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Dreaming Biafra Again

Tall oaks from little acorns grow. So runs the adage, when there is a positive look at life. In critical jargon however, big problems from…

Tall oaks from little acorns grow. So runs the adage, when there is a positive look at life. In critical jargon however, big problems from little ones grow. What is taken for granted, overwhelms. That is what we have today, with supposedly dead and buried Biafra. From spreading of leaflets to small town rallies, we have watched the neo Biafra agitation grow to more than an irritating radio station to now, a worrisome security predicament.
While Nnamdi Kanu operated his Radio Biafra without a license, clearly a violation of the country’s laws, the Federal Government seemed unperturbed until it became clear that the south eastern denizens had no reservation in being reckoned with in the new political dispensation, and Radio Biafra bought into the spirit of the age, and became popular, broadcasting favorable sectional demands, lacing messages with hate vitriol. Some of the broadcasts could easily have sparked off a backlash which could have escalated easily into national ethnic violence. This was feared by all who are old enough to remember not only ugly occurrences that led up to the civil war, but as well, the sordid experiences of the war itself. Certainly no Nigerian who witnessed the challenges through to the end of the civil war, would wish to see a repetition of those experiences that nearly caused the country’s dismemberment.
A majority of youth agitating for the actualization of the Biafran dream were either infants through the crisis or were not even born then. It was a mistake to see the literal meaning of their mission in relation to Biafra, because the ills that have motivated the Igbo youth also afflict their counterparts in other parts of the country. Biafra in this sense is a protest of youth to a leadership that has not responded to their dire strait predicaments, of being emasculated by joblessness, unchallenged by opportunities, and alienated by the governance system. Indeed one can say that the going had been good for the South East under President Goodluck Jonathan as statistics of capital project allocation, education and social empowerment penetration would prove. The South East reciprocated President Goodluck by giving him massive support at the 2015 elections. Thus the new agitation for Biafra was thought to draw attention of the new dispensation under Buhari, to reckon with the South East zone in terms of new appointments. It is regrettable that the dialogue initiative did not emanate from the nation’s leadership, to offer assurances of fairness and justice to all – to at best, avoid the crisis in which the polity now finds itself.
Last weekend, South East elders held a meeting in Enugu, and debated the new Biafran challenge extensively, and according to reports, resolved to send a delegation to President Muhammadu Buhari, which to me is another way of saying, to mediate an amicable resolution. It is significant that the Governors of the South Eastern States including members of the National Assembly, Ministers, chieftains of the Ohaneze Ndigbo from the region, were the conveners. The reports record those in attendance to include Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu, Governor Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi). Thus what seemed the ranting of some itinerant young man has been elevated to the necessity of a regional conference. Regardless of the posture in the dialogue with President Muhammadu Buhari, the gadfly Nnamdi Kanu has scored his first bulls eye. Thus it is not advantageous to write off agitation, however small and irritating. Small problems extracted during their budding saves the eventual anxious periods that result when the challenge has either grown or even borne fruits.
Part of the communique of the gathering of South East leaders as read by Governor Rochas Okorocha resolved that a committee be set up to dialogue with the Federal Government. “The elders also examined other issues, including poor state of infrastructural facilities in the South East, marginalization in Federal appointments”, and the general economic well being of the region. The South East Governor have resolved to set up an economic council which was asked to interface with the Federal Government on remedial measures. It would be interesting how this plays out. President Muhammadu Buhari has just inaugurated his Executive Council. His appropriation bill was inherited from President Jonathan who ruled for 7 years and should have addressed the problems being listed as behind the agitation and did not. Is Buhari’s six months sufficient to have caused the predicament of the South East to come to such a head? Nigeria operates a Federal System that accords each state its revenue to manage independent of the centre. In many of the South Eastern States, development has not been commensurate with statutory revenues allocated and released to the States. Sadly Nnamdi Kanu and his friends are not keen to agitate for justice and fairness in those aspects, it is only in the aspects that concern political largesse from President Buhari’s hands. What standards of measurement are in use?
It is agreed, there is an atmosphere of anomie in the land owing to a leadership deficit of the past years. The feeling of frustration with governance is felt by communities nationwide, but cessation and dismemberment is an extreme hard first line choice. I could pardon Nnamdi Kanu and judge him free to agitate, but to float a radio station without a license is a punishable crime. The dialogue approach with Ohaneze, MASSOB, and IPOB is most appropriate.

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