Posted by Nelson Dafe | 24 August 2017 | 3,213 times
Douglas Road, Owerri. One of the major roads in the Imo State capital is bubbling with early morning life on this August 7th morning. There’s a small shop at the start of the road which is famously known as Biafra shop. There, many items of Southeastern Nigeria’s pride are sold. T-shirts, caps, shorts, slippers, etc., all bearing the ‘Biafra’ inscription are purchased by smiling Igbo faces, and the ambience almost seemed to suggest to the unaware that Biafra had already been granted independence from the Nigerian State.
But the argument going on a few yards away from the shop involving about 10 Igbo youths drove home the reality of the present situation of the ongoing struggle for the actualisation of Biafra as an independent country. It also showed that despite some easterners wanting an independent Biafra by any means necessary, there are those opposed to an aggressive push by some Igbo youths to actualise their Biafran dream.
Two of the arguing youths were against using forceful and inflammatory language and actions to force through the realisation of a Biafran country. “We can’t afford another war after what we went through in the civil war. Igbos don’t deserve another annihilation,” one of them said. But the majority voice drowned them out, abrasively arguing that the struggle to free the Igbo man from the Nigerian suppression must continuously be watered by the blood of Igbo martyrs if need be. They accused the moderate Igbo voices of a sell-out, noting that anything short of a continuous all out confrontation with the Nigerian state is unacceptable to them.
The discussants later dissolved into their various destinations peacefully. But the conversation on whether and how to achieve Biafran independence continues all over Igbo land today as the various Igbo secessionist groups like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) continue their fractious struggles with the Federal Government of Nigeria for the actualisation of a Biafran country.
There are basically three categories of Igbo people who are lukewarm about the aggressive push for the secession of Biafra. There are those who are part of the Nigerian government at the federal, state and local levels and their families who are enjoying the spoils of office, living comfortably and who don’t want their relative comforts to be affected by the instability that comes with the Biafran struggle.
There are those who feel oppression and corruption and discrimination are general and endemic problems amongst Nigerians and that the average Igbo man would not necessarily be freed from these teething problems with the creation of Biafra. Some people from some of the Igbo states complain of marginalisation by other brother Igbos in the allocation of political appointments. Others complain that their people of some particular local governments in one of the Igbo states have been denied the opportunity of producing the Governor of the state by other Igbo parts of the state.
Then there are those whose sense of history is acute and they dread another civil war and the devastating consequences for lives and property of Igbo people.
While the opposition to the forceful struggle for secession by some Igbos can often overlap among the three aforementioned reasons, the backlash from pro-Biafra Igbos is heavy and has been fatal on some occasions.
Take the case of the Nwawene family in Onitsha, Anambra State. The head of the family John Nwawene (a man in his 60s) was opposed to the use of violent means to actualise Biafra. He was said to be usually locked in loud arguments with some members of IPOB over the Biafra issue.
News Express gathered that on August 30, 2015 following the reported attack on IPOB members who were said to be peacefully demonstrating in Onitsha, by men of the Nigerian Police and Navy, in which about three IPOB men were allegedly killed, an angry mob descended on Nwawene later in the evening of that same day. They had come to deal with him for allegedly being an informant to the Police on IPOB’s activities.
They reportedly cudgelled him to death in mad anger. His second son, Victor Nwawene, was also reportedly killed in the attack, as the mostly marauding youths swore that the family won’t get away with being traitors to the Igbo people. His other son, Friday Nwawene, on hearing of the attack on his father and younger brother, rushed to the scene, only to be chased away by the mob. The family was said to have been declared pesona non grata and there are serious fears that other members of the family will be attacked to stave off any possible vendetta. Friday has since fled, fearing for his safety.
Government officials and activities in Igboland are not spared the wrath of pro-Biafra separatists when they are viewed to be against the secession cause. There is some considerable angst against the Federal Government appointees and elected officials who many feel are aloof about the Igbo plight in the Nigerian nation. Recently, photos emerged of Igbo Federal Government elected officials smiling heartedly during what was supposed to be a condolence visit to Ozubulu, Anambra state where unknown gunmen killed innocent worshipers in the church premises. It was a total ignorance of the tragic context under which they were gathered and public condemnation of their attitude by Igbos followed swiftly. Their behavior in Ozubulu for many is a pointer to how far away they are from the ordinary Igbo man.
The Anambra State Governor, Willy Obiano, is currently waging a battle against IPOB members who are hellbent on preventing the state’s governorship election scheduled for November (in which the Governor is seeking reelection) from holding. “There will be no election in Anambra State. We will show that we are in control,” an abrasive IPOB sympathiser says.
The Obiano government has been in the bad books of the separatist groups for years. In 2015 it was accused of colluding with security operatives in the "killing and maiming of IPOB members who were celebrating a court judgement that year which granted bail to IPOB's leader Nnamdi Kanu.
Some days ago, IPOB members (including women wearing Biafran outfits) stormed the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State where the Governor was attending a mass service and protested wildly against the Governor and holding of gubernatorial elections in the state. The protesters sang Biafran songs and chanted “no election in Anambra State.”
Meanwhile, a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has advised that the Biafran dream is not achievable now, but that Igbos should fight for referendum to be enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, which could pave the way for a more responsible path towards any possible realisation of a Biafran country.
What is clear though is that the dialogue within the Igbo people on how and why Biafra should be actualised will continue and extreme secessionist forces would continue to put enormous pressure on the rest of Igboland to fight for the creation Biafra.
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