The insults I have had to take in the past couple of weeks are such that would even make a bishop think of suicide or worse. I have just returned from Ghana where I had to workshop with fellow writers from Britain, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sudan etc. My colleagues were a joyful lot who took to calling me “King of Africa” but the catch was that I came from “blundering Nigeria”. Nigerian woes such as brazen kidnappings, perennial power failure, absence of governance, gargantuan corruption, gratuitous election rigging, benumbing fuel scarcity and so on were on all lips. I was hard put defending my country, the self-advertised “Giant of Africa” making some noises about re-branding. The most damning of Nigerian failures for now is the knowledge that while the defunct Biafra Republic could refine fuel some forty years ago the triumphant old country cannot refine enough fuel for its local consumption today. It’s a shame that cries to the high heavens.
It is not as if the men and women who were able to refine fuel back then in Biafra are no longer alive in present-day Nigeria. These fellow countrymen and women have of course not lost their abilities but the enabling environment has been denied them. With all the blockade and lack of access to the wider world Biafran scientists defied multiform odds to refine fuel, manufacture bombs and invent diverse wonders. The likes of Professor Gordian Ezekwe carried over the wonders of Biafra to the PRODA project he led in Enugu at the end of the civil war, but Nigerian officialdom has ensured that the laudable vision was smashed. In its place we now have a totally consumerist society depending on imports for all basic needs, not the least of which is the absurdity of exporting crude oil and ending up importing refined fuel at exorbitant cost.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua must be thinking he has done fuel-starved Nigerians a world of good by gleefully announcing that the fuel scarcity would end in the next two weeks. Which brings up the question as to whether he had all along been sleeping for the months on end that the fuel scarcity had lasted? Be that as it may, President Yar’Adua’s solution happens to be the liberalization of the importation of fuel to break the backs of the cartel that had held the country to ransom all along. There is no talk of addressing the issue fundamentally, to wit, making sure that we can refine our own fuel in this country.
The country is obviously regressing, drifting badly. The self-advertised winners of the civil war have had several turns leading the country into comatose. The system of government since the end of the civil war has been unabashed kleptocratic kakistocy. Don’t mind my big words which simply mean “government of the worst by the means of stealing!” The kleptomaniacs have looted the country so rapaciously that it is a wonder that Nigeria still exists. Just the other day, one of the major actors in the war sold a part of his oil block to the Chinese for all of $2.3 billion US Dollars! The greed of this tiny army of looters is what leads up to the reality of non-functioning refineries and the total absence of fuel in a country teeming with raw crude.
The point of course is that it is not only those Nigerians maligned as Biafrans who can refine fuel. Nigerians from all across the diverse geo-political zones are possessing of wonderful abilities in this regard but the “them and us” divide implanted by Nigerian leaders has made sure that the energies of our fellow countrymen are women are all the time stifled.
People now adopt the toga of internal exile to escape the calumny, the shame of being addressed as Nigerians. In the Diaspora as well as within the country it is not uncommon to see people stressing that they are Biafrans living in exile in Nigeria! The country can only make true progress when everybody is accommodated within the family, and nobody is discriminated against.
It is largely due to the manifest failures of Nigeria that Biafra lingers in many minds, and so many are thus left with the poser: what might have been if Biafra had survived?