Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Obasanjo`s Nigeria :
This Cloud is Thickening
Daniel Obi Mozie
Most people have erroneously referred to the term “biafra” as a secessionist movement. Far from that! Inasmuch as it symbolizes a certain revolutionary movement, which, like Archimedes, sought a place to stand in order to move its “world,” it is a mere intellectual oversight to refer to it simply as a geographical entity. It is rather, a collectivist-individualistic movement of a set of people who share a certain sense of equity,based on an indigenous African existentialist philosophy called “Biafranism.” Inasmuch as this work is not intended to be a mere mental gymnastics, it is aimed at provoking thoughts and awakening the minds of my folks towards a positive appraisal of this first indigenous African modern philosophy of existence and self-realization.
In the wake of the recent Kano uprising that consumed the lives of over 500 Nigerians, mainly Igbo, Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo wrote inter alia:
“ Being that these kinds of killings have been going on for over seven decades, one would have loved to know the contingency plan these “foreigners” in cities like Kano had put in place. Or were they thinking that every last massacre was the last, until another and then another?… This relative period of peace, an interlude before the next wave of killings, is the time to find a rational solution. A serious solution must show that the ‘foreigners’ have chosen life instead of death. It must be practical. It must be long lasting. It must not rely on government help. It must put Nigeria’s reality into consideration. It must be loud enough to stir up the sleeping majority everywhere. But most importantly, it must have the potential to permanently alter the way things are.” (Nigeriaworld. com, Monday, June 21, 2004).
Rudolf Okonkwo`s comment was not developed from a vacuum. It is a prescription predicated on the principle of active acceptance of human nature, as opposed to the stoic philosophy of passive acceptance, or to the Buddhist idealistic fatalism. It goes beyond the latent Cartesian syllogic order of “I think, therefore I exist”. Yet it is not a call for anarchy, or for a sordid and mean display of power, rather it is a well guarded recommendation for an existentialist collective (“inter-subjective”) sense of commitment that is backed by the deed to give essence to man`s existence. It is a reflection on the reality facing the southerners in Nigeria, especially the indigenes of the Southeastern Nigeria. It was such a reality that gave birth to the defunct Republic of Biafra. Biafra was a child of necessity. The term Biafra is not really a geographical entity, rather, it is a philosophy that is centred on survival and individual freedom to choose a better act of living in the face of abandonment or brutal oppression. It is a solidarity for self-actualisation. It is apparently about unity against the forces of antagonism. It is simply a homegrown philosophy of taking one`s own destiny into one`s own hands, when the existing authorities refuse to help.
In the year 1946, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: The existentialist “thinks that man is responsible for his passion…. He thinks that every man, without any support or help whatever, is condemned (damned) at every instant to invent man. As Ponge has written in a very fine article, “Man is the future of man.” That is exactly true. Only, if one took this to mean that the future is laid up in Heaven, that God knows what it is, it would be false, for then it would no longer even be a future. If, however, it means that, whatever man may now appear to be, there is a future to be fashioned, a virgin future that awaits him — then it is a true saying. But in the present one is forsaken.”( Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946:Existentialism as a Humanism, in Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, ed. Walter Kaufman, Meridian Publishing Company, 1989).
In fact, the idea of Biafra is not different from the twentieth century existentialist philosophy inspired by the works of a danish philosopher and religious existentialist Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). According to Kierkegaard, humans are composed of three parts: the finite (temporal), the infinite (spiritual), and a relationship of the two in itself. In the process of an interplay between the finite and the infinite, there exists tension, resulting in the full awareness of the incapability of “self”. It is this tension, in full awareness of itself, that is “self”. In the absence of either of the two components, there occurs either insensibility or exuberance, representing a loss of self, which leads to despair (aesthetic or ethical despair). The situation of self-realization is characterized by the “anguish” in man`s recognition of his insufficiency to influence both his past (which is already behind him) and his future (which is uncertain). To overcome this “anguish”, man needs to rely on a transcendental power (God) that exists beyond the borderline of man`s limited strength. Kierkegaard`s book, Fear and Trembling, parodies Abraham`s anguish. His perfect obedience to God to sacrifice his son is a demonstration of full consciousness and the action of “self”. Kierkegaard`s is however an effort that was tampered in defence of the christian faith that ensure`s man`s salvation through God`s forgiveness of sin and His acceptance of man`s insufficiency. In the twentieth century, there was a replacement of the notion of faith with the individual will power, expressed in man`s inherent freedom to choose the best attainable act of living that is cognizant of the conditions of the others. In choosing the best attainable, man chooses the Good. The Good is that with which an individual feels better without worsening the situation of the other. The Good is achieved when there is no other better alternative attainable without worsening the situation of others. In other words, the Good represents a balance or a “pareto-efficiency.” (Vilfredo Pareto—1848-1923, was an Italian economist whose work on the general equiligrium theory to some extent influenced the twentieth century existentialist teachings of Gabriel Marcel and Jean-Paul Sartre). Pareto-efficiency refers to social optimum or equity. In the absence of a pareto-efficiency, the Choice becomes “a Bad Faith” or “a leap of faith”. In this vein, Sartre described the existential man as a trinity sort of phenomenon: “a Being-in itself” (individual existence); “a Being-for itself” (subjective essence); “a Being-for others” (rational or objective essence or “good faith”). It should be recalled that America got to the knowledge of this existentialist philosophy during the second world war and has since then adopted it as not only her political, but also her socio-economic culture. Today, inasmuch as America claims to be God`s own country, the Americans are convinced that belief in oneself is the most effective faith. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain”. Even Nash`s popular “Game Theory” represents the influence of the existentialist “inter-subjective” philosophy, for it is based on the major existentialist burden that is centred on the search for a pareto efficiency.
According to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, existentialism is ”characterized by an emphasis on individualism, individual freedom and subjectivity”. However, this is a very narrow definition of existentialism. The concept of existentialism on a broader perspective can be described as an “universal”, rather than a “singular”. (It should be noted that an acceptable explanation of the concept of universality and singularity has always been a source of conflict among thinkers, from Socrates, through Aristotle, to Kant, Hegel and even to the present day). According to Sartre, in any singular, there is an universal. Sartre further wrote: “Thus, the first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders. And, when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. The word “subjectivism” is to be understood in two senses, and our adversaries play upon only one of them. Subjectivism means, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual subject and, on the other, that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity. It is the latter which is the deeper meaning of existentialism. When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for the entire epoch in which we find ourselves. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole”.(Ibid).
In other words, existentialism is centred on the individual freedom to establish the dignity of man. Man here is a collective noun, representing mankind as a whole.
However, when a set of people find themselves in the same predicament that is characterized by a common feeling or “tension”, the result of it is a surge of collectivist-individualism, a commonly felt self-awareness or an impulsive formation of a near (impermeable structure of an) in-group that aims to protect itself against any external agression or challenge, as well as designing common strategies of survival that is capable of positively affecting mankind as a whole- or “Biafranism”- if you like.
The historical evolution of this version of existentialism is by implication, captured in the letter written by His Grace, Sir Akanu Ibiam, to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II:
“ During the months of May, July, August, and September, 1966, Northern Nigerian soldiers and civilians planned and committed the most atrocious crimes against Eastern Nigerians—now citizens of the Republic of Biafra. Sadistically, brutally and in cold blood, they murdered and slaughtered thousands of my brothers and sisters who were then living in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the former and defunct Federal Republic of Nigeria. They killed innocent children, helpless women, and defenseless men without any reason or rhyme. They entered churches and hospitals and slaughtered them in cold blood. And most unbelievably yet only too true, they massacred women in actual LABOUR and their unborn children. They plundered, looted, assaulted and raped women and burnt down the homes of Easterners and left them penniless.
“The most painful and unsoldierly act of all was that these Northern Nigerian soldiers killed their superior officers, including and especially His Excellency the Military Governor of Western Nigeria, Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, and his guest and comrade, His Excellency, the Head of Supreme Military Council and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the former Federal Republic of Nigeria, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, both of them of blessed memory. On July 29, 1966, they were kidnapped by Northern Nigerian soldiers and ruthlessly killed after torturing them. It must be stated here that the late Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Eastern Nigerian at that time, went all out to build up ONE UNITED AND STRONG NIGERIA through a unitary Government Administration, but paradoxically and ironically, he met a cruel and untimely death for that very reason. It is very strange, therefore, that Nigeria should be futilely waging a war of aggression against Biafra in her impossible bid to force Biafra back into this very same union—One Nigeria from which she had been so purposely and systematically forced out. Be that as it may, all kith and kin fled Northern Nigeria, Western Nigeria, and Lagos and returned to their homeland of Eastern Nigeria, the only place they knew they could have protection. In the process, Eastern Nigeria was left to look after and cater for at least two million refugees, and she has done and is doing so with commendable achievement. Eastern Nigeria did not retaliate in any way, for we do not kill strangers within our gates, and being humble and sensitive Christians, we refused to commit murder, (because it`s) contrary to the commandment of God, particularly as we believe that two wrongs can never make a right. Northern Nigerians in Eastern Nigeria were therefore collected together and escorted safely by train across the border to their own section of Nigeria.
“In the succeeding months, the Hausa/Fulani controlled Lagos Government of Nigeria purposely, directly, and inexorably forced Eastern Nigeria out of the Federation, and our Military Governor with advice and consent of our Consultative Assembly had no other choice but to declare Eastern Nigeria a free, independent and sovereign state to be known as the Republic of Biafra. This happy and historical occasion took place on May 30. On July 6th, Nigeria attacked Biafra in her mad wish to force Biafra to return to the Nigeria federation. Having killed 30,000 of us in their land and seized our property worth millions of pound sterling, they have now come to kill more of us in our own homes and make the rest of us slaves to the Hausa/Fulani Feudalists and Moslems.
“ The people of Biafra are, therefore, fighting a war of LIBERATION AND SURVIVAL. We adamantly refuse to be colonized by the Hausa/Fulanis of Northern Nigeria or any other people in the world. Moreover it is an ardent desire of the Hausa/Fulani and Moslem Northern Nigeria to subjugate Biafra and kill Christianity in our country.
“Your Majesty, the British officials in Nigeria are fully aware of all these. They know that we are injured and deeply grieved people and had been cruelly treated by our erstwhile fellow citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria. The British officials not only knew the crux of the matter, but they also encouraged Northern Nigeria to carry out and execute their nefarious plan against us. They are angry with Biafra because Biafra categorically refused to remain as part of the Nigeria federation and political unit only to be trampled upon, discriminated against and hated, ruthlessly exploited and denied her rights and privileges, and slaughtered whenever it suited the whims and caprices of the favoured people of Northern Nigeria.” http://www.kwenu.com/biafra/ibiam_letter.htm
As evidence abound that this act of persecution by the northern muslims against the christian south, especially against the people of Igbo origin, continues unabated, while the government of Obasanjo, as a matter of convenience, opts to act the preference of the muslim north, it may not be surprising if this concept of Biafranism spreads not only among Ndiigbo, but throughout the south and middlebelt region. Biafranism is not a monopoly of Ndiigbo. It has become an African homegrown existentialist philosophy of survival and self-actualization, when the existing authority proves unhelpful. It has nothing to do with geographical entity or secession. The government should not keep on blaming, arresting, torturing and persecuting the MASSOB and their allies, while pretending to be unaware of the ordeals of the christian Nigerians of the South and Middlebelt. It sounds cowardly, and brutally provocative, for the government to continue using the instruments of power to subdue the christians, all in an effort to please the Muslim North. I see no reason why the government of Kano state should not be sued for openly inciting and defending an uprising against the Nigerian citizens under whatever guise. That art of incitement is in itself, an act of TREASON.
The solution to Nigeria`s problem does not lie in clamping down on the non-violent, self-conscious MASSOB. The more the clampdown, the more secret the group goes, and the more the philosophy of Biafra spreads. The solution lies in discouraging tactical alienation and subjugation. Surely, this can only be achieved through a national conference. This requires urgency, for this cloud is thickening.
All this I submit in good faith!
God help Nigeria!
Daniel Obi Mozie,
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