The question to ask is whether Nigeria as a nation guarantees the right and privilege of citizenship to all its people, irrespective of tribe or religious affiliation and the answer is no. Another question to ask is whether a particular religion and tribe has been calling the shots in Nigeria since its inception as a nation and the answer is yes. The Hausa/Fulani and Islam dominate the socio-political consciousness of the nation Nigeria. The other tribes appear to have been cowed and subject to the dominant needs of the politically astute and better consensus-forming northern politico-religious establishment.
Generally, the politicians of southern Nigeria busy themselves competing and destroying each other. They behave like slaves in a ship fighting each other over rations the captain allows them to have. Some of these politicians seem to have a price and are easily influenced by promises of position, power and resources.
In the House of Assembly, the northern members, who are usually in the majority, do not usually break ranks when it comes to matters that unite them, for example, the issue of when a woman should be considered of marriage age. When you have good politicians or technocrats from the south, nobody comes to their support when they articulate honest policies, especially when the north is riled.
A northern governor virtually singlehandedly led to the removal of a minister [from the South East] in Nigeria because the minister’s utterance concerning the inaccuracy of previous censuses in the country was not north friendly. The vituperations of the governor against the minister sounded like something Radio Biafra might broadcast. He suggested the minister might be a chronic drunk since he headed a brewery before his appointment!
The Igbos, a rather industrious and adaptable people dominate the mercantile realm in Nigeria. There is a mischievous idea that any place you go in Nigeria and don’t find Igbos – leave the place fast. Right from the beginning of our nationhood, the leaders of northern Nigeria have articulated a policy of Igbo-containment. They are mainly found in segregated areas in the north called ‘Sabon Gari’ with other tribes.
Ahmadu Bello himself suggested that Igbos tend to take a mile when you give them an inch, hence the need to control their dominating influence in northern Nigeria especially in the sixties. The policy of Igbo containment appears to have been entrenched since then. The Igbos have been the victims of pogroms for decades, one of which led to a bitter civil war. When Christians are attacked in the north, [which is frequent] Igbos; who tend to be exclusively Christian bear the brunt of such attacks.
These attacks; mostly unprovoked, might be caused by something as frivolous as someone drawing a cartoon in Europe. Today, farmers in the South Eastern states suffer constant harassment by Fulani herdsmen who disrespect the laws of the land and its people. Grazing activities destroy crops, but when cattle rearers are challenged, they are not averse to the use of force, rape and murder to get their way – usually without any consequence.
The nomadic herdsmen seem to have a primordial sense of superiority when dealing with settlers in Nigeria.
The break-up of Nigeria should be a last resort but for the country to move from its present comatose state there must be a return to true federalism with a less ‘all-powerful central government’. We have created so many non-viable states that are collapsing under a ‘give me my share’ local government and civil service.
For us to pretend that Radio Biafra and their grouse is simply some fringe eccentric broadcast without rhyme or reason is to condone the fundamental fault lines that prevent us from attaining true nationhood. However, the danger for ordinary Biafrans or Igbos looking for their daily bread is that the Radio broadcast might ultimately come with an unnecessary price – violence. Just as those broadcasting appear childish, those listening on the opposite side might eventually reciprocate childishly when given an opportunity.
For the idea of Biafra to continue through many metamorphoses over the years and still engender response, whether positive or negative, more than fifty years later, is reason to listen to them. The voice may be childish, sometimes incoherent, vituperative and prone to condescension but it is a voice all the same, and listening despite the noise, would prove that we are not a zoo.
With so much potential in the land, it is pathetic that we have not been able to harness our human capital by creating a conducive environment for its fruition and consolidation.
By Joseph Rotimi