By Chukwuma Egemba
In 1999, the flame of fire for Biafra restoration was re-started with the formation of Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Uche Okwukwu, Prince Orjiako and others with the aim of securing the resurgence of Biafra independence and sovereignty. Since then, the flame had spread into a wild and unstoppable fire, thanks to the efforts of thousands of Biafrans with unquenchable appetite for freedom and justice. The setting up of Radio Biafra London (RBL) in 2009 – the brain child of Sam Ume (Tagbo Umeasiegbu) and actively supported by Nnamdi Kanu, Dr. Chukwuma Egemba, Nwada Amarachi Okpara, Uche Mefor and Kingsley Kanu added more fuel to the burning wild fire, making it unquenchable and unstoppable. Today, the forces of freedom and justice, which Biafra represents, have set it on collision course with the government of Nigeria, which sees the resurgence of Biafra as a threat to its national unity and territorial integrity. In fact, Nigerian government sees Biafra more threatening than Boko Haram that had physically taken over sizeable chunk of its territory and killed hundreds of security operatives and innocent civilians, hence the efforts of successive governments to out-do each other in repressing and suppressing Biafra restoration efforts.
Unfortunately, the more highhanded and aggressive they become in trying to diminish the fighting spirit of Biafran activists, the more determined and aggressive we become in fighting to bitter end for our survival, freedom and justice. The recent and ongoing tsunami of protests around the world against the arrest, continued detention and mocked trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the Director of RBL; imprisonments, extra judicial killings and police brutality against Biafra activists are testament to the fact that the match for Biafra restoration is unstoppable until victory is achieved. It is very unfortunate, criminally indicting and unacceptable that many innocent people had been killed needlessly by Nigerian security operatives and often buried in mass graves. These callous and cowardly actions had not diminished and cannot diminish the quest of Biafrans from freedom.
However, a tactical and strategic retreat is necessary and should be encouraged now. It is not a surrender or sign of weakness. Even in battles, generals make tactical and strategic retreat and withdrawal in order to re-strategise and regroup for further attack. It is clear that Biafraland has been fully militarised with more mechanised formations being deplored in different parts of our land, especially in Aba and its environs. Former Boko Haram prisoners and terrorist had been let loose, armed and fully incorporated into the army and police and sent to Biafra territories with clear instruction to shoot at site Biafran activists and protesters, no matter how peaceful they may appear. Besides, we have chief murderous ‘security’ officers at federal and state levels, who had openly declared their hatred for Biafra and the Biafran cause. Therefore, it will be unwise to give these blood thirsty murderers further excuses to murder more of our young and innocent people. Tactical retreat is not surrender.
Again, I have argued and will continue to argue that armed struggle had run out of fashion and no long constitutes first options in self-determination in the 21st century. I have dedicated a considerable part of my adult life for the struggle to restore Biafra. During this time, I have never advocated for the use of violence as the first or preferred option. I make no apology for this stand and will hold it strongly until I am proved wrong. All evidence from all sources within all areas of Biafra points to the fact that they want the restoration of Biafra, but do not want violence and war as means of restoring their freedom and sovereignty. It will not be wise to work against the wish of the people.
It is on this premise that I am openly and unequivocally calling for the suspension of all street protests and any gathering that can be construed as such. My most worry and concern is that the protests are organised and led remotely – with the organisers – not only invincible, but also not taking responsibility for their action. This is wrong and must not be encouraged or supported. Obviously, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and the state governors in the states where Biafrans are killed will be held responsible for their murderous actions because they gave the orders and are the Chief Security Officers in their respective jurisdictions (at national and state levels). In the same manner, any person or persons, who overtly and covertly instigate innocent people to be murdered are equally culpable. Obviously, those concerned in misguiding innocent people and indirectly encouraging their murder know themselves and I know them.
I have purposely chosen not to name names here for obvious reasons, it is not out of fear of intimidation or death. Some of those involved know me too well, know how to get to me and where I live, so fear is out of it. They also know that I have contacted them personally and directly on this matter. Let me make it clearer, instigation of murder is a criminal offence.
Inasmuch as I want Biafra, prepared to commit my last breath to make the restoration of our freedom and sovereignty a reality, I do not hate Nigeria and do not wish Nigeria dead. At the end of the day, whatever that will remain of Nigeria after Biafra will be our closest neighbour, our biggest political and economic partner. Czech and Slovakia co-exist after the demise of Czechoslovakia; South Sudan did not wish Sudan dead during the pursuit of their independence; East Timor did not seek to destroy Indonesia, neither did war break out in the former Soviet Union that metamorphosed into 15 independent and sovereign states.
Oh, by the way, did black South Africans drive the white minority into the Atlantic after apartheid? Why then should any sane person or group wish Nigeria dead in order to restore Biafra? It does not make sense, both in time and space. Where then is the mantra of the Biafran people: ‘Live and let live’ that had sustained us for thousands of year? If we want to live in freedom, we must not only allow others to live, but live in peace with them. Is that not common sense? The processes, procedures, terms and conditions of self-determination of indigenous people do not and cannot include the annihilation of another people or nation. You do not have to preach hatred to prove your point and support for Biafra!
Consequently, the question of Biafra is not about war, it is not about destroying other states/nations, it is not about hating other peoples, neither is it about threat and counter threat. It is all about careful and coordinated efforts; it is about synthesising individual, group, media campaigns into a structured and systematic action plan with tightened loose ends; it is about carefully cultivating and courting friends inside and outside, in low and high places; it is about strategically and tactically using your limited resources to maximum benefit of the struggle; it is about laying a solid grassroots economic base within the confinement of space and scope available to us; it is about building a solid political base and alliances within the confinement of current political realities; it is about changing and reshuffling plans and strategies to suit local, national and international conditions and realities and above all, it is about creating operational base. Without these, in any order, we will be punching and blowing hot air, wasting time and resources and alienating our support base. This is what we have done for more than 15 years and it is not sustainable going forward.
War or violent path to Biafra restoration is and cannot be a viable first option for several reasons:
· Local: There are no favourable local operational base for such action. We don’t have full and exclusive control of any territory from where a meaningful and successful operation could be launched. Our local population had suffered and still suffering from imposed socio-economic hardship, which will make such operation very unpopular and will add to their hardship. Violence will be hard and difficult to sell to our local support base.
• National: Nigerian government is still in full control of our territory. They have made no secret of their intentions to crush and frustrate any Biafran-led uprising, hence our land had been fully militarised and effectively under siege. It is also using series of overt and covert policies to strangulate the people – thus making any violent undertaking dangerous and unattractive.
·International: The international community will not welcome or support any additional violent uprising from any part of the world now. There are more than enough to contend with at the moment: Western engineered crisis in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, resulting in the rise and spread of Islamic terrorism and unprecedented refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and internally displaced persons elsewhere; problem associated with Russian territorial ambitions in the former in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics; internal aid and support organisations are overwhelmed and stretched due to some of the above crisis and to a lesser extent, the elections and inevitable change of administration in the US. Therefore, additional violent uprising will receive little or no support. In fact, the international community is not prepared for another conflict situation.
These and other unfavourable conditions, including the intentional and near total media boycott of our struggle makes any form of violent approach as first option inappropriate and unnecessary at the present moment. However, I have not, will not and will never advocate for total negation of violence in our or any other self-determination struggle as a last option, when all other options have failed, seen to have failed, as a self-defence mechanism and seen to have been forced on us.
We are in the business of creating and building a nation state, a future sovereign member of the international political system, not an umbrella organisation or a town union, neither are we in a popularity or personality contest. There is too much dust in the air now. It must settle and clear for us to make sense of the realities of our situation right now.
Things cannot be the same going forward. Whatever happens, Biafra is supreme! Interacting with our sympathisers, activists and supporters at base, one thing is frequent, reoccurring and constant: War is not and cannot be first option/choice in our restoration efforts; we, the Biafran people alone, will determine the direction, success and failure of our struggle. The successes and difficulties we had experienced thus far are not commensurate to our efforts. We could have achieved more successes with less difficulty if some of the challenges outlined above were addressed or factored into our actions. Combination of individuals placing themselves far and above Biafra (selfishness and egoism), group mentality, hero worshiping, internal division, absence of central institution and lack of coordination of activities resulted in wasting years of efforts and valuable resources. These must change for us to make progress.
Nevertheless and regardless, the success or failure of whatever option, tactics and strategy we adopt will largely depend on us – the Biafran people, the activists, supporters and our leadership. Buhari and his government’s highhandedness, oppression and repression will not and can never stop Biafra restoration efforts. They can only delay and prolong it, but in the end, our structured plans and coordinated action will overcome them and guarantee victory for a free and sovereign Biafra state.
• Egemba, frontline activist and advocate for Biafra, wrote in from London, United Kingdom; Email: [email protected]