Today I take up a subject that many hate, and for those who might think this is inappropriate, I have a few words for you:
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles
My father retired from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as an Air Vice Marshall (that’s the equivalent of a Major General in the Nigerian Army). Unlike many of the people screaming for Biafra in 2017, he had the unpleasant experience of leaving the Nigerian Air Force (because according to his commander at the time, who air lifted him and another Ibo officer, he could not guarantee their lives beyond that night) to fight for Biafra. In my father’s words, it was a war fought on the basis of ego that was ill advised and doomed from the start.
So when I first heard that our Igbo youth are rooting for war, I dismissed it as words of children who have not seen war and assume it’s all fun and games like in the movies and not the hunger, tears and blood that it is in reality. But when I started hearing grown men, even the clergy, speak of leaving Nigeria like one speaks of boarding a plane and leaving town, it became clear to me that perhaps not many people had the benefit of hearing from a father who fought the war, not as a civilian, but in actual combat. My father survived his plane being shot down, losing many colleagues and family. He returned to the NAF fully convinced that one Nigeria was better than a balkanized version for many reasons some of which I’ll elucidate below:
1. The simple economics of it
I graduated top of my International Studies class at ABU Zaria, if there’s one definition of politics I can never forget it is: who gets what, when, and how. Resources–that’s what politics is about. What makes up the proposed state of Biafra? Is it the land-locked states of Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia. Just in case the proponents of Biafra are misled into thinking that the people of Rivers, Bayelsa or Cross River would be willing pawns in this drama to provide them with natural borders, perhaps I should be a voice of reason reminding them that in those days the people of these states were the first to depart from Biafra citing minority status and mistreatment by Ibos as their grievances. I don’t think much has changed since then, if anything the negotiation position of the Ibos has worsened.
A war today will take nothing less than one year to prosecute. During this period there will be no food production and the entire population would be completely dependent on food aid for survival. This didn’t work the last time. In fact it was so bad that more people died from malnutrition than enemy bullets. What makes those asking for war confident of a different outcome this time around? Because the definition of madness is to do things the same way, expecting a different result.
2. The politics of it
Which of the states that form Biafra would be willing to grant the others the Prestige of capital of Biafra? How will resources be shared, asides from the rhetoric of oppression in Nigeria and wanting autonomy? What is the Vision of this new country? What is its mission? It’s not OK to know what we are against if we do not know what we are for. What does Biafra stand for?
There are many more dimensions that make our balkanization untenable but I want to stop there because my training forces me to go beyond mere problem identification to problem resolution.
Only people currently enjoying political power can say that Nigeria is in an optimal state. Clearly, there are issues that require resolution, primary amongst them for me is the issue of establishing a clear vision-a genuine raison d’etre. What makes us a nation? It’s not enough to say that Nigeria’s unity is not contestable. Leadership must make Nigeria worth living and dying for. An easy way to do this is to ensure equal rights and justice, such that everyone knows that regardless of our states of origin, wealth or positions, we will be treated well.
If you’ve read my book ‘The call’*, then you know I liken staying together as a nation to marriage. Few people who are married are excited about their marriage every day. Some days we wonder how we got ourselves here but on the whole if we’re able to value each other and appreciate our spouse’s contributions, which are not always financial or even visible, overtime we can be grateful we stayed. But if we continue to berate our spouse for their weaknesses and generally disrespect them, the marriage will fail and we will never know what could have been. Truth? We are an amalgamation of very different people but we are nowhere near the level of difference in the US- so our difference is not really our problem, it’s our failure to value our difference.
To be continued…
* Available at Laterna Bookshop and bookshops nationwide
Read The Oduduwa and Arewa Republic (s) – The Case of Biafra 2 here.