Editor’s note: Who is standing behind the massive Biafra protests rocking the southern states for nearly a month since the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra? Kanu himself? Or anyoune else? Hussain Obaro, Naij.com guest author, is of the opinion that it is the traditional leaders of the southern regions who are to blame for the regular outbreaks of violence in the Igbo-dominated areas. Could it be true?
It is not uncommon in Nigeria that if politicians fail to make a meaningful impact on the national politics, they resort to playing ethnic or regional games in a bid to make themselves relevant and popular, at least among their kith and kin. The roles of intellectuals, who are the worst peddlers of tribalism, hatred and ethnic jingoism in Nigeria, cannot be overemphasized; it is the chief impediment militating against the national cohesion, integration and unity.
Poor leader is worse than enemy
The silence of the Igbo political and traditional leaders that has greeted the protests and agitation of the IPOB members in the southern states is a source of worry and concern. This affirms the fact that there are very powerful and wealthy traditional and political leaders, who are encouraging the youths to continue to ground the South East economy just for selfish desires. At the same time, Nigerians expected the elected representatives of Ndigbo origin to show up in the National Assembly, and the traditional leaders to urgently return home and calm their youths.
The fact that the Ndigbo youths have been deliberately brainwashed and misled by their elders is reflected in their utterances and threats against the general elections and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. First, these were the cries of marginalisation and exclusion as a result of what they call the Northern-dominated appointments, even when it became clear that the South East and South South only gave about 2.8% of votes to Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential election, despite the fact that each southern state was represented in the cabinet of President Buhari. It is proved by the words of Prof Chinua Achebe in his book There was a country. Page 68 reads:
“As many of us parked our belongings to return east, some of the people we lived with for years, some for decades, jeered and said “Let them (Igbo) go; food will be cheaper in Lagos”, that kind of experience is very powerful. It is something I could not possibly forget … there were more and more reports of massacre, and not only in the North, but also in the West and in Lagos. People were hounded out of their home as we were in Lagos, and returned to the East. We expected to hear something from the intellectuals, from our friends. Rather, what we heard was: “Oh, they had it coming to them’”, or words to that effect …” [sic]
The loopsided truth
Obviously, Prof Achebe wrote with emotions, trying to describe the ordeals of the Ndigbo during the “dark episode”, but the misleading aspect of his narration is the deliberate failure to mention or identify the sacrifices of the people like Wole Soyinka, who had lost the wardrobes of his wives to disguising Igbo officers before they were safely moved to the East. Prof Achebe also did not mention the supreme sacrifice of Col Fajuyi, the military governor of the West and the host of Gen Aguiyi Ironsi, who was credited to tell the mutineers not to kill his guest, or kill him alongside, during the counter-coup of July 29, 1966. I suppose there is a lesson to be learnt from such gallantry. However, I am still surprised why Achebe deliberately did not include it in his book. His submission suggests that the Yoruba in the West and Lagos also participated in the killing of Igbos, which was not the case.
Contrary to the widespread belief of the Igbo youths (at least that is what they are told by their elders) that the Biafran war was the Ndigbo genocide carried out by the North-controlled Nigerian government, the war was majorly inspired by the ambition for power and the personal clash between the junior officers Ojukwu and Gowon. Ojukwu, rightly or wrongly, given the then circumstances, could not recognise Gowon as the supreme military commander and take orders from his own colleague of inferior training and military expertise. The prospect of becoming the head of a new state made both of them Biafra-obsessed. The tragedy of one man’s ambition resulted in the massacre of more than a million souls. Even though Achebe admitted the crisis that eventually led to the Biafran war was a retaliation for the January 1966 coup, in which many top military officers of northern origin were killed, the revolution also claimed the lives of the prominent Northern leaders such as Sir Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello. Prof Achebe emphasises: “Superficially, it was understandable to conclude that this was, indeed, an Igbo Coup …” [sic]
The fear-of-Igbo-domination theory, however, holds no water. It is true that the Igbo domination in the public service of the federation fueled the suspicion and beliefs that the “Igbo coup” was meant to acquire political power.
The recent spate of protests demanding the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra, who is currently in custody, might not have happened if the Ndigbo elders and leaders had told their youths the gospel truth. Once again the Igbo youths have been cowed to believe that Nnamdi Kanu was unjustly detained and victimised because of his struggle for secession. Indeed, every nation’s right to clamour for self-rule is protected by the UN, but there should not be calls for war on a sovereign nation. There is a series of evidence to the fact that Nnamdi Kanu incited violence against the government and innocent Nigerians.
He (Nnamdi Kanu) is on the video harassing innocent northern peasants living in Anambra state. He is on the tape calling for the murder of Nigerian soldiers; he is on the audio tape recruiting terrorists and encouraging manufacturers of laser weapons to use them against Nigeria. Kanu stands for the murder of the Igbo chiefs and southern leaders including Chief Sylvester O. Dimunah, Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Obiano and many others. He is on the tape supporting a so-called Igbo who promised to kill a random Hausa man in the East just to provoke chaos and violence. The Igbo elders should order their youths to stop this ignorant show of support for a man who is a typical terrorist in all ramifications. The last time I checked there is no country called Biafra (at least not yet), so the fact that Nnamdi Kanu still holds and travels with a green passport makes it incumbent on him to answer for the crimes against Nigeria and its people.
Secession is not always a solution
An intellectual call for self-determination resulting in a referendum to truly find out whether the Ndigbo wish to have Biafra is in order, but can they really afford to split from the rest of Nigeria? Consider what is currently happening with the newest country in the world, South Sudan, which have been enmeshed in crisis and internal war since its independence. The people of southern Sudan and the rest of the world celebrated the independence and self-determination of the small North African country because everyone thought that would bring a permanent end to their problems, but their independence only created more problems.
Rather than continue to agitate and clamour for Biafra, the Ndigbo should initiate a dialogue with the rest of Nigeria to renegotiate their existence and place in the Nigerian comity of nationalities. War is not a picnic; it should be avoided at all costs. There are more Igbos in Northern Nigeria operating their legitimate businesses than there are northerners in the South East; it means the Igbo will be more at risk if there is crisis. A man does not throw stones into the market when his mother is therein.
Hussain Obaro for Naij.com
Hussain Obaro is a writer, motivational speaker and public affairs commentator from Ilorin, Kwara state.
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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