Southeast governors: they have a big say in the Biafra question.
Much of the discourse in the news media last week in the Igbo Nation, nay Nigeria, centred on Biafra, its agitators and its agitation. The deluge of attention expended on Biafra was triggered by the outbursts of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, whose outbursts were in turn triggered by the infamous quit notice issued to Igbos living in Northern Nigeria by some idle Northern youths.
In his reaction, Kanu had called for a boycott of the gubernatorial election in Anambra, just as he opposed any call for a restructuring of the nation. His position did not go down well with the Igbo elite who comprise the governors, legislators, leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo and other Igbo opinion moulders. They moved quickly and convened a meeting in Enugu where they literally called Kanu to order, making it clear to him that the only ones with authority to speak henceforth on the current burning issues concerning the Igbo Nation were the recognised leaders.
Even some of Kanu's fellow Biafra agitators joined in condemnation of Kanu's antics, clearly dissociating themselves from whatever Kanu had said. According to one Modestus Ezenwa, who addressed an open letter to Nnamdi Kanu, the Biafra agitators were running the risk of resorting to emotional sentiments rather than reality, and to me, there lies the crux of the matter.
Hear him, 'Our people should be very careful so that they do not shoot themselves in the foot. Things do not happen by emotions. The international law does not recognize emotions.
First and foremost, Nigeria is an independent sovereign state, a member state of the UN, AU, Commonwealth of Nations and ECOWAS. She has diplomatic relations with over 100 countries in the world. Her sovereignty is respected and protected under the UN Law. It means that until she decides by herself to partition herself, no country in the world will recognize any part of Nigeria that forced itself out of Nigeria.'
Doesn't this say it all?
After my piece on this page last week, I was slated by some Biafra diehards who, from what they told me, showed little understanding of the major arguments against Kanu and his style. In the said piece, I had called on the Igbo elite to take over the struggle at this time, seeing that the battle is no longer one which the likes of Kanu can do alone.
For those who are wont to oppose anything against Kanu, can they answer some of these questions? When Kanu was in jail, was it not when the same Igbo elite that he is today challenging, started a sustained clamour for his release that he was bailed? Was it not the same people who rallied round to fulfil his bail conditions? Who among Kanu's crowd could have met those conditions? Would the federal government have listened to the regular Kanu supporters if the elite hadn't come in?
You see, it is easy to forget things in this country to suit our fancy. No one says Kanu hasn't tried, but the issue is that what lies ahead is simply beyond him. Assuming that Biafra will work, which platform will be used to make it happen? Is it not the platform of the Southeast governors and the current political leaders?
This is why I can't agree more with the Igbo leaders who met in Enugu last week to take far reaching decisions on the manner the struggle should be staged from now on. The problem with Nigeria today is lack of fairness and equity. If that had been corrected before now, would there be all these agitations?
But because our leaders have paid lip service to the call for equity and fairness, the Biafrans are protesting, the Niger Deltans are fighting and the Northern ethnic minorities are unhappy. We have come to live with all this.
We must now thank Kanu for forcing Nigeria to hear us, but then he must be told that he has served his purpose. It is now time to go about things in more civilized ways. Burning tyres on our roads here won't solve the problem. Rather, the action will spoil those roads and take us back to square one. Asking people not to participate in elections will only throw up bad leaders that will increase the yoke of poverty and hardship on the already impoverished people. Refusing to go to the dialogue table is not in our interest, assuming the rest of the country now wants to talk. Insisting on getting Biafra will then sound preposterous as it is fraught with its own problems. Perhaps, what Ezenwa said concerning a situation where you ignore the rules will suffice yet again. Hear him:
'A country is a country when it is recognized by other countries as a sovereign state recognized by the UN and member states.
'I give you an example of what will happen when the elite of Igboland do not engage Nigeria in discussions about self-determination. By the way, the 1999 Constitution does not have any provisions for self-determination of any part of the federation, like the American or United Kingdom's Constitution. For a debate or discussion to happen about letting a part to go, the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land, must be amended or changed.
'This is what will happen if you fail to act within the international law's framework. You will become like entities such as Northern Cyprus which broke away from the south in 1974 with the support of Turkish Army; which after 42 years, no country in the world, other than Turkey, recognizes.
'The North Cyprus does not do business with any country in the world, they do not have international passport recognized by any country in the world; their citizens are given Turkish citizenship so that they can travel out. Their money is not recognized by the World Bank and they cannot trade with the outside world. But they have been existing on their own for 42 years now. Currently they are agitating for reunification with the South which is called Greek Cyprus.'
So is this what we want to experience in the aftermath of getting Biafra? And this is assuming that it has the support of the entire Igbo Nation's leadership, without which the dream will die as soon as the dreamer wakes up.
If the Igbo elite and governors do not support a physical Biafra, if the Kanus of this world get it, where will it be placed? Will it be a hanging Republic? This is something some people haven't cottoned on to. Thus the current Biafra agitators seriously need the backing of the governors and the entire Igbo leaders.
But then, the Igbo leaders say they want a restructured Nigeria where every ethnic group will have a fair share of the resources of the land. Such a restructuring may or may not come; but at least, let's give it a try. There's a lot more to just wishing for Biafra and having it. This is what the elders have been trying to point out all day long, but the rather rash youthful elements are pushing for immediate action but then what an elder sees sitting up, the young cannot see even when on top of a tree.
Let's not rush into this without a plan or else, as Ezenwa points out, 'If we push this thing as idiots and unintelligent people, Nigeria will make us suffer like never before.
'They will stop salaries and pensions coming to Eastern Nigeria like Ukraine did to their East. They will put economic blockade on the East that you can't even ship your produce out or bring importation in. They can make the life of the Eastern Region a living hell.
'It takes a man who thinks with his head rather than his heart to know all these. It takes a person who employs reasoning rather than emotions to look for precedents. I still maintain that for things to run their course in accordance with international law, only the elite and the intelligentsia can move it forward and engage Nigeria in meaningful discussion.
'If Biafra will ever become an acceptable republic in the world and enjoy all the privileges as a sovereign nation, only Nigeria will grant her independence from the federation like Ethiopia did to Eritrea; like Sudan did to South Sudan and like Serbia did to Montenegro.'
Yet again, I can't agree more with this argument. The action of Igbo leaders in the past few days is what we need. A restructured Nigeria translates to a Biafra of the mind. Our elders may have woken up late but they hold the key to the achievement of more solid results, and as they trudge on, I have no doubt in my mind that the real Biafra agitation is on.