Random Reflections With Okafor: The Irreconciability Of Igbo Question And Biafra


Some agitation, debates and trends ride freely to the acceptance of the people but if unchallenged, they can assume a coeval status with more important issues and in the process diminish the essentiality which drive issues of great importance to a people or nation. Methinks that is a good way of looking at the resurgent cry for Biafra as championed by Radio Biafra today. 
From the onset, I would not feign to be unaware that Radio Biafra, being promoted by American-Nigerians based in USA, is one of the trending issues in social media today. But having lived  in Aba- the centre of Igbo nationalism, renaissance and technology- and saw the rise and fall of the urge for the state of Biafra stimulated by Ralph Uwazuruike and MASSOB in the early 2000s, I had dismissed Radio Biafra as one which would go away with time if we ignored it until Dr Yemi Folasade-Esan,the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Information and Communication, listed it as one of the issues she led top officials of her ministry to discuss with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Villa last week. 
According to Dr Folasade-Esan, "We also gave a report on (Radio Biafra) that  right now, the signals from Radio Biafra have been jammed. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has successfully jammed that. The NBC is also working with security operatives to get those  behind that radio because it is an illegal radio. It is not licensed by anybody to be on Nigeria’s airwaves" (Vanguard, July 15, 2015).  
It can be taken for granted that as a career civil servant, Dr Folasade-Esan can only make the above statement because the government of the day considers Radio Biafra a potential security risk or possibly an issue of national importance. Also, given that the rising urge for the State of Biafra is most often muddled up to represent the Igbo question and/or position, it becomes imperative that a thorough deconstruction is done so as to put the records straight not necessarily out of fear or patronage but to highlight the foundation for a better grasp of the issues at stake and possible ways of resolving it if indeed as a nation, we want to end these incessant cries for Biafra in Nigeria going forward.
Here, two points need to be made: one, I have not listened to the broadcast of the said Radio Biafra because  it represents what is irreconcilably different from the core issues which are germane to the Igbo nation and Nigeria as a sovereign state. Two, for a people who had fought the most bitter war in human history- brute force at its peak- and lost its very best in the war, it is understandable that everything Biafra would elicit some measure of emotion in the average Igbo man who is well tutored in the history of Nigeria and the current state of skewed Nigeria which is primed to checkmate the Igbo and limit its potentials. 
However, the fact remains this: the Igbo people are the greatest believers and investors in Project Nigeria. I do not know of any village or town in Nigeria where you would not find an Igbo man with his family living peacefully with his hosts and neighbours. It is also a truism that Igbo people invest heavily in places outside their homeland. So, it would be preposterous to urge that a people as widely travelled and inter-married with massive investments scattered all through Nigeria would work to dismember of any part of this country in reality. Indeed it is utterly inconceivable and codswallop. Whoever chooses a province against an empire in life?
But the clear mistreatment of the Igbo people 45 years after the Nigerian Civil War makes the memory of Biafra a looming ghost that would never rest in peace until a just Nigeria that will work for everybody is enthroned. For example, one cannot observe any state structures erected to inhibit or exclude the US states that fought on the side of the confederates during the American Civil War but the same cannot be said of Nigeria. 
In Nigeria, we have deliberately crested state policies and patronage to work against ndigbo and this is easily latched on by Biafran proponents to win new converts and sustain the agitation for the State of Biafra. Before the emergence of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (may God continue to rest his soul in peace. Amen), Igbo servicemen were denied promotions and retired from the military, police and para-military organisations once they start climbing the rung to the zenith of their career but President Yar'Adua broke that State prejudice and gave ndigbo their first 5-star general, CDS, IGP, Head of Service, etc. He also gave them their first international airport and within two years in office completed the 80 kilometre Onitsha-Owerri Expressway dualisation project   which President Olusegun Obasanjo and his brother-Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Kingsley Ogunlewe, once told us would take the Federal government 30 years to finish if the prices of petroleum products were not increased in 2003. 
Today, the heartland of the Igbo nation does not boast of a single federal presence in terms of heavy investment, functional power generation station, railway, industry, seaport, industrial park, etc as a result of a badly structured Nigeria which was enthroned after the Nigerian Civil War by the "winners" of the war to impede the Igbo and restrict their potentials perpetually.
Hence, ndigbo had to coin the word "marginalisation" at the return of civil rule in Nigeria in 1999 as a neologism which invites the world into its world of federal abandonment and dehumanisation. And the word marginalisation has come to form what we today know, loosely, as the Igbo question which if sincerely and properly appreciated would address the challenges of development facing ndigbo and kill the urge for Biafra moving forward.
However, ndigbo have striven, irrespective of their challenges in Nigeria, to develop their land to the level that can only be compared with Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt which are indeed cities developed using federal might and patronage but they want more; they want this country to be restructured in line with true and fiscal federalism; they also want the question of resource control to be addressed once and for all.  
Ndigbo want to get their own fair share of federal patronage, presence and investment; they want the federal government to also finance the Greater Onitsha City project in line with its development of Lagos and Kano mega city projects which Obasanjo presidency commenced; ndigbo want a functional seaport in Onitsha, railway lines and good roads so that their trade and commerce would thrive.
Indeed, they want merit to ride the crest in federal employment and appoin tments just as they are interested in the enthronement of a Nigeria that works for all in strict obedience to the rule of law. They want fair and equal playing ground  because they know that with  fairness and equity, they shall return to their enviable position of 1960s.
They are also in support of a true national conference which shall set this country on the path of rectitude, merit, progress, prosperity and unity  because the status quo is not favourable to them.
On the strength of the foregoing, it is clear that the Igbo question is different from the "Dream Biafra."  So, it is incumbent on Nigeria and well meaning Nigerians to address the Igbo question for the more we wait the big damage we are doing to Nigeria's progress; the truth is this: we cannot afford to wait any longer because any second we spend waiting raises the possibility of a new crop of Igbo who would see the actualisation of Biafra as the best way of immortalising their grandfathers who died on the battlefield for Biafra. 
Most importantly, as the late Senator Chuba Okadigbo rightly observed at the Igbo Summit in Enugu on January 19, 2001, "There exists an intricate dialectic between the Igbo problem and the Nigerian problem. After all, what affects a part does affect the whole… When you denigrate hard work and thrift by or in one section, it rubs off adversely on the whole. If you dehumanize a part of Nigeria, the country suffers the impact. A nation in quest of progress and development must not cheat itself by deliberate neglect of any section. This is what the whole human rights movement throughout the world is all about. And Nigeria must be in sync with universalism."

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