By Asikason Jonathan
“Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” That memorable lines from Maximus Decimus Meridius in “Gladiator” come to mind as clip of Dr. Chike Akunyili’s brush with death hit the cyberspace. While it’s still under the realm of conjecture who the actual killers are, one critical message the horrendous assassination passed is this: In Nigeria, if you don’t protect yourself, nobody will! How southeast has be on par with the Northeast and Northwest as the worst place to live in Nigeria is not just the contribution of the dreaded unknown gunmen but also that of all that showered encomium on them during the morning of their activities. Just as the Igbo elders of yore would reference in the anecdotes of the monkey, the problem does not lie in giving it water but in getting your cup back. Presumably, the events of the past few months in the southeast and perhaps, what is happening throughout the country suggests that the Nigerian state has lost its grip on what Max Weber dubbed the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence. The collapse of the security architecture and death of morale among the its operatives is not what can be restored in a blink of an eye. It will take years and within those years, it is the rank and file that will mostly bear the brunt while the rich will mostly flee.
Is it not puzzling how a zone that just succeeded in reducing kidnapping to the barest minimum suddenly receded into another security challenge worse than the one that formerly haunt it? Popular and majority opinions have always tilted the pendulum towards the Biafran question. It is not far to see that majority of Ndigbo are tired of this country called Nigeria. They are tired to the extent that the consider their tribesmen who think otherwise as saboteurs and sellouts who ought to be eliminated so that the struggle for the resuscitation of the sovereign State of Biafra won’t stop midway. But is this the best way to go? In his account of the Nigerian civil war, published in 1980 by the Fourth Dimension, Gen. Alexander Madiebo, who commanded the Biafran Army, pointed Ojukwu’s inability to accommodate divergent opinions in the policy making process as one of the reasons behind the unfortunate collapse of the Biafran State. “What Biafra needed most but never had was collective leadership. Over concentration of powers into one hand is bad enough in peace time and should never be allowed in the time of war when mental strains affect good judgment. As Ojukwu once told Philip Effiong that Biafra’s effective policy making body consisted of Chukwuemeka, Oduemegwu and Ojukwu – in short, himself alone,” Madiebo wrote. This brings us to the extant strategies being employ by IPOB to force the Federal Government acquiesce to its demand for a referendum. It can be said that the guiding principle of IPOP’s policy is: Whatever that comes out of the Supreme leader needs not to be questioned; the supreme leader is infallible! The insistence on Monday “Sit-at-Home” Order despite Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor’s clarification that the Supreme Leader has approved its suspension lend credence to the above assertion. IPOB members want to hear it from the Supreme Leader himself. Not even theannouncement from the Radio Biafra could placate them. So they threatened fire and brimstone on anyone that will flout the order — arguably, many will maintain that they have been living up to that.
Using Anambra as acase, former CBN governor and APGA’s flagbearer, Prof Chukwuma Soludo revealed that the state loses N19.6 billion every Sit-at-home. When you calculate what is lost in the whole Southeast as well as its effects on average families then you will come to understand who the order affects most. To show the light, Bishop Geoffrey Onah of Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, in a breathtaking homily laced with anecdotes and proverbs, and rendered in his Nsukka dialect, admonished IPOB to read the handwriting on the wall and re-strategize on the best way to steer the ship of the Biafran struggle. In a comparative analysis in which he likened those that enforce the suspended sit-at-home order to the terrorist, the revered man of God noted that Ndigbo are shooting themselves in the foot. He made reference to the travails of Germany after its defeat in the first and second world wars and how it rose against all odds to become the defacto leader of Europe. He noted that Igbo people can follow that model but as expected, he was booed and jeered by those who wants to be more Biafran than others.
Outside Sit-at-home order, IPOB which hitherto declared that they will support the November 6th slated gubernatorial election in Anambra if results are declared in the polling booths, in a volte-face declared “No Election” pending the release of Nnamdi Kanu. What the organization intends to achieve by this decisionif the demand is not met is a question still begging for answers. Remember in 2006, MOSSOB, IPOB precursor, ordered Ndigbo to boycott National Population Census organized that year. According to Uchenna Madu, the aim of the organization was to use its position on the exercise to draw the attention of the international community to the plight of Biafrans. Regrettably in 2017 he said: The low turnout of the South-East during the last census exercise was used by our enemies and Nigerian government to undermine and shortchange Ndigbo in Nigeria, it was a part of sacrifice for Biafra. Less than a month to its gubernatorial election, climate of fear and confusion have taken over the political horizon of Anambra State. Campaigns and rallies are sometimes rescheduled and often cancelled, people are killed on daily basis and every day, people are making resolve not to participate in the electioneering process. But are Ndi Anambra ready to pay the price of possible interim military administration if the boycott is significantly achieved? In our struggle for restoration of Biafra, we must draw some lessons from Hitler’s political adventure —some will call itmisadventure. Like Kanu and others before him, Hitler was disillusioned and embittered by the suffering of his people.Germany, after the defeat of the World War One, was forced by the victors of the war to sign the peace treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Article 231 of the treaty placed War Guilt on the feet of Germany and her allies for starting the war. As a punishment, Germany was forced to pay reparations of 6.6 billion – to ensure that her economy would not recover, its territory was largely taken –depriving it of valuable industrial and agricultural income, and its military significantly reduced.
Just like Germans were forced to pay price of being defeated in the war, Ndigbo at the end of the Biafran war struggled through the obnoxious policies to their present state in the Nigerian politics. Like Kanu, Hitler delivered speeches disparaging and demeaning the German government of his days. He felt that the war ended too soon and that the Weimar Republic has sold Germany by agreeing to the specifications of the treaty of Versailles.He branded the leaders that signed the armistice as “November Criminals” and established the legend of the “Stab in the Back” to describe their actions. To change the fate of his country, Hitler tried to take by forceful means the mantle of leadership through the abortive Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.He was arrested, found guilty of treason and imprisoned. During his nine months’ incarceration at Landsberg Prison where he wrote his memoir titled “MeinKampf,” Hitler redirected his focus towards obtaining power through legal means rather than by revolution or force.This explains why immediately he was released, he restructuredhis Nazi Party, got the sympathy of the people and subsequently emerged the German chancellor, the platform that enabled him to carry his agenda.
Generally speaking, what is happening in Southeast today, is the failure of politics and government. In my 2015 op-ed piece published by Business Day and Daily Independent, I observed that:
“The level of anger ravaging the Igbo youths today – the majority of who did not smell the acrid smell of war, who do not understand the protruding powers of kwashiorkor, who did not know the implications of Awolowo’s post-war economic policies and what the term ‘abandoned property’ denotes – stems from today’s government’s winner-takes-all conception of power. This is done in crass ignorance of the compromise that always exists between the centripetal and centrifugal forces of the federation.” Shifting the blames from the federal government, Southeastern States have for long been in state of decay. From Abia to Imo and down to Anambra and Enugu through Ebonyi, ordinary people are complaining. They yet to see considerably what Lincoln dubbed the essence of government, which he said is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. Questions have been raised about what the governors are doing with the funds they are getting from Abuja.
Make no mistake about it, our problem is politics. The politics we don’t get right in Nigeria; we can’t get right in Biafra. It is the same people that man the governmental machineries in Nigeria would do it in Biafra if self-rule is achieved. There hasn’t been any ethical regeneration; there hasn’t been any value reorientation. We still have in us what has been keeping the country on its knee. With what it is happening in South Sudan today, I believe if a new referendum is conducted in the country many will agree to join the greater Republic of Sudan. This does not in any way suggest that Ndigbo are better off in Nigeria than they will be in Biafra. It goes far from that to x-ray the Nigerian factor that is still in our blood will still come back to haunt us if we don’t kill it before secession.
Jonathan, a public affairs analyst, writes from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State