayed Ameachi and sent him to Australia as an Ambassador because the northerners are not comfortable with someone(Ameachi) who betrayed his own people( south south). He also said Buhari is the major sponsor of boko haram but he is now finding it difficult to control them as he has finally become president. The guy was so sure and he urged his friends to start listening to radio biafra if they want to know all these things. Here too there was just one person among the eight of them at that table who objected to all the guy was saying but nobody was really interested in listening to what he wanted to say.
I have heard well educated people who I assume are suppose to be well informed support this biafra nonsense. They make it look like the problem of the Igbos is other Nigerians. They make it look like if they secede all their problems will be solved. They must think again. Because when Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, it was Orji Uzor Kalu who led the Igbo delegates that voted against Alex Ekwueme. Was Kalu a Hausa man? No! Between 1999 and 2007, the Igbos produced more than four senate presidents. Was it the fault of other Nigerians that they could not influence development projects to the southeast? No! Is it the fault of other Nigerians that their governors who are their kinsmen loot all the money allocated to the southeastern states by the federal government? No! Is it the fault of other Nigerians that Igbo representatives go to Abuja and represent only their personal interest? No!No!!No!!! Ignorance is obviously a disease that only knowledge can heal.
Some again say if we don’t discuss and address the biafra civil war, the ghost of biafra will never be buried. Yes, I agree we need to talk about biafra and address issues that may have been over looked but do the Igbos feel they are the only ethnic group in Nigeria that have issues that need to be addressed?
My own people, the Tiv people in north-central Nigeria for long have been a target of ethnic cleansing in Nassarawa and Taraba state by people who believe all Tiv people must come from Benue. In 2001, in the heat of the Tiv and Jukum crises the military came in and took side. They went on a killing spree in a particular axis of Tiv land in what was regarded by the media as the “zaki biam massacre”.
Recently, many parts of Tiv land came under severe attacks from herdsmen that these communities no longer have schools or hospitals again, everything has been burnt down to ashes. There is this touching story I was told about this woman who was discovered hiding in the kitchen with her son after the herdsmen attacked their village. These men butchered her son before her very eyes and forced her to eat his flesh. She was eating, crying and vomiting but they continued to force her and after that they raped the hell out of her. When I visited the IDP camps, I saw hunger, sickness, pregnant women, injured people, dead people covered with cardboard papers and malnourished toddlers who were coughing in the palm of my hands like they will die the next second. I also heard so many horrible stories I will not quickly forget. This didn’t happen in 1967, it happened last year.
The Igbos may know only their story because they are Igbos and I too can say a little about my own ethnic group. But what about the people of south south, the people in the northeast, the people in plateau state, the people in southern Kaduna, the people in the Nassarawa north and south senatorial zones and the people of Agatu among others. Don’t they have issues that need to be addressed? Should they all threaten to secede? I am not convinced we are better of separated.
The Igbo question is also the Nigerian question. The problem of the Igbos is not other Nigerians but their elites and the problem of Nigeria is not the Igbos or any other ethnic group but the same elites. In their bargain for political power which is the only thing that matter to them, they set one ethnic group against the other. For more than 50 years we have been and are still running an unjust system that is only concerned about bargaining power for the elites, that neglects the masses to whatever fate awaits them. From our founding till this day we have put a wicked system in place that is concerned about sharing the national wealth only among the elites and sentencing the masses to abject poverty. The cry about marginalisation by various ethnic groups can be linked to this evil system. All the social unrest and ethnic or religious tension are fallout of long term injustice. We must first of all address this injustice before anything else. We will one day need to sit to agree on the kind of nation we want to be and redress some wrongs that happened in the past but before that we need a sincere and honest leadership we can trust to speak on our behalf and honour whatever is agreed upon.
A nation is not just a geographic demarcation but also an idea. The problem of Nigeria and to an extend Africa is that we lack men with big dreams. Men that can paint a picture in their mind of the future they want and work day and night to make it a reality. It is said that a poor man is not a man without food but a man with no dreams. We remain poor amidst plenty because we have no aspirations. Till we jettison narrow ethnic agenda and have single dreams and aspirations as a nation that we can fulfill our manifest destiny. What is wrong in building a more just society that anybody no matter his/her ethnic group or where he chooses to live can have a decent shot at life? Is it too much for us to aspire to build an almost perfect society that will be the pride of the black race, that nobody is left behind, that will prove to the world Africa is not all about mediocre, war and diseases. If we can imbibe this in the Nigerian spirit, it will be evident in the way we construct our roads, hospitals, schools and all other aspects of our society and a great nation will emerge. May God give us the courage and wisdom to build this nation.
Bemdoo Hulugh is an active citizen and he writes from Makurdi
You can also interact with him on twitter @bumy04