I wrote bulk of this article exactly nine days ago – that was two days before the python began its dance of death in Abia, but decided to step it down, as my own contribution (even if insignificant) to the sustenance of sanity in our country.
I did not want to arm any ill-intentioned opportunist with the arsenal to launch more attack on our fatally buffeted country, and the delicate peace in the land.
And as I feared, we soon burst into a season of madness – from both sides of the secession divide, with a mortal determination to right one wrong with another wrong.
Today, I feel even more downcast than I was when I wrote this piece.
It is not only that I never felt that the Nnamdi Kanu Biafra misadventure never represented me, but that the Buhari government’s handling of the matter leaves a sour taste in the mouth too.
Even when I knew that this was the only possible outcome that could have been expected under a Buhari presidency, I still secretly wished PMB would disappoint me and do things differently. Blessed are those who do not expect, for they shall never be disappointed!
How do I mean?
A few months ago, following the resoundingly successful sit-at-home protest called for by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), the rest of the country hit the panic button.
Everyone else suddenly became scared of the emerging unity among the Igbo, whose South-East zone had become an open laboratory for the experimentation (and test-running) of the newest concepts in divide-and-rule.
Yes! The Igbo, whom everyone else thought would always put a price tag on everything (including their own very life and freedom); whom everyone ridiculed with that patronising ‘republican’ toga (which is actually the psychedelic terminology for selfish individualism and unruliness), now seem set to stake an uncommon wager. And they were doing so with an equally uncommon unity of purpose.
Now, that should worry anyone who does not want to go on deceiving himself that this is another job for ‘police action’.
It jolted everybody from slumber.
Even those of us who arrogate the title of ‘Igbo elite’ to ourselves knew there was fire on the mountain. Despite that we have always remained opposed to the ‘unpolished’ style of the pro-Biafra agitators (whom we also dismissed as ‘mob’), we knew it had become a moving train – and it would, therefore, be suicidal to stand in its way. We soon began to find new relevance for ourselves in the emerging order. For if we didn’t do so, we would suddenly become bystanders, as young men with a rush of blood to the head would lead us all to uncertainty.
Of course, we readily remember that when “CHANGE” came to the North – in the form of the election of a certain Muhammadu Buhari, it initially had very little to do with the Northern elite. It was a mass movement (oftentimes derided as mob action). Many of the Northern elite were literally ‘forced’ to join, or blackmailed into silence. But I digress!
Back to IPOB. What the rest of the country did not know was that there was really no cause for panic. For much as the Igbo were united in their cry of abandonment, they were not so united behind Kanu and IPOB, who were insulting all of us and everything we hold sacred. They spared no one – elders, leaders, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba.
But because we were already in panic mode, as this fitted perfectly into our existing biases, things have never been the same ever since that last sit-at-home.
The not-too-equal (and opposite) reaction to that IPOB action was the resultant quit order (orchestrated by well known northern elders, futilely trying to hide behind one finger – in the name of Coalition of Arewa Youths) issued to Igbo living in the northern part of the country.
Another not-too-totally-unrelated reaction to the audacity of IPOB is also the new regime of ‘anti-hate speech’ which President Buhari and the military are trying to hoist on the country. And now, the snake dance, and the new terrorist tag.
The same way IPOB got the North thinking, it has also got the West thinking – the gathering in Ibadan, few weeks ago clearly sent that message.
Even the Middle Belters are also thinking – appearing more ready than ever before, to finally cast off that toga of one monolithic North. Niger Delta militants are issuing fresh ultimatums. Everybody is coming out of the closet. So, even as some people insist the continued existence of Nigeria is not negotiable, more and more voices are countering that it is indeed negotiable. And the calls for restructuring and outright secession are getting louder by the day.
But, unlike the rest of us who are sounding drums of war everywhere, the Yoruba (who also have their young men agitating for Oodua Republic on the side) appear to be a little more strategic. Even with their South West hosting nearly 85% of the still-thriving mega manufacturing companies in the country today (in addition to contributing over 80% of all the Value Added Tax (VAT) paid to the federation account), the Yoruba are still seeking strategic partnership with the Niger Delta – which has most of Nigeria’s known oil reserves.
So, in the unlikely event of all of us going our different ways, the union of South West and Niger Delta would go away with about 95% of what we call our national wealth today.
That union would have control of all our sea borders. It would also have a sizeable access to land border, stretching from Benin Republic to as far as Borgu. The North would equally have extensive land borders (no access to the sea). But the New Biafra would be landlocked. I call it New Biafra because its ancestral relatives in the South-South have been so poisoned against it (by the propaganda from the rest of Nigeria) that it now seems those erstwhile relatives are now more united against Biafra than they can ever be against Oodua or Arewa. So, Biafra, would not only be landlocked, it would also be surrounded by hostile neighbours. Even if it were to dredge the River Niger and build a port at Onitsha, it would still need the cooperation of its neighbours to the North and South to make it workable.
Of course, that does not mean Biafra is dead on arrival. Far from it! The strength of Biafra has always been its human resource. It proved it during the Civil War, it is proving it now – both within and outside Nigeria, and it can prove it again when push comes to shove in the future.
However, a clearly discernible strategy has yet to emerge on how Biafra can be actualised beyond the current hot air everyone is blowing. The same applies to the possibility of an Arewa republic or even Niger Delta Republic. At best, the irredentists of the North appear to think of shooing the ‘Biafrans’ out of Nigeria, and then continuing with Nigeria, as it’s presently configured. Pipe dream! On the alternative, they think of again instigating a war, slaughtering Igbo into submission and intimidating them back into the present Nigerian arrangement that is clearly skewed against them. Again, another pipe dream!
•To be continued