Of all the problems supposedly employing the occupants of Aso Rock, the federal government has managed to turn the cause of Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra into a cause célèbre. Let us be clear about this – the government has bungled its response to the legitimate concerns of a significant swathe of one of the country’s six geopolitical regions and if anything, is only strengthening the case for leaving this current contraption called the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Since the emergence of Nnamdi Kanu as the focal point of a secessionist move within the South-East that had increasingly gained traction over the past two decades, fuelled by a sense of political marginalisation and a relegation to the sidelines of important interventions on issues of national importance in post-Civil War Nigeria, the facile and reactionary overtures of certain segments of the Nigerian political elite and intelligentsia has awoken the sensibilities of many Nigerians of Eastern, and in particular, Igbo origin, to the need to query and redefine the essence of what it means to be a Nigerian, 47 years from the end of a war that devastated the East, heralded the balkanisation of our politics along firm ethnic lines, laid bare the defects of this country in a global spectacle and still manages to passionately divide public opinion in ways that still illustrate the fact that many, in the West but especially in the North are still in denial about a conflict that was as equal parts armed conflict, equal parts genocide.
It is important to address the many apologists in the country who view self determination as a threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty as one indissoluble and indivisible entity, who say Nigeria is sacrosanct and cannot be negotiated, amidst the high level of ethnic fidelity and nepotism with its accompanying political instability, and remind them that self-determination is a concept that flows through all of human history and the human struggle to exist in many societies. Man, from time immemorial, has at critical junctures, felt the need to reconsider and attempt to recalibrate the organising compact of his relationship with his fellow peers when existing organising principles appear to be unfavourable to the continuation of a peaceful, mutually beneficial coexistence. At such times, the sensible route has always been to come to the negotiating table with an open mind, ready to respond to reason and make necessary adjustments. The alternative option when such legitimate aspirations have been denied in the past has always been armed confrontation.
The events that played out in the Nigerian Senate in late July, coupled with the movement of the military into parts of the South-East, notably Abia, is exactly why Nnamdi Kanu is winning the ideological battle if the Nigerian side can be said to be waging a battle of ideas in the first place. It is manifestly unfortunate that serving senators and federal representatives, ostensibly elected to cater for the ultimate interests of the electorate, voted against a common sense restructuring agenda which would have facilitated the devolution of powers to the states at a time of growing calls for the decentralisation of the decision making process away from Abuja. At this point, it is trite to ask, what are we really doing? Why are we deceiving ourselves? Kanu has apparently looked at the Nigerian situation and the characters running its structures, viewed the entrenched position of the north and their unwillingness to relinquish the skewed advantage bequeathed to them by their pre-independence elite, and much later, the military via the agency of unitarianism and arbitrary state creations, and concluded that the north will never allow any meaningful attempt at restructuring the unwieldy, unsustainable structures that continue to artificially prop up this country,
In the final analysis, it would appear that the 48 senators who voted against restructuring are scared of a real attempt at sensible governance – typified through the constant agitations of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, a true leader who refuses to be a push over, a man who knows his nuts and how to galvanise people to his side, a clear contrast to the excuse-laden leaders in the South-East who have been complicit in the exploitation and marginalisation of their own people – chief among which is Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha. Rochas, the quintessential example of bad governance in the region who claims to be a populist philanthropist and successful businessman, has over his six years in power exposed his quasi-dictatorial tendencies, owing state employees salary arrears and pensioner gratuities for months and most recently, causing the death of innocent people in the name of achieving a blind urban renewal policy. Okorocha is emblematic of the disconnect and failure that the current system has morphed into and highlights the need for an independent Biafra since the so-called restructuring will clearly not see the light of the day.
The operating ethos for the South-East thus has to be this: Let Us Go. There is no reason why any country should deny an extraction of people who are clearly uninterested in being part of a shared entity from actualising their dreams; it is certainly not a crime, our militaristic laws notwithstanding. It makes no sense for us to continue to remain part of an entity where the political equation is engineered to disproportionately disenfranchise us, encourage herdsmen to rampage on our lands with impunity, maiming our mothers, raping our young girls, killing our farmers and destroying our crops and livelihoods while the same one Nigeria propagandists won’t move a hair and an irresponsible federal government turns a blind eye.
Nigeria has become such a pathetic story that the ‘one Nigeria’ mantra rings hollow. How can we be one Nigeria when on the demise of a group of persons, the first interest is the tongue or religion is of the victims. How can we be one Nigeria when the value of human life seems to mean absolutely nothing to the government. How can we be one Nigeria when some people find their voices when northerners get killed but the death of innocent IPOB members and their unceremonious burial in the Oji River does not get a shout.
If Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain and Quebec in Canada can mull over the state of their national identities within the confines of a sovereign state, why can’t we? It is clear from the evidence that the entire South-East is fed up of the lies and fairy tales we have been consistently told.
Nigeria, even for those benefiting from the largesse of its pitiable state is hardly set in stone. For those of us who have no say or see no future in this entity, the call is simple. Let us go.
Boblin Samfor, a political analyst, writer, and researcher writes from Lagos