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Nigeria, Niger Delta Violence and the Biafra Connection: A Political Discourse By Chris Onyema

Posted by Owerri on 11/3/2009 11:30:48 PM | Views: 800 |

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Quality E-Books and Softwares with Master Resale Rights The Future of Immigration in the West ACHIEVERS ARE DREAMERS celestial church of christ pillarand the ground of truth--1tim,3-14-15 Adeyinka Makinde, author of Dick Tiger, interviewed on Global Talk Radio A superlative performance- our heroine on the world stage A day with Olusesan Ekisola pioneer GM, Raypower THE KALEIDOSCOPE OF PRINCE TONYE PRINCEWILL Ma sise lo, ma se wa isimi COOPERATING WITH COLONIAL COOPERATION. NA WA FOR YABA MARKET. Difference between Online Education VS. Traditional Education Divergent Perspectives on the Niger Delta Question Black Prime Minister Not In My Lifetime Declares UK First Black Female Parliamentarian, Diane Abbott Private Soldier Lectures Nigerian Commander-in-Chief UK Prime Minister speaks out on terrorism in Africa Addressing Nigeria's Economic Problems and the Islamist Terrorist Threat Obasanjo pls we need your attention. Lets Make Nigeria Great THE BAD EGGS OF THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION RE: Obasanjo: Nigerians ll Decide My Successor we are one in christ-celestial member--LOVE- IS THE WORD AND WORSHIP IS THE WAY;- THE CYBER INVESTIGATOR PART 1 CHIEF AUDU OGBE IN RETROSPECT Interview Transcript of appearance on 'Garvey's Children' Boxing: Rousing the Nigerian Giant THE APATHY OF FREE MEN AND THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE THE NIGER-DELTA: A CRADLE OF VIOLENCE Interview Transcript of appearance on 'Just About Books' Remembering Rex Lawson THIRD TERM: THE COLOSSAL FAILURE OF A BAD IDEA; AN INVESTIGATION NEEDS TO BE CONDUCTED TO SEE WHO GOT WHAT AND WHY. THE NEXT GOVERNMENT HAS A FIDUCIARY DUTY TO CONDUCT AND INVESTIGATION INTO EFFORTS TO ABROGATE OUR CONSTITUTION; LET THE CHIP FALL WHEREEVER discuss the development of fishey in nigeral Tetuila thrills America CALL FOR GENDER EQUALITIES!!! GOD BLESS NNAMANI Beyond Third Term: The untold story... EMOTIONS AND LOVE AFFAIRS cry of help THE NEW AFRICAN ORDER - The times, they are a-changing We must Stop the Government The Iran Question and Nigeria DISCUSS IN DETAILS THE HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN NIGERIA FROM THE COLONIAL ERA TO THE PRESENT DAY, POINTING OUT CLEARLY ALL AGRICULTURAL PROGRAMMES. The worrisome Lagos-Ibadan traffic Hope for Niger Delta Conference on CURBING YOUTH RESTIVENESS IN THE NIGER DELTA Held on the 29th April 2006 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. I want your comments The Ambush of Ambition SAY NO TO OBJ THIRD TERM BID internet secrets to money making LET UNITE AND WORSHIP THE TRUE GOD TOGETHER MEMBERS OF (C.C.C.)WORLDWIDE THE NIGERIA POLICE: VICTORS OR VILLAINS THIRD TERM SYNDROME THE IMMINENT DEATH OF A NATION The Messiah illusions of 'scramble democrats' Beyond elections: Niger Delta in perspective Ngige, welcome home from great conquest AFTER THE BATTLE WHAT NEXT Wake up Nigeria The Delta Murder At Dawn Jelili Omotola (1941-2006) In Amsterdam, Nigerian deportee help up our flight for one hour THE WORLD'S NUMBER 1 BLACK BOOK! NIGER DELTA/SLAVE COAST = GARDEN OF EDEN= BLACK PROGRESS? African Union Defined THE DOUBLE VICTIMS OF DEPRAVITY Constitutional Review Obasanjo sliding into a pariah? A Dream of Nigeria: Critical Published Essays 2002 To 2005 Ali Farka Toure (1939-2006) AFRICA - AMERICA DOUBLE STANDARD RELATIONSHIP The Witch of Web-design, the Young Humanitarian and the Scientific-poetic Soul Conference Annoucement!!!!!! 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Written by: Owerri






Nigeria, Niger
Delta Violence and the Biafra Connection:



                                 
A Political Discourse



                                      
By Chris Onyema



 



Apart from
mandatory nine
months I spent in the
peace (I hope)
of my mother's womb,
I have been a
child of war; having
been enlisted at zero age
into the Biafran side of the Nigeria Civil war
(NCW) in 1969 and having been confirmed Nigerian since 1970. Naturally, I cannot
say exactly how 1 felt
then. But as an adult
today, I know 1
can tell the story of that gory
war. There is evidence from the
avalanche of literature (fiction and
non-fiction) and memoirs on the war, as well a my parents' and elder sibblings'
balancing narratives of the
war given first hand.



Perhaps, what makes the
experience, come
alive to
me are my own realities  and those  of the
others around  me:
A picture of one of my
siblings
I never met still spots the family
group picture that hangs boldly in my father’s living room. The picture was
taken before my arrival. I am told he could not survive the crude amputation of his two legs initially violated
by hot shrapnel from the Nigerian
shelling
machine. My eldest sibling, now
parades
nine fingers instead of ten having
lost
one to the offensive Nigerian triggers.
There is also this hideous scar on my buttocks (thank God) which I am
told is my
(fortunate) share of the
numerous thrusts and dives my
mother
had to make to save her tender one from offensive Nigerian air raids.
 There is also this persistent insinuation: I have grown to believe that my
short height is not genetic but rather
evidences  an otherwise natural
growth botched by malnutrition, having narrowly
escaped the ravaging kwashiorkor
that
was the lot of Biafran children, and
adults
lest 1 forget.



These realities and stories
about uncles, cousins and relations my community had lost to the war affect me more than the information from
texts ridden with emotionalism, and
sentiments
conditioned remotely by the
preferences
of the writers, the positions they
occupied, the side on which they had
fought and varying abilities to make
reconstructive
and creative
use of
the horrendous experiences of the war.



Despite
the various dimensions of
the
experiences of the indelible and visceral war
, there is, however,
consensus in the
portrayal of
injustice, devastation, death, corruption
and suffering, all of which was avoidable at that sour historical moment. There was also tacit agreement among the writers and narrators that the civil war erupted because of the pogrom waged against the
Igbo dominated southern Nigeria
by
the Hausa/Fulani dominated North,
the collapse of the political system and the over-riding influence of ethnicity
and factional
resurgences. The
refusal of the Federal
government to
honour the Aburi Accord
which granted
some degree of autonomy to
the regions
polarized into East, West,
Midwest
and North was also fingered as the
immediate
cause of the loss of faith in the Nigeria project. There was
resultant xenophobia on t
he part of
the East and the consequent drive for 
 succession.



Similarly the varying
tones of condemnation, exculpation or triumph with
which the story is told does not mask
the
general consensus
that the recourse to war,
carnage
and bloodshed was futile and does not offer solution to the national problem.



Furthermore, there was the
vicious
hand of the
colonial experience in the
Nigerian civil-war.
The tragic fratricidal 30 month pogrom initially mistaken for mere "Police action" was an aftermath of a
fragile union of not less than 250 unequal ethnicities forcefully bound
together by the British
government.
During the war also, the British
government
was said to have spoken through
both
sides of
its month in a selfish game in which the colonial lord acted as both skipper and striker, and shifted the goal post of Briafra
as his business spirit moved him to suit the scoring
positions of those on the Nigerian side.



Simply
told, the Biafra war was an
aftermath of the
political crisis in Nigeria
which manifested immediately after her independence in the late 1960s and the consequent
intervention of the military in Nigerian
politics. In 1962 and 1963, for
instance, there was crisis over the
national census which was said to have been
skewed in favour of some ethnic groups, in order to position them to benefit
unfairly from the
national
number-based sharing, formula.
This happened contemporaneously with the
break-up of the crisis-ridden Action Group Party
and the declaration of a state of
emergency
in Western Nigeria. The 1964
Federal and 1965 Western Regional elections, also controversial and flawed gave fillip to multiple national protests and crises which set the stage for the military to intervene in Jan I5, 1966.



The military intervened
because there was
overt corruption among
politicians, because there was ethnicity,
because there was
injustice, because
there was marginalization,
because
there was break down of law and
order.
This bloody, coup executed by such
young
officers as Chukwuma Nzeogwu and Emmanuel lfeajuna was misconstrued as an
Igbo coup, especially as Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo, emerged as the Head of State. The tribal interpretation given to the intervention of these young revolutionaries led to a counter-coup against the Ironsi -led Military Administration in which Ironsi himself and many officers of Eastern origin (especially the Igbo, who were the prime target), were killed. In the atmosphere of blatant tribalism, the evil genie of murder and extermination
seemed to have obsessed the Hausa/Fulani
dominated battalions. Thus in
addition
to the death of the then Prime
Minister,
the Premiers of Northern and
Western
Nigeria, the Minister of Finance and
many
officers of the Nigerian Army in the
first
Coup, ‘the revenge coup’ of July 2, 1966
rated as bloodier than the
first claimed more Nigerian lives. The
Northerners cried
injustice and saw
Ironsi's much criticized
unification decree as an attempt by Easterners to dominate the rest of the country. The
North shouted "Araba",
succession,
and a systematic pogrom was
orchestrated
against the Easterners in the
North and Lagos. The genocide against the Easterners in which over 15,000 Easterners,
mainly the Igbo, were killed with another 5,000 wounded, was executed during
the
regime of Yakubu Gowon whose appointment
as Head of State was facilitated by the then British High Commissioner in
Lagos, Mr. Cunning Bruce. To the chagrin of
other higher ranking
officer, Gowon
was said to have been
preferred to
other fine officers like Murtala
Mohammed
because he was seen as being more
malleable
and can easily be used by Britain
to
ensure the unity of the country and
to protect her
numerous investments
and assess to oil.



Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu Ojukwu,
then
governor of Eastern Nigeria and later leader
of the secessionist Biafra,
was confronted with the
trauma
of the Eastern experience. He saw the
genocide against the East, the nonprocedural emergence of Gowon as Head of State,
the massive killing of army officers of Igbo origin
among other vices against the
Easterners in the
North
and West, as great injustice and crude
marginalization/ extermination agenda. The refusal of
Gowon to honour the Aburi accord which ceded some
autonomy to the regions in a truly
federal structure seemed to have confirmed the Northern agenda to decimate or
dominate the Easterners and set the stage for the Nigerian civil war. The
spirited desire
to battle
this injustice and give the Easterners a sense of belonging in the worldhood of
man led to Ojukwu's declaration of the Republic of Biafra
on
May 30 1967.



 



The secessionist bid was
doomed right from the
on-set: The massacre of
almost the best of Eastern army officers in
the July ‘revenge’ coup, the
effective
occupation of the Western Region and
Lagos
by Northern Army Officers; the location of
all military formations (apart from the Enugu 1st Batallion) in the Northern and Western Nigeria, the
might–is-right support of the international community for the Federal forces,
among other factors, doomed the Biafran Revolution to extinction.



However,
Gowon did not match through Biafra. Ojukwu
was precipitated to action by the
injustice
meted against
the Easterners and buoyed by the
challenges of hunger, courtesy of the Federal  Economic Blockade against the East. With sheer
will to survive and
unprecedented ingenuity,
Ojukwu
matched force with force and held on
Biafra for thirty good months. He contained the Federal intimidating amours buoyed further with diplomatic support in propaganda and
arms from
Super Powers
like Britain and the now
defunct
Soviet Union.



A major highlight of the war was that neither the defunct
Organization of African
Unity led by Guinea's Dialo Telli, the Mr. Arnold Smith
led
British Commonwealth, the
British Prime
Minister, Wilson Harold
nor the belated support of
Tanzania. Ivory Coast
and Gabon for Biafra could
bring 
'cease fire' to Nigeria
till Philip Effiong
announced the
capitulation   and   surrender   
of
Biafra. Also, it is important to mention that Nigerian officers and civilians were wasted on both
sides of the divide
with the death
toll in Biafra
ranging between one million and three million. Strategic infrastructure and oil installations were
also attacked and destroyed on both
sides in a
maddening demonstration of
unity in antagonism.



Similarly, it was strategic  that Gowon played up the now familiar ethnicity card and institutionalized the divide-and-
rule  strategy to
weaken  
the   Biafran   secessionist   bid. 
He
ingenuously
broke up of the erstwhile four regions
 of
Northern, Western, Mid-western and
Eastern Nigeria into 12 states in May 27, 1967, from which the South Eastern and Rivers States emerged out of Eastern Nigeria even as the later were confined into the then East Central State with an economic blockage
imposed on it. This
political masterstroke
disabled
the institutional hegemony that had
bound the ethnicities in the East and ennobled the rights of the minorities.



Though some notable sons of the former Eastern minorities fought on the side
of Biafia,
some others
distanced themselves from what
they perceived as a parochial Igbo cause and either started own secession
or fought on the
Federal
side.



The easement the federal forces got from the agitation of minorities
from the
East, who
suspected the Igbo even more than
the Igbo suspected the rampaging North, ironically led to the sustenance of the unending interethnic feuds and rights agitation
that
rebirths Biafra
everywhere in Nigeria.
There
was no meaningful
effort on the side of the Federal Government to address the issues that
led to the Biafran secessionist bid as
all energy
was misguided
towards breaking what was m
isinterpreted
as the Igbo ethnic and stubborn
bone. Because the Nigerian government has consistently failed to address perceived injustice, rape and marginalization of
the
masses from the
colonial to
the post
colonia
l times, there have been       revolutions and rebellions of different
magnitudes and dimensions. The familiar Biafra
was just one of them. There have been other Biafran agitations all over the
country by masses of the people who suffer different kinds of injustice and
deprivations, among the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and the numerous groups that dot
the map of the “geographical expression” that is Nigeria. That is the logic of
the Niger Delta violence and its ties to the Igbo or Ojukwu Biafra.



However, before the resurgence of the Ojukwu Biafia, there had been other Biafra's elsewhere that manifested as communal polarization, guided recorded mass protests against injustice, rape, marginalization and deprivation by the state and its
agents. In fact,
having been defeated
severally in the bid to assert some physical
space, riddled by injustice
and
mindless state brigandage, Biafra as a concept
has
retreated lo the mindscape. It
has attained redefinition
as
non-violent wordless
supplication or bottled up aggression often erupting as pockets of violence against
group  -
perceived  injustice,   exploitation , marginalization, oppression and other forms of state
denial. That is why Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba
Nnewi and Ex-Biafran warlord has said that what prevails now is Biafra of the
mind.



Emeka Njoku of Choice Consulting Canada has aptly captured the stasis of these other
Biafras as not necessarily a geographical entity or
country, “but a
concept and the human spirit'": unstoppable
quest for survival, safety self
preservation,
self-determination, justice,
freedom,
peace and progress in the face
danger,
extinction and injustice. Thus, there
were,
in fact, other Biafras before the Ojukwu
Biafra, and there have been many others after it, the most recent being
the bouts of violence
in the Niger
Delta Area of Nigeria.   Biafra as concept also explains any side of the array of
identities which the average Nigerian may decide  
to   play   up  
in   order   to protest
marginalization and confront the poise of the competing actors of denial, be it appeals to primordial ethnicity, regional ties, civil ties, religious and ethno religious ties and so on.



 



 In 1954,for instance, Biafra reared its head in the mining town of Jos as the Igbo and
Hausa
migrants clashed
over residential and trading
opportunities   amidst   general  
strike   and shortage of food for
which the Igbo was held accountable. 
That was in, an attempt to stop the South
from anti colonial campaign as colonial policies seemed to have
favoured the oligarchic North more than the republican South.
Biafra
happened
when the South
and North clashed as Hausa
North
opposed the end of independence for
fear of
being dominated by the more developed South.
The North was the Biafran then. As
usual, the Igbo were the prime
targets as many lost their lives and many
more were wounded.



These
conflicts and insurrections caused by
tensions of the ethnic divesture policy of the colonial  
masters,   also   manifested  
in   post colonial   Biafra   with the   lopsided  
federal
structure and polarization of the ethnicities into East, West and North. This ethno regional federalism, which has been partially addressed by
the division of the country into many states, generated the Western Biafra that led to the declaration of a state of emergency in    1962 and the election crisis of
1965. There were also the  census 
crises  of  1962-63, 
the  Federal election
crisis of
1964 and the eventual ethno
military coup and revenge coup of 1966
caused by fault  lines of ethnic balancing, fear of calculated domination, bribery and corruption,
insecurity, injustice and leadership failure. As
usual, the Igbo were the victims as thousands of them were massacred in the North.



The
various military coups and counter coups
during which a section of the country kept exchanging the baton of power among
their
kinsmen to the exclusion of the South
for many years was also a Biafran
experience, just  like
the ethno
military coup of 1975 and the North-South
dispute over the integrity of the 1973.
Census. Again, as usual, the Igbo suffered the wars and actually
lost as the fear of domination and
marginalization continued to be played out
in the strategic dismemberment of the Igbo from the mainstream political and economic businesses
of the Nigeria
project. For instance no Igbo has become
president after Ironsi's ill-
fated
tenure. There has also been a systematic
denial of the East of valued federal presence and  
infrastructural   facilities   by  
hyper-
centralizing   ethno-military   (and  
civilian
administrations from 1970 to 1999 and to 2007 and (?). Again, the Igbo and the entire East rated
in the prewar era as one of the most developed regions in Africa in its high density of roads, schools, 
hospitals  mid   factories,  
have  been
systematically
blockaded and forced to mark a stand-still for others to over-take them.

That has since been accomplished.



Now, like the sandwiched
centre rank of the
Nigerian
ethnocentric parade, the Igbo have had nothing to do with the open order march
of development since 1970. Thus despite the much taunted ‘no victor no
vanquished’ the East has consistently been vanquished through state polices,
programmes and stances that border on eccentricity and pathological
inadequacies. State polices and agencies such as quota system, Federal
Character, Federal Roads Maintenance
Agency, catchments area, nomadic education, private- university, open
university, indigenization,

privatization and  their
allied
agencies and establishments are objectively
imaged but phallically contrived to 
boost development in some areas and to exploit and dismember some others. For instance, in relation to learning, it is believed that the ideas of
quota   admissions   system 
given further emasculating fillip
by considerations of catchments area is said to have been designed to slow the East and West and
enable the North (late arrivals to western education) to catch up with the
rest.  Similarly, it is only by
implication and extended rhetoric that one can successfully explain the
benefits of nomadic education, in which billions have been sunk, to the
non-cattle rearing Easterners. Just the same the controversy surrounding the
sale (sorry, privatization) of the Port Harcourt refinery, Eleme Petrochemical
and other choice common property to Northern and Western oligopolies, as well
as the sale of the Enugu Coal corporation, which now threatens to sack the
indigenes from their ancestral land, are sour issues in the North-South
dialogue that swell the Biafra complex.



Indigenization reminds
Easterners of the abandoned property syndrome through which properties and
monies of the Easterners were forcefully seized or taken away from them by
their brother Nigerians in the aftermath of the “no victor no vanquished “war.
That is also the kind of crude memory that Economic Empowerment brings to the
Easterners who were underdeveloped and financially disabled by the pro rata one
pound devaluation formulae in exchange for billions of pounds they left in
Nigerian banks before the civil war. The Igbo, in particular, see the one-
pound saga as the major policy that broke their financial backbone, as they
were reduced to compete very unfavorably with other ethnicities whose prewar
billions were intact and who also usurped what had rightly belonged to the Igbo
to further shore up their economic and infrastructural base.



The one pound pro rata
disability denied even
the
ingenuous Igbo a strong capital base to join the
fraternity of viable businesses that survived the hazy, impetuous and over
centralized
government
policies that were the lot of
Nigerians during the many years of military rule, with its attendance instability and questionable calculus of intelligence
in
relation to state
management. Most Igbo today indulge in peasant thrift and trading economy
as retailers rather than manufacturers
in
Onitsha Main Market,
Ariara Aba, Alaba
Lagos
and other places in the country where they are at the mercy of government
polices on importation of
goods,
reckless demolition of
shops
and frequent ethno-religious crises,
which have always made them prime targets. The markets in the East, are either
closed down
for security related riots,
instigated fire disaster or closed down by
rampaging government
agencies. NAFDAC
was said to have closed
down the Onitsha drug market for
many
months at the slightest suspicion
that fake
drugs could be found there.
NAFDAC, under
the able
directorship of Professor Dora
Akunyili, an Igbo, certainly meant well
and has always meant well for the country. But
these traders could not understand why the damaging but flourishing back market
currency exchange monopolized by the North has not been adequately sanitized or even addressed. The close down of Ibeto Cement Factory has also been largely interpreted as a
deliberate attempt by
government to boost the Northern Dangote Business at the expense of an Easterner’s. While I do not ascribe to the (il) logic of these intrigues and explanations, they are there all the same and manifest the attendant complexities of ethnic polarization and absence of devolution of power and resources in the country.



Most Igbo youths opt for buying and selling. Many have also dropped out of school because of the high cost of education and lack of employment for those who managed to round off
their educational programmes. Their mates elsewhere are pampered to school by
various government sponsorships and scholarship programmes
Igbo children who are in school watch helplessly as their mates from other states collect government bursaries. Their Igbo state governments are busy trying to tackle the challenges of reconstruction, bursary for students is a luxury they cannot afford, and may never afford. It is this kind of situation that swells the Biafra
corpus and
seems to suggest that some
are actually
marginalized and
deprived in the midst of
plenty. It is
this kind of situation that portends
the
forbidden centripetal forces of insecurity and underlines the need for a
comprehensive and objective examination of the national
question. As a matter of fact, the feeling of economic, social and political insecurity is mutual among Nigerians across North,South and minority divides .Nigerians tell their stories as tribal men and foreground valuations that present them first as Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba,
Ijaw, Ogoni and so on, with their status as
Nigerians coming as afterthought. This unpatriotic attitude portends ominous signs and fosters crises in the nation.



 National crises that have imaged Biafra in many places in Nigeria in the
recent past were ethno religious, inter-ethnic, and intra-ethnic.
For instance, the December 1980
Maitatsine riots (with the chain of riots it triggered off) in
Yola, Bulunkutu jimete and Gombe was
religious. There were also the October 1982
mob action by the Moslems in Kano against the Christians in which churches and
chins of properties belonging to
Christians where
destroyed;
the 1987, and  I999,(intra ethnic)
riots between Hausa/Fulani Moslems
and non-
Moslems in Kafanchan and Kaduna; the 1992 Zangon-kataf crisis; the. 1999, 1995 and 2000 Tafawa Belewa clashes;   the 2000 Kaduna. 
-
Sharia riot, the 2001, Jos
riots, the recent 2009 Boko Harem uprising in the North, among others,
where thousands of lives were lost. At the intra-ethnic level, there were
the Tiv-Jukun
crises in Taraba and Benue States,
the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba clashes in Lagos,
Ogun, Oyo  and  Kano  states, the recurrent c
rises between the Hausa-Fulani and Igbo as well as
the Ijaw-ltsekiri and Urhobo crises in Delta State.
While these clashes took place in
the
eighties (apart from those between the H
ausa-Fulani and Igbo  which have
a  long
history), the Hausa-fulani and Yoruba clashes were orchestrated between 1999 and 2000, that is, as analysts have explained, in the wake of, the transition from the Northern dominated Military  
Rule   to   a  
Yoruba-led   Civilian',
Administration.



 



In addition to the fore
going there were also,
others
like the Aguleri-Umuleri crises in
Anambra State
and the Ife-Modakeke crises in Ogun
State
. While these
insurgencies fought inside ethnic Igbo and Yoruba respectively were
intra-enthic, the clash between the Quadriya and Tijinniyya Factions of Isam,
that between the Izala and the Shiites and the Maitatsine conflict exemplify
intra-religious conflicts in Islam.



Among these many Biafras,
the one
that has very close resemblance to the 1967 to 1970 Biafra
is the Niger Delta Biafra, especially for being triggered off by the rape,
exploitation and plunder of a people and for having been rooted in the desire
for secession. Also, the Niger Delta quest for resource control was at the crux
of the Biafra programme such that some people
strongly believed that it was the desire to control the oil- rich delta that
informed Ojukwu’s secessionist bid. As the delta crises crystallized, one also
realized that the Niger Delta complaints about infrastructural decay or lack of
it, non-participation in mainline politics because of manipulation by the
majority tribes, above all, the need for devolution of power and revisiting of
the Nigeria project
 through a sovereign national conference are major Biafran requests. Abuja for Aburi ! In other
words, the Niger Delta crises sounds like an urgent call for the implementation
of the Aburi Accord reached among the East North, West and South over forth
years ago. So, most Igbo were apt to reply to the Delta crises with “Delta Good
Morning” to underline their very late and rude awakening to the Nigerian
phallocetric communion. Perhaps, what the Niger Delta has not suffered is the
kind of ethnic cleansing that was meted out on the Igbo in the sixties. Else,
they have had their reasonable share of infrastructural decay or lack of it at
all. May be, the genuine militants in the Niger Delta are after all Biafrans
vigorously drawing attention to the pathological inadequacies of resources and
power distribution in the country, 
knowing that the only thing the oppressed stands to lose is his chains.



But it is entirely wrong to say that the Ogoni,
and the Ijaw and other Niger Delta ethnicities are just waking up to the
Nigerian reality with the recent agitation for resource control, oil bunkering,
kidnapping of expatriates, pockets of violence and banal cult mayhem. The Biafra of the Delta is pre-independence, beginning with
the resistance by Delta rulers like Nana of Itsekiri,Jaja of Opobo Ovuranwe and
others to the colonial marginalization, rape, deception and conquest. Minority
groups in the south also polarized and agitated against the Yoruba Action Group
Party domination in the 1950s. Thus, the Henry Willink commission of 1958 set
up less than a decade before the Ojukwu Biafra, to assuage minority agitation
and threat of succession, submitted that the Delta Area required special
attention. The recommendation of the commission meant to give constitutional
assurances to the Area and assuage their fears of subjugation; exploitation and
extermination were largely ignored. Bouts of agitation in the Delta however
took the militancy (armed rebel) dimension with the secessionist bid of Isaac
Adaka Boro, an Ijaw. The reason for the Boro Biafra re-echoed the reason for
Ojukwu’s. Deltans like Biafrans were  
“unwilling to be un-free partners in any association of a political and
economic nature”, especially as they “can no longer be protected in their lives
and in (their) property by any Government based outside Eastern
Nigeria
”.



This gave birth to Boro’s Niger
Delta Republic
of 1966 and Ojukwu’s Republic
of Biafra
in 1967. The
activities of Boro’s Niger Delta volunteer force can be explained as a bounce
back from the last wall of the constitutional stage. Boro said about the Niger
Delta experience: “year after year, we are clenched in tyrannical chains and
led through a dark alley of perpetual political and social deprivation,
Strangers in our country” and on the decaying Nigerian institution, oppression
of the minorities and the agitation for an Ijaw country he said.” This is not
because we are going to bring heaven down, but because we are going to
demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression”.



 



Quite like Boro, the later day Ken Saro Wiwa of
the Ogoni extraction enacted further Biafra in
the Delta. Quite like Boro, he complained about the crude expropriation of oil,
the marginalization, impoverishment of the people and the pollution of their
environment by Nigeria
and her foreign multinational oil companies collaborators. Then there are the
Asari Dokubos of the many Delta Biafra camps, the Delta volunteer force, the
MEND, the good, the bad, the ugly, that is.



To be sure, the Biafra
conflicts are not North-South conflicts. Apart from the forgoing, it is not all
Deltans that fought or supported Boro. It is not all Deltans that supported
Saro Wiwa, not even his Ogoni kinsmen most of whom actually bore the forbidden
testimony that the Abacha Junta and Shell allegedly needed to permanently put a
seal on his stubborn voice .This voice has remained persistent and amplified in
the spates of militancy and violence in the Delta and elsewhere.



From Boro to Asari, however, none is willing to
swap his Nigerian exploitation with Igbo domination. Even the Ikwere,
originally Igbo have restructured their orthography to rid it of any Igbo
vestige from Oyibo (Obigbo) to Rumuigbo (Umuigbo), from Rumumasi (Umumasi) to
Rumuokwuta (Umuokwuta) the igbo tinge have been destroyed. What was needed in Port Harcourt, an
originally Ikwere Igbo town, was the Igbo “abandoned property” not the language
of the hated and defeated owner. They could not have abandoned their tongue,
and, so, Rivers did not take it! Generally speaking
, it is intriguing to
the Igbo Biafrans that Saro Wiwa who was easily seen as self professed and avid
Igbo hater died in the hands of the federal forces on whose side he had fought
in an attempt to denigrate the Igbo. Abacha, his assailant was in fact his
neighbour at the high brow Amadi flats a GRA in Port Harcourt.



 But the Nigerian Government may
also have preferred Delta Biafra to Igbo Biafra. For instance, it is felt that
Boro’s 150-men guerilla war against the Ironsi- led Federal Government and his
proclamation of the Niger Delta peoples Republic, with himself as the Head of
State, was in fact rewarded by the Gowon Regime. Gowon not only granted him
pardon, but made him the commander of one of the battalions against the Igbo
Biafra.



The recent release of Asari Dokubo with the kind of attention he received
from the Obasanjo-led Federal Government was interpreted as a familiar replay
of Boros.  Then the almighty amnesty
granted the niger delta “militants”, as a kind of presidential  award and reward for causing national
insurgency, depleting the national revenue, upsetting the Nigerian trade and
diplomatic relations, causing hunger and disaffection, committing multiple
murder and holding the nation to ransom for many years is also intriguing.



The glaring lack of Federal presence, good roads and general
infrastructure in the Igbo States on the other hand is seen as evidence that
Nigerians have not quite forgiven the Igbo. It is recalled that Yakubu Gowon,
Murtala Mohammed, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo, all major actors in
the Nigeria Civil war have not forgotten the Igbo guts. And, as Heads of State
at different times, these Nigerian warlords continued the assault on Igbo
Biafra in other Federal fronts through pathological state programmes and
policies meant to permanently disable the Igbo.



It is also argued that there has been a consistent attempt to paint Ojukwu to
an in
significant
historical corner by treating the
Biafran
revolution as an orphan conflict and focusing  
federal   attention   to  
pockets of religious and intertribal
crises. As far as the
Igbo know, that
was the parable of the continued
detention
of Barr. Raph Uwazuruike, the leader
of
the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign
State of Biafra (MASSOB)long after the Asaris of
the Delta fame and Fasheuns of the Odua fame had been released. That is also
the Igbo interpretation for the disbanding
of the Eastern   based   Bakassi vigilante organization   which was
rated as a highly
efficient security
outfit that had mocked the
police to their face.



 Interestingly still, it is not all the Igbo that are on the side of Biafra. At least, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the foremost Nigerian nationalist of Igbo extraction and first
indigenous President of the country, did not fight on the side of Biafra.  That
situation has not changed much today. What most Igbo do today is to curse the
memory of the Biafra war and its
progenitor(s). And in this unenviable memory lane of anguish Ojukwu occurs and
recurs like the tortoise in Igbo folktales. The Igbo portray an
assemblage  
of individuals that evinces subjective identity formation that is easily
shifted by political opportunities and economic inducement.   Thus, quite unlike
the Delta
where   the  
Elites   are   said , to be further
exploiting  
the   masses   of the 
people into
strategic   violence,  
the   MASSOB agitation
seems to have been abandoned to the Igbo masses,  the
artisans, traders and the Inagas
who are excited by the real and imaginary possibilities of actualizing the Biafra
dream.



Unfortunately, it is not this section of the Igbo that can draw the attention
of the
Federal Government
to the need to grant Uwazuruike
bail, at least for this only son to go home
and bury the remains of his mother and

free her spirit from the freezing morgue.
But
then, that may be another Igbo
ethnic
sensibility that does not reckon with the need for the due process of the law to be followed. Senator Uche Chukwumerije, a respected Nigerian, former Information Minister and former veteran Biafra Mass Mobilizer and Broadcaster was told just that in his motion for the release of Raph Uwuzuruike!



 



I guess he had hoped like most Igbo
that the same process that enabled the release
of Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force and Gianiyu Adams and Fredrick
Fasheun
of the OPC could
also be used to release Raph
Uwazuruike of MASSOB. However, the continued detention of Uwazuruike and
the release of Dokubo and
others
was one
of those issues that threw up cries of injustice and marginalization and
the confusing signal that only the very violent qualify to be
engaged in meaningful Federal
dialogue.
Youths in the Ohaji Egema Oguta Local Government
Area of Imo state were the first to sense this despicable signal when lmo
was not
enlisted among
the Delta states to benefit from
the projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), despite the huge oil
reserve in thestate. The Local Government
was agog with the slogan "we dey violent O! We Sabi Fight O!! Ohaji Egbema Oguta is
in
core Niger Delta
!!!." As if the Federal
Government had been waiting for the warning signal, lmo became enlisted as a Niger Delta
State
, but was
not included among the beneficiaries
of the
Coastal States
allocation, until Yar'adua
intervened
recently. It is also only recently that
Yaradua's administration has returned Abia State oil wells said to have been forcefully and arbitrarily ceded to Rivers State,
in a move that seems to have returned some hope to Abians. Obedience to the
Supreme Court judgment that returned APGA Governor Obi of Anambra State
to office has also raised some hope among the Igbo who see APGA and PPA as Igbo
parties that the Federal Government might target for destruction.
Similarly, the EFCC prosecution of former state governors is being watched with keen
ethnic
eyes in East, West, North and
South, especially
as Nigerians have
been given the impression
that almost
all the former governors were found as corrupt by the EFFC.



The essence of this
seeming catatonic discourse of power is
to draw attention to the fact that these many Biafras in Nigeria as well as their heroes or villains will continue
to underdeveloped Nigeria
unless those conditions that generate
them
are realistically addressed. Not all the Igbo supported Ojukwu and he is ageing. Not all the Niger Deltans support Dokubo, at
least he is not the commandant of MEND. And, the
death of Boro in 1968 has stationed him silent and immobile like his
quarantined statue that
merely guards
a mass transit park under a
flyover
in restive Port Harcourt.
Also, not many Moslems or Northerners questioned the controversial death of the
leader of the Boko Haram uprising in the hands of security agents.



The many Biafras in Nigeria will continue to be sustained by state exploitation, marginalization, rape and corruption. In other words, the only machinery that can defeat Biafra is
transparency, fairness and equity and
practice
of true federalism that will make the center less attractive and afford the
coordinate
states a chance to develop
at their true pace.
There is need to
sustain the approach
that will defeat
confusing contentious of
communal
mobilization through
realistic engagement and provision of essential political and economic goods.



 



The spate of Kidnapping in the Niger Delta could be exposed as the true act
of crime
and banditry,
rather than “Delta Militancy”
if the effort to address the Niger Delta problem is genuine and sustained. It will be easy to
expose the fake militants with the
question; whom are you fighting for now that the problem is being addressed? That
way we will stem the problem of
multiple cult rivalries, the armed robbery and ransom-incensed kidnap spree that forced the Rivers and Bayelsa state Governors to spend their first 100
days in the
cult and
kidnap infested streets and
creeks rather than in office. But, in this sustained engagement, the ability to cause violence should not be the criterion.
The watch-word should be realistic needs assessment.



While the
institution of a purely
federal
structure can be achieved through
constitutional amendment with an eye to assuaging the rights of all Nigerians, minority or
majority, the activities of the oil comp0anies and other multinationals can be
guarded by
reviewing the
various enabling agreements and contracts entered with them.
It is worrisome that the Europeans and
Americans
have not
changed in their dealings with
Africans since the era of forced or deceptive trade agreements with the likes of Nana and Ovuramwe all
for rubber and oil. Otherwise, why is the
formidable amount of
proceeds from
oil not impacting positively on the Niger Delta and every other Nigerian? The
oil companies have remained, in the words of
the Biafran Information Minister Chief, Ifegwu Eke, as "non indigenous collaborators who are more dangerous than mercenaries in the exploitation of
the people”.
Today
one is tempted to add, “in the pollution and impoverishment of the people and
their environment” to Eke’s list. Only a concise government policy can compel
these foreigners to do business in Nigeria in line with civilized practices
elsewhere.



At least, it does not seem that the
manner of gas
flaring and
the refusal to clean polluted waters and creeks of the Delta will be the
practice in
other
countries where the Shell Petroleum, Agip or Chevron do business. It is also in
order
to draw the
attention of their home countries in
line with decent diplomatic procedure. Nigeria should
be ready to revoke the licenses of the
companies
that refuse to do business in Nigeria
in line with standard practices. It is
not only
when an expatriate oil worker
is kidnapped that
Nigerian and foreign
voices would shout
hungry Nigerian
citizens dizzy. We expect
consistent
attention from everybody in
tackling
the poor security situation in the
country.

The Time Magazine report
of June 13, 1969 carried Ojukwu's reaction at an
instance when 18 Europeans were captured, tried fairly and sentenced to death
for aiding
Nigerian
soldiers. Worried by his being unjustly besieged by pleas for clemency
for only just 18 men, this Biafran leader who,
had lost
hundreds of
thousands of men fighting under the
European impassionate nose retorted in, subdued eloquence. "For 18 white men, Europe is aroused, what have they said about the
millions?, Eighteen
white
men assisting in the crime of genocide. What
do they say about our murdered innocents? How many black dead make one missing
'white?
Mathematicians,
please answer me. Is it infinity?”
.We would not want to ask that kind
of question today.



The Consistent negligence on the part of some whites doing business in Nigeria, and the tendency to treat conflicts in Africa as orphan
crises,
only to shout the world hoax
with some American
turkey tucked
away in Kentucky is however a moot 
point   here.  
What   is  relevant 
lo  the   on going discourse  is 
the  need  to  set
up  an 
adequate 
monitoring mechanism  to ensure that  these oil companies lived up to
their  responsibilities to their host communities and to the Federal Government.



Above   all,   government policies   should  
be   geared towards   economic empowerment
through job creation and provision of

micro credit facilities. The people are hungry; and
hunger incensed agitation, is the worst kind of agitation. While we thank the Almighty, Allah for
keeping the country together amidst the numerous
Biafras that have been fought, let us continue to make concerted
effort that will reduce hunger and intertribal ethnic polarization. 





That
is the only way to really defeat the        Biafran
genie.






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