Wars that never end - Nigerian branch/here to there there to here

A notable difference between wars fought in the abstract realms of ideas/ideology and those fought on physical battlefields is that while wars waged on flesh and bone eventually cease when one or both sides are exhausted, conflict between minds wedded to antagonistic ideas hardly ever end. This is because thought (a phenomenon that is not defined by spatial borders) will always be capable of extending its scope beyond its previous limits - i.e. at some point after it had been assumed that physical force has subdued assertions of an ideology, that ever expanding universe which is the realm of ideas will make available fresh grounds to be consumed by fires ignited by resuscitated/rebranded incarnations of the ideology.


Another of the reasons why wars based on ideas can be much more damaging (in the long term) than wars fought for quantifiable goals (e.g. specific amounts of land) is that unless the war ends with the party described as "victor" still in possession of the ideals that had originally inspired it to take up arms, then any description of such a party as "victor" will be false - i.e. at the end of physical conflict, the only former combatant that can truly claim victory is the one still faithful (in belief and practical application) to the ideals that spurred it onto the battlefield in the first place.


In other words, the victor at the end of any physical conflict is the one who, in practical applications of its stated ideals, remains the same as it was when the fighting started.


This implies that ones can be victorious (in spite of defeat during the physical component of the war) if at some point during hostilities, their opponents give up on the ideals that originally compelled their opposition.


This will not be an easily accepted definition of what it means to ‘win’ or, to ‘lose’ at war but, let us imagine a situation in which a group of people gather forces to wage a war that will establish slavery as the norm in human societies; they are defeated but then, after the war's end, it turns out that the 'victors' have themselves become practitioners and propagators of human enslavement. Could it not be said then that the objective behind which the war was launched has been fulfilled and as such, that the 'losers' are the actual victors?


Though the Gowon regime declared "no victor, no vanquished" at the end of the nigeria-biafra war in 1970, this statement is actually false. It is so for several reasons: first being that the Ibo leader, Ojukwu, by invading and occupying non-Ibo territories, betrayed the purpose for which he had declared the secession of Biafra - i.e. to establish a separate homeland for Ibo in their own territory and by so doing, enhance the coming forth of Africa's indigenous nations from a status as inheritors of neo-colonial States into the status of truly liberated peoples.


Because of this betrayal of ideals (which turned what was supposed to be a war of liberation into a war for territory), Biafra lost the war. It lost because even if Ojukwu's battle tactics had worked, what would have come of it would have been nothing like what he led his people into war for. In other words, ideals betrayed, regardless of outcome in the world of flesh, blood, and bone, represent a defeat. If you become what you fight against, then what you fight against wins.


On the other hand, the Gowon regime never pretended to be fighting for any other reason aside from to "keep Nigeria one." This it succeeded in doing and as such, regardless of Gowon's misleading modesty, there was indeed a victor and a vanquished in this war - that the vanquished had actually lost the war within the first few weeks of its start (and the reasons why it lost) are lessons that need to be imbibed by us all.


This necessity especially exists for those who supported Yoruba activist groups back when their stated objective was to provide Yoruba with a means of self-defence in their own homeland - i.e. before some of the groups' leaders began extending the organizations' mandate into intervening in areas of Nigerian politics that not only do nothing to enhance Yoruba security but, actually have the potential to undermine it.


The hostility that this writer feels towards the form of Ibo nationalism that manifests as biafranism has a very simple cause: There are millions of Ibo presently residing in Yorubaland and should biafranism ever become established within the minds of a majority (or even a significant minority) as the guiding ideology, then it will only be a matter of time before Yorubaland becomes a theatre of war between Yoruba and ones who are intent in imposing strictures of a supremacist ideology upon them.


In other words, Ibo cannot be Biafran and residents in Yorubaland at the same time. Such a state of affairs is not feasible because it entails willingly becoming hosts to adversaries  who will, when they believe numbers and circumstances to be in their favour, act to turn Yoruba into second-class citizens (or worse) in their own homeland.


This stance is informed by a sense of history.


Throughout time, peoples have had their sovereign rights usurped by others who were once a guest minority. It never happens immediately or even within the lifetime of the first or second generations of immigrants. As long as there are certain constants in place, though it might take decades or centuries to unfold, unfold it always does.


First of these constants is the existence of a population segment that is differentiated by culture (and often also by phenotype) and, second is an ideology (i.e. a way of seeing the world and man's place in it) that is different from that which is adhered to by the indigenous people.


As long as both or one of these two constants is present and, if the ideology of the guests inculcate within its adherents the belief that they are superior to their hosts, then it is only a matter of time before the guests act to make themselves masters of the land.


Statements made (as far back as the 1940s) by various Ibo nationalists (as well as their general demeanour and behaviour whenever they think they have the upper hand) stand as proof that a strong strand of supremacist-based thinking has always run through this world-view that would later become defined as biafranism.


As was said at the beginning of this article, wars between ideas hardly ever end because while armies and the tools of war may become exhausted during the course of physical hostilities, ideas are harder to defeat because eventually, new fertile fields are made available in the form of the minds of new human generations. This is basically why, in some parts of the world, wars have been going on for almost as long as historical records have been kept. They flare up and consume the lives of multitudes before they die out through exhaustion (or the temporary victory of one side). Then, years or decades later, new prophets of the faith arise and the killing starts again.


This is why two ideas about the nature of collective being - each of which views itself to be sovereign over a defined space - can never co-exist. Eventually, the end-result of every attempt at sharing sovereignty has always been violence. This is why, for Yoruba, the one major question for which a comprehensive answer must be found at this time is what to do about biafranism and the millions of Ibo resident in our cities, towns, and villages. Biafranism is an ideology that is based in part on a mythology that presents Yoruba as mortal foes of the Ibo people. As such, we cannot have Biafrans living amongst us and having the opportunity to influence our politics and our economy.


We have seen, in the misadventures of the Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, examples of what can happen when forces hostile to the Yoruba are given an opportunity to intervene in our internal politics. And we continue to witness and live with the repercussions of the economic sabotage inflicted by earlier Nigerian regimes which then resulted in the proliferation of fake and substandard products in our marketplaces via the agency of foreign importers and retailers who care nothing for the well-being of those who provide them with their profits...probably because these are seen, not as members of the same human family, but as a herd of cash-cows to be milked...


The question having been stated, I will now (again) state my own version of the answer:


While the challenge before us may be the most critical of our existence as a people, in confronting it, we must be careful not to become what we contend against. If the solution that we choose to implement is one that requires us to turn Ibo living in our midst into a permanent underclass, then we will have basically confirmed the biafranist description of Yoruba as being ones who want to enslave the Ibo people. The best out of all available options is a process that has fortunately been underway in an informal manner for a long time. This lack of formal recognition by the various apparatus of State (traditional and new) is the reason why it has not been possible to utilise the gains made so far as rebuttal/inoculation tools against biafranist propaganda that describes Ibo as 'marginalised' persons who are under existential threat in Yoruba territories.


Amongst the millions of Ibo resident in Yorubaland, there is a significant segment that have been completely assimilated into the Yoruba nation. This is a process that needs to be recognised and given additional impetus by the State (traditional and new). If educational institutions run by Muslims and Christians can inculcate the tenets of their respective ideologies into the young minds in their care, there is no reason why the State, as a part of its trusteeship duties, cannot act to ensure that all who pass through institutions it licenses to educate are not also indoctrinated to view themselves as members of the same nation. The main part that the State will play in this will be to pass legislation that will make civics and history compulsory subjects that must be passed by a high percentage of a school’s intake. This will be made a condition of schools retaining their certification as recognised educational institutes.


The question now may be that why, if this is to be done, are youth not simply trained to be ‘good Nigerians’? The problem with that is, it has been tried and it has failed. It is simply not possible to manufacture a viable nationality on the foundation laid by those who originally brought Nigeria into being. For one, there is no Nigerian culture, language, or history aside from that which starts as the property of foreigners from across the ocean. This being so, why on earth would any Yoruba person in his or her right mind give up being Yoruba for being Nigerian? No, Yoruba we are and Yoruba we must and will remain. That being so, the question then becomes not how shall we and the foreigners settled in our midst become so-called Nigerians but, how shall the foreigners settled in our midst become Yoruba?


There is no reason why a hundred years from now, persons whose great-grandparents were Ibo migrants cannot be as Yoruba as ones who trace their descent as far back as to the times of Oduduwa. After all, this is how Yoruba originally came into being - an agglomeration of peoples of different origins who decided to become one. While it is expected that some will be able to find all sorts of negative adjectives with which to describe this proposal, it should be noted that the only other alternatives are a series of wars and genocides that will drag on into the unforeseeable future as two distinct ideas of collective being (AKA nationalities) eventually descend into an unending spiral of strifes over who owns the land.