“Intelligence of the masses is too low
Their forgetfulness very great
They must be told one thing a thousand times”
- Adolf Hitler
Creating a nation out of a sovereign nation, either by the fiat of the United Nations, or by mutual consent; or by convulsion of the affected nations by the splinter sections is never a walk in the park. Unless the affected nation decides to dissolve itself, dividing it takes a lengthy process that requires a buy in of two third of nations of the world, including unanimous affirmations of the five (5) nations holding veto in the Security Country Council of the United Nations.
This treatise has become necessary following so much misinformation and disinformation of the prospects of Biafra being actualized through a process unknown and strange to the history of such struggle. Dates have even been fixed by Biafra groups’ leaders on when Biafra would be realised. Such dates are set either out of ignorance or out of mischief. It is not in the hands of sections of the sovereign nations seeking independence to decide dates. Once the leadership of such nations says no, a lengthy struggle that may last for decades would ensue. Several examples abound.
The first step that would make the international community realise that the section demanding independence is on ground and in charge is taking over the political leadership of the section in question. An agitating group acting from outside never really achieves much. The problem often results from the fact that the UN deals with nations and legitimate authorities and real threats. The august body does not deal with flights of fancy.
Nations have their own problems and agitations for self-determination are everywhere even in the United States and United Kingdom. Scotland is just smarting from a failed referendum to exit the United Kingdom as well as Catalonia in Spain. Many may not know, but even the State of California in the United States still does not mind independence. So, it takes a lot of organization, diplomacy, goodwill, grit and determination to gain traction in leaving a country. Those who started the journey may not even see it materialize.
In the Biafra agitation example, so many fundamentals were actually glossed over or taken for granted. Right from the days of Ralph Uwazuruike who started the new wave, so much ignorance has governed the struggle so much so that the three basic processes that must come into play are not activated and given the required premium.
All considered, the Biafra agitation groups have not demonstrated that they are abreast with these basic requirements and have not made considerable inroads in any. Let us consider each option on its merit and analyze what the groups have really done. Option one – mutual consent – is completely out of the way. Right from 1967, when the Nigeria Biafra war was fought, mutual separation has been stoutly resisted by Nigeria backed by Britain.
The second option is seizure of political power in the splintering section and seeking the intervention of the United Nations to compel the country to yield up the section as a nation. Strangely and fatally, the Biafra groups shy away from political participation and therefore do not control even a local government anywhere. Those who control political power in the region, both in the executive and legislature, have nothing to do with the fight to reestablish Biafra and understandably are unsympathetic to the cause.
The Biafra groups actually preach election boycotts. They have no voter’s card and many who have, tore theirs while awaiting a Biafra that will materialize in no distant time. Any attempt to encourage them to regain perspective earns one a stigma of ‘sabo’ (saboteur).
The third option is convulsing the state, which simply means shaking the nation State to the core, to the point that a tear occurs by force. War is often inevitable. Biafra went through exactly the same route between 1967 and 1970 and failed, losing the votes for recognition in OAU and UN by very scandalous margins.
Question is: are Biafra agitators ready to reenact the Nigeria Biafra war? If they are, are they in a position to achieve a different result? Realistically, the answers to both questions are negative for obvious reasons. When the Nigerian state thought that Biafra agitation was geared in that direction and launched Operation Python Dance II to nip it in the bud, they disappointingly found only some young men dressed in black uniforms without even catapults let alone arms. This leaves the Biafra agitation firmly anchored in the political process and diplomacy. One then wonders why the Biafra groups are shying away from participating in politics and rejecting struggling to take political control of the South East.
One cannot also understand why the South South plays no fiddle at all in the Biafra struggle. Biafra is not synonymous to Igbo. It involves the whole of South South and possibly part of the Middle Belt. Yet, if one takes time to analyze the organizational and leadership structures of Biafra groups, he/she would see that no key group has a South South person even as a deputy and none is led by a South South person. To scare them further, their leaders are often called out, attacked and insulted. It is such that the Biafra exit referendum may not succeed in the South South if it happens today even if it succeeds in the South East.
Any talk about Biafra without the South South will be more like a misnomer. Bight of Biafra (officially now the Bight of Bonny) is a bight off the West African coast, in the easternmost part of the Gulf of Guinea. It is more of coastal areas as it is for the core Igbo land.
Opigo, the man who suggested the name Biafra for the young republic in 1967, is an Ijaw man too. It is true that the Ndigbo invested 2 to 3 m lives in the name, and have the same stake to it even if the South South do not want to tag along, but they must be given a fair chance to belong. Much of that effort is not seen too.
Another mistake of the Biafra struggle is losing sight of the rights of Ndigbo as a major ethnic group in Nigeria while pursuing Biafra. The Yoruba have not given up on any right while pursuing Oduduwa republic. Both Restructuring and Nigerian President of Igbo extraction are rights of Ndigbo and not in any way mutually exclusive or contradicting anything.
This was the gross error of judgement committed by Ralph Uwazuruike. Though he is yet to be hauled over the coal, Uwazuruike disrupted the 2006 census in the South East. The result today is the South East being returned as the least in population of all the zones in the country. IPOB is towing exactly the same line with their campaign – Biafra or nothing. They refuse to participate in politics, vote or be voted for. This is very misguided and an action posterity cannot forgive.
Without paying heed to the fundamentals of such extreme change in an unyielding environment, what is happening with Biafra agitation is nothing but a peasants’ revolt at best. The Peasants’ Revolt was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. Like the Biafra agitation, the revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions. Though some minor changes occurred later, the Royal armies put down the revolts. Hundreds of rebels were hanged.
Fighting for a sovereign state within a sovereign is a revolution and Biafra struggle ought to be one but it is not. Biafra is emotionally charged. The reason is because Biafra actually survived as a sovereign nation for 3 years and was recognized by many counties. Any talk about Biafra restoration today will ordinarily rattle whoever is in power. This calls for tact and strategic engagement within and outside Nigeria. Its chance squarely rests in deep politics and diplomacy. Otherwise it will fizzle out like all peasants’ revolts.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; and a vigorous campaigner for Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org