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Sunday 15 May 2016

Buhari, Biafra and the suicide theory

Oby Ezekwesili, a well known commentator on public affairs and former Minister of Education, recently described the economic poli­cies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration as out of tune with current realities. Some other commentators have, in­deed, said that there is not even a discernable economic direc­tion of the administration. If at the realm of economics there is such level of cynicism, true or false, perhaps much more abound in the political sphere. In my view, President Buhari exhibited a lack of grasp of con­temporary global practice with his recent statement on the agi­tation by a section of the Igbo for a Biafran state. At an event in Daura in his home state Kat­sina, recently, the president, reacting to this sustained agita­tion by a group of young Igbo elements, was quoted as saying, “For Nigeria to divide now, it is better for all of us to jump into the sea and get drowned”. He then vowed to use every power and resources at his disposal to crush the agitators.

Before the Daura declaration, the president’s posturing on the pervasive separatist move­ments in Nigeria is one that smacks of the usual high hand­edness and mind set known of Nigerian leaders of his back­ground. Like the issue of Bia­fra, President Buhari vowed to “CRUSH” fellow Nigerians who are responding in various ways (even if without decorum) to their disaffection of the current state of affairs in the country. Besides, the president keeps on re-echoing the usual arrogant and hackneyed allusion to the non-negotiability of Nigeria as one country. On this, the fallacy and senselessness that Nigeria’s unit is not negotiable, the presi­dent has been disagreed with by prominent and well meaning Nigerians including the highly revered Wole Soyinka.

But back to the Biafran issue, however. To be sure, President Buhari’s frustration over the spate of agitations is under­standable. Arguably, Nigeria had never been so heated up, going by the different forms and shapes of security threats. Ordi­narily, therefore, no president worth his office would be com­fortable with such a situation. Even a weakling of a president would, as Buhari is fond of say­ing, use everything available to “crush” all such nuisance and their authors.
Still, methinks that the presi­dent’s discomfiture has degen­erated to sheer nervousness, which in turn means that he is actually unsure of how to go about the matter. As far as I am concerned, President Buhari’s mass suicide argument is at once cheap and an inadvertent admission that he is terrified by the current state of affairs. It is an inadvertent admission of hopelessness. The we-will-jump-into-the sea argument is exactly what it is :sheer de­spondency.

Just the following day after the president made his widely reported apologetic statement, the people and groups to whom those reactionary rhetoric was directed replied him: “ You can’t stop us”, they said, perhaps even in a more acerbic and recalci­trant language. From every look of things, the president’s postur­ing is incapable to being deter­rence to the Biafra agitators. Not even the Niger Delta Mili­tants who are allegedly blowing up oil pipe lines may be worried by the order to “crush”.
As a corollary, the Biafra agi­tators, who have pursued their agenda in a non violent man­ner, now have a moral issue against “all of us”. Can we tell the world exactly what their offence is, since they have been non-violent? Save for non-violent demonstrations and intellectual discuss, what would the rest of Nigeria, which President Buhari would gladly lead into jumping into the sea, adduce as the reason for the intended mass suicide. In sundry parts of the world, there are movements for self determi­nation. Most are violent, even deploying highly combative and aggressive tactics. Yet, their fel­low country men and women have not threatened mass suicide as suggested by President Buhari.

The big worry is that the pro­nouncement came from the final authority, the president himself. Should the rest of the world take that as Nigeria’s final answer to the separatist movements, even if we agree that the brains behind them are most unreasonable? Let us, for the purpose argument, take a hypothetical look at the likely line of action the president would take against the Biafra agitators: intense military action at worst; or mass incarceration of the agita­tors. Neither action would put the rest of us in any advantage. If we could become this nervous over the illegal detention of just a few of the agitators, it is any body’s guess what the situation would be like when all the agitators are rounded up and put in prison. Of course, a military clamp down on non-violent youth from a section of the country would be the most ‘interesting’ thing for the rest of the world to witness in this day and age; besides that it will return Nigeria to exactly where it was in 1966.

Now, to the talk that the Bia­fra agitators where not yet born when the old Biafra was defeated, a variant of this being that Biafra died with Ojukwu. This is the most fallacious allusion to the in­stant matter, and indeed the most eloquent testimony that the Nige­rian establishment is both being pretentious and perhaps inad­vertently exhibiting a poor grasp of the issue. Contrary to this fal­lacy, the Biafra these “kids” are agitating for is certainly not the same as the one their fathers and grand fathers fought for between 1967 and 1970. If anything, that the kids knew nothing about the old Biafra and yet are talking about it means that the very issue “all of us “claim to the resolved in 1970 actually never happened.

That the “kids”, who never witnessed the pogrom of 1966, which was the most provocative issue that made their fathers and grand fathers decide to leave the Nigerian arrangement then, are on their own talking about the same issues that worried their parents nearly 50 years ago, means that all those, including Muhammadu Buhari, who now boast to have fought to keep Ni­geria one are making a hollow claim. In other words, whatever resolutions that took place in 1970, whether it was couched in the language of “surrender” or a no- victor-no-vanquished man­tra, as far as these kids are con­cerned, failed.

Which brings us to another fallacy, which privileged mem­bers of the Nigeria political class, including President Buhari, are fond of re-echoing: President Buhari in the statement under review repeated the claim that over two million people laid down their lives to keep Nige­ria one. Of this supposed two million, more than 98 per cent were Biafrans. And they died not to keep Nigeria one but in the course of an attempt to get out of a Nigeria that had treated them so badly then. So, let this talk--of people laying down their lives to keep Nigeria one—cease. It is ir­ritating and a reminder of the sad events of those days.

As far as I am concerned, the current agitators needed not to have witnessed those events to react the way they are doing now. The Nigeria of today has nothing to show that such monumental scarifies were made and espe­cially by their own people. Even if we decide to go by the president’s persuasion, it would appear that the two million or more people died in vain. What the present agitators seem to be telling “all of us”, including Muhammadu Buhari, who was a major com­batant in the imbroglio, is, “look, you guys achieved nothing”. The Nigeria establishment is lucky that the current Biafra agitators chose to adopt the appellation, “Biafra”, which anybody can dis­miss or claim to have defeated. If they have taken another name, perhaps the response from all of us would have been different. We wouldn’t have been remind­ing them that their fathers and grand fathers were ‘defeated’ on the same issue and that we will similarly defeat them this time around.

Finally, the talk about the unity of Nigeria being non negotiable should also cease. It makes Nige­ria as a collective look like a timid people. There is no place in the present world where such things are being said. Not even the colo­nialists, who clobbered the dif­ferent people together into one country, could have said such things at the height of their im­perial majesty.


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