Some 230 years in Philadelphia, the American Founding Fathers had just ended the Constitutional Convention to ratify the US Constitution, a magnificent document just a little shy of 4600 words.
The young country was expectant with hopes but concerned too about its future.
Benjamin Franklin, the renowned inventor, diplomat, and elder statesman stepped out of the hall at the end of the ratification and was confronted by curious citizens. He was a delegate to the Convention. One of them, a lady, asked Benjamin Franklin, “what constitution do we have now, Sir?” Benjamin Franklin quipped, with a hint of sarcasm, “A republic, madam, IF you can keep it?
Barely 24 hours after I made comments expressing some misgivings about the agitation for Biafra, what has struck me is the extreme intolerance of advocates of Biafra. Hot-headed and impervious to contrary opinions, many in this school of thought, really believe that Biafra is an El Dorado waiting to drop from the skies. Not so fast folks. You can’t keep a republic by dissing and insulting those who disagree with you.
If the intolerance and mass lynching psyche of Biafra supporters is an indication of what nay-sayers in the proposed state of Biafra would go through, we have a big problem in our hands.
The viciousness of our politics, the bile and hatred have historical precedents of troubling dimensions. Recall that amidst the 1967-1970 Civil War, the Republic of Biafra was executing “coup plotters” and “saboteurs.”
Virtually ALL the five states created out of the Eastern Region share the same narrative: we don’t want to be dominated/oppressed by our fellow Igbos! Look at the documents in support of the creation of Imo, Abia, Ebonyi States! And those that weren’t created including Aba, Adada, et cetera were all premised on the fear of domination by fellow Igbos too. The lack of capacity to accommodate opposing or contrary views in our discourse is undemocratic and scary.
Blood is often shed and heads broken in Igboland today for simply advocating a point of view different from those who believe that all problems of Ndigbo will be solved overnight once the Republic of Biafra descends from the heavens. We need to look ourselves in the mirror.
It may well be that all the solutions to problems and challenges of Ndigbo reside in the materialization of the Biafran quest but it worries me that the Igbos famed for rational discourse and robust contestation of ideas are now shepherded into a one-way lane.
The vituperation and insults heaped on those who call for alternate points of view, is simply appalling. When the insults come from youths who see nothing good about their aged fathers, grandfathers and uncles, I wonder whether the proposed country of Biafra would be a republic or a dictatorship.
If BIAFRA is realized, can we, with our penchant for vitriolic disrespect, disparagement of entire clans, and intolerance of opposing views, keep the country as a Republic?
I am a proud Igboman. No apologies.
Prof. Ikechi Mgbeoji…