UNSUCCESSFUL BIAFRA: IS NIGERIA BETTER TODAY?
It is a normal thing to see in the media of the sweet eulogy on the passage of Dim, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu by both friends and enemies alike and even those who had for long, wished him dead. If he were alive, he would know that among those in friends clothing lie enemy wolves. He was a man who defied any classification, gadfly to the oppressors and a sight of hope to the oppressed. No wonder at just 11 years old, he made headlines when he fought a colonial teacher at his school, Kings college Lagos, for degrading a black woman. A man with so much hatred for injustice, oppression and imbalance.
It has always been said that Biafrans fought secessionist war with Nigeria but it was the other way round. Ojukwu in his series of interviews during and after the civil war always reminded us that it was Nigeria that declared war on Biafrans and not the other way round. Before the war, there were dangerous issues that the then Nigerian government led by Gen. Yakubu Gowon which by actions and inactions showed that the government was unwilling to solve them. There is an Igbo adage that says “an adult cannot be at home and watch the goat deliver with rope in its neck”. Obviously Ojukwu didn't want to be the first adult to watch goat do that, he had to take protective charge of his people.
The experience of three harrowing waves of remorseless genocide of Eastern Nigerians residing in the North in 1945, 1953, and 1966 where nearly 40,000 Igbos were killed and countless others made destitute is no doubt what gave rise to the quest for separate and safer entity by Biafrans. There were a lot of discriminations and marginalization of the Easterners immediately after the counter coup of 1966 which also created a sense of alienation in the minds of the Igbos together with a frightening level of their insecurity under Nigerian Government which led to natural response of self-defense.
The inability and unwillingness of the Nigerian government to implement the agreement reached at the Aburi meeting by both Nigerian and Biafran delegates which would have produced the best union for us instead of this ill-fated Federation we have in place now was the final straw that broke the camel's back. Gen. Yakubu Gowon gave a flimsy excuse that Ojukwu confused him with his Oxford English without proper explanation to what his proposal was all about. It is left to be judged between Ojukwu and Northern Oligarchs who confused and ill-advised Gen. Gowon. A stronger component Federal system would have been and is still the best ideal system of government for Nigeria which was what Ojukwu proposed. If Aburi Accord was implemented, Nigeria would have been at per with the likes of South Korea, China, India, Malaysia, Brazil, etc. but the fear of our shadows will not let us do what is right.
We are still yet to see if the failure of Biafrans to secede has brought success to Nigerian Federation. If Nigeria is far worse off today than in 60s then Biafrans were right and foresighted to have made the move. There is discontent in all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria today. Problems ranging from inequitable distribution of oil wealth, and to craves by some religious zealots to impose their faith on others and unprecedented corruption in public offices, all in the same system. The Aburi agreement if it had been implemented would have averted all these ills that are eating Nigeria like cancer. Gen. Yakubu Gowon repudiated the Aburi accord he willingly entered into and watched over the near extermination of Igbo nation and subsequent confiscation of their hard earned property. Looking around Nigeria today, not only that the killing of Ndi-Igbo continues but also those that ganged up against Biafrans are killing themselves also. If not how can one explain unending massacre going on between Plateau people and their Hausa-Fulani neighbours? There are a lot of imbalances and betrayal in Nigeria today than before the Biafran war. The Almajiris (Boko Haram) of the North, OPC of the West, MASSOB of the East and Militants of the Niger Delta are all evidence that the 1914 amalgamation of variegated groups in Nigeria was a British intentional error.
A diversified people like Nigerians that should be growing together with the passage of time, is growing dangerously apart and widening their differences. Insecurity of lives and property is worse today in comparison to Nigeria of 1960s. “The name Biafra was given to an area that once gave hope to our people, and made them know and got them fixed on an access, when you start fleeing, once you cross unto this area named Biafra, you are home”. This statement by Odumegwu Ojukwu encapsulated the reason and purpose of Biafran creation.
Biafran project failed, Nigeria became one again but today, Nigeria is a larger insecure entity riddled with leadership without any purpose and direction which further deepens and compounds our woes.
Most Nigerians especially scholars believe that, Nigeria was programmed by the imperialist Britain to fail as a State, but I believe that if Nigerian-Biafran war didn't start on the 6th of July 1967, it would still have come on a latter date. It is saddening to know today that the war experience has not made any impact on the way of governance in Nigeria. The successive suffocative governments we have had, have perpetually made secessionism an ideal option to millions of Nigerians in this 21st century. Division of Nigeria supposed to belong to the history of Nigeria, but is rather unfortunate that it is still a topical issue with more millions of Nigerians(non Igbos inclusive) seeing it as option to escaping this problematic British arranged union. Whether Nigeria would have been better or worse off today if Biafrans had succeeded, is only a thought of a people failed by their government.
Obi Ebuka Onochie,
Writes from Port-Harcourt