Nigeria has avoided discussing Biafra for far too long. Time to confront the subject headlong.
The Southeast States of Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo obeyed a sit-at-home directive jointly issued by the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
A few South South States like Bayelsa and Rivers also shuttered businesses and declared their communities free of vehicular movement.
And it worked.
It’s been that way for a couple of years now; especially since a demagogue called Nnamdi Kanu arrived the scene with doses of eccentricity to boot.
The States were all commemorating 50 years to the day a young military Governor of the eastern region, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, declared the Bight of Biafra a republic; stirring secessionist chants that have outlived him.
“Now therefore I, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra", Ojukwu declared.
Ojukwu’s declaration was made on May 30, 1967.
A bloody civil war that would claim over one million lives on the Biafra side of the divide, ensued.
Thousands of 'Biafrans' were left to starve to their graves by the Nigerian federal government.
The war began on July 6, 1967 and ended on January 15, 1970.
The Igbos who occupy Nigeria’s south east region, lost family, friends and property and were handed a few shillings to restart their lives.
It was a period that was bound to leave scars on the minds and souls of the Igbos and all those who lost loved ones in the brutal war.
The federal republic of Nigeria has avoided the subject of Biafra like a plague.
Successive Nigerian leaders mouth the phrase “the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable” glibly.
That’s where leadership has been making a mistake. We’ve got to negotiate and discuss the terms of our existence.
Far from being the elephant in the room, Biafra will provide us an opportunity to restructure and develop our country if we approach the dialogue table as honestly and open-minded as possible.
The different ethnic groups who make up this “mere geographical expression” called Nigeria, haven’t been dealt a fair hand by the State.
Since it attained independence in 1960, Nigeria has paid lip service to infrastructure development, provision of amenities and ensuring a conducive environment for business and livelihoods.
The Nigerian State has paid scant attention to education, jobs and factors that will lead to the pursuit of happiness.
Instead, the people have watched the mindless looting of the treasury and commonwealth by leadership, soldiers and politicians through the years, helplessly.
More than the wounds of a brutal war, Biafra agitations have resurfaced from the grievances and frustrations of a people who have been brow-beaten through the years by selfish and visionless leaders.
We are paying for the failure of leadership with the sprouting of ethnic militias like Egbesu boys, Boko Haram, Bakassi boys, OPC and Niger Delta militants.
Because the State has failed everyone, angry, frustrated and jobless impressionable youth have picked up guns and worthless causes in a bid to fend for themselves.
However, with agitations for a Biafra Republic not about to go anywhere anytime soon, let’s put this whole subject to a vote and let the people decide if they intend to remain or leave, through a plebiscite.
Let the lawmakers insert the possibility of referendums in the constitution and let’s keep negotiating the terms of our existence until we achieve some semblance of a nation that works for all.
At this point, it pays no one to keep avoiding the Biafra topic and trod on same like one is stepping on egg shells. We can't simply wish Biafra away. To deal with a problem, you’ve got to first discuss it.
To avoid another round of sit-at-home directives, violence and blood-letting in the name of Biafra, let’s head to the polls.
To prevent another radical like Kanu or MASSOB piggy-backing on Biafra to fool the people some more, let’s damn the consequences and ask the people to vote for themselves and their future.