Addressing The Biafra And Niger Delta Conundrum
Many Nigerians from various nationalities and foreigners have approached me about my thoughts concerning the on-going agitations of the people in Southern Nigeria otherwise known as Biafra aka Niger Delta. However, my reframe has often been that I have covered the topic of Biafra and the Niger Delta people in prior write-ups within the last 5years. But 3months ago I relented and decided to look at the issues from the fresh lens of the Buhari regime.
My current thoughts are for Southern Nigerian freedom fighters to investigate their history. They need to propose political ideologies that will secure all the various nationalities in Nigeria instead of advocating for sectarian interests like other have done.
Contemporary security situation in West Africa and Nigeria in particular has pressured me to complete this article that I began in March about Biafra and the Niger Delta. I think my origins and education have uniquely enabled me to be well suited with the competencies required to analyze the prevalent issues in the region. I happen to be the product of two Nigerians from different nationalities within Southern Nigeria.
My mother is Ijaw from Okrika, Rivers State and my father is Igbo from Imo state. My history is a complicated one of having a father who served as a Biafra soldier and a mother with some family members who recant how they were abused by Biafran soldiers.
Although, my personal history has somewhat shielded me from the subjective and sectarian nature of the Biafra and Niger Delta conundrum, by no means do I claim to be an oracle in the subject. Since I began writing I have attempted to come up with certain truths about my people and myself. At this point in time I am a Pan-African, progressive socialist, and communalist. But I am also an economic and education refugee who was forced to leave the African shores more than 20years ago, despite coming from one of the wealthiest regions of the globe. Like I have articulated in other articles, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has enough resources to make each African decedent a millionaire.
Ironically, most of us have remained venerable to the opposite narratives that insist on the poverty of Africa, propagated by the same agents that have vested interests in siphoning petro dollars from Africa. Nigerians are also filled with various propagandas about Biafra which I started hearing as a toddler while growing up in Port-Harcourt. It was not unusual to hear some adults in Rivers State claim that General Dim Ojukwu (the former Biafra Head of State), was a scheming Oxford university educated elite who wanted to divide the country in large part due to his arrogance. Those narratives were furnished to conflate and minimize the true history of the first post-colonial genocide in Africa, otherwise known as the Nigeria/Biafra war of 1967-70.
Therefore, these stories are espoused to lend credence to the lies about Mr. Ojukwu as a revolutionary, instead of a casualty of circumstances. In Nigeria, true revolutionaries like Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Major Isaac Adaka Boro are banished from the history books. They are not even studied in our schools though was teach our kids about Mungo Park. An objective examination of history will reveal that Nzeogwu was an idealistic nontribal military officer who led a coup to clean up the corruption, through the naive attempt to install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the head of state. With adequate scholarships we can also understand why Isaac Boro took up arms against the Nigerian government in February of 1967 and how he was used to impugn the desperate Biafran uprising.
Consequently, Southern Nigerians find themselves making the same mistakes and falling into the same traps that resulted in the death of over 2million southerners from 1967-70 through the policies of war and starvation. Inexplicably, some Igbos still think that their so-called Christian religions will garner support from Western capitals as they try to emancipate Biafra. There are woeful failures to understand the geopolitical capitalist system that worships money rather than champion freedoms. Common on folks Mr. Ojukwu went around showing off his good Christian Oxford University education which yielded zero alliances in Europe.
Instead the British government assisted with the mobilization of the Nigerian government to bomb Southern Nigeria into surrendering. Today uninformed Biafra advocates rejoice when merger comments of so-called solidarity for Biafra are made in Europe. The Niger Delta freedom fighters are also subject to the manipulation of entrenched and vested powers. These fighters need to decide if they want to represent the broader interests of their people or the narrow interests of the corrupt elites in the region. In other petrol (oil) localities like Alaska and Dubai (a popular destination for Nigerians) people get adjusted monthly stipends. Are Niger Delta advocates going to secure resources for the masses or be the paramilitary soldiers of the corrupt leaders in Southern Nigeria?
Personally, I think that the freedom fighters in Southern Nigeria (Biafra and the Niger Delta) need to carefully study the situation in Africa and especially South Sudan. Southern Sudan got their independence but they are still embroiled in tribal wars. Southern Nigerians can achieve autonomy and economic expansion by fighting for justice. They should change the country from within rather than advocating for separate nations with the same corrupt rulers and norms. I get excited when I meet Nigerians from all of our nationalities just like when I encounter Africans, Caribbean, Afro Latinos, Afro-Pacific Islanders, and African-Americans, though some of them might not feel the same way. Truth be told sometimes my fellow Igbos and Ijaws view me with suspicion.
Nigerian youths from all nationalities need to stop viewing each other with distrust and realize that we don’t need to break up the country to tackle corruption. We cannot discuss injustice and/or inequity while exonerating some. Corrupt officials within the Niger Delta and other places should not be granted clemency for theft of resources which results in stolen futures, insecurity, and untimely deaths. We don’t need to divide the country to take care of all of our people. It is more cost effective to get rid of the immoral, wicked, and selfish thieves among us who want to take all of our wealth. Our youths should confront the people that they often call leaders who are causing us economic pain and suffering.
As a child I played on the petroleum pipelines in Okrika and observed gas flaring in Eleme, Ogoni. I do not see how we can address the situation in Southern Nigeria without also focusing on environmental justice and infinite renewable energies at this point in time. It is no secret that all the Nigerian billionaires listed on Forbes Magazine got their so-called wealth through the oil wells in Southern Nigeria that were allocated by mostly Northern Nigerian centered military rulers. But it remains our responsibility to create a better Nigeria than the one we find ourselves in. Our finite resources and wealth should be used for the masses at home instead by the select few who are skilled at sending them abroad.
Consequently, we must put an end to the practice of impunity in Nigeria. It is incomprehensible for Nigerian billionaires like Alhaji Dr. Muhammadu Indimi (in-law of General Babangida, former Head of State) to endow $14million of Niger Delta petroleum monies to Lynn University in the United States whereas Borno state is in flames. Likewise Southern Nigerian resources should not be used by the Saraki family to sponsor television shows on the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), while President Buhari jets out to London for medical care. Our mentality including those agitating for Biafra self-determination and the Niger Delta resource control need to reflect the listed social justice paths.
Nnamdi F. Akwada, LGSW is a Social Justice Activist