WHEN Mr. Steve Nwosu, in his Frank Talk column of Wednesday, November 11, 2015 in the Daily Sun, wondered if he belonged to Nigeria or Biafra, I felt that the distortion of the actual location of Igboland on the world map had gone too far that something had to be done to correct the misimpression and misrepresentation. Yes, Steve Nwosu is unapologetically Igbo and his wife, Toyin, is Yoruba, but what they both have in common is their citizenship of Nigeria. The issue, therefore, is not where Steve Nwosu will run to if there are crises in Nigeria. The point is that no matter the circumstances, Steve Nwosu should prepare to assert his rights as a First Class Citizen of Nigeria in any part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the height of monumental deceit for anybody or group to suggest that Igboland (Ala-Igbo) is Biafra, and that the Igbo are Biafrans.
The truth of the matter is that Igboland (Ala-Igbo) is today part and parcel of the geographical space called Nigeria. There is no place or country on the map of the world called Biafra. Even then, where did Nnamdi Kanu of the so-called Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) get the warped idea that Igboland, Ekoiland, Ibibioland, Efikland, Ijawland, Annangland, Itshekiriland, Urhoboland, etc, all belong to Biafra? Even when Biafra existed between 1967 and 1970, not all Igboland was part of Biafra. Igboland, west of the River Niger (Delta North Senatorial Zone), was not part of the geographical space of Ojukwu’s Biafra, my own Biafra. And it must take the worst form of hallucination for Nnamdi Kanu to presume to be in a position, without their consent, to determine for Ndi-Igbo, talk less of the Ijaw, Urhobo, Ibibio, etc, where they should belong as a country.
As I have argued elsewhere, the idea of Biafra, as epitomized by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, practically ended in 1982 when he came back to Igboland as a citizen of Nigeria after being pardoned by former President Shehu Shagari for his role in the Nigeria-Biafra war (not Nigeria-Biafra civil war). Ojukwu went on to contest the Onitsha senatorial seat in 1983 in the old Anambra State (Anambra, Enugu and the northern part of Ebony States) as a citizen of Nigeria. Ojukwu also participated in the General Sani Abacha National Constitutional Conference in 1995 as a citizen of Nigeria. In fact, Ojukwu contested the Presidency of Nigeria (not Biafra) in 2003 and 2007 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) founded by Chief Chekwas Okorie. Even when Ojukwu died, he was given a befitting state burial with full military honours by the former President of Nigeria (nor Biafra) Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian Army. As a matter of fact, Ojukwu’s coffin was draped with the Nigerian flag (not the Biafran flag). So, where, really, are these later-day dreamers of a fictional Biafra coming from?
Now, that is not to suggest that the Biafran dream is dead. As Ojukwu himself pointed out in his book entitled, “Biafra: Selected Speeches”, published in 1969 by Harper & Row Publishers, New York, USA, “The Biafran dream is the creation of an African state that will act as a bulwark against foreign impositions. Our struggle, therefore, is African nationalism conscious of itself and fully aware of the powers with which it is contending. Biafra is about the creation of a black African state with; (a) common citizenship, with equal rights and privileges for all men anywhere in the country; (b) common laws and a common judicial system; (c) a common electoral system; (d) equal rights of all citizens before the law; (e) rights to acquire property and make a living anywhere in the country; (f) equal rights to employment anywhere in the country; and (g) equal rights to protection of life and property”. In other words, the Biafran dream was, and remains, the building of a New Society – a progressive black people’s republic based on African nationalism, not on Igbo or Eastern Nigerian nationalism. Biafra, as projected by Ojukwu, the symbol of that struggle, in 1969, is more than a government or a place; it is an idea about the freedom of the Black race.
The problem of the Igbo is that they have refused to assert their Rights as First Class Citizens of Nigeria as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The Constitution of Nigeria has never provided anywhere that the Igbo are slaves or Second Class Citizens. When, for instance, a policy or regulation discriminates against the Igbo, rather than go to court to challenge the infraction because Section 42 (1a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) abhors discrimination of Nigerian citizens on ethnic grounds, Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, in its dim-witted campaign and cravings for contracts, will be shouting Igbo marginalization, while MASSOB and Nnamdi Kanu, in their confusion as to the real meaning of Biafra, will be misguidedly organizing protests chanting self-determination for the Igbo.
When Igbo senators and honourable members in the National Assembly fail to ensure that federal projects for Igboland are not only accommodated in the national budgets but are also executed, rather than deploy the provisions of Section 69 of the Constitution to recall such lazy and unserious lawmakers, the Igbo looks askance and acquiesces in the stupid belief that their political leaders are untouchables who have been elected or appointed to take or “eat” their own share of the national cake on their behalf. When state governors and local government chairmen openly mismanage or embezzle federal allocations meant for the development of the human and material resources of Igboland, rather than mobilise members of their Houses of Assembly to impeach such governors or remove such local government chairmen from office, the Igbo behaves as if they are slaves with no powers to force their state and local leaders to account for how their own share of the national resource is expended.
Ibekwe, is Chairman, Mezie Ala-Igbo Foundation