USAfrica COUNTERPOINT: Against new Biafra agitation and Buhari does not disdain the Igbo.
By Dr. Dozie Ikem Ezeife, contributing editor and columnist for USAfrica since 1995.
While I have a lot of admiration for the man’s enormous contributions to the literary world as well as in politics, I do, however, take issues with some of the basic assumptions of Dr. Arthur Nwankwo’s January 11, 2016 commentary titled: ‘Biafra agitation, history and Nigeria President Buhari’s disdain for the Igbo’– published here on USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com https://usafricaonline.com/2016/01/11/usafrica-biafra-agitation-history-and-nigeria-president-buharis-disdain-for-the-igbo-by-arthur-nwankwo/
I believe that his commentary has become an intellectual rallying point of sorts for the new agitators of Biafra.
No one can argue that the political and corporate structure of Nigeria is fair and balanced with respect to her constituent ethnicities. Not even this writer. I concede also that at some point, using the instrumentality of agreed upon constitutional process, a genuine and good faith effort can and should be made to address this imbalance. I hasten to add that it will be foolhardy of anyone to take it for granted that you can always have a perfect union. It is not practicable. The United States are still operating an imperfect union even after over two centuries. But a genuine effort must be made to address some of the more egregious imbalances. With that as a premise, I now address some of the misconceptions and/or wrong assumptions that underpin Agwuncha’s position.
The structural and political imbalance in Nigeria was not created by Muhammadu Buhari. His political appointments, contrary to what Agwuncha will have you believe, did not exacerbate it either. Buhari’s appointments mirrored that time-honoured practice of “winner-takes-all” with the “losers standing small”. The spoils of political battle go to those who fought on the side of the victorious party. Ndigbo gambled with Jonathan and lost and should lick their wounds and plan for the next one. Buhari fulfilled his constitutional mandate to appoint people from all 36 states of the federation into his executive council.
This unfolding strategy of ethnic shakedown must be checkmated before it becomes part of our political ethos.
I refuse to subscribe to the notion that it is okay for ethnic groups in Nigeria who feel, real or imagined, political marginalization in a particular election cycle, to threaten the very corporate existence of the country as a means of extracting political concession. We saw this play out in the Niger Delta, in the Southwest, in the Northeast and now people are attempting to deploy it in the Southeast in the name of Biafra. Enough is enough. The reason we have elections every 4 years is to give those who lost out in the last one a pause to collect themselves, review what transpired, strategize on the way forward and to forge new alignments and build strategic partnerships.
The Igbo cannot win the hearts and minds of Nigerians to support the Biafran cause through insults and condescension by some activists. Some of those activists insult, pillory and belittle Northerners in our bid to promote our perceived superiority. They blame the Yorubas for duplicity before and during the Nigeria-Biafra war (1967-1970) while casting themselves as sole victims of the imperfections of the Nigerian state. You win hearts and minds through rational, fact-based and evidence-laded argument as to why your cause should be supported. Peddling salacious attacks in the name of Biafra cannot cut it.
Whatever the merits of Biafra may be, the timing is suspect and the modus operandi of its promoters inauspicious. The recently “sainted martyr” of some Igbos, Nigeria’s immediate past President Goodluck “Ebele” Jonathan, had the opportunity to embark on a genuine effort to address some of these imbalances but he chose to parlay it to benefit his re-election bid. He set up a last minute, doomed charade to placate his constituents and appointed his handpicked choir men and women to populate a body that was supposed to decide the fate of “all” Nigerians. And he made no real effort to implement the eventual “report” of the Committee.
I addressed the issue of viability or lack thereof, of a Biafran nation in an earlier post and I feel the need to restate my points here, albeit briefly:
The creation of a Biafran state is besieged by a myriad of problems, both logistical and practical. Who is a Biafran and where exactly are the boundaries? Does it include the Delta “Igbos” and the Ikwerre “Igbos”. Are we sure the Onitsha people are onboard? What about the people that calls our borders with Kogi state home? Can we count on them? Assuming, without conceding, that all of the present day Southeast is Biafran territory, what is the economic viability of such a landlocked nation? Our people are predominantly nomadic traders and business people. We have millions of Igbo men and women plying their trade and professions in practically every town and village in Nigeria. We have real estate in every urban and rural community in Nigeria. If we split, what becomes of these Igbo men and women? And what about their real properties, businesses and factories in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Benin, to name just a few? We are still smarting from the “abandoned property” saga flowing from our last experiment. Are we prepared for another “abandoned property,” this time on steroids? Where are we going to accommodate the millions of returning Igbos? What market will absorb them in Igboland? Where are the tertiary, secondary and primary schools to absorb millions of Igbo children that will accompany their returning parents? What about Igbos in federal service and in public service of various states of Nigeria? If Nigeria disconnects Biafra from its electric grid, how do we survive until we build ours? One can go on and on.
Some people including Dr. Okenwa Nwosu have tried to get around these huge obstacles by making a disingenuous attempt to coopt the minority ethnic groups of the Niger Delta into this separationist movement. The peoples of the Niger Delta have not forgotten the reason they did not fully subscribe to the earlier Biafran experiment. Those that today express token sympathy for Biafra do so as a means of renting concession from the Buhari administration and not because of any genuine belief in Biafra or what it purports to stand for.
The last issue I want to address is Dr. Nwankwo’s assertion that Muhammad Buhari has a pathological hatred for Ndigbo. Heavy as his accusation was, it lacked any supporting evidence or fact. He advanced the argument that because Buhari was successful in the ferocious battles he fought as a Nigerian military commander during the Civil war that was evidence of his hatred for Igbos. He also canvassed the unsupported claim that Buhari still resents Ndigbo. I doubt if Arthur Nwankwo knows Buhari personally. He probably never met the man. It is therefore surprising that he will attempt a mental diagnosis of Buhari’s feelings towards Igbos.
Returning to the issue of Buhari’s success against Biafran soldiers during the war. A war commander is expected to win battles. We in Biafra expected our military commanders to defeat the Nigerian troops. Why then is a Nigerian military commander’s success an indictment? That is rather ironical. The truth is that Buhari has no hatred for the Igbo. The fact is that one of his best child-hood friends is retired Colonel Robert Akonobi [incidentally from Nwankwo’s Anambra State].
The current clamour for Biafra is nothing but a ruse by outmaneuvered political elites in Igboland, using misguided, uninformed and impressionable Igbo youths in an attempt to extract political concessions from the present Administration.
What we are witnessing now, in the name of Biafra, has been shown worldwide as an ill-wind that leads to no good. Examples abound. Look at Syria, South Sudan and Ukraine to name but a few. The violence that has engulfed those nations started as “peaceful” agitations and “demonstrations”. Only a fool fails to learn from the experiences of others. Nigeria is not a nation of fools, so we must be proactive to avoid the same fate.
My advice to Igbo politicians who feel hard done by the Buhari win and their perceived exclusion from the lucre and accoutrements of power is, to go back to the political drawing board and do some soul searching and home work.
Nigerians cannot always threaten secession whenever we do not get our way like a sulking child. The Igbo must learn to strategize and build strategic alliances across all zones of the country. We cannot be trusted by our brother tribes when we continue to denigrate, insult and pillory them or blame them for all our failings and shortcomings. We must humble ourselves and learn to take responsibility for our own wrong choices and failed political gambles. The point is that being outmaneuvered in the game of politics is no reason to call for Biafra. There is always a political solution to all real and imagined wrongs. It is called dialogue and political horse-trading. Why can’t our Igbo political elite and intellectuals explore that with our brothers and sisters from both the North and Southwest?
Before we start blaming leaders from other ethnic tribes for our lack of infrastructural development and social progress in Igboland, we must first hold our local Governors, Legislators and Local Councils accountable for the hundreds of billions of Naira in revenue allocation that have been sent to the 5 Southeastern states in the past 16 years.
What is clear is that the vast majority of those pushing this recent Biafra Agenda are teenagers and young men and women who were born long after the Nigerian Civil War. They did not experience the horrors of the last Biafran experiment and they are therefore sheltered from a reasoned consideration of the risks they are exposing themselves and their families to by pushing this agenda. Adding fodder to this reckless agenda are some pseudo intellectuals in diaspora, who feel emboldened from the comforts of their host nations, to urge the gullible few at home to persevere in this suicidal mission, safe in the knowledge that the eventual conflagration will not touch them overseas. These people are oblivious of the fact that although they are safely ensconced in their safe havens abroad, their relatives back home will be in the middle of the fray, when the shooting starts.
The Biafra protagonists’ needs to understand that unlike Syria, there is no easy sea route to Europe and our neighbouring countries possess neither the resources nor the capacity to handle large scale refugee crisis. With the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and further exacerbated by the recent Paris terror attacks, the world is fast losing empathy for refugees.
Boko Haram: SkyNews London interview wt USAfrica Publisher Dr. Chido Nwangwu on BOKO HARAM vs BUHARI (Nigeria’s President inaugurated May 29, 2015). Interview on May 30 (Houston) May 31 (London) 2015
VIDEO #CNN special #CHIBOK Girls n #BokoHaram Live intvw wt the Founder of USAfrica multimedia and public POLICY networks Chido Nwangwu. CNN anchors John Berman n Michaela Pereira.
USAfrica:: Buhari’s rejection of Rolls-Royce ride in London, Obasanjo and lessons of history. By Chido Nwangwu. https://usafricaonline.com/2015/05/24/buharis-rejection-of-rolls-royce-ride-in-london-obasanjo-and-lessons-of-history-by-chido-nwangwu/
Forthcoming 2015 BOOK: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first PERSON reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two GLOBAL icons and towering PERSONS of African descent whose exemplary lives
specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the INTERNET, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (GOVERNANCE, SECURITY, and PEACE in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown UNIVERSITY in Rhode Island and former ADVISER on Africa business/issues to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1992, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the INTERNET USAfricaonline.com; CLASSmagazine, AchebeBooks.com, the USAfrica-powered e-groups of AfricanChristians, Nigeria360 and the largest pictorial events megasite on the African diaspora www.PhotoWorks.TV . He was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. E-MAIL: Chido247@Gmail.com