In my article, “Just Before You Say Biafra,” I listed 7 simple steps to get Biafra without firing a single shut. I received a lot of responses from many of you. Here is my reaction to your responses.
This is from a story that former APGA chairman, Chekwas Okorie told a few of us at the 2004 World Igbo Congress Convention in New Jersey.
In 2003, APGA won election in 4 of the 5 eastern states, according to Chekwas Okorie. But the PDP rigging machine rigged APGA’s governorship candidates out. In those days of Obasanjo and Maurice Iwu, they wasted no time with sophisticated rigging methods. They simply wrote the results they wanted, handed it over to INEC officials to announce.
When the results were announced, Chekwas went to then President Olusegun Obasanjo to complain. Obasanjo acknowledged that the rigging happened and promised to hand back to APGA and Chekwas two or three states. He asked Chekwas to first go and consult his party on the states he would like handed over to APGA.
During the same election, PDP was also set to rig ACN out of the South West. As the results were being published online at INEC website, all western states were falling to PDP. When the then Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, saw what was going on, he called President Obasanjo. He told Obasanjo that he had 10,000 area boys who had gallons of petrol in hand ready to burn down Lagos if INEC announced that he lost to PDP. Obasanjo immediately called Maurice Iwu and asked him to leave Lagos State alone. That was how Lagos state was left alone.
Meanwhile, when Chekwas returned to Obasanjo days after the election, Obasanjo had seen that all was calm in the East. He told Chekwas off and asked him to go and do his worse.
I said all this to point out that I am fully aware that elections in Nigeria are often rigged. The riggings have gone from crude means to sophisticated means. Without endorsing Tinubu’s approach, determined group can fashion out effective ways of resisting election rigging and protecting the mandate of their people.
In the meantime, I want to clear one misunderstanding about the 2/3 of the elected officials mentioned in the article. That was referring to South Eastern elected officials, not all the senators and members of the House of Representatives.
The ultimate goal of the plan that I laid out is to give the world empirical proof that a majority of the people in Eastern Nigeria want Biafra. Sit-at-home order is not a proof. You provide proof when you elect local and national representatives who advocate self-determination.
Unfortunately, the East cannot force a referendum to happen. But what can be done, and done fairly easily, is to show through electing people who believe in self-determination and self-governance to the state houses in the East and to represent the East in Abuja.
Many have asked, whether a party that supports self-determination and self-governance of the Igbo can be registered in Nigeria. APGA was such a party, even though it probably did not spell it out.
Any registered political party can add self-determination to its platform. There is no reason self-determination cannot be a legitimate aspiration of a political party in a democracy. It will not lead to a de-registration. If it does, the court would have to intervene.
A new party can state it as a platform and go for registration. As long as the party is not saying its platform is to break away from Nigeria, which will run into constitutional problem, registration will go through. But if it doesn’t, that will be an opportunity to take the matter to the courts and test our so-called democracy.
Having such a party in place, the only thing that can stop the election of people who support the platform from happening, as some have identified, is rigging.
Which brings us to the question of how we can have a free election in the East. First of all, the premise of this whole piece is the Biafran activists’ assumption that majority of people in the East support Biafra – as shown from the response to the sit-at-home order. If it is in the interest of people in the East to have Biafra, why won’t they ensure that elections are credible?
Secondly, who rigs elections? Who do politicians, whether local or from Abuja, use to rig elections? Are they not the same local people who support Biafra? When given the option to rig an election that will keep them in Nigeria or to allow a free election that will free them from Nigeria, why would they rig?
Thirdly, if politicians from the East are all signing up with Biafran activists’ cause, why would they work against that interest when it is very crucial?
If the above mentioned issues are addressed, no military force or security operatives will be able to infiltrate and successfully rig elections against the will of all the people driven by a singular purpose as strong as Biafra.
More importantly, is it not easier to ensure a free and fair election in the East than to stop elections from happening unless the federal government gives a date for a referendum? Is it not easier to ensure a free and fair election in the East than to fight a war with Nigeria?
If in an environment that is supposedly “pro-Biafra”, Biafran activists cannot convince the people to vote for the cause and protect their vote, how do they intend to lead these same people to war when internal and external interests will throw in everything to make sure the war is lost?
Unless the goal is to force people to believe what we believe, there is no substitute to winning people over to your side of the argument. Unfortunately, force fails in the end. It fails even quicker when deployed against the Igbo.
Also, there is a limit to where propaganda can take anyone. The easy task is to talk and to threaten people. The difficult task is to humble yourself, get into the arena, pull up your shirt and do the tough job needed to convince others that your argument is superior, smarter and safer.
The choice is yours. If you cannot lead a people to vote for your position and to protect that vote, you probably cannot lead them to a war and win.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of “This American Life Sef.”