If you think that the Biafra movement is a joke, you may be living in a fool’s paradise.
There are indeed millions of my kith and kin who verily believe that the Republic of Biafra is coming soon and with it will come the end of all their problems. They have been made to believe that once the Igbo man is ‘liberated’ from the ‘zoo’ called Nigeria, Biafrans will no longer have to worry about school fees, health care, bad roads, epileptic power, unemployment, etc. Do not think that it is a joke but there are those who now believe that once the Republic of Biafra is proclaimed, the almighty American dollar will come crashing and the Igbo man can import whatever he wants freely from anywhere.
Yesterday, I saw the new Republic of Biafra live! The streets of Owerri, the capital of Imo State, were taken over by hundreds of fierce looking young men wearing IPOB Tee shirts and waving Biafran flags. On every road crossing, they controlled the traffic and told people where to go and where not to go. Their word was the law and everyone was scared. These my brothers and sisters were not acting like a government in waiting, I get the impression that they believe that they are the authentic government in charge of Igbo land.
Perception is reality and young, impressionable, unemployed, under-employed and frustrated Igbo boys and yes, girls, are joining the IPOB movement in droves. The movement is marketed as self-determination, democracy in action, and an exercise of freedom of speech.
I thought that freedom of speech means that you are allowed to have a robust debate. On this subject, there is no debate. The Igbo man, very well known for his fierce individuality, has been told that he must tow the line. It is the gospel that Igbos are oppressed and shackled in Nigeria and Biafra is the only answer. If you are an Igbo man and you have an alternative view, you better be careful how you express that view. You may be lynched. Your view cannot be honest if you are not in support of Biafra. You must be a lackey of the north, well paid by a cabal or you are a saboteur.
Many who feel differently are too scared to speak up. They don’t want to be lynched. The politicians are playing footsy with what is taking place before our eyes. I am very concerned that by the language of the Biafra movement, the impression is being created that the movement is not driven by the love of the Igbo man but by the hate of others. Any student of history will tell you how movements based on hate tend to end.
I know that there are fellow Igbo men who consider the Biafran agitation a bargaining chip in the Nigerian political chess board. As petrol continues to be recklessly poured on dry wood, this bargaining chip may get out of hand with historic consequences. Soon, the falcon may no longer hear the falconer.
I am a proud and unapologetic Igbo man. My surname which starts with ‘Okoro’ is a flag I proudly fly everywhere. Oh yes, I face the tribalism faced by everyone else in the country but how come I have never felt shackled in Nigeria?
May be because as an Igbo man, I have it in my genes that no one can shackle me. I verily believe that one of the unique strengths of an authentic Igbo man is that he can thrive anywhere practically under any condition. I worry that young Igbo boys and girls are now being brain washed into believing that except they get affirmative action, they cannot succeed. It is not true.
Earlier in the week in Abuja, I had a discussion with someone who could not understand how the Igbos feel marginalized in Nigeria. He asked me whether I knew that the Igbos own eighty percent of the hotels in Abuja and much of the real property in the territory. He reminded me that the Igbos own much of the sprawling Alaba market in Lagos and even much of Idumota and Balogun and that all the property in a big swat of Lagos belongs exclusively to Igbos. In his words, “Sabongari in Kano is, to all intents and purposes, Igbo territory and in practically every Nigerian city, there is a ‘Sabongari’ owned by the Igbos”. My guy asked me whether the Igbos honestly want to trade places with the North with a few billionaires and millions of hungry people, many begging on the streets of our country for alms.
Come to think of it, any proper analysis may reveal that the Igbos have the highest per capita income of any ethnic group in Nigeria.
Nigeria has provided the Igbos with a territory of nearly 200 million people to trade in. If we do not appreciate the huge value of that, we should look towards Europe to see why they desperately want a common market and why Brexit is causing so much consternation. Anyone who thinks that the Igbo man will sufficiently thrive in the small territory called Biafra may have drunk too much of some bad liquor.
I submit that the Igbo man must continuously strive to improve his lot in the Nigerian nation. We can have a reasonable debate without all the curse words whether the Igbo man should enter such a discussion with strategic vision and confidence based on our immense strength or with brigandage and hate speech. Let me repeat that no one can shackle the Igbos.
See you next week.