The present strugglers for Biafra’s self-determination must be believing on the UN Charter and hence their modus operandi of non-violence method. Unfortunately for them, some of their overzealous members sometimes go out of their way to commit illegal acts during their demonstrations such as blocking of roads and highways, attacking vehicles on the way, use of very uncouth language in the print and electronic media etc. Such acts are unacceptable.
Prof Boniface C E Egboka
Recently the respected President, HE Muhammadu Buhari, of our country was reported to have said that those who are agitating for Biafra might not have been old enough to know what happened during the Nigeria-Biafra war (not Civil War). One wonders if the President was misquoted during that breakfast experience. If he stated so, then, his advisers must have unfortunately-misinformed him to do so as information available proves otherwise. One believes that the President must have been quoted out of context by mischief makers and haters of Igbos in order to create a wider unholy room for Ndigbo, to continue to be marginalized in Nigeria; an evil attempt to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it. Ofcourse many of the people living in Nigeria today including those who were youths of about 16-22 years of age from 1966-1970 saw and were aware of the Historical events and developments that led to the Nigeria-Biafra war, what happened during the period, namely, the failed Western Nigeria election and the unfortunate roles played by Chief Awolowo and Chief Akintola; the dreaded operation wetie in Western Nigeria where lives and property were wantonly-destroyed; the State of Emergency imposed upon Western Nigeria by Alhaji Balewa government; the ignoble military coups and countercoups where many valued politicians and military officers lost their lives; the pogrom in Northern Nigeria against the southeasterners where many innocent souls lost their precious lives; the mammoth refugee problems in the then Eastern Nigeria; the bad faith over and failure of the Aburi Accord that triggered off the emergence of the unnecessary Nigeria-Biafra war; how the war was viciously fought by both sides with massive destruction of millions of lives and property across boundaries; the use of hunger by Nigeria as a weapon of war against Biafra that resulted in dreadful hunger, poverty and diseases such as kwashiorkor which killed many children and pregnant women; when and how death, dead bodies and vultures were common guests both in the frontlines and the rear zones; a common feature of the existence of millions of refugees in Biafra that included children, old men and women and wounded soldiers; when Rachel cried in the wilderness for the loss of her children to injuries and death for she could not be comforted for none could be found; the recognition of Biafra as a nation by some countries of the world; the sudden surrender of Biafra to Nigeria by Maj. Gen. Phillip Effiong to Gen. Gowon; the sadistic failure of Nigerians to implement the three Rs – Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation policy of Gen. Gowon; the 20 pounds only payment of false money to Biafrans for whatever amount of funds owned by any of them by the Nigerian government; the painfully-pernicious immediate aftermath of the war that included illegal killings and dispossession of properties illegally-declared as being abandoned when they were never abandoned in anyway by their owners; the biting marginalization policies of the Federal government against Ndigbo that has continued even up till today etc. etc. This is a brief summary of the sordid events that happened in Biafra, and some also in Nigeria, during the Nigeria-Biafra war; one may also read their details in the literature; and much of the detailed information can just be googled out from the internet.
Many of those members of MASSOB, IPOB or Biafra lovers know and are very conscious of what happened in Biafra; when, where and how these sordid events happened and either personally-felt the saddening impacts or knew their relations (parents, brothers, sisters, friends etc.) who were witnesses of sordid events of death and destructions. These pro-Biafrans do not want any more war and THAT THAT NIGERIA-BIAFRA WAR MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO OCCUR AGAIN! That is why each of the groups (MASSOB and IPOB) has always clearly-stated that their protests for Biafra existence are through non-violence as distinct from using violence; always citing Mahatma Ghandi’s method of non-violence method of political struggle and pursuit of independence for India as their model of interest. Nigerians must realize that our Nigerian youths are clever and as sharp as ever. They know a great deal over topical issues and reason wisely most of the time. As a teacher, one does regard them highly and call them internet children because they know quite a lot and have a sharpened and high intelligence quotient. Those IPOB youths are Nigerian youths as well; they can read and decipher easily google literature and Nigerian History. These former eastern Nigerian youths must have rationalized that the earlier attempts of their fathers and forefathers at self-actualization for Biafra was a violent one which caused major loss of lives and property and that did nobody in both Nigeria and Biafra any good. Their forefathers also lost their fight for Biafra; and they are not pleased by such performance. One believes that PMB understands the issue of struggles for a people’s self-determination otherwise he would not have supported the freedom struggles for the people of Western Sahara from Morocco and Palestine from Israel as he was reported to have stated in an interview overseas once. Nigeria is an old and full-paying member of the United Nations Organization (UNO); and has acted as Chairman of the UN National General Assembly from time to time as well as serving as member of the Security Council sometimes. All the rules and regulations of the UNO are binding on Nigeria and Nigeria has been abiding by them. Nigerian troops and Police have also served many times in the UNO operations in some distressed countries where they always performed creditably well. The President is also knowledgeable and understands well that there are United Nations Organization Charter, articles and policies that have terms and modalities that allow nationalities to seek for self-determination through a process of UN organized referendum for such peoples from member nations. Nigerian government has benefitted from such an exercise in our recent History through a UN referendum whereby parts of southern Cameroon joined the Republic of Cameroon while the northern part of Cameroon joined northern Nigeria. Also and in similar manner, Southern Sudan gained independence from Republic of Sudan while nationalities in Yugoslavia found their different ways as new nations and, now, are full-blooded members of the UNO.
The present strugglers for Biafra’s self-determination must be believing on the UN Charter and hence their modus operandi of non-violence method. Unfortunately for them, some of their overzealous members sometimes go out of their way to commit illegal acts during their demonstrations such as blocking of roads and highways, attacking vehicles on the way, use of very uncouth language in the print and electronic media etc. Such acts are unacceptable. Imagine the blocking of the Niger Bridge at Onitsha end by demonstrators or burning of Dangote vehicles. Some of the burnt vehicles are owned by our people. These are terribly-discouraging and self-inflicted punishments on our people. These may render their cases as negative and unpopular if these actions are not stopped. The actions of the Federal authorities are equally not acceptable or popular. Even where these demonstrations are peaceful, the demonstrators are reported to have been attacked by the police and the military with live bullets and truncheons; innocent people are shot, maimed or killed. Because action and reaction are equal and opposite, these demonstrators would fight back sometimes with bare hands and easily-get killed in the mayhem; some are arrested, detained in prison and charged to court. Some are reported to have been killed in cold blood such as discovered in mass graves at Aba in Abia State or as floating dead bodies of young men on Mamu River at Amansea town in Anambra State that were claimed to be those of MASSOB members. There are also reported cases of detention without trial or refusal to release members who were freed on a bail in courts of competent jurisdiction. All these unwholesome acts would present the Federal and State governments in a bad light and make their efforts at securing a united country an uphill task and an unpopular exercise.
Rebuke a child in private for public rebuke hardens the heart. This method of punitive approach on the MASSOB, IFOB etc. is not a satisfactory one; it would make matters worse and harden the hearts of belligerents into more aggressive indulgence. It will be interesting for the Federal government or some credible NGOs to organize a poll on the area occupied by the former Biafra or former Eastern Nigeria to find out the Statistical Quantity of those: Who want Biafra by force; who want Biafra by peaceful means; who do not want Biafra but want Nigeria. One does bet that people would be surprised by the result-findings. This is a basic tool in embracing useful democratic Statistic for use in pursuit of good governance. Already a lot of information exists in literature where diverse opinions abound over these issues on what people accept or do not. Nigeria and her people have now embraced everlasting democracy and its tenets fully. Our President who is a retired army General told us that he has become a full democrat and ought to act accordingly. There are many retired Generals in History who successfully-led their nations into glory and unity. They include Gen. Washington of US, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, Gen. Ataturk of Turkey, Gen, Nasser and Sadat of Egypt etc. Gen. Buhari of Nigeria has History beckoning on him to equally-succeed into leading Nigeria out of Egypt into Jerusalem; he must not allow sycophants and bootlickers to derail him. We must strictly-abide by all principles, policies and programmes of democracy like the other member nations are wont to do. It is undemocratic to deny people their fundamental rights and freedom from demonstrating for a course that they believe to be right and just. It is undemocratic to send out soldiers to the streets to do the regular work of the Nigerian police. It is undemocratic to stop or scatter peaceful demonstrators with live bullets thereby injuring, maiming and killing fellow Nigerians. Threats and intimidation exacerbate the incidences of belligerency in a democratic environment. It is undemocratic to detain people without trial for long periods. One believes that people do not want another war in Nigeria to kill fellow Nigerians for nothing. Dialogue is irrefutably the credible option that is tolerable in any genuine democracy. All the parties to any dispute(s) or any belligerents should be amenable to such dialogue and amicable settlement as no lasting good comes out of brute force. A word is enough for the wise.
- Prof Boniface C E Egboka, PhD, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: email@example.com