Self-Determination and The Biafran, Nigeria's Problem Child/

It has been said that history is circular. Events repeat, not always exactly as before but, similarly in form and purpose. While history, as it unfolds, does so in accordance with certain rhythms, there is a rare time of leisure when the space between the occurrences of decisive moments is of such a length that there is time to ruminate on the meanings of past and current events at leisure. However, as time passes, the rhythm changes, decisive events come one almost on the tail of the other and sometimes, as a cascade. At such a time, the only way that a person can successfully navigate through the fast flowing stream of events is if he or she is capable of recognising those landmarks that are history repeating as they flash past.

Lack of a proper grounding in history is what makes it possible for enemies of the people to find allies from within the people. When Gani Adams said he would always act in opposition to Bola Tinubu even if he knew that Tinubu was doing the right thing, he spoke as one without the ability to perceive the essence of the historical events that brought the Yoruba people to their present state. When the OPC announced that they have no objection to 'peaceful' agitations for 'Biafra' in Yorubaland, they spoke as ones who did not fully comprehend the lessons taught by others who had once committed similar strategic errors in the Yoruba past.

I have previously stated my support for processes that will enable Africans that are currently still defined by labels and institutions manufactured by foreigners to redefine themselves. In spite of the unfavourable view that I have of ongoing ‘agitations’ for Biafra, I still hold this view - my antagonism to biafranism being motivated by the realisation that it is nothing more than a fascist movement born from an alliance of political/economic opportunists and bloodthirsty fantasists.

Ibo who call themselves 'Biafrans' are Nigeria's problem child.  They are like those offspring who when even when well into middle age, not only refuse to take responsibility for their own mistakes, but will on occasion whine about how their problems are caused by their parents not giving them enough attention/pampering.

Had their tantrums being restricted to Ibo territory, that is to say, if they had restricted themselves to crapping in their own cribs, then as ones who are far from Ibo lands, whatever mess they made in their own backyard would have never been of much concern to non-Ibo. Unfortunately, Yoruba are not so lucky. We have hundreds of thousands, perhaps a few million, of these dangerous overgrown juvenile delinquents living in our midst. What do they want? In this article, I will look at a few of the unmet unrealistic expectations that are causing these problem children to feel that they are justified in causing a ruckus.

I start with the observation that right from Chinua Achebe onwards, Biafran propagandists have always expected that they should be able to tell lies about others - i.e. pass off lies as history - and be unchallenged.

The most significant of all these lies (and the truth that it was designed to obscure) is as follows:

The lie: Ibo have always been at the forefront of agitations for the decentralisation of power in Nigeria.

The truth: Nigeria was actually set on the path of centralisation and enforced unity when in 1954, the Ibo dominated NCNC sabotaged attempts by the Yoruba-led AG to include a clause in the Nigerian constitution that would allow any region that wanted to secede from the Nigerian union to do so in a peaceable and legal manner. The seal on decentralisation (and enforced unity) was then set in concrete by an Ibo military head of state (Aguiyi Ironsi). In 1966, working from a template designed by his fellow Ibo (Pius Okigbo and Francis Nwokedi), Ironsi promulgated the Unification decree that abolished what was left of regional independence and turned Nigeria into the unitary centralised State that it still is today.

Here would be a good place to note the Ibo view of themselves in relation to other so-called Nigerians; in the words of Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1949, "...the God of Africa has created the Igbo nation to lead the children of Africa..."

In addition, from Charles Onyeama, a member of the Central Legislative Council in 1945, "Igbo domination of Nigeria is only a matter of time..." Note how that word 'domination' is still an integral part of how Ibo describe their relationship - even in their fantasies - with other Nigerian ethnic groups. For example, many a time I have read an Ibo commentator talk about how "Ibo dominate Lagos/Abuja/Port Harcourt..."

How the hubris indicated by those words shaped and continue to shape the way Ibo respond whenever things are excessively in their favour and, when the opposite is the case is apparent to any objective student of history and current affairs.

  • In 1948, the NCNC through its Freedom Charter stated its support for the organisation of States on a "National and linguistic basis."
  • In 1951, Anthony Enahoro of the Action Group called a conference in Sapele during which a demand was made for the formation of a Benin-Delta State.
  • In 1952 and 1953, this demand was repeated.
  • In 1955, the Western Region's House of Assembly unanimously passed a resolution supporting the creation of the Benin-Delta (later changed to Mid-West) State.

While all this was going on, minority groups in the Northern and Eastern Regions were also demanding their own separate States.

During the election campaign of 1957, Nnamdi Azikiwe stated in a nationwide broadcast that if the NCNC was allowed to retain power in the Eastern Region, the party would support "...the right of former Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers Province to determine their political future..."

At 1957's London Conference, both Action Group and NCNC supported the creation of additional States.

While Action Group remained steadfast in its support of the creation of additional States, it qualified this support with a condition: which was that no newly created states could enforce the inclusion of peoples who had not supported the State's creation.

In the Northern Region, it was proposed that the Yoruba provinces, Ilorin and Kabba, be allowed to join their kin in the Western Region. At the elections, Ilorin voted for the Action Group while Kabba voted for the Northern People’s Congress.

While the Action Group’s support for the principle of self-determination, the creation of additional states, and its qualification would remain steadfast, once it had won the elections of 1957, the NCNC withdrew its support for the creation of States for Eastern Region minorities because, according to Azikiwe, these demands were based on anti-Ibo sentiments. He said, "...the situation in the Eastern Region is exceptional...the East can no longer stand dismemberment as a sacrifice either for administrative convenience or for national unity."

Party strength in minority areas of Eastern Region - 1957

(NCNC)

Ibo Areas: 52

Non-Ibo Areas: 12

(AG/UNIP)

Ibo Areas: 0

Non-Ibo Areas: 18

In 1934, The Ibo Union of Lagos was founded and it would go on to act as a power base for Nnamdi Azikiwe after the inauguration of the NCNC in 1945. While Azikiwe would continue to enjoy the full support of Ibo in Lagos, Yoruba political support (and votes) were split between Azikiwe and his Yoruba rivals. It would take another 11 years after the formation of the Ibo Union before some Yoruba founded their own nationalist union, Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Though these were eventually able to build a force potent enough to challenge Azikiwe's presumption to leadership in Yoruba territory, the ability of the NCNC to play a spoiler role in the internal politics of Yorubaland would remain intact until near the very end of the first republic.

The above statistics indicating party strength in the Eastern Region's minority areas in 1957’s elections shows that the voting patterns witnessed in Lagos recently was nothing new: while other ethnic groups would often split their votes between different parties, the tendency for Ibo to vote along ethnic lines was (and still is) deeply ingrained and made manifest wherever they are. It should also be noted that while AD/ACN, (a party with its power-base among the Yoruba) fielded Ibo candidates in Iboland during the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, APGA (a party with its power-base among the Ibo) repeatedly fielded Ibo candidates in Eko (Lagos), a Yoruba State. Why did APGA keep on doing this? Were those in charge actually so deluded that they thought they had the numbers to win an election in a Yoruba State with an Ibo candidate? If one assumes that they were not that stupid, then there must have been another reason why this idea, (which had first taken shape in 1934), about the need for Ibo to establish and maintain a distinct political force in Yoruba territory, was still judged to be necessary in 2015.  

Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe's regime had been backed by (and staffed with) leading Ibo steakholders like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Pius Anyim, Ike Ekweremadu, Chris Uba, etc. Having first convinced themselves that the only reason this regime failed was because some (imaginary) supporters of Buhari had made good on their alleged promise to "make Nigeria ungovernable" for their man, the same steakholders whose bad advice, rampant/rabid corruption, and incompetence had actually made Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan decided to apply the same spoiler strategy that they had once tried to pin on Buhari to their own purpose. They decided to try and make Nigeria ungovernable for the APC government by activating and bringing fascist lunatics that had once been on the fringes onto centre-stage.

Therefore, bypassing the moribund Ralph Uwazurike faction of MASSOB, they started funnelling money and other logistic support (like their networks of rentable/excitable crowds) towards the fascists of radio Biafra and IPOB.

Though the street demonstrations first started in Ibo States, the third week of December 2015 saw the 'agitations' for Biafra come to Eko with thousands of radio Biafra listeners, IPOB members, APGA party workers, and Bakassi Boys on the streets of a major Yoruba city chanting war songs ('peacefully').

One of the more amusing deliberate misinterpretations of what non-Ibo have been telling Biafran 'agitators' is the one where declarations about how Ibo should not expect, once they have their own country,  to continue enjoying the privileges that they currently enjoy as Nigerian citizens. This statement is assumed to be a plea for Ibo to remain within Nigeria. Using the same twisted rationale that enables them to represent Ibo practitioners of primitive capitalism as "the ones most serious about and devoted to the principle of Nigeria as one nation", these people would have us believe that their presence in our midst is a gift – i.e. examples of charitable good citizenship.

In Sagamu during the subsidy disturbances of 2011, vigilante shot dead two from a crowd of local youth that had been attempting to loot Ibo shops in the Sabo area. In other words, Yoruba are prepared to kill, and have killed other Yoruba to protect Ibo commercial interests. A reason why Yorubaland has been the location of choice for many Ibo entrepreneurs fleeing the chronic insecurity of their own lands. Yet, these same people will still turn around and speak to us as if we are ones indebted to their good graces.

If this Nigeria had never come into being, there would be no Biafra 'agitation' today. So yes, Nigeria being what it is the reason why some are out on the streets today threatening to make the streets run red with blood. That being said, the mere fact that a parent was/is abusive and inattentive to its offspring's need does not give said offspring free license to turn itself into a deadly nuisance to others...most especially not if these others are also victims of the same circumstances.

Sources

Nigeria: Background to Nationalism by James S Coleman

Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation by Richard L. Sklar