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.