Biafra: the paradox of failure of leadership in Nigeria
BY GOZIE IROGBOLI:
The Nigerian Civil War ended 47 years ago but the scar and the injuries it inflicted on us have not only refused to heal but have continued to fester due mainly to the inherent contradictions of deliberate punitive retributive measures adopted by the various Nigerian government ever since. It is regrettable that the Nigerian governments controlled by the cult of generals have not deemed it fit to properly address the fundamental cause of the fratricidal war in spite of the yawning need for that.
When the war ended in 1970, the Federal Government had declared: ‘no victor no vanquished’ and proposed the famous 3Rs (Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Reconstruction) declaration that was never implemented. The 3R policy was obviously a parody of the American post civil war reconstruction initiatives. Instead of reconstructing the South East and compensating for the reprehensible act of genocide against the Igbo people as expected, the Nigerian governments in the past 47 years have adopted covert and overt measures to suppress, oppress and dehumanize the people of Igbo origin.
The condition of the Igbo people has grown worse from marginalization as was hitherto the case to complete exclusion as is the case in the present government thereby prompting the renewed agitation for the resuscitation of the defunct state of Biafra.
Unfortunately, the mindset of the Nigerian leaders is that they were magnanimous in victory by keeping the Igbos alive and accommodating them after the cessation of hostilities in 1970. In fact to them, the Igbo man should be grateful to them that he was allowed to exist after the war: the war that observers and analysts complained was fought with much bitterness; without adherence to the rules of engagements as civilian targets as well as women and children were decimated by rampaging Federal troops.
Thus, the complaint about marginalization to them is an act of ingratitude. This unpatriotic attitude (lack of political will, careless utterances and body language etc.) of the leaders has stirred up deep-seated hatred against the Igbos so much so that Ndigbo are like endangered species in Nigeria. This was why Prof. Chinua Achebe declared in his book ‘There was a country’ that Nigerians are united in their hatred for the Igbo man.
Over the years, Ndigbo of different hues have exhibited different attitude to their plight in Nigeria. The old and the conservative who saw the war have come to take their pitiable situation as fait accompli. Some Ndigbo especially those who expect their traducers to see them as nationalists, patriots and detribalized Nigerians use every opportunity and every platform to criticize, undermine and even sabotage Igbo interests. Some Ndigbo too, especially those from the cultural peripheries have attempted to deny their Igbo identity and embarked on elusive and ridiculous search for noble ancestry in order to avoid political persecution.
However, the vast majority of Ndigbo especially the youth who never witnessed nor take part in the internecine war have rejected the verdict of ‘war guilt’ clamped on them by the powers that be in Nigeria. Yes, they did not understand why the misadventure of few people in the army could be used to punish them in perpetuity. They have risen to question the status of second class citizens tacitly imposed on them in their country.
They did understand why they must live as hostage inhabitants in a country they claim to be theirs. They are obviously tired of a moribund system that glorifies mediocrity and nepotism. Lo, they want valid explanation for why those who took up arms against the state are being rewarded and the hapless citizens on peaceful protest are mowed down in hundreds in the South East region.Behold, they want to know why the South East ravaged by the Nigerian Civil War has not been reconstructed 50 years after whereas the reconstruction of North East under Boko Haram siege is being pursued aggressively.
Yes, they want to know why a budget of over 7 trillion Naira proposed for the 2017 fiscal year has less than 5% of it for projects in the South East. Indeed, they want an explanation why this administration sent a proposal to National Assembly to borrow the whooping sum $30 billion to finance various projects across the country when the whole South East is to be excluded from those projects.
They are tired of the reign of anarchy, violence and state induced ethnic prejudice against Ndigbo…
Thus, the emergence of Mazi Nnamdi Kalu, the leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and the renewed agitation for the restoration of the defunct state of Biafra is the direct consequences of the maltreatment of Ndigbo in Nigeria and the vestige of failure of leadership in Nigeria. As it is now, the agitation is beyond the person of Mazi Kalu. Many more Kalus will emerge if what led to the agitation are not handled properly and urgently too. How can a particular people be made to suffer for what was a collective mistake?
Therefore as the country Nigeria marks the golden jubilee of the declaration of the state of Biafra, it is imperative that the issues that gave rise to the schism are addressed squarely. This occasion calls for introspection and sober reflection. The managers of this government would do the country a world of good to wriggle out of the nadir of their primitive arrogance and address properly the challenge of Biafra.
They must not wait for nuisance value. They must adopt civil and constructive engagement. They cannot wish it away; neither can they suppress the matter with intimidation and blackmail. This is the golden truth. The gun cannot stop the epiphany of the truth.
A peep into history reveals that the consequences of injustice and unjust settlement of conflict is always grave. It is like delaying the evil day. When World War 1ended in 1919, the British, the leader of the Allied Powers that emerged victorious hoping to punish Germans and to weaken their power and influence in world affairs fixed the venue for the post-war settlement in Versailles France aware of the frosty relationship between Germany and France.
France had previously lost to the Germans during the Prussian Wars of the late 19th century. Thus, at the Treaty in Versailles, the American 14 point resolution was thrown out in preference for a harsh and punitive retribution against the Germans. There was forced disarmament against the Germany to ensure it could not pose any military threat again.
In addition to losing about 10% of its home territories and colonial territories (Cameroon, Togo, Tanganyika, Rwanda-Burundi, Namibia…) Germany was made to pay heavy reparation from 1920. The burden was so much that by the 1930s, German economy had collapsed. Economic historians have that the German currency was worth less than toilet paper then. The new generation of Germans emerged and began to question the rationale for the reparation. The result of that was a rebellion against the rest of the world.
This was the real cause of the World War 11 that claimed the lives of six million Jews; injustice, punitive retribution.
When World War 11 ended in 1945, the victorious and the liberal Americans never towed the line of the vengeful Britons. In a genuine bid to reconstruct the war-weary Europe and to forestall the spread of communism championed by the Soviets, the Americans designed the Marshall Plan (named after George C. Marshall) the then secretary of state who supervised the reconstruction effort.
The United Nations replaced the League of Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions were established to finance the reconstruction efforts. Again, when the American civil war ended in 1865, the Union that emerged victorious never persecuted the Confederate states of South. They pursued genuine reconciliation and America emerged stronger thereafter.
It is indeed unfortunate that at the end of the war in 1970, the Nigerian government rather follow the part of genuine reconciliation adopted the British crude superannuated doctrine of punitive retribution and recrimination thereby weakening the unity of the country in the process. Clearly, the effects of trying to marginalize the South East the abode of Ndigbo in Nigeria is ineffably unimaginable.
There is rancor, insecurity, and corruption, an undesirable culture of impunity and stymied development of the country as a result of this. The potentials of the Igbo nation known for their industry and hard work have not been properly harnessed due to the adverse socio-political climate in Nigeria. Nigeria as it currently constituted is faulty and anybody who wants the status quo to continue is obviously an enemy of the nation. In a very subtle and cruel manner the Igbo man has been attacked, ridiculed and demonized in Nigeria.
The masses are hungry and disoriented. What does the Igbo man want? The Igbo man is naturally democratic and republican. Ndigbo want a level playing ground; equity, justice and fairness. They want a system that will create equal opportunity for all and engender peaceful coexistence. They want an enabling environment that will allow meaningful economic activity to thrive.
- Gozie Irogboli(An economist and a public policy analyst(email@example.com)