By Peter Ogbonna Eze
Ever imagined the scope and dimension of the Biafra agitation were all the elite and political thinkers from the South-east rise and give their support? Yes, the Biafra matter is not only too sensitive and somewhat emotive to the core, but also bears one of the strongest connecting point of the Igbo nation.
A few people have been courageous enough to speak up, although, more or less being technical or playing to the gallery on their stand. The only simple difference between their stand and that of a distinguished national leader, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is on approach. While others, maybe, in consideration of the voices of the youths for a Biafra state and fear of condemnation by the spirited youths on any stand that looks unBiafran, continue to give political responses to this ideology, Kalu, with his antecedents of guts and courage, has refrained from playing politics with the agitation. The Igbo nation, having been denied federal presence since time immemorial, needs either presidency, restructuring or Biafra to re-launch itself to a desired and self-actualising state. Other elite have either remained silent or avoided discussions, centring on the latter or limited their discussions to the former. Meanwhile, there are so many of them who have related views with Kalu but are very scared to open up.
The unending calls for Kalu to clarify his stance on the Biafra agitation recently reduced after a video of him passionately and critically saying NO to the country’s disunity went viral. Those who prefer Biafra to the other two (restructuring and presidency) have been registering their displeasure on Kalu’s stand through different means and media. There were not a few controversial comments concerning the video interview Kalu granted. While a few accused him of sabotaging the Biafra agitation, others commended him for his outstanding courage and strength of character to seek a better approach that won’t lead to unnecessary deaths in civil protests as well as guarantee a better deal for the Igbo nation.
Sometimes, the attitude of these commenters can be irritating, as a few people debate the actual issue(s), while others just seek to satisfy themselves by choosing the unintelligent way, such as calling names and using improper language. Nevertheless, I understand that phone and Internet subscription come with a price on the general well-being of society and social interaction.
There were also suggestions from the camp of cheap peddlers of falsehoods and propagandists that Kalu no longer seeks the welfare and growth of the Igbo nation; those who believe this could possibly believe anything. However, those who easily fall for media headlines are the ones who actually express much reservation for the former governor. They do not read his detailed views or opinions, neither do they recall issues nor keep an open mind. I guess they didn’t go to many schools.
It takes much intelligence to succeed in politics and business, as Kalu exemplifies. He attacks a problem and not sentiments, leaving people to react while he goes on to tackle other pressing issues. He has a duty to his people and his conscience to make sure his stand will not be controversial in history. He would always stand with the truth.
In Nigeria, Orji Uzor Kalu is a brand. A fearless de-tribalised brand, whose stand on critical matters generates a lot of concern nationally and beyond. It is not unusual for him to attract different reactions from his views. Despite not accepting to be referred to as the leader of Igbo nation, many still believe that the vacuum left by Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu can only be filled by him. This title implicitly bequeathed on Kalu, I believe, did not come by chance. As a strong brand, he is known as a man who can bravely stand for his people against external aggression and his antecedents in rising against the aggressors of the Igbo people simply prove it.
In 1999, when he was in the front line promotion for the country’s restructuring, knowing fully its importance to the rise of the Igbo states, he was asked to concentrate more on the governance of Abia State and in due time, a ripe breadfruit would eventually fall. Today, restructuring is still an issue. Kalu’s recently misunderstood definition of Biafra is not the first time he will be misunderstood on issues, concerning Ndigbo. Earlier, he had refrained from making statements about Biafra, as he once confessed that it is an issue that is too sensitive with a lot of fault lines on views.
In 2006, during the national census, a pro-Biafra group, MASSOB, once told Ndigbo not to participate in the exercise and reeled out tens of reasons for such unintelligent stance. Standing tall among the reasons was that boycotting the census would be a signal to the Nigeria government that the Igbo people were no longer interested in the Nigerian entity. Kalu couldn’t hide his displeasure with the body and leadership of MASSOB, as he appeared live on national television to condemn the stance. His disposition then also showed his readiness to exchange blows with the leadership of MASSOB given an opportunity.
The former governor, in his reaction, explained to Ndigbo the consequences of boycotting the scheme and added that such ignorance could affect the South-east for the next 10 years. Today, the result of the 2006 census is a decision criterion by the Federal Government in allocating some resources to states. And it has remained unfavorable to the South-east. Meanwhile, the Biafra independence is yet to be achieved.
Recently, Kalu embarked on APC sensitisation in the South-east and called on Igbo to participate in the APC re-registration exercise going on in the South-east.
A reaction by one Tony Okeke on social media to Kalu’s call reads: “Attention! Anyone that partakes in the APC membership registration is an enemy of the Igbo cause (Biafra). Bear it in mind that your registration and photo capture shall be a stumbling block to our agitation for Biafra. Yes! Imagine where over five million South-easterners register for APC (a northern party). Who then is demanding Biafra? How many is left? It means the people are comfortable with the ruling party and their stay in a failed state in Nigeria. I am bleeding in my heart right now…”
My interest on this particular comment was because of the audacity of the ignorance it reflects, also out of surprise that many people accepted his view and accommodated its shallowness and lack of intellectual depth.
First, it is very unintelligent to state that party affiliations will stall the real advancement of Igbo cause. Party politics is extremely divisive. If we must learn from other regions, the interest of our region must simply surpass pettiness. If this fellow believes the APC is owned by northerners, who then owns the PDP? I guess his village people?
Kalu has always been in the centre of the campaign for the rights of Igbo, which has cost him a lot of his hard earned fortune. He lost his business fortunes over disagreement with a particular leadership of the Federal Government, received a lot of persecution that almost forced him to transfer all his business interests to other African countries, among others.
The African pillar of sports has stated that his own definition of Biafra is a Nigeria where the South-east is given equal recognition and fair share of the national resources, where justice and freedom of association upholds.
The 1967 debacle, which birthed unimaginable injustice and wickedness against Igbo, ought to be resolved someday, but we cannot be on autopilot for now. Igbo should not be carried away with hateful comments from Kalu’s detractors because they are seemingly out of ignorance and shallow sentiments, undemocratic and should not be dignified with attention. No one is more hated than he who has the courage to speak when necessary.
• Eze, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja via [email protected]