I did not sit-in on September 14th as directed by the secessionist movement, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). I could not have because I am opposed to Biafranism in all it form and hue. I am an unabashed proponent of the indissolubility of the Nigerian union. But, even if I were a secessionist, and rabidly pro-Biafra, there is no way I could not have accepted the likes of Nnamdi Kanu and Ralph Uwazurike as my leaders. They are ignoramuses, charlatans and their real motivations are suspect.
Chinua Achebe was quoted as saying that the problem with the Igbo is that they never do anything with their first eleven. In other words, it is not the best and the brightest of the Igbo, but their second rates, that feature most prominently in the affairs of the Igbo. It is a conspicuous and lamentable reality that I cannot explain. It is a problem that is most glaring in the neo-Biafran movements. The leaders of the neo-Biafran movements are not even qualified for the Igbo second eleven; they are in the ranks of our third eleven.
That millions of Igbo sheepishly follow these blustering ruffians and colorful thugs that preach secession and anarchy bleeds my heart. I have always known that the masses barely think; they prefer to just follow. No wonder, they have always been available and malleable tools in the hands of rabble-rousers and demagogues. The follow–follow mentality of the Igbo masses is reinforced by the psychological ravages the civil war wrought on the Igbo. The lingering grip of the suffocating falsehood of the Biafran propaganda on Igbo minds fuels separatist tendencies among the Igbo and provides fertile grounds for the demagoguery of neo-Biafran rabble-rousers.
During the civil war, most Igbo came under the mesmeric sway of Ojukwu’s histrionics, personal magnetism and oratorical grace. We fell for his propagandistic exaggerations and the disingenuous manipulation of information by the Biafran propaganda. It was my study and research of Nigerian (including Biafran) history that freed me from the stultifying hold of the Biafran propaganda. I formed an informed and unbiased perspective on the civil war; and the recklessness and absurdity of Biafranism crystallized to me.
With my unprejudiced viewpoint of the civil war, I am convinced that I have a moral obligation to help the Igbo discard the psychological baggage of the Biafran propaganda: fear, paranoia, self-pity and culture of victimhood. My objective is to sensitize the Igbo to the charade of Biafraism, and get them to realize that we have no viable choice but to remain in Nigeria and lay claim to all our rights, entitlements and prerogatives. The only weapon in my arsenal in this obligatory, and of course, difficult task is my pen.
With my pen I desire to prod the Igbo to untangle the psychological fetters of the Biafran propaganda. And thus, appreciate an impartial account of the civil war and the events leading up to it; form an objective opinion of Nigeria and the place of the Igbo in it; and realize that Biafranism was not for the good of the Igbo. It essentially advanced Ojukwu’s personal ambitions at the detriment of the Igbo. It was a thoughtless and impetuous political move that went against the grain of the Igbo military and political elite, ethnic minorities in Eastern Region of Nigeria, other Nigerians and the federal government of Nigeria, Organization of African Unity (OAU) and governments of Britain and the United States of America (which they clearly indicated to Ojukwu through their diplomats in Nigeria).
To give what was one man’s personal ambition a coloration of a struggle for national survival demanded excessive falsehood. These were unrestrained, bare-faced lies that lamentably took a grisly grip on Igbo minds. Their persistent, protracted clutch on the Igbo psyche warped our mindset: it makes us suspicious and fearful of other Nigerians and left us wallowing in self-pity and feeling of victimhood. It is this dangerous and retrogressive mindset that explains our political problems in present day Nigeria; it relegated us to perennial losers in Nigerian politics, andmakes us nostalgic for Biafra.
Nigeria is not breaking up and the Igbo cannot unilaterally break out of Nigeria. So, just like the earlier Biafranism, neo-Biafranism is a doom enterprise. It can only result to a colossal waste in Igbo lives, resources and efforts. And just like the earlier Biafranism, it can only set us backwards: undermine our political fortune and retard our economic and social progress. Moreover, one Nigeria is very beneficial to the Igbo. The earlier Igbo leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara and Louis Odumegwu- Ojukwu in their realism realized this, and thus, encouraged Nigerian unity. Our earlier unwavering commitment to Nigerian unity contributed immensely to our previous unparalleled, dazzling success and excellence across all spectrum of the Nigerian social life. It was Ojukwu’s secession that undid the Igbo. It cost the Igbo more than one million civilian lives, snatched away hundreds of thousands of men in the glory of their youth, and dispossessed us of much of our prior achievements.
I wield my pen with gusto, guts and incandescent objectivity. My forthright articles on the absurdity of Biafranism have irked many Igbo, and consequently, brought me ostracism, insults and death threats. Apart from rejections, and caustic and unprintable insults, some have called me on the phone to threaten my life. They told me that they will kill me for opposing Biafra and insulting their leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
However, for the repose of my conscience, I will continue to denounce Biafra and its leaders because no other single historical factor ever brought the Igbo so much death, destruction, pains, sorrow and psychological depredations as Ojukwu’s Biafranism. And the neo-Biafran lunacy and the lunatics that champion it are out to do additional harm to the Igbo.
As for the insults, I find them exhilarating and invigorating. Writing becomes a pointless endeavor for a writer, who, in his tepidity, cannot kindle the interest of his readers to the point of either agreeing or disagreeing with him. I therefore relish responses to my articles - be them positive or negative, appreciative or offensive. As for the death threats, life and death are in God’s hands. The Bible tells us that a sparrow, which is sold two for a farthing, shall not fall on the ground without the knowledge of God. Is it then possible for a man to die without the knowledge, and at least, the acquiescence of God? The answer is No!
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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