There is a local adage, which goes thus: all animals run but when the cow runs it is called a mad cow. This adage comes handy in situating the nexus between Biafra agitation and Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction. The narration being peddled and promoted by some including a few misguided Igbo people is that Ndigbo cannot justifiably demand for Biafra and Nigeria President at the same time. Ndigbo must settle for one, they say.
This is the height of mischief. This convenient position is claiming that sovereign state of Biafra is the position and quest of Ndigbo. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Every socially conscious and political aware Nigerian knows that Ndigbo are asking for a restructured Nigeria. Even IPOB that promotes sovereign state of Biafra is doing so essentially because Ndigbo have been eliminated completely from the scheme of things, in a country they played pivotal role in liberating and keeping together.
When northern Nigeria sought to secede from Nigeria in 1953, it was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe that led the campaign to keep that Region in the Nigerian federation, counseling then; “There is no sense in the North breaking away or the East or the West breaking away; it would be better if all the regions would address themselves to the task of crystallizing common nationality, irrespective of the extraneous influences at work. What history has joined together let no man put asunder”.
Agitations have been part and parcel of Nigeria’s national life. Biafra agitation should therefore not be seen as an exception for any reason. All parts of Nigeria have sought at one point or the other to secede…East, West, South South, and North.
In contemporary times, renewed agitations for secession are also rife all across the country again. It is not an exclusive activity of Biafra activists. For instance, what Boko Haram has been doing is an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate in the North East. What is more of secession than that? Yet, the rest of the country never held it against the entire North as a collective agenda as Biafra agitation is made to appear as the Igbo people’s agenda. Neither did the Boko Haram phenomenon hinder the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, as the President of Nigeria twice.
The South West has not given up its dream to establish an Oduduwa Republic. They just registered with an affiliate body with UN among the groups demanding to secede from their nations. Amotekun may well be a precursor of a bigger plan. Yet, this is a region that just produced the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For the avoidance of doubt, Igbo apex leadership led by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, traditional institutions/ traditional rulers, Presidents General of Igbo Town Unions, critical Igbo stakeholders, and political leaders elected and appointed both past and present, met at various levels and agreed on what the correct Igbo position should be on the prevailing national question. The positions across the divides have always stood out as: breaking the union, Nigeria, Restructuring and leaving the polity as it is. Southeast position was finally affirmed at what has historically now come be codenamed, Awka Declaration.
For the mischief-makers who pretend not to recall, at the said well celebrated Awka Declaration, which took place in May 2018, the position of Ndigbo was presented by Professor Chukwuma Soludo in a document made available to the public. The session was jointly moderated by the Deputy Senate President Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (as he then was) and Speaker Anambra House of Assembly. There was voice vote and the Igbo position was affirmed by the Igbo leaders, groups and stakeholders there present.
This Igbo position on Restructured Nigeria then formed the basis for the South East zone’s further negotiations with the rest of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt to adopt a common position on Restructuring and they did. This position was also essentially the Southeast position during the 2014 National Conference.
It is therefore embarrassing that some mischief makers are now narrating to the world that the Igbo position on the state of the nation is now sovereign Biafra.
Let it also be known that even IPOB never consulted anybody before arriving at their separatist position. However, they are a credible Igbo group and have the right to agitate for better life for their members and their Igbo ethnic group. But IPOB does not represent Ndigbo as an ethnic group. Their position cannot therefore logically be the Igbo position.
Biafra agitation groups are up to 30 and some of them believe in Restructured Nigeria. For the avoidance doubt, Ralph Uwazuruike who started the second wave of Biafra struggle even when Ojukwu was still around by forming the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is also talking of Restructured Nigeria as better than breakup of the union. In other words, even within the Biafra agitation groups, there is no consensus on the quest for a sovereign Biafra as nonnegotiable.
What appears to be the consensus is that Biafra becomes inevitable if Nigeria cannot be restructured into an all-inclusive, workable federation. This position is not held by Biafra agitation groups or Ndigbo alone. South South, South West and Middle Belt tenaciously hold unto this same position; that rather than hold Nigeria together in a unitary system by force as opposed to the federalism agreed between Nigeria’s founding fathers and departing colonial Britain, it is better to dissolve the union.
Why then hold Ndigbo responsible for a position held by four out the six zones in Nigeria?
I have also heard the loose bar talk that Ndigbo cannot go for President of Nigeria since they have decided to pursue Restructuring. This is yet another mischief mired in illogicality. To begin with, Restructuring is not an exclusive South East agenda. It is an agenda the zone co-founded and shared with South South, South West and the Middle Belt.
Those who ask Ndigbo to pursue Biafra and Restructuring or Nigerian President should note that other zones never followed that route. It is on record that as agitation for Restructuring and even secession is going on in the country, the South South produced Nigerian President. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was Nigeria President for five to six years while his Ijaw and South South kin were waging their separatist Niger Delta militant struggle.
The Yoruba struggle for Oduduwa Republic has been raging since the NADECO days. Yet, the Southwest has produced a Nigerian President for 8 years in this dispensation, in the person of Olusegun Obasanjo and a Vice President who is pushing another 8 years in the person of Yemi Osinbajo.
Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s presidential campaign is heating up all across Nigeria and nobody sees anything wrong with it. But everything is wrong with an Igbo man sleeping in Aso Villa simply because a certain Nnamdi Kanu is threatening secession from a union that has refused to accord his people their inalienable rights as equal partners in a country they co-founded.
Nigerian President of Igbo extraction and Restructuring are not mutually exclusive and both are rights of 50m Ndigbo, not privileges.
Ndigbo prefer a restructured Nigeria because is a win-win for all. It is to ensure equity and social justice. More importantly, a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction may not be silver bullet to cure all our leadership and development deficits; or, a mere opportunity for Ndigbo to take their turn in mismanaging Nigeria. But be sure of a performance that will be well above average. Most importantly, the coming of an Igbo man or woman will end the Nigeria civil war and ensure healing and unity, and make the nation rev again as one. All parts of Nigeria shall all be the better for it.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/ Social Psychologist and Journalist; e-mail: [email protected]