By Innocent Okadigbo Ebirim
There is a legendary wise saying that if you do not know where the
rain began to beat your body, you will hardly know where you will
start to dry your body; put differently, problem identified is
I have always stated in my public affairs commentaries and private
discussions just like Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife had severally thundered in
the air that President Muhammad Buhari is the major cause of the
current resurgence of Biafra and if at all the Biafran threat of
secession will be curtailed, PMB will be the major solution but
certainly not through military might to crush the agitators as it is
presently done. Agitation for Biafra is not a security problem which
requires military solution. It is a socio – cultural and political
response to wickedness, injustice, disequilibrium and lopsidedness
against the South-East.
Ab nitio, agitation for Biafra has been peaceful and non-violent. The
agitators do not carry arms even in the face of violent provocation
and do not endanger the lives and properties of the citizens and the
state. Military approach is therefore not the best in the current
circumstance. Was it not the extra-judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf
that made Boko Haram more daring, armed and daredevil? The
extra-judicial killing of Muamar Gaddafi of Libya led to illegal
possession and proliferation of arms and ammunitions beyond Libya. The
continuous killing of innocent and armless Biafrans by the military
may likely internationalize the struggle for external military help.
The aftermath of the military attack has led to the establishment of
‘’Biafran Shadow Government’’ which is higher and more sophisticated
intellectual and political weapon.
The mind of many in the South-east is already made up for Biafra. No
amount of intimidation and military harassment can stop their
psychological and emotional preparedness. If PMB is sincerely
interested in sustaining South-east as part of Nigeria, he must apply
intelligence gathering, diplomacy, dialogue, sensitization and
awareness campaigns, enthronement of equity, fairness and Lord Hewart
type of justice which is not deceptive and should not only be done but
should be convincingly seen to have been done. Buhari must respect
the right and freedom of the region to choose who will lead them and
which country they want to belong; otherwise he is wasting his time
with millions of troops to be dispatched to South-east.
The obvious fact in public domain is that the renewed Biafran movement
was given birth about 16 years ago but was limited in its sphere of
influence in South-east and South-south until PMB emerged as the
President on may 29th, 2015. The idea and movement consequently became
more vocal, attractive, prominent, vociferous and daring for outright
Sovereign State of Biafra in the entire South-east; part of
South-south & middle belt with influence in South-west and FCT Abuja.
PMB propounded the Vindictive and Exclusion theory when he told a
bewildered and shocked Nigerian audience during his first official
trip to United States of America that he would allocate political
positions according to the number of votes he got from each
geo-political region. This theory was a reinforcement of Zero sum game
affair where a winner wins all and a looser looses all which Political
Scientists have always berated. Buhari is not used to frivolous talks.
He says what he means and mean what he says.
He did his first, second and third sets of appointments including the
Service Chiefs and Kitchen Cabinet and integrated the five other zones
and totally excluded the South-east. A strong message was consequently
sent to the South-east that PMB was punishing the region for not
voting for him. The Ibos were not ready for such punishment and
humiliation. Hitherto, there was a bottled up anger and accumulated
grief in the South-east against the Nigerian State. After the
Nigerian-Biafran internecine conflict which ended in 1970, it was as
if other parts of the country conspired never to allow Ibo man become
the President to avoid the repeat of secession idea and bid even
though Ibo leaders have not helped themselves either.
The unwarranted killing and destruction of the properties of innocent
Ibo people particularly in the North long after the war has ended and
other forms of discrimination at the national level has always made
them to have sense of injustice and lack sense of belonging to
Nigerian State. It was Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime and to a
larger extent Goodluck Jonathan’s administration which integrated many
of the Ibos at the centre of power. There were widespread fears in the
region prior to PMB’s election that he would be anti-Ibo if voted into
power. When PMB started the exclusion practices, their fears were
confirmed and coupled with the accumulated grief, the fire of
sovereign state of Biafra was quickly ignited.
Similarly, PMB propounded the underestimation and under-rating theory
when he did not recognize that the Biafran movements were waiting in
the wing to strike for a full-blown Biafran Republic. It was Hans
Morgenthau who posited in his book ‘’Power Among Nations’’ that you do
not under-rate or under-estimate the capabilities and capacities of
your political opponent.
Yes, the Biafran secessionist bid was militarily crushed but the
spirit and the idea was not crushed and these were the facts PMB
ignored. It is a Statement of fact that Biafra lives in the spirit of
an average Ibo man. First, it started with PMB’s lopsided appointments
that totally excluded the South-east which received the fire and wrath
of the intellectual community, columnists, editors, writers, Internet
warriors etc particularly in the south-east and that worsened their
perception of PMB. There was a news release in ‘’Radio Biafra’’ which
spread like wild fire that Buhari expressed derogatory and
ethnocentric anti-Ibo sentiments in an interview with BBC Hausa
service which was denied by the Presidency.
The South-East started feeling humiliated, insulted, inferior,
ridiculed and embarrassed with PMB’s exclusion. The next thing that
occurred was a resort for the agitation of Biafra to boost the ego,
self-image and protect themselves as a strong Nation that constitutes
the commercial backbone of Nigeria where they are being humiliated.
While these groanings were at their early stage, PMB maintained a cold
silence and it took him over two months to comment on it and when he
did, the situation was worsened. He only recognized Boko Haram and
Niger Delta militancy in his priority of security threats and ignored
The next theory PMB propounded that added salt to the injury of
agitation for Biafran Republic was the non-negotiability of the unity
of Nigeria. PMB had used the occasion of the investiture of the Obi of
Onitsha, Dr Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe as Chancellor of ABU
ZARIA to declare thus: ‘’I therefore sound a note of warning that the
corporate existence of Nigeria is not negotiable’’.
This angered the intellectuals who quickly pointed out to him the
negotiability of the unity of countries in modern times. They referred
to the referendum of 1961 which ceded Northern Cameroon to Nigeria and
Southern Cameroon to Cameroon; the referendum in January 2011 which
led to the secession of Southern Sudan; the referendum in Scotland on
18th September, 2014 which rejected the Independent Country of
Scotland; the Partition of Ireland; the breakup of Yugoslavia between
1990-1992; the creation of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh from
Pakistan and the Dissolution of former Soviet Union in 1991. The
intellectual wing of Biafran movement used these references to knock
out PMB’s non-negotiability theory and to agitate for referendum for
Sovereign State of Biafra from the United Nations, which is a higher
step in the struggle.
The Solidarity Theory to Palestine liberation struggle demonstrated by
PMB added force to agitation for Biafran Republic. When Buhari
addressed World Leaders in New York on Monday September 28th, he urged
them to assist Palestinian state in getting freedom from the state of
Israel. Back home, a strong signal was sent to the Biafrans that if
Buhari could support Palestinian struggle for independence, mutatis
mutandi, he should equally support the Biafran struggle for
independence. Unfortunately, the so called experts around PMB failed
woefully in advising him that foreign policy is an extension of
domestic policy. Your house cannot be burning of separation and you
are endorsing separation elsewhere. Possibly, PMB forgot the sense of
socio-cultural and historical link between South-east and Israel.
So far, so good, we have read how PMB’s utterances and steps fuelled
the strong and irresistible movement for the Sovereign State of
Biafra. If PMB makes further mistakes, he should be certain that a
referendum by UN will be conducted in the South-east to determine the
popularity of this struggle and I can bet you the break-up of Nigeria
in 2015 as predicted by America may begin from there.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Innocent Okadigbo Ebirim (mkpisi Edemede) a pro-democracy activist and
media practitioner writes from Abuja and can be reached @