Welcome to another edition of Topical Thursday: today we will be looking at an issue that strikes close to home, the case for Biafra; an independent nation separate from Nigeria.
On the the 15th of January 1966 the land of the rising sun a.k.a Biafra took a stand to become a separate nation independent of the federal republic of Nigeria. Biafrans succeeded in their quest and the nation existed in Southeast Nigerian for a short time between the 30th of May 1967 to the 15th of January 1970 when it surrendered to the Nigerian government.
Several issues prompted the people of south-eastern Nigeria to seek out a nation of their own; prominent amongst them was a sense of being politically, economically and ethnically marginalised. Issues deeply rooted in the foundation of our nation: a nation created by the British government from a diverse bunch of people with no regards for their different pre-existing ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries.
The Biafran flag Source: emeagwali.com
The move to create the Biafran state was circumvented by two separate coups and the Nigerian civil war also known as the Biafran war. The first coup was organised by Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu to cease power from the incumbent leaders whom he deemed corrupt. It led to the death of eleven prominent politicians, none of whom were from the eastern part of Nigeria. Hence the belief that the coup was masterminded by the Igbo people.
The second/counter coup led by Lt Colonel Murtala Muhammed was a reaction to the above mentioned coup. It led to the death of the first military Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi. (Click on the link to read extensively.)
In between the first and second coup a pogrom against Igbo indigenes occured: a massacre probably sparked by the unitary decree introduced by General Aguiyi Ironsi. The northerners saw this an endorsment of the Igbo peoples leadership over the nation. The massacre lead to the exodus of Igbo’s back home to the east and to the declaration of secession from the federation by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
The biafran war was declared by the federal government to take back Biafra, it lasted between 6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970. Biafra resisted defeat in the face of an intimidating Nigerian military in-spite of its poor support. The Nigerian Army gradually took back territory, whilst the Navy established a sea blockade denying Biafran soldiers and civilians food, medical supplies and weapons; this led to death by starvation/famine. Biafra eventually surrendered when its leader General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu fled to Cote d’Ivoire.
Once again the cry for Biafra has been resurrected and it is slowly gathering momentum. To be honest on this topic I have no straight answer, a part of me believes Biafra might be the way forward whilst another part believes there are better ways to get what we want.
Pros/Case for Biafra:
- Becoming a nation hopefully should make us invest into exploiting other natural resources outside the oil wells.
- It would enable us assert our identity eliminating the feeling of being marginalised.
- Becoming a separate nation might help unify all south easterners, giving us autonomy and a common ground for progress.
Cons/Case against Biafra:
- What regions specifically would the Biafran nation consist of? I believe a vast majority of south-south indigences in Nigeria do not consider themselves part of the Igbo tribe. Without a clear definition of boundaries and follower-ship, I see the fight for biafra already defeated by internal wars and behind the scene sell outs.
- Where will Biafra get it’s funding from? The bulk of natural resources in south-eastern Nigeria lies unharnessed, meaning that Biafra in it’s early days will either depend on external funding or business for it’s income and both options require a good economic/social environment to thrive. Considering that the south-south regions which has the bulk of the oil reserve might not be part of Biafra this point becomes a crucial factor to examine.
- Can the demands driving the fight for Biafra be achieved through other means? Have we genuinely exhausted every other route of getting what we want?
As a child from Igbo land, I know how strong we are, how feisty in soul and spirit we can be; but I am also aware of the great rivalry such traits creates amongst us. We are hard-working, we are earnest, we are honest, but we are not the most humble people neither are we the most agreeable.
We can not demand autonomy and greater respect from others when we haven’t shown a thoroughness of thoughts and plans going forward into the future. A plan that encompasses the support of the learned, the unskilled, the wealthy and the poor alike. We cannot make this demands when we are not honest and united within ourselves.
Any movement outside the above in my opinion is nothing short of sham by a few to endanger the masses: exposing us to ridicule, destruction, looting and instability.
One hasty, unchecked decision can turn this
Having said the above, I urge the government to implement better resource and power sharing processes, don’t ignore our demands. Be the government that listens to its citizens voices not their violent acts, be the change you promised for once. Let us learn from the mistakes of those around us: internal wars has destroyed many nations leaving them forever broken.