Jesus of Nazareth was right on the mark when he said to the crowd of people watching him as he was being led to the Golgotha to be crucified,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children… For if this is what is done to green wood, what will be done when the wood is dry?” (Luke 23:26-32).
It was Pope Gregory, the Great, who once said, “It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed.”
I remembered watching a debate at Nigeria’s Senate Chamber one day, in 2018, during the Eight Senate of the National Assembly, when the popular Senator Ben Bruce of Bayelsa State, mentioned the word “Biafra” at the Senator Floor, and what ensued thereafter, marvelled me to the bone marrow.
Senator Ben Bruce during his submission at the Senate Floor had cited some examples of the technological ingenuity and innovations of Biafran scientists during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). This was to challenge the Nigerian government of the day, the necessity of promoting scientific and technological research and development in the country.
Unfortunately, that occasion at the Senate Chamber turned into the usual emotional scenario for demonizing Biafra and bashing at Senator Ben Bruce for daring to mention the word ‘Biafra’ at the Nigerian Senate, of all places. Mind you, a similar incident had occurred at the Nigerian Senate sometime age, when Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania died, and he was to receive some commendations from the Senators at the Red Chamber at Abuja during one of their sessions. Unfortunately, some Senators fought against it, citing Nyerere’s support for Biafra during the war.
Similarly, on this fateful day, at the Eight Senate, immediately Senator Ben Bruce mentioned that word ‘Biafra’ at the Senate Floor, another Distinguished Member of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Marafa of Zamfara State, shouted him down, and at the top of his voice, said to him, “Biafra is dead.” However, the question we may need to ask ourselves today is this, “Is Biafra really dead?” Especially, in the light of the present agitations for Biafra self-determination and independence! As well as in the light of the present travails of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, at the hands of Major General Muhammed Buhari’s regime, can we really, say, ‘Biafra is dead’?
By the way, was there a time, Biafra died? Even in the history and political consciousness of Nigeria as a nation-state, from the ’60s to the present day, Biafra is ‘alive and well.’ Every relatively conscious Nigerian and the outside world know this very well. ‘Biafra never died.
One of the worst mistakes of those who have been piloting the affairs of the Nigerian State since the end of the war in 1970, to the present day, is to think that by placing anathema on the word “Biafra”, and by banning the teaching of ‘Nigerian History’ in schools, ‘Biafra’ would be forgotten in human history or Nigeria’s political consciousness. History has proved them wrong.
At the end of the war in 1970, the Gowon military junta of the federal government made a decree prohibiting people from using or pronouncing the word, ‘Biafra’ in Nigeria. The regime went further and changed the name of the ‘Bight of Biafra’ at the coastal zone the Atlantic Ocean in the Eastern region to ‘Bight of Guinea.’ All these with the evil intent to make sure that nothing about Biafra is heard again, in the history of Nigeria and the world. Worse still, the Nigerian federal government also prohibited the teaching of ‘History of Nigeria’ in schools, for fear of younger generations coming to read and know about the atrocities committed against the Igbos during the genocidal Nigeria-Biafra War, and about the injustice against the Igbos in the country’s geopolitical structure and system of governance.
By so doing, however, the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State underrated the power of ‘Africa’s oral tradition’, the use of narrative story, through which our African forbears have passed on the history and tradition of the ancestors, from one generation to another. It showed also that the gatekeepers of Nigeria were so short-sighted that they did not foresee the coming of today’s information technology age, when the youths will, on their own, equip themselves, without attending any history class, with every information they need, past and present, through the use of the internet, computers, cell-phones, and what have you.
Thus, today, despite the banning of history in Nigerian schools, the youths have come to educate themselves, on their own, about the history of the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), thanks to the revolution in information technology of this generation. Our youth, today, have in the palm of their hands, the whole information they may need to know, about the history of Nigeria and the Biafra War.
Furthermore, for someone to come up today to say that Biafra is dead, is like saying that the history of Nigeria as a nation-state, is dead. To negate the existence of Biafra in the history of Nigeria, past and present, is like negating the existence of Nigeria itself as a nation-state. Such individuals forget also that Nigeria is what it is today, a ‘failed State’, simply because its gatekeepers since the end of the war to the present-day, have failed to confront themselves, realistically, with the truth about Biafra question, that is, the true history of the War. This is why the suppressed Biafra question and history have continued to wag Nigeria in the same way the tail wags the dog.
Accept or reject it, the suppressed Biafra history and question is what is playing out in the ongoing saga between Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and Buhari administration. The Biafra question, though suppressed in Nigerian history, is alive and active today than ever. It has continued to wag Nigeria beyond expectation, putting into question and doubt the features of Nigeria’s continued existence as a nation-state. Nigeria is in a mess today, as a nation-state, simply because of its continued denials and lies against the people of Biafra, especially, the Igbos.
Again, do not forget that the incident at the Eight Senate of Nigeria’s National Assembly, which happened between Senators Ben Bruce and Marafa, occurred around the year, 2018. In other words, it took place after the September 2017 Python Dance II Military killings and invasion of Igboland and assassination attempt on Nnamdi Kanu’s life at his Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia ancestral home by the Nigerian military. An incident that necessitated the disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu to save his life, which was followed later, by his reappearance in Israel after the military attack of his home in Afara-Ukwu.
This implies that the exchange of words on “Biafra” on the Nigerian Senate between the two Senators happened at the height of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB agitation and clamour for self-determination and independence of Biafra, through the legal means of a referendum. It happened when Nnamdi Kanu had already resumed his IPOB Radio Biafra Broadcasts from London, following his escape from the assassination attempt on his life by the Nigerian security operatives at Umuahia in September 2017. The Senate altercations on Biafra between Senators Ben Bruce and Marafa took place exactly, that point in time.
It occurred at the time when thousands of young men and women of pro-Biafra agitators of IPOB and other pro-Biafra campaigners in Eastern Nigeria were being haunted, arrested, many killed by the Nigerian security operatives, and many others left to languish at various prisons in Nigeria, because of their activism for Biafra freedom and independence. Could we say that members of the Nigerian Senate at the time were ignorant of these realities or that they just chose not to care? Do they want to tell us that all those activisms of Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB members and others are not enough signs to convince them that Biafra is alive and well today than ever?
To date, military and police brutality, impunity and recklessness have continued to be the lot of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB members and most of the other pro-Biafra campaigners, mostly Igbo youths, in Eastern Nigeria. This is independent of whether any of these youths support Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB or no. In the eyes of the present administration of President Buhari, IPOB is synonymous with the Igbo nation. Therefore, every Igbo, especially, youths, stand guilty of being harassed, humiliated, dehumanized, jailed and even killed, because of Biafra agitation, under the watch of the present government in power.
In other words, Senator Marafa made his statement about Biafra being ‘dead’, at the Nigerian Senate in 2018, at the height of the federal government of President Muhammed Buhari’s Python Dance I, II, and III Military invasions and killings of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB members and other pro-Biafra campaigners in the Southeast and parts of South-South zones of Eastern Nigeria. Hundreds of pro-Biafra members had been killed, many wounded and jailed by the Nigerian security operatives in the Southeast and parts of South-South, at the time Senator Marafa was saying at the Senator Floor in Abuja, that ‘Biafra was dead.’
Could we say that the Distinguished Senator was oblivious of all these facts? Is he telling us that the sacrifices of those young pro-Biafra agitators, clamouring for the restoration of the Sovereign State of the Republic of Biafra, will all be in vain? Anyway, history will tell!
Biafra is Alive and Well
What Senator Marafa and people who think like he forgets is that, even if Biafra ‘was dead’ as claimed, ‘What of the spirit of dead Biafra?’ Is the ‘Spirit of Biafra’ dead as well? Because we all know that ‘spirit’ never dies. So, is the ‘spirit’ of the determination of a people, an ethnic nation, agitating for their survival in an unjust society or nation-state like Nigeria. Because, as long as the injustices that had awakened such spirit in them have continued to exist in the society, the agitation for survival and self-determination of such a persecuted people will never die. This is why people say, ‘no amount of army would stop the ‘idea’ (spirit of people), whose time has come.’ No amour waged against the will of a people will ever succeed.
This is why in the Nigerian context people say, ‘Biafra is a spirit’ or rather, ‘Biafra is an idea.’ The ‘ghost of Biafra’ is what Nigeria does not want to confront itself with, or address in truth and justice, to free itself as a nation-state from many years of living in denial and lies. Make no mistake about it: ‘The will of the people, the Biafran spirit,’ is what is propelling the ongoing agitation for the restoration of the Sovereign State of Biafra by Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB pro-Biafra youth movement and other pro-Biafra campaigners.
That is why every relatively conscious Igbo Biafran, is behind Nnamdi Kanu and his struggle for Biafra self-determination and independence from Nigeria. This is independent of whether that person identifies overtly or covertly with his IPOB, or even approves or disapproves of his methodology and rhetoric. If you doubt, let the referendum for self-determination of the Biafran people be conducted today, and the truth will be revealed.
This also shows why the Buhari regime must not continue to delude itself, thinking that through intimidation, military and police killings of Igbo youths in the Southeast and continued detention and humiliation of Nnamdi Kanu by the DSS, the time will come when the Biafran people will give up. Be subdued, demoralized, or allow his Fulani people to take over Igboland (or Biafraland) for the evil agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria. This will never happen.
Indeed, it is a waste of time for the present administration to continue to believe that such a thing as subduing the Igbo nation to take over their ancestral land, Islamize and Fulanize them is possible in this 21st century. The fact is that the people themselves are prepared to die fighting to defend their land and people than surrender their lives and ancestral land to the invading army of the enemy or killer-herdsmen terrorism.
The mistake many people still make today, especially, the present regime of President Buhari is to continue to invoke the antics of the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970) as a paradigm for today’s challenges facing Nigeria. People who think in this way forget that we are in 2021 and not in 1967. Today people have known better. Unlike yesteryears, Nigerians now know that the Igbo is not the problem with Nigeria. Everyone now knows where and who are the problem with Nigeria. Certainly, not the Igbos, like many, ignorantly believed during the Nigeria-Biafra War.
Moreover, the Nigeria-Biafra War of the ’60s, so to say, was a miniature ‘world war’, whereby all the other ethnic groups in Nigeria and the two Cold-War Super-powers, Britain and USSR (Russia) and their Islamic world Arab ally, represented by Egypt, united as one force to fight the Biafran Igbos for three good years (1967-1970). In spite of the superiority of their armies and weapons, however, Biafrans were able to hold them all to stand still throughout the three years the war lasted.
Today, nobody should delude him/herself by thinking that if such a scenario plays out again, God forbid, that those who engineered that war against the Igbo Biafrans in the ’60s will get the same support as they did then from other ethnic groups in the country or even from most of the Western and world centres of power. Times have changed, and today people know better.
Furthermore, assuming that Senator Marafa was referring mainly to the Biafran war with Nigeria in the ’60s, said to have ended in 1970, can we really say that ‘Biafra is dead?’ Especially, in the light of the present situation of things in Nigeria, can we really say, “Biafra is dead?
Because, if Biafra is dead and buried, as Senator Marafa and his likes would want us to believe, ‘when did Biafra die, who killed Biafra, and who buried it?’ ‘Where was it buried?’ Not even Yakubu Gowon used such words as that of Senator Marafa at the end of the war in 1970 in reference to the fate of Biafra and the Igbo people. Rather, what Gowon said was that there was ‘No victor no vanquished’, in that war between Nigeria and Biafra (1967-1970).
In other words, Biafra never died at the end of the war, neither did Biafra surrender. Rather what has happened as Prof Herbert Ekwe Ekwe, succinctly explained, “Is the occupation of Igboland since then by Nigerian Police, Military and Bureaucratic machinery.” In this regard, also, Prof Ekwe Ekwe adds, that, “Some people make the mistake of saying Igbos returned to Nigeria after the Civil War in 1970. The fact is that since 1966 pogroms against the Igbos in the North, and the Igbos returned to their land, the Igbos had since not returned to Nigeria.”
Again, all of those who are saying that ‘Biafra is dead and buried, do not want to enter into the real story of Biafra, how and why did Ojukwu decide to declare the Biafra Republic and Independence in May 1967, after the 1966 Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria. Have those things that led to the Nigeria-Biafra War in the ’60s been addressed by the gatekeepers of the Nigerian State? You know the answer better. Therefore, those individuals who say ‘Biafra is dead’ do not want to confront themselves with the real issue behind the Biafra question and the reasons for the present agitation for Biafra self-determination and independence!
Furthermore, some people want the Igbos to forget the ‘unatoned atrocities’ committed against them as a people by the Nigerian State during the war and thereafter. That is, to forget, how the federal government of Nigeria had, used the Civil War draconian slogan, ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done, to kill an estimated 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos.
To date, nobody has atoned for the blood of these innocent 3.5 million Biafrans, mostly Igbos killed during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970) by the Nigerian State. Yet, some want the Igbos to forget it and let the ‘bye gone be bygone’, while the atrocities against them as a people by the State have not stopped, fifty years after the war? Quo Vadis?
Some want the Igbos to forget such man’s inhumanity to man. That is, that the Nigerian State-sponsored ethnic-cleansings against them as a people and that such a time be swept under the carpet. People who think this way forget that without atoning for, and appeasing the spirits of the dead, especially, the innocent victims of state-sponsored violence, those spirits of the dead will continue to haunt that country and its citizens forever. This is what is happening in the country all this while.
Today, Nigeria is a failed state in the eyes of the world, and some pretend not to know that the country’s negligence of the Biafra Question is the primary cause of it all. Nigeria is yet to heal itself from the war atrocities it committed against the Igbos during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970). Is this not one of the reasons the country is today soaked in bloodletting across the land, and the government in power is singled out as the primary sponsor and enabler of such terrorism against its own citizens.
Moreover, to date, the extra-judicial killings of Igbos at any least provocation has not stopped in Nigeria. It is still going on. Such man’s inhumanity to fellow man cannot just be swept under carpet or expect the victims to accept it as their fate, in the name of ‘One Nigeria’ that has never been. In fact, it appears that the state-sponsored killings of the Igbos have become an unwritten State policy of successive federal governments since the end of the war to the present day. Such that the present administration of President Buhari, as his last ‘civil war’ threat to the Igbo nation, tells us, decided to take it to the ‘second-level, whereby the daily harassment and killing of Igbo youths by security forces at any least provocation means nothing again to most Nigerians. It is for all these, that ‘Biafra is alive and well’ today more than ever.
Nnamdi Kanu Phenomenon
Here enters the Nnamdi Kanu phenomenon, and why the Federal Government of President Buhari failed to produce him in Court on July 26, 2021, to continue with his trial after abducting and forcefully bringing him back to Nigeria in collaboration with the Kenyan government, on June 17, 2021.
In fact, recent events in Nigeria, especially, since President Buhari’s threat to visit the Igbo nation with another ‘genocidal civil war’, which according to him, is the only ‘language they (Igbo people) can understand’, has revealed many things about the fate of the Igbo nation in this contraption, called Nigeria. The President’s statement was part of his outburst response and verbal attacks against the pro-Biafra youth movement of Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB, clamouring for a referendum for restoration of the defunct Biafra Republic.
The question is, “Under the watch of President Muhammed Buhari, with his long history of anti-Igbo resentment, does anybody think that the leader of pro-Biafra youth movement agitating for freedom and social justice for his people, Nnamdi Kanu, will ever receive fair trial and justice in Nigeria?” That is, without serious pressure from both local and international communities on the Nigerian hangman?
Very disturbing is the inhuman and crooked way the Nigerian government, in collaboration with their Kenya counterpart, used in bring Kanu back to Nigeria on June 17, 2021. Nigerian government committed the international crime of what legal experts call, extraordinary rendition (kidnapping of a person by the State). Nigerian authorities abducted and tortured Nnamdi Kanu for about 8 days in Kenya, in collaboration with their Kenyan counterpart. And in that state of ‘coma’ and ‘lifeless’, they brought Kanu back to Nigeria in handcuffs, in the most dehumanizing manner never seen in recent history, bypassing all the known international laws and human decency in extradition or repatriation of a political activist, who is running for his dear life from the country of destination (Nigeria).
Mind you, Nnamdi Kanu is a political activist fighting for freedom and self-rule for his persecuted people in Biafraland. He is protected by the International Laws and that of the British, which citizen he is since has renounced his Nigerian citizenship many years ago. He was holding his British Passport when he was abducted in Kenya by the Kenyan security operatives at the behest of the Nigerian government.
Many people are worried about the state of health and safety of the already tortured and maltreated Kanu in the dungeon of the DSS, known for its long history of brutal torturing of its inmates. This is because, as we said before, the federal government had failed to produce Nnamdi Kanu in court for his trial on July 26, 2021. Kanu was nowhere to be seen in court that day. Moreover, the DSS, Nigeria’s Secret Police that is keeping Kanu in their custody, have continued to refuse to grant access to Kanu’s lawyers, personal medical doctors and family members to see him. This has made some wonder if the Buhari regime has not done something untoward to Kanu in their DSS custody. God forbid! Of course, the government itself knows what will be the consequence if they ever contemplate carrying out such extreme evil acts.
Be it as it may, the question on the lips of many people today, is this, “Does anybody think that Nnamdi Kanu in his present travails at the hands of President Buhari’s regime, will ever receive a fair trial, or have his wounded humanity and dignity restored in the Nigeria of today? Time will tell.
Because human lives are involved here, and the destiny of an ethnic group, the Igbo nation is what is at stake, we cannot continue to pretend as if such crookedness and barbaric behaviour of the government in power in Nigeria towards an ethnic group and the person of Nnamdi Kanu, in particular, do not matter. In fact, from all look of things, President Buhari and his ruling Oligarchy are not joking. If care is not taking, something worse than what we are witnessing presently may be unleashed not just on Kanu, but on the Igbo nation by the regime.
Because they see Ndigbo as a major stumbling block in their quest for the Islamization and Fulanization of Nigeria. This is why we need to begin now to call a spade a spade before it is too late. The time for ‘political correctness’ in addressing this matter, is gone. Let all people of good conscience begin doing something urgent to avert the dangers ahead. As Martin Luther Jr. said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.”
We need to do everything humanly possible now, to save the life of Nnamdi Kanu and that of his Igbo and Biafran people from the noose of the hangman.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine!
By Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji, a Roman Catholic Priest and a Professor Ordinarius of contextual theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.
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