At the end of the civil war in 1970, the then Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gwon, said and I quote, “The so-called rising sun of Biafra has set forever.” But ‘unfortunately’, that sun has refused to be hidden “forever” because anytime we see the ‘moon’, we always remember that there was a sun.
The war may have started in 1967 but in reality, it started even before the independence of Nigeria. It may have also ended on January 15, 1970, but in reality it is still on, even till this day. The tragedies of the white man on black soil cannot be any better told than as encapsulated in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, only that the trials in Nigeria are hell-worse than it was in Umuofia.
The white man put a ‘knife’ on everything that should have held us together, and we fell apart along tribal and religious lines. So much that a Northerner would prefer to give a job to a Lebanese than one Ikemefuna Okonkwo, same way an Easterner would prefer an Indian as headman than one Mallam Shehu. It didn’t stop there, we created ‘minorities’ from among us, and sacrificed our nationalism on the altar of sectionalism.
At the dawn of the the 1950s, educated Nigerian elites came like Obi Okonkwo, the western educated abroad-returnee grandson of the tragic hero of ‘Things Fall Apart’, Okonkwo; bearing a light of hope, equity and divine justice, and a voice of independence, emancipation, anti-corruption and liberation. But again, just like Obi Okonkwo, they too became guilty of everything they accused the British of. Worse still, they refused to do away with the regional spirits planted by the British colonial masters, instead they consolidated on it; building regional patriotism, parties and solidarities instead of national unity.
Nigeria was nothing short of “a mere geographical expression” -apologies to Chief Awolowo. There was no Nigerianism, no clear vision. Nigeria was a matter of fact a nation sitting on gunpowder waiting to explode. And it eventually did. When it did explode, it was Major Kaduna Nzeogwu who slit the first throat. What followed was another bloody counter-coup, and then a civil war.
After the end of the civil war, General Yakubu Gwon, and successive military and civilian governments did everything to make us forget the Biafran war, except to address the root causes of the war.
Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious violence and anti-Igbo pogroms in the North, and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. The Nigerian government’s refusal for regional resources control also played a vital role. Over 2 million Biafran civilians perished from famine during the Nigerian naval blockade. 51 years after the war, and we all are ‘Biafrans’ suffering from daily onslaught from the same marauders that forced the Igbos to declared the Republic of Biafra; clamoring for new security outfits separate from the Nigerian government’s, begging for a restructuring of Nigeria like the Biafrans asked, demanding for resources control like the Biafrans did. Five decades ago, it was just the Igbos, but now it is everyone.
Terrorism has become the order of the day.
In today’s Buhar’s Nigeria, you have the Boko Haram/ISWAP in the North East, Bandits in the North West, Hoodlums/OPC in the South West, Unknown Gunmen/IPOB’s ESN in the South East, Kidnappers in the Niger Delta, and Killer Herdsmen in the Middle Belt, and every part of the country. Millions of Nigerians are under coordinated attacks in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Sokoto, Zamfara, Imo, and just as the then military government did not make any meaningful effort to contain the 1966 attacks against the Igbos in Northern Nigeria, this present government have been almost silent on the new wave of killings across the country.
The government has failed us too! We should be ‘Biafrans’ -not territorial citizens of the Biafra that Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu fought for; that Nnamdi Kanu is leading agitation for actualization, but believers and agitators of the cause and principles that gave birth to Biafra; the principles of the Nigeria as suggested in the Aburi Accord -a restructured Nigeria that allows for resources control, that guarantees land control by indigenous land owners, that allows the creation of state policing agents.
Biafrans may have lost the war, but the cause was never lost; more people have been killed in this ‘peacetime’ Nigeria than in the war. It goes to show that the cause was just, and that those issues that ignited the war have still not been tackled.
Sunny Green Itodo
Writes from Otukpa, Ogbadibo LGA Benue State.
Please note that the thoughts expressed in this article are entirely that of the writer and has nothing to do with Eye9ja.