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I HAVE SEEN BIAFRA AND IT IS NOT FUNNY - TONY OKOROJI

SATURDAY BREAKFAST with TONY OKOROJI
I owe the readers of this column an apology. Try as I did, there was no breakfast served last week. At breakfast time, I was caught up at the airport in Casablanca on the way to Lagos from New York. The WIFI at the airport in Casablanca simply refused to connect to my system. Once again, my apologies.

When we were not talking about hurricanes, the Biafra matter was one that I discussed with a lot of my kin whom I met on my brief trip to America. How would I have known that I would get back to witness the crazy dance of a big snake right at my back yard, a tragic dance that I believe could have been prevented. The events of the week made me to exhume the second of a two-part series I posted over a year ago. Please read on:

Do you know that the great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, was once referred to by some as a saboteur to the Igbo cause? You may ask, ‘how can?!’

What was the treachery of this undeniably great son of Igbo land against his people? It is simple. In the heat of the Biafra war, the wise old man had surveyed the killing field in which thousands of Igbo men, women and children were being slaughtered every day and he could not bear it any more. He sought for an end to the mayhem to ensure that the Igbo man was not annihilated. To some, that was heresy!

In Biafra, it was very easy to be termed a saboteur if you were not constantly singing the popular song, “Save my bullet when I die, Oh Biafra! Save my bullet when I die, Alleluia, if I happen to surrender, I die forever. Biafra save my bullet when I die!”

Indeed, many were summarily executed for questioning the war, its methods or the leadership. I can see that today many of my brothers and sisters who are in a position to bring some introspection into the recent events are scared. They will not talk because they are afraid of being referred to as saboteurs. I very much understand it. They are afraid of the dire consequences any questions asked may bring.

Last week on ‘Saturday Breakfast’, I served a piece titled “I have seen Biafra and it is not funny‘. The intent was to ensure that we have a serious discussion of the issues before diving headlong into a confrontation we may not be quite prepared for. The reaction to the piece which travelled further than I had expected was interesting. While a good number of people showed a clear understanding of what I was trying to say, there were those who cursed me out! As far as these people are concerned, any Igbo man who today does not give full throated support to the recent agitation for a Sovereign State of Biafra and the method of the agitation has sold out. He is a saboteur!

Those who have regularly shared ‘Saturday Breakfast’ with me would have noticed that once the meal is served, I step back. As a rule, I do not join in the conversation. Mine is to present a ‘Keynote Address’ and let the discussion begin.
Please let no one discount the present agitation. For good or for bad, it might define where Nigeria goes and what kind of future my children would have. There clearly is a substantial number of my kith and kin who believe that Biafra is the solution to everything that ails us. So, they want Biafra and they want it now. It is that sexy. What I am not sure of is whether they have given any real thought to how Biafra may be achieved or if indeed Biafra is the answer we seek.

Some of those who reacted to my last piece say that the new Biafra agitation does not require that a war be fought and that the new Biafra has been ordained by God. I will be the last person to ask anyone not to dream because almost every great human achievement has been the product of a dream. Human history however shows that once you begin this kind of struggle, you cannot foretell how it will end. There are too many trigger-happy people around who would fire a shot and what was meant to be a peaceful demonstration turns into a war.

To tell you the truth, I am yet to see how a Nigerian leader will preside over the secession of a chunk of the nation. Some have spoken about a plebiscite or a referendum. They all sound good. How do you get there? Did Goodluck Jonathan with ‘Ebele’ as his middle name not make sure that MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazuruike spent a good amount of the last government’s tenure in the slammer? Now, a wise man expects President Buhari, an army General to be drinking pepper soup while Nnamdi Kanu is all over the nation doing his Biafra thing. Please tell me, how does that work?

There are those who believe that Eyimba FC of Aba will wallop Barcelona FC with Messi, Suarez and Neymar at their best. Ask them how and they tell you that it has been ordained by God. How do you argue with a man who believes that the God of all has taken sides with him against the rest of His children? Go ask the Boko Haram bomb throwers and they will tell you that their objective has been ordained by God. Al Shabab kills with the same belief and so do the suicide bombers of Al Qaida and ISIS. The followers of Osama Bin Laden were so sure that nobody could kill Osama until Barrack Obama gave the instruction that he be hunted down, killed and buried at sea. Even now, some still do not believe that Osama is dead. After all, how can a man die when his objective is ordained by God?

By the way, what will the map of the new Biafra look like? When the late Ikemba Nnewi declared the Republic of Biafra in 1967, he could do so. As Governor, he was in charge of the former Eastern Region and spoke for the region. That piece of real estate is today made up of Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States with nine governors. Is it expected that the governors of these states will come together to announce the new Biafra? Oh, the average persons in Calabar, Uyo or Yenegoa will just obey… Abi? What if they don’t, what will happen? After all, the basis of the Biafra agitation is the Freedom of Choice. What happens to do those who exercise their freedom by saying ‘no’?

Some of those who reacted to my article said that times have changed and things are not where they stood during Ojukwu’s Biafra. I verily agree. There are many Igbos today who are married across ethnic or tribal lines and who do not want to wake up and find their in laws in another country. There are many who have businesses and billions in property outside of Igbo land and who are watching these agitations with disbelief. Only a person who is drunk on some concentrated ‘ogogoro’ will expect that every Igbo man will support the Biafra agitation. There are many with reasons to say no. There are many who do not want to go through immigration to cross the Niger Bridge from Onitsha to Asaba. Who is the biggest trader in Nigeria? Is it not the Igbo man with a market of 170 million people? Who wants to reduce that market to a handful of people and expect peace?

Let me state clearly that as an Igbo man, I demand no special considerations or favours from anyone. I am satisfied that as long as there is a level playing field, the Igbo man will score a goal. He is brilliant, industrious and brave. Unfortunately, the Igboman still needs to show that he is politically savvy. The most powerful women in Nigeria’s recent political dispensation have all had strong Igbo linkages: Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Diezani Allison Madueke, Stella Oduah.
That did not guarantee jobs for our teeming unemployed. Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the most powerful CBN governor in recent history, is an Igbo man. That did not fix the Owerri Onitsha Road or Enugu Port Harcourt Road. I do not agree that an Igbo man has to be President whether in Biafra or Nigeria for the Igbos to make progress. Just a level playing field and I am good to go. I have seen Biafra and it is not funny.

See you next week

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