By Obiaruko Ndukwe
As the quest for secession by several ethnic groups in Nigeria hots up, two major tribes have been more vocal than the rest- the Igbos of the South East and the Yorubas of the South West. Surprisingly, and in spite of heightened security concerns in the North, no group from the region has pitched its voice in the calls for a breakaway. The fourth largest group being the Ijaws majorly found in the Niger Delta region has suddenly lost the desire and firepower for agitation in this light, since after the dramatic emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President got six years. It all seems that the Niger Delta quest for equity and justice rested when one of theirs mounted the seat of power in Aso Rock and inadvertently provided for them the fresh air of freedom and access to the national cake.
It all began with the Movement for the Survival of Biafra, MASSOB, led by Ralph Uwazurike and now, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu.
Their agitation for a separate country out of the present Nigerian State, albeit controversial but crucial in the light of present circumstances which may be an extension of past unresolved issues that led to the first and only Nigerian Civil War.
Though the 3-year crisis which led to the extermination of more than 3 million Igbos by the Nigerian Forces was declared a “No Victor No Vanquished”, the fundamental issues are still very much alive and staring every part of the nation in the face.
Issued bothering on marginalization, inequity and injustice have continued to pervade the political space, without the resolve by those in charge in correcting the anomalies that have placed some tribes as lesser peoples than others.
My worry is not about the agitation and the representations being made by the leaders of the different groups, rather, I am bothered by the end result of the struggle which seems to have no proper direction, just as the case was during the bolt led by late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Those who have religiously thrown their hearts into the ring may have kept their heads back home, while clamoring for a new nation. How does one reconcile the fact that the agitators have failed to learn from the deception, betrayal and failure that characterized the first attempt at secession?
While the leaders continue to produce a make-believe movie of a new Biafra nation where the land would flow with milk and honey, like the biblical promised land, they fail to realize that those who succeeded in using these kinds of agitations in the past had a bargaining chip with which they were able to actualize to an extent their goals at dispelling inequity in political power and positions.
I watched the likes of Asari Dokubo and co take up arms against the Nigerian Government at that time when Obasanjo held sway. Their demand for secession though eventually narrowed to obtaining power at the Center through the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan, first as Vice President and later, President.
The sources of the Arms were mainly from exchange of crude oil for Cash or Arms through illegal oil activities that thrived and still thrive in the region.
It was easy for the ex agitators to build up support and further engage the Government of the day through series of dialogue, though not without several arrests and detention of many of their visible leaders.
Any ethnic group, like, the Biafra agitators could have easily envied the Niger Delta struggle without counting the losses recorded by the affected States. Till date, multinational companies and expatriates have hardly returned to the region except scantily. The resultant effect of kidnapping and other forms of crime had been the greatest albatross of the most people who live and do business in the Niger Delta.
In spite of efforts in the past by some of the Governors, to revive the economy particularly with respect to direct foreign investment, the Internally Generated Revenue of these States have been on steady decline thereby taking a toll on the economy of these states and also having a downward multiplier effect on the economy of the country.
The agitation by the proponents of Biafra began more with verbal attacks against the Nigerian Government and those considered enemies of the struggle, irrespective of whether they are Igbos too. This strategy gradually has snowballed into a violent approach as seen and heard from the very disturbing audio and video clips purportedly released through the Biafra Radio.
During the recent disturbances nationwide particularly in the South of Nigeria under the EndSARS protest, in places like Oyigbo or Obigbo, a boundary community between Rivers and Abia states, there were unconfirmed reports of members of the proscribed IPOB taking orders from Nnamdi Kanu to attack Police Stations and seize their cache of Arms. A viral audio clips with the voice of the new Biafran leader was heard clearly giving instructions to his members to fight against police brutality by boldly confronting the Police, killing and maiming them as well as seizing their Guns.
The intent and purpose of this directive is clear. The need for an armory cannot be over emphasized.
Sadly, that was a far cry from the strategic approach of the Niger Delta ex Agitators. The latter negotiated with their natural resources in exchange for what they needed most.
The question thus becomes, how does Nnamdi Kanu intend to negotiate with the commercial goods of the Igbos for which they are mainly known for?
It becomes obvious that while the agitations may be right, the current strategy is still far from being realistic.
Again, the sudden clamor again for Oduduwa Republic by a section of the South West people is suspect.
History revealed that the ploy by Ojukwu to lead the secession agenda for the Eastern Nigeria was seconded by the West led by the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo. But when Ojukwu struck, rather than the Yorubas to strike too, Awolowo was smart to renegotiate his way to relevance in the Nigerian Government.
After the war, the Igbos suffered the worst fate with Awolowo as Finance Minister who ensured that every Igbo with monies in the banks was given nothing more than 20 pounds, Nigerian currency. It was this amount that many of them began trading again and today rose to become the commercial power house of Nigeria. This is one of the many reasons why rather than clamor for war, the average Igbo elite would rather seek to mind the business he has weathered the obvious storms to build, out of nothing rather than go to war again.
The second major obstacle to the actualization of a Biafra of their dream is the inability to convince the Eastern people outside the core Igbo states to join in the agitation, in spite of the fact that the name Biafra was coined from the Bight of Biafra, which is outside the region of the Igbos.
Lastly, the conviction that other regions of the South particularly the West have intensified their quest for a separatist State may only be a fluke and a strategy once again by the highly intellectual Yorubas to clinch to Power towards the build up to 2023. The Igbos may have only been sold a kite in a bid to keep them once again out of the power equation when in fact, it is their unquestionable constitutional right to occupy the top position, whether Igbos of the Hinterland or the Coastal States.
“First fool no be fool, na second fool na the proper foolish.”