BIAFRA: The PAST – The PRESENT – The FUTURE

BIAFRA: The PAST – The PRESENT – The FUTURE

Indeed, Ojukwu's declaration of the new Biafra is a deep philosophical and ideological proposal for a new world order. Ojukwu's Biafra of the mind is an ideal of justice, a metaphor for man's irrepressible persuasion to stand up against inhumanity and injustice by man to man. It transcends geographical boundaries and ethnic identities. It is no more the struggle of the Igbo for self-determination in the face of genocide. It is no more about the 30 months bloody civil war that left in its trail the devastation and despoliation of the Igbo heartland. It is a clarion call for the evolution of “a nation” ----------------------------------

Nigeria evolved from about 1849 until her independence in 1960. This is largely a story of transformational impact of the British on the peoples and cultures of the Niger-Benue area.

The colonial authorities sought to define, protect and realize their imperial interest in this portion of West Africa between 1862 and 1960. The British were in the Niger-Benue area to pursue their interests, which were largely economic and strategic. In the process of seeking to realize those interests, there were many unplanned-for by-products which include the creation of the country Niger-Area (Nigeria) in 1914.

Between 1951 and 1954, two important constitutional conferences were held in London and Lagos between Nigerian political leaders and the British government which resulted in a new Federal Constitution in 1954 under the leadership of Sir John Stuart Macpherson as Governor-General. This constitution's main features were: the separation of Lagos, the nation's capital, from the Western Region; the establishment of a Federal Government for Nigeria comprising three regions, namely, Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region with a Governor-General at the centre and three Regional Governors.

Eastern Region was an administrative region with its first capital in Calabar. The capital was later moved to Enugu and the second capital was Umuahia. The then Eastern region which is made up of the present Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, AkwaIbom, Cross River, Rivers, and Bayelsa State.This states were preparing for their secession from the union of Nigeria when suddenly, one faithful morning on 27th May 1967 The Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon dissolved the regions and created 12 new states. From the old Eastern Region we had the East-Central State, Rivers State and South-Eastern State. This creation did not go down well with the Governor of the old Eastern Region Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu because he knew it was a plot to divide and distract his people and the plans of secession. Two months after, on 6th July 1967, the war started. After days, weeks, months and years of bloodshed and loss of lives and properties, on 15th January, 1970 Major General Philip Effiong the second president of the Republic of Biafra alongside other top officials of the secessionist group was captured by Colonel Obasanjo who was the commander of Three Marine Commando. These senior officers were presented to the Head of State and the leader Major General Philip Effiong announced the withdrawal, ending the secession and re-joining Nigeria. My story will not be complete without authoritatively and unequivocally stating clear that Midwestern Region or Bendel State which later became Delta and Edo was not part of the Old Eastern Region and never part of Republic of Biafra although one month after the war started, Asaba joined the secessionist group. This move resulted to the Asaba massacres that occurred in early October 1967. It was estimated that more than 700 men and boys were killed in one day by the Federal Troop.

Old Eastern region of Nigeria was bordered by the Niger River in the West and has an administrative and cultural border with the Northern region of Nigeria to the north. The eastern boundary lies between the border of Nigeria and Cameroon and the southern coast is along the Gulf of Guinea (Bight of Biafra). The total surface area of the region was approximately 29,400 square miles. In 1965, the region had a population of twelve million people.

Bight of Biafra

In the course of developing this article, the past, present and, future of Biafra, I had to dig out a pre-war atlas that showed the bight of Biafra, when I compared it with modern map, my greatest discomfiture came when I discovered the cartographic of revisionism. I discovered to my chagrin, that bight of Biafra was nowhere to be found. In its place was bight of Bonny. It was most probably at this point that I became a student of history. Then I discovered Gulf of Guinea, Bight of Biafra, Bight of Bonny are all the same. 'Bight.' – a curve or recess in a coastline running from River Delta of the Niger down to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, until it reaches Cape Lopez in Gabon. This cartographic transmogrification of removing and replacing the word Biafra in the map was it intentional or circumstantial? For those who do not know, Biafra is not an Igbo word. It isn't even a word in any known language. It is thought to have been coined by someone of Portuguese nationality, but even that is at best speculative. But there was a bight of Biafra just like there was and still is the Bay of Bengal, and gulf of Guinea. However most of the Non-Igbo of Old Eastern Region such as the Efik, Abonnema, Ahoada, Bori City, Buguma, Calabar, Eket, Igwuruta, Ikot-Abasi, Ikot Ekpene, Nsukka, Omoku, Opobo, Port Harcourt, Uyo, Yenagoa, Ibibio etc were at one time part of the defunct Biafran Republic. With this, it is obvious that Igbos are not alone in the circle. This is verified in the fact that the 2nd president of the Biafran republic was an Obong of the Efik: Phillip Effiong.

Flora Shaw, the lady that later became Fredrick Lugard's mistress coined the name, Nigeria. Observing that the River Niger traversed a substantial portion of the vast area her boyfriend had just amalgamated, she 'married' Niger to area and arrived at Nigeria. If Ojukwu had envisaged Biafra as his personal fiefdom, he would have done a much better job at naming it. He would most likely have picked a name that reeked eternally of him: like what Sir Cecil Rhodes did in Rhodesia and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey.

You can take away many things from Ojukwu and get away with it. But there's at least one thing you can't take from him: his smartness. Giving a nation a name of doubtful meaning and indeterminate origin isn't his idea of smartness. No, Ojukwu neither created the Biafra nor the Biafra problem. It was foisted on him by those too short-sighted to see the resplendent horizon and too thick-headed to acknowledge their deficiency. Those who made light of covenants and then turned around to hypocritically champion the primacy of the rule of law. Those who were too eager to abolish healthy competition because in their concept of a woolly unity lay the perfect cover for their stifling mediocrity. No wonder it was decided that £20 was just enough to ensure they remain stupefied in defeat. Ojukwu before his demise had moved from seeing Biafra as a geographical and territorial construct to the Biafra of the mind.

Indeed, Ojukwu's declaration of the new Biafra is a deep philosophical and ideological proposal for a new world order. Ojukwu's Biafra of the mind is an ideal of justice, a metaphor for man's irrepressible persuasion to stand up against inhumanity and injustice by man to man. It transcends geographical boundaries and ethnic identities. It is no more the struggle of the Igbo for self-determination in the face of genocide. It is no more about the 30 months bloody civil war that left in its trail the devastation and despoliation of the Igbo heartland. It is a clarion call for the evolution of “a nation”. By the Biafra of the mind, Ojukwu left behind not only for Nigeria but also for the world a great burden. The challenge is for Nigeria, not the world, to replace the Biafra of bricks and mortar with the ideal of justice, with the emerging state called “the nation”. A nation lives in the mind. It cannot be legislated into existence but built through a conscious effort. It is not also defined by a geographical space. It is the new emerging community of commonality. Ojukwu's Biafra of the mind is about the new nation where a group of different people feel a strong sense of common heritage and pursue a common destiny while upholding the principle of egalitarianism and justice for all. It is a world where we shall all be united by our common humanity. Nigeria has a great challenge to break all the walls and barriers of the old Biafra and replace it with the new Biafra of the mind. So long as the corpse of an Igbo trader is brought back from Maiduguri or from any other Northern city to an Igbo village for burial, the old Biafra will continue to exist. When the Adazi-Nnuku community in Aniocha Local Government Area of Anambra State buried 12 of their kin massacred by suspected Boko Haram assailants in Mubi, Adamawa State, the old Biafra came into full force. So long as a Yoruba landlord in Lagos declares that he cannot accommodate an Igbo, the old Biafra continues to live. So long as anyone is discriminated against on the basis of his ethnic identity in the workplace or in any other group in Nigeria or elsewhere, the old Biafra continues to live. Ojukwu's Biafra of the mind is also not only about the ideal of justice but also about the inherent nature of man to rise up, at the nick of time and at a very precarious moment, against the forces of oppression and injustice. In the Ahiara Declaration, the principle of the Biafran revolution, Ojukwu goes back in time to recall the historic journey of man for self-determination. “It was good for the Greeks in 1822, for the Belgians in 1830, and for the Central and Eastern Europeans and the Irish at the end of the First World War,” he declared. The message here is that a system of injustice remains self-destructive and humanity will always desire and fight for a change. The issues that gave rise to the Niger Delta uprising which culminated into a full-scale arm-struggle are reminiscent of the Biafra of brick and mortar. The June 12 debacle that gave rise to the disturbances of the Oodua People's Congress, OPC, in the West a decade ago fall within the genealogy of the old Biafra. The suppressed anger and frustration of the people over the long-drawn autocracy in the Arab world that needed the courage of the Algerian fruit seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, to explode bore the same traces of the old Biafra. In Nigeria, the conspiracy of the political class that has resulted in the failure of leadership and the suffering of the masses is a contamination of the Biafra of brick and mortar. In a nutshell, any act of injustice or inhumanity represents the cankerworm, which is encapsulated in the entire construct of Biafra, while the Biafra of the mind is the essential ideal to which humanity must commit itself. The Biafra of the mind must be the new aspiration.

History wants to repeat itself again, Igbos are tactically getting set up again to lead the pack for expressing the grievances.

May I lend my voice to support the recent publication of Emeka Odunegwu-Ojukwu Jr. saying IGBOS BE CAREFUL. This is a direct word of advice to the Igbos in particular because they are always made the escape goat in Nigeria. If Nigerians are really tired of this non-working structure we have run for almost half a century, they should collectively come together and renegotiate the union, nobody should make you the senior prefect of that agitation again. The last time you led and demanded for such restructuring, the whole nation fought against you to keep their "dear Nigeria" the way it is. I can bet they will do it again. I overheard some of your next door neighbours asking, "why are they really protesting"

IGBOs BE CAREFUL!

The whole nation is groaning under the current structure we run. This groaning has gotten to a boiling point, now everyone demands collectively for renegotiation of this abusive relationship we are having in the name of nationhood... IGBOS BE CAREFUL.

I have seen how some Igbo sons and daughters struggle to sound patriotic even if it means sounding silly and their kits and kin in neighbouring states begs not to be identified with their Igbo roots because it will save them some "special treatment" reserved for igbos-it never does anyway. Don't let another set back happen. ...IGBOS BE CAREFUL!

In place of celebrating Biafran Day – Bianfrans should from all walk of life, all trades and professional callings, take just one day out of life so they can do the following. 1) Take stock of how far they have come with £20, hard work and the grace of God; giving him thanks accordingly.

By Duru Sunny George
Share the NEWS to Friends & Family

JOIN THE DISCUSSION