Friday, June 24, 2016

Biafra Haram And The Rest Of Us


Onuoha Ukeh

In the last couple of months, what could pass for President Muhammadu Buhari’s phobia for Biafra has been apparent. These days, he seems to always use every opportunity to talk about the failed republic. The vehemence with which he talks about it sometimes leaves one wondering what it is that makes him mad about Biafra. Is it the fact that the thought of Nigeria breaking up frightens him? Or that he thinks that if the agitators are left, they could actualise their dream? Or that he feels insulted that some people will have the audacity or effrontery to talk about a separate country when he is in charge?
*Buhari
Indeed, President Buhari may have talked about Biafra more than any other single thing. Three days ago, he took up the Biafra issue, yet again. Speaking at the breaking of fast for members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, he had stated: “We need to reflect very seriously on what happened between 1967 and 1970, where about two million Nigerians lost their lives. At that time, as young military officers, you hardly heard of anything about petroleum or whatever money you got from it.

“Look at what Gen. Yakubu Gowon said: ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’ and every soldier, whether he had been to school or not, knew what the General meant. But we were quarreling with our brothers; we were not fighting an enemy, and somebody is saying that once again he wants Biafra.

“I think this is because he was not born when there was Biafra. We have to reflect on the historical antecedents to appreciate what is before us now and what we intend to leave for our children and our grandchildren.”

Last May, President Buhari also talked about Biafra. Speaking at the palace of Emir of Katsina, during his official visit to his home state, he referred to the promoters of the Biafra agitation as “kids” who were not born during the civil war.  According to Buhari, “today, Nigeria is a strong and united sovereign entity because some people laid down their lives for the country…At least, two million people died during the civil war, but, today, some people who were not born during the civil war are agitating for the division of the country. We will not let that happen.

“For Nigeria to divide now, it is better for all of us to jump into the sea and get drowned.”

On many other occasions, President Buhari had talked about Biafra. Each time he did, his impatience and anger were always betrayed. This, for instance, showed during one of his presidential media chats when he was asked about the detention of Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, even after he was first granted bail by the court. He had lost his cool and made pronouncements that directedly “convicted” the accused of the charges he was facing. He had said that what Kanu did was treason, even when trial was still on and verdict not delivered by the court.  As it stands, it is obvious that in Buhari’s world, Biafra, in thought, dream and action, is haram (taboo). In fact, sometimes I suspect that he wishes he could, with a stroke of the pen or brute force, erase Biafra from the consciousness of those who talk passionately about it.

Well, if Buhari’s Biafra phobia is as a result of his concern for Nigeria, it is fine. This is because a divided Nigeria will lose those things that make it tick. Yes, the status of being the biggest black nation in the world would be lost if Nigeria divides. I do know that there is no president, who would want to preside over the division of his country. I also do know that there is no president who will want his kingdom reduced. However, the indivisibility of the country cannot be made possible through force or coercion. It is something that would be achieved when the majority of Nigerians feel comfortable with goings-on and derivatives therein.

The real danger to Nigeria’s unity and oneness is the disregard to fairness and equity. When some people are made to look like outsiders in a common patrimony, they cannot but feel alienated. But when all the people concerned get their due, acrimony will be reduced. At present, equity has been jettisoned in the country. Many people complain about the appointments at the federal level, alleging there is northernisation of government. This is true and the president appears not to give a damn. A few days ago, former  Inspector-General of Police Solomon Arase retired after attaining the mandatory 60 years. In his place, Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) Ibrahim Idris was appointed as Acting Inspector-General of Police.  The new IGP hails from Niger State, in the North (Central). Yesterday, another northerner was appointed as MD of the National Inland Waterways Authority.

These came at a time when the National Security Adviser is from the North (East). Chief of Air Staff is from the North (West). Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) is from the North (West). Chief of Army Staff is also from the North (East). The Minister of Defence is from North (West). Minister of Police Affairs is from the North (West). Also heads of the Immigration, Customs and Prisons are from the North. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is from the North, just as the President, Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives. On the other hand, the Vice President is from the South (West). Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/Minister of State for Petroleum is from the South (South). The Chief of Naval Staff is from the South (South) and Chief of Defence Staff is from the South (West). The DG of NIMASA is from South (South). You may be wondering the place of South East and why the South West and South South just got a few appointments each. Your guess is as good as mine.

In such setting, as above, many people are not happy, believing that the principle of Federal Character has been disregarded. Such people are wont to complain, and justifiably so, as they feel that they are not part of the system and country. The onus is, therefore, on President Buhari to reassure them, by his actions. The president should not be agitated about Biafra or about other self-determination sentiment. The spirit of Biafra, which is, generally, feeling of opting out, is not only in Igbo but also in all Nigerians, who feel dissatisfied with what is happening in the country. Events have shown that as President Buhari is uncomfortable with Biafra, so are many others. Yes, Biafra did cost Igbo millions of kinsmen  and property worth billions of Nigerian pounds during the war. Tens of hundreds of Igbo are still being killed by security agents, as the agitation continues. Also, the President is sad about the destruction of pipelines in the Niger Delta, so are many other Nigerians. It is a great concern that millions of dollars are lost because Nigeria can’t meet its OPEC quota owing to sabotage in the Niger Delta. It is something to worry that the environment is further being degraded by spillages from sabotaged pipelines. Therefore, many Nigerians want an end to this.

The Federal Government, nay Buhari, will help in assuaging the feelings of the agitators by what is done, in appointment and infrastructure development, among others. For the South East and South South, such promises as the continuation of construction of second Niger Bridge, as promised by the Minister of Works; repair of federal roads, building of the Lagos-Calabar rail line, among others, will go a long way in dousing the tension. Also, the guarantee of safety and freedom to do business across the country will be an assurance to the agitators that they have rights, as others.

*Onuoha Ukeh, the editor of TheSun could be reached with ooukeh@yahoo.com

 

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