By Tochukwu Ezukanma
I am incontrovertibly Igbo, and I am unwaveringly committed to the good of the Igbo. However, I am unrepentantly anti-Biafra. I am opposed to Biafra because the Igbo have the most to lose in the case of a break up of Nigeria. Secondly, Biafra is not realizable. It is a fantasy championed by a few narrow-minded, self-serving individuals, not genuinely motivated by the good of the Igbo. These bigots and their followers, in their opinionated obstinacy, cannot understand that you do not have to be pro-Biafra to be a true Igbo. Therefore, to them, any Igbo that is not pro-Biafra is a saboteur, sellout or slave, fathered by a Hausa/Fulani. Interestingly, it is the pro-Nigeria Igbo that have contributed the most to the peace and prosperity of the Igbo, and the pro-Biafra Igbo that have continually brought the Igbo untold calamity.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, who made the greatest contribution to the advancement of Ndi Igbo, was not pro-Biafra. When the Igbo adhered to his One Nigeria philosophy, we held sway over Nigeria. The Igbo-dominated political party, National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), controlled two of the then four regions of Nigeria (Eastern and Mid Western Regions); they had Igbo premiers. Also, the NCNC was a partner in the federal coalition government. In addition, the Igbo distinguished themselves and established a preponderant influence over the entire spectrum of the Nigerian social life: business, academia, federal bureaucracy, army officer corps and the professions. And the other ethnic groups of Nigerian lamented “Igbo domination”. Somewhat intoxicated by success, the Igbo boasted of extending their preponderant sway beyond Nigeria to across the whole of Africa. A onetime American president, Ronald Reagan, once said, “I do not quarrel with success”.
Chukwuemeka Ojukwu quarreled with success. He jettisoned the One Nigerian policy of Azikiwe and the other earlier Igbo leaders that had been magnificent for us; he treaded the path of secession. There were powerful, almost insurmountable, local and international, obstacles in the path to Biafra. It was unambiguously opposed by the Igbo military and political elite, the ethnic minorities of Eastern Region, the federal government of Nigeria, African countries as represented by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the British and American governments. In his reckless and senseless extremism, and in total disregard for the advice of the experienced, knowledgeable and farsighted Igbo and other concerned Nigerians, Ojukwu declared Biafra. It was that suicidal political move that sparked off the civil war. As predicted by those opposed to Biafra, and were castigated, arrested, imprisoned, and sometimes, murdered as “saboteurs”, the war utterly trounced Biafra; it surrendered unconditionally.
In place of our earlier accomplishments, hopes and goals, Ojukwu’s Biafranism brought us death, destruction, dispossession and despair. It brought us sorrow, pains, and, worst of all, psychological depredation. As Biafra collapsed and Ojukwu ran away, the consequences of his recklessness, senselessness, and disdain for reason and advice were palpably and pervasively evident all over the former land of Biafra. It laid prostrate and powerless at the feet of a conquering army flush with victory. With a collective physiognomy that revealed contortions of pains and sorrow, and a blank stare of despondency, the Igbo stumbled out of the last hold-outs of Biafra. The war had decimated the youths, the flower and promise, of Igbo land; hundreds of thousands of their skeletal remains were strewn around makeshift graves and former battlefields. More than one million men,women and children had died from starvation and other afflictions of war. In the encircling gloom, the entire Ndi Igbo mourned: in subdued tone, fathers groaned and, with deafening din, inconsolable mothers and widows wailed.
To give what was one man’s selfish ambition a coloration of a struggle for Igbo survival demanded excessive falsehood. The falsehood of the Biafran propaganda taught us that the rest of Nigerians were murderous vandals, who, unified by their relentless hatred for the Igbo, have a master plan to exterminate us. Feeding on this instilled fear of our complete extermination, it propelled us to fight to a finish but stripped us of the desiderata for co-existing with other ethnic groups of Nigeria in a heterogeneous country: trust of, and the appreciation of the good in, other Nigerians. The psychological damages of the the Biafran propaganda on Igbo minds was not readily evident because at the collapse of Biafra, Igbo leaders from the First Republic, were again at the helm of Igbo political affairs. Having never believed in Biafra, their concept of Nigeria and the place of the Igbo in Nigeria were neither shaped nor tinged by Biafranism. They were confident in the Nigerian system and its obvious advantages for Ndi Igbo. As usual, Igbo commitment to one Nigeria paid off. By 1979, we had re-constituted ourselves politically; there emerged an Igbo Vice President and Speaker of the House.
The golden ages – the most flourishing periods – of Ndi Igbo were those times we were unambiguously committed to one Nigeria. On the other hand, the worst evils that ever befell the Igbo were all associated with Biafra. Like Ojukwu, Nnamdi Kanu, for selfish reasons, is treading a path that will offer the Igbo nothing but death and disaster. And like Ojukwu, Kanu, in his recklessness and senselessness, is disdainful of reason, caution and advice, and ignores the prevailing sentiments amongst Nigerians, including the Igbo; the unwavering obligation of the African Union and the United Nations to respect the territorial integrity of its member countries; global geo-political dynamics; and the interests of most of the Western Powers in the continued existence of a corporate Nigeria. Like Biafranism, neo-Biafranism is an absurdity that portends nothing but catastrophe for Ndi Igbo.
Already, neo-Biafranism is endangering Igbo lives, casting us as irredeemable rebels and implacable trouble makers, and imperiling all we have managed to build from scratch in the last 50 years. Driven by selfish ambitions and personal aggrandizement, the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has no qualms in bringing incalculable calamity on Ndi Igbo. In essence, they are the real haters of Ndi Igbo.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.