The pro-Biafra protests are not abating; and, for the first time, reached Abuja last week when Kanu the Director of Radio Biafra, was brought before the magistrate’s court. The protests may be fuelled by yet to be identified financiers, but those fanning the embers of secession are youths who have abandoned their various vocations to participate in the protests. Some are doing so for genuine, if misguided reasons. Some, not so genuine. Some might not even be of Igbo origin. But all are unhappy and discontented with their lives and have inadvertently become willing pawns in a complex chess game.
After a period of studied but loud silence, the Igbo elders have come out to condemn the protests and by extension, the agitation for Biafra, by listing the many hurdles that await the realisation of Biafra. I don’t think they have gone far enough. The protesting youths need to be educated on the inevitability of war should they continue on this path. And should Radio Biafra continue to denigrate and insult every other tribe in Nigeria, the protesters are going to have many hostile neighbours.
They also need to be made aware of the realistic and pragmatic gains and losses of their actions both in the shorter and longer terms. No divorce, either of marriages or business partnerships or countries is without scars and casualties. The resultant ‘freedom’ is often not worth it.And speaking of marriages, our parents were not any happier in their unions than we are. Yet they largely stuck with them, learnt mutual respect in the process and gave us stable homes in which to develop.
There is no evidence that our lack of tolerance which has led to higher divorce rates has made us happier as individuals and as a society. The UK comprises of four distinct nations. They have been pushing and pulling themselves for as long as I can remember. They are often privately disdainful of one another. But they realise in their wisdom, that the components cannot be better or greater than the whole. So it is with Nigeria. The recent history of the Soviet Union, Sudan and other countries that have had to balkanise themselves because of unresolved internal contradictions are there for all to learn from.
Let us assume today, that Kanu, Nwazuruike and their army of young Turks succeed in their wish to have Biafra. Would it all be gloom and doom for the rest of the country? I think not. Yes, the country would lose a valuable and vital piece of the tripod that had sustained the country. It would probably lose that section of the country that is most disposed to entrepreneurship in commerce and industry. It would also no longer be able to bask in the glory of their contributions in the diaspora.
But it is not as if the crown jewel has been taken away and the rest of us are ordinary stones or mere shafts as the radio Biafra propaganda wants people to believe. The vast in-road they have made in trade and commerce all over the country is because their host ‘nations’ have been accommodating and have provided a level playing field. This, of course would stop. In any case, it has hardly been reciprocated in Igbo land. The Igbos for all the noise, don’t believe in inclusiveness.
Or put another way, they don’t share well. I was once involved in a national newspaper where the admin manager was Igbo who was responsible for hiring the clerical staff. Before I knew it, all the cleaners, typists and messengers were from a particular part of the country. I had to tell him that were the owner of the paper like him, neither he nor I would have been employed in the first place since the owner was neither Igbo nor Yoruba.
Another important issue to consider is where the territory would be. Some of the maps I have seen include the states in the old South-Eastern region. One even includes the Idomas of North-Central! It is instructive that leaders of the South-South have dissociated themselves from the partition as the fear of ending up as minorities with a dominant partner is real. This was one of the many causes that the late Isaac Boro fought for. One South-South leader cynically told me ‘they will have to conquer us if they want us to be part of them’. This leaves the core Igbo land which is essentially landlocked.
But more importantly, having your own State like marriage, is in itself a journey not a destination. Nothing is to say that you are all going to live together happily ever after. Nothing is to say that one section is not going to feel maginalised by the other sections. This message is also to those who are angling for Oduduwa Republic. They should remember that the Yoruba have fought themselves in the past and could still do so. Sometimes, what unites you can also divide you.
At the end of the day, what the restfulness in the various sections of the country is all about is the callous way our leaders have wasted the tomorrow of our youths. For years we have stated the need to run an inclusive, transparent system that is not based on ethno/religious considerations. One has pushed for merit and a robust engagement of our youths. Now the chicken is coming home to roost. From North to South, the devil is providing tools for the idle hands of our youths.
MASSOB and the other disenfranchised youths from the other zones of the country need to engage the leaders from within. They need to tell them they were elected to improve living conditions for the entire populace and not for themselves alone. They should realise that many of the financiers of protests, riots and killings either live abroad or have their families abroad.
The country on its part should cede some autonomy to the zones. Let the different nationalities develop at their own paces. We have run the unitary form of government now for over 40 years and it really hasn’t worked. That is not to say that it is the only solution to the problem of the country. Our problem is the attitude of the leaders to governance and it is not likely to change whether we have Oduduwa Republic or Republic of Biafra.
The hope is that zonal autonomy will create inter zonal competition which will in turn bring development to the people especially the youths. It is only a hope.