The agitation for the actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra has been on for some time now. The Republic of Biafra came about when a secessionist state situated in south-eastern of Nigeria tried to break away from Nigeria but were stopped. Biafra was inhabited mostly by the Igbo people and was in existence from 30th May 1967 to 15th January 1970.
The Movement for the Actualization of State of Biafra (MASSOB) is yet to give up the fight to secede from Nigeria. The group have even established a radio station, called Radio Biafra somewhere in Europe.
In this piece, Naij.com’s contributor, Chidi Okoye, focuses on the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the President-elect and a renewed push by members of MASSOB for the creation of an independent State of Biafra.
* MASSOB members confused about the name their new country will bear.
* Nigerian government’s inaction has encouraged the group.
* The new government must not allow MASSOB activities continue.
Read his piece below.
The decaying gigantic structure that serves as the Lagos residence of a certain Ralph Uwazuruike, a self-acclaimed leader of the Movement for the Actualization of State of Biafra, ought to be symbolic of the failure of that misguided quest. However, we have continued to be confronted with such recent absurdities as the establishment of a Radio Biafra somewhere in Europe, an elusive Biafran currency somewhere in Anambra State and several half-hearted ‘marches’ organised to elicit sympathy for the movement.
The recent emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President-elect seems to have galvanised a renewed push by members of this group to advocate for the creation of an independent State of Biafra; or a United States of Biafra; or The Peoples Republic of Biafra. The advocates seem undecided about the name that this new country will have; a confusion that has characterised every aspect of this advocacy since it was born.
Having emerged winner of the presidential election of April 11, Buhari, a retired Army General seen by many in the South-East as having played a key role in the massacre of Igbos during the Nigerian Civil War, is being viewed with some trepidation in many quarters. For leaders of the Biafran movement, this presents another opportunity to maintain relevance and continue the misguided push for secession.
These so called leaders have no doubt been encouraged by the Nigerian government’s inaction over the past 15 years. Apart from half-hearted attempts made by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to arrest and prosecute key leaders of this group, no other president has adopted a decisive approach to end this charade. Buhari, and his party - the All Progressives Congress (APC), would need to take the necessary steps to put an end to this drama so that the Igbos can stop being confused about their role in the vital nation building that is required to heal Nigeria.
In many ways, this confusion was responsible for the high levels of voter apathy that was witnessed in the region during the general elections. In various gatherings, pro-Biafra illiterate activists have violently canvassed against Igbo participation in federal government organised elections; insisting that they are no longer Nigerians. The absurdity of the fact that these speakers probably carried Nigerian currency in their pockets seems to escape them. While the majority of Igbos have dismissed the rants as unrealistic, the numbers that have been indoctrinated are still damaging.
This is a situation that the new government cannot afford to allow continue. The rule of law must prevail. Where groups engage in such treasonable acts as arbitrarily declaring independent territories within a country, the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on them. Buhari must therefore capitalise on his image as a no-nonsense leader to wipe this blot off the national image. As has been explained in a previous article, if Buhari shows the Igbos that his government will not discriminate against any tribe or region, his actions against the illegal Biafra movement will be welcomed even in the South-East.
Nigeria is facing a crippling armed insurgency in the North-East, growing ethnic skirmishes in the Middle Belt and a risk of renewed militancy in the Niger Delta. It is time to establish a nationalism that will endure; and a reluctance to use force where necessary will hamper efforts to get us there. Working with governors of the South-East, Buhari would need to sensitise the people on the dangers of associating with an illegal movement for secession. Thereafter the judiciary and security agencies must take over and end this idiocy.
Biafra died in 1970. The jury is still out on whether the war was justified or not. Whichever be the case, the civil war ended with a joint decision to co-exist in one country – Nigeria. And by all means, we must have one country.