The Cult of Biafranism/

The main mistake most non-Ibo interlocutors have been making about Biafranism ever since it again reared it's splenetic head around a decade ago is in the way the movement has been viewed as being political in nature as well as in aim. While it is true that there is a political aspect to the aspirations of would-be Biafrans - aspects that are as opportunistic as they are idealistic - an objective assessment of the interface between the intellectual as well as emotional components that make up the idea of Biafra make it easy to argue that Biafranism is a religious cult. This fact of the movement's specie is most indicated by the manner in which, like all religions, it's main tenets (as well as origin stories) are based on myths that in the eyes of adherents, do not need to be factual/logical to be true. For would-be Biafrans, faith in the righteousness of narratives and conclusions that justify the final aims of their religion is what counts most of all. And while those who speak against the multitude of falsehoods that make up the Biafran canon base their counter-arguments on logic and evidence-based historical facts, the would-be Biafran, like many other religious fanatics before him, is content to base his belief in the myths placed before him upon the strength of a faith that needs no proof.

 

This marks Biafranism out as probably being the first new religious cult to be manufactured by so-called nigerians - all other existing religious cults being offshoots of previously existing religions that are either indigenous or foreign in origin.

 

I have continued to use the phrase 'would-be Biafrans' instead of the more commonly used plain 'Biafrans' to indicate the aspirational aspect of the cult. Now, I will examine what this aspiration means from the perspective of a non-Ibo person.

 
 

Biafranism, like the Judaism whose successes it seeks to emulate, is an exclusionary religion. You cannot simply claim, as you can in Esin Ibile, Christianity, or Islam, to be a Biafran, you are defined by your genetic origins as Biafran or non-Biafran. The most interesting question that arises at this point is, who does this defining? Who, in other words are the High Priest caste of Biafra? The answer, if one has been following the story of Biafra from it's beginnings, is obvious. The High Priest caste of Biafra are those Ibo leaders and commentators through whose mouths and pens/keyboards alone come definitive declarations of those whom, out of the nations in Eastern Nigeria, can be identified as Biafrans. All persons of Ibo heritage are of course, by virtue of being Ibo, automatically Biafrans - even if they are not 'practicing Biafrans'. This ambiguity about the enlistment of non-Ibo into the ranks of bona-fide Biafrans is one whose resolution may very well determine the political success of the Biafra movement - as it did between 1967 and 1970.

 

The most interesting and perhaps significant byproduct of identifying Biafra as a religious cult is a new understanding of the territorial ambitions of the cult's manufacturers, the Ibo. It had previously puzzled me why a people who so vociferously demand a separated and fully autonomous geographical entity for their own exclusive use could at the same time insist that they expect to be able to remain as individuals with ownership rights within the borders of geographical entities that they describe as enemy territory. Then I overstood how to a would-be Biafran, having your own religion-defined country while also exercising rights of citizenship in other countries could make perfect sense: Biafrans in Biafra would be both owners of the nation-space as well as adherents of their national religion while in other parts of what Nigeria would become, Biafrans would be both citizens of a non-Ibo country as well as faithful adherents of their own national religion (Biafranism).

 

Note the distinction between Biafra the nation (i.e. space sanctified for ownership by one people) and, what would be left of Nigeria after the excision of Biafra as being countries in which citizens of various nationalities can make their living unmolested by questions of national identity.

 

The insouciant expectation that others will just fall in line so that reality can unfold as they foretell is of course a characteristic shared by religious fanatics throughout history and this is one aspect of the religion that makes it dangerous to non-Ibo.

 

When it was founded by its first 'prophet' Emeka Ojukwu, Biafra was half a child of necessity and half a child of opportunity. That DNA remains unaltered. Today, Biafranism serves to console those who mistakenly believe themselves to be the only ones failed by Nigeria's mediocre to downright incompetent leadership class. It also serves as a blackmailing tool for those members of Nigeria's misleadership class who are temporarily barred from feeding on the supine amd luscious carcass that passes for the Nigerian economy.

 

When it was founded by Ojukwu, Biafranism did not based any original ideas - another thing that it has in common with so-called mainstream religions - rather it was an application of mutated Afrocentric ideas, the mutation being most clearly seen in the manner in which the idea of self determination for African peoples previously caged within constructs manufactured by European imperialism morphed into one where the self determination of one African nation (the Ibo) included the process of carving out for itself a 'promised land' that included the territories of other nations. An African manifestation of imperialism that was amd still is justified by the faux religious belief that divine providence itself has picked out a people (the Ibo) to be the redeemers of less blessed neighbouring nationalities.

 

Further ideas about the meaning of Biafranism were formed during the war of 1967-1970 and as such, the cult has always had a strand of the belief that conflict is policy enabler deeply embedded in its DNA.

 

What this implies is that it is only a matter of time before Biafranism takes its place alongside other religious cults that inflict violence either in the form of low intensity warfare (i.e. terrorism) or full scale state sponsored warfare on its neighbours near and far. One only needs to look at the content of material issued by Biafran ideologues like Nnamdi Kanu to recognise the propensity towards ethnicity-based violence in Biafranism. It is therefore with this knowledge in mind that a future in which Biafrans exist as a active force must be considered. If that strand of hate-filled fundamentalist Islam that gave birth to groups such as Boko Haram and the 'Islamic' State had been expunged when it first raised its head in Saudi Arabia, those countries who now suffer from depredations by residents influenced by poisonous ideas given birth to in a faraway land would not be experiencing such today.