Deconstructing the false image of the Igbo as the poster child liberators of their neighbours
Over the last few decades it does not speak well of the rationality of some of those involved in the Biafran or Igbo liberation movement that they base some of their actions and statements on mere assumptions. As a result some of these Biafran activists have created in the minds of some observers a false impression of what the overall goal of the Igbo is. This false image imposed on the Igbo is unwarranted and cannot be sustained. The false image makers have come to make some people believe that freeing the Igbo nation from the unfortunate Nigerian entanglement must involve the other neighbouring ethnic nations.
First of all, we acknowledge that this comes from the figment of the imagination of those who have their mind frozen in time. For such people, life and events that shape it are meant to be static rather than dynamic. Such individuals are finding it difficult to appreciate the fact that there is a time gap of more than half a century between the old concept of the former Biafra and the envisaged Biafra of the now. After fifty something years, no reasonable person should expect that the conditions that produced the first Biafra will remain exactly the same. If the unfortunate conditions are not the same why insist on applying the same old static tool in solving a constantly evolving problem.
For this and more reasons it has become necessary to remind these people who are obviously mistaken that there is need for them to bring their minds and analysis up to date. The contemporary truth and reality is that the circumstances of the Biafra of 1967 to 1970 are not the same with those of the presently envisioned Biafra of the now – 2017.
Like Nigeria, old Eastern Region was created by foreign colonialists
The former Eastern Region as created by the foreign colonialists excluded an important Igbo territory on the west side of the Niger. As it has always been emphasised, the declaration of independence of the state of Biafra which lasted from 1967 to 1970 was necessitated by the 1966 Pogrom. The killings during the pogrom involved non-Igbo easterners as well as the Igbo. (Though, as the crisis progressed the Nigerian state revised the scope of the victims and persuaded the other non-Igbo easterners to believe that the original pogrom-targets were intended to be only Igbo people.) Secondly, the former Eastern Region as originally created by the European colonial masters was under one administration at the time when the 1966 crisis began. In reality, it is inconceivable that a sovereign independent Igbo state will exist without the unification of the Igbo populations on the two sides of the river.
As already stated, Biafra’s secession from Nigeria resulted from the 1966 Pogrom whose victims included the Igbo and other non-Igbo easterners. So the main purpose of the secession was to protect and preserve the lives and properties of the pogrom victims. It is natural that since there was a central administrator (Emeka Ojukwu, the then governor of Eastern Region) who was in charge of the embattled territory from where the victims came, that his protective actions should embrace the totality of the victims who were indigenous to the area that he governed. That is exactly what was done. Therefore, the Biafra of the 1960s was the Biafra of all the easterners who under one central government of the Eastern Region were the victims of the 1966 Pogrom.
Now it is Igbo secession
Today, 2017 that 1966 narrative has changed. The people who are campaigning for secession, independence, separation or freedom from Nigeria are the Igbo as a people and the Igbo as a territorial geographical space. There is no doubt in the mind of any honest and sincere observer that the perennial victims of the Nigerian state and its other citizens are the Igbo and the areas of land that Igbo people traditionally occupy. It is therefore the Igbo who are and should be fighting to liberate their selves from the Nigerian oppression. As such they do not and should not shift their responsibility and problems to involve their neighbours who have not expressed any wish to leave the Nigerian union.
Even if these other South Southerners had expressed their desire to secede from Nigeria, the Igbo have a saying about a new born child and its mother. The Igbo believe that the child after birth will now have a separate chi from that of its mother. Hence it is expected that the child’s chi will from henceforth, after its birth, take over from the mother’s chi to protect and guide the child. So, the Igbo in 1970 at the end of the war concluded that from henceforth let Chi Igbo take care of the Igbo while theChi of their neighboring ethnic nationalities take over and care for these Igbo neighbours.
“United States of Biafra” an unnecessary ethnic entanglement
Interestingly, some of these Biafran activists who are finding it difficult to accept the reality of the now have even manufactured some fantastical, infantile phrases such as the “United State of Biafra” as their proposed new name for the free Igbo state. But one reality which these infantile phrase-mongers will have to face is the fact that taking into consideration the present level of the local peoples’ social and political evolution, that many of the idealistic dreams and promises being brandished about the place are merely utopian which have no basis in reality. It is an indispensable condition that where other human beings will be affected in any decision that non-coaxed consent of all the parties must be obtained through transparent and non-dubious methods. In the end, it is the mutual agreement and understanding of all parties to any project (including the Biafran Project) that is the key to its success.
I think it is important at this early stage, to put the feet of some of these Biafran independence advocates on the ground. There may be nothing wrong in having their head in the clouds but there is everything wrong when the dreams they dream are not based on reality. Among the first realities they will need to recognise and internalise is the fact that founding and building on the foundations of a new country will take a lot of hard work and sacrifices on the side of those who champion the movement. But the greatest of all that is required of all Biafran advocates is humility and the willingness to let others (the right others) shine while working from the behind.
What the new free Igbo country will look like
So, from the onset it needs to be understood that a country where it is all done on Earth as it is in Heaven, remains what it is – a heavenly dream with no basis on Earth. The new free Igbo state as envisioned will definitely be progressive; a civilised society where people will be free to dream and achieve as far as their minds can think. But let no one mistake the free Igbo state for “the ideal perfect state.” There will be many challenges and obstacles which are expected to be faced and surmounted by pragmatic thinkers among the people through the sheer exercise of reason and hard work. The free Igbo state will succeed if the people resolved to play by the rules as based on reason grounded on the principles of up to date human knowledge and empirical truths, and not on unreason and emotional wishful sentiments.
Among the best ways to show modernity and cosmopolitanism is to build a society where there is law and order. Lives and properties of every inhabitant of the state is secured and protected by the might and will of the state. Within the boundaries of the new Biafra or Igbo state let justice and order (usoro) flow in all streets and alleys with excellence as the people’s standard. In Igbo-Biafra let no one be discriminated against and let all inhabitants’ rights and opportunities be protected and enhanced by state power and by fellow citizens. Let people of all shades of physical and intellectual sizes and power move, congregate and engage in all manner of intellectual exercises that encourage the greatest amount of freedom of thought and opinion. Let the weirdest of dreams not only be allowed in the new Igbo state but they should be supported and sponsored and made to flourish both by state and private citizens. Whether by night or day, let no one’s freedom in Igbo land be molested or curtailed by hoodlums or agents of the state.
Like the Igbo, all other ethnic groups in Nigeria have their own chi
Every other ethnic group has its own chi and with their chi they can do well on their own without any input from the Igbo. The Igbo cannot pretend to assume the unenviable role and pride of being the messiahs or saviors of any other ethnic nationalities.
The truth is that the Igbo presently and in a long time to come have their plate full. They therefore cannot pretend to be the ones who have all the answers on how to redeem their neighbours. It is wiser to redeem their selves first before dreaming of saving others. (Onye akwo n’azu adighi akwo onye ozo; this means that an incapacitated warrior who is being backed away to safety cannot elect to back another.)
Igbo circumstances and conditions in Nigeria are not the same as those of any other groups that make up the Nigerian union. Of all the ethnic nations in Nigeria, the Igbo remain the only ones who are rejected by the Nigerian state and by the other ethnic groups in the union. The Igbo are feared and hated at the same time by all the other partners in the Nigerian union. It is therefore, of no use for anyone to pretend that Igbo people will somehow go into any viable political, social and territorial alliances with their other neighbours all because some reckless Biafran enthusiasts want to be heroes at the detriment of future generations. They want to look good and appear as the ideal cosmopolitans and altruistic saviours who unfortunately are yet to save their selves but are bent on saving the other ethnic nations.
Do we really need to remind these self-appointed “heroes” that these other nations would rather work out their own salvation without the undue and unsolicited influence and meddling of any Igbo “saviors?” The Igbo must successfully save their own selves first before offering to save others. (For those who recall history well, the foolishness of wanting to save and yoke others into what is supposedly an exclusive Igbo agenda compares very well with the Ore incursion debacle at the onset of the Biafran War. No reasonable person who is genuinely concerned about winning should recklessly repeat one mistake twice.)
Successful relationships; social contracts, political alliances, commercial agreements, including personal relationships begin and end in mutual trusts of all parties to the contract. Such level of mutual trust is completely lacking between the Igbo and all their neighbors. Every campaigner today for Igbo or Biafra freedom must come to accept this reality which is that in Nigeria, the Igbo have had enough of the unnecessary and senseless forced yoking together of peoples with different cultures, unreconciled worldviews and divergent national aspirations. Let the Igbo go into this journey of founding a modern state in partnership with only Chi Igbo and her Igbo human partners. Then, the Igbo would have finally accepted to become the sole architects of their individuals’ and collective’s fortune or destiny.