Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
THE STATE of BIAFRA
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
Emmanuel Uzo Obi
February 18, 2005
This is not an attempt to start another controversy but rather to look at things the way they really are. Perhaps, there are those already spoiling for a fight or getting ready to rain abuses on me, but I will ask them to hold on until I am done.
This discussion could not have come at a better time than now as the over three hundred ‘wise men and women’ assemble to consider the fate of the geographical expression or entity called NIGERIA (Nigger - Area).
That the Federal Government has threatened to use force to stop PRONACO is so sad and primitive but even more troubling is the fact that the NATIONAL DIALOGUE has no enabling Law. The absence of an enabling law is a reminder of the fate of the recommendations of the OPUTA COMMISSION.
I have checked my calendar several times just to make sure that the NATIONAL DIALOGUE is not being inaugurated on 419 and it would not wind up sitting on 419.
Do we now trust the President one more time? You know there are a number of things funny about the NATIONAL DIALOGUE. The National Assembly has refused to approve funding, and our President has decided to be creative in funding the initiative. Question: Why has the President not been creative in ensuring that pensioners have their pensions paid up to date? The President no doubt is enjoying the positive media climate created by the Togolese madness…his tough posturing, tough talk and all that. This will soon fade away and he will soon be confronted with the real issues that will emerge as the NATIONAL DIALOGUE proceeds and other pressing national issues such as the Anambra affair and the challenge of PRONACO.
The fact still remains that no matter how happy the President may be at this time, the National Dialogue is a credibility test. No excuses will be accepted when the other branches of government begin to throw punches. The Patriots have spoken and some other well meaning Nigerians have advised the President to get an enabling Law. It is indeed extremely difficult to believe that the President is sincere but time will tell.
Back to our main subject: the State of Biafra within a Federal Republic of Nigeria. No matter how absurd the combination may sound, this is still a viable idea. But first, let us consider the two words BIAFRA and NIGERIA.
The word BIAFRA has two aspects, namely Positive aspects and Negative aspects. The Positive meaning of Biafra includes, to UNITE, to ENERGIZE, and to INNOVATE. In it’s uniting aspect, it bonds together a people with a common cause, common aspiration. The energizing aspect includes a spirit of patriotism, loyalty, and energy towards the advancement of the commonwealth of a people. The innovative aspect deals with the ability to create out of nothing. The word BIAFRA has a similar meaning to that of AMERICA.
The negative aspects of the word include FEAR usually a figment of the imagination of those outside the historic but short-lived republic. In the real world, BIAFRA is harmless and one can check this out when you consider the movement (MASSOB) that tends to usurp the word BIAFRA that incidentally is not a Nigerian word or a word in Igbo language.
The movement known as MASSOB is non violent and have not been found to use arms. Propaganda (Egbe Onu) is the main weapon of this group that has capitalized on the negative aspect of the word BIAFRA to instill fear particularly in those who have skeletons in their cupboard.
During the colonial era, it is alleged that when the British found no appropriate name to give the geographic and Babel of confusion they occupied, they came up with the word NIGERIA or NIGGER AREA. The British it is also alleged removed one letter ‘G’ to derive the word NIGER. It was then thought that blacks would reject the word NIGERIA if they found it was actually derived from NIGGER. So for decades, the British have unwittingly referred to Nigerians as NIGGERS with their unconscious acquiescence.
President Obasanjo as military ruler changed the national anthem because a foreigner wrote it. That was commendable. He should also at this point in our history initiate action to change the name Nigeria which was equally stamped on us derogatively by the British.
President Obasanjo is very worried about the negative image of Nigeria in the World; and image laundering is now his pet project. The bad image of Nigeria was built over a long period of time and it will not be easy except for extreme measures. The first steps could mean a name change and concerted efforts towards fighting corruption, injustice and indiscipline, enthroning fiscal responsibility, responsible government, restructuring, safe and secure environment, bonding of the people as one. If the people perceive that their government is responsible and have their interest at heart, they would proudly fly the national flag and colors, sing the national songs or anthems and have an absolute loyalty to the Nation. All these are absent in the present geographical expression called NIGERIA.
Suppose Nigeria decided to go for this make over, and rename itself BIAFRA. My suspicion is that the Igbos of Nigeria will shout FOUL. But do the Igbos have a monopoly to that word Biafra? On the other hand, the non-Igbos would still shout FOUL because of FEAR, which is a figment of their imagination. Should they accept the word; the MASSOB members will face unemployment and become irrelevant? But aside from all the bitterness and acrimony these thoughts may generate, a new BIAFRA may just be what we need to move on.
Failing this, how about a State of Biafra within the Nigerian Federation? Does the Federal Government really have the right to pick a name for the constituent parts of Nigeria? It is hoped that when the National Dialogue rises, we will have the various nationalities within Nigeria joining to create the Federal Government. For the Federal Government to create States has always been an anomaly and this is the time to rectify this.
Perhaps, some may begin to question the motive of having Biafrans within Nigeria. But how about Texans, New Yorkers, North Carolinians etc who are also Americans? Having a State of Biafra within Nigeria or Nigeria renamed Biafra will once and for all demystify the word Biafra. Again if the people of the South-South region decide to resurrect the name BENDEL there is nothing wrong with having BENDELITES.
At the time of writing, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has not been nominated to the National Dialogue. The non inclusion of the name of Odumegwu Ojukwu is suspect. It is hoped that fellow Igbos did not connive with Igbo detractors to exclude his name. Or is it a case of lack of coordination between Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and Governor Ngige? The Igbos will be watching their delegation very closely because Ojukwu himself has been tried and tested and the Igbos have absolute confidence in him. It is hoped that those who have been nominated to represent the Igbo Nation are not chickens. If they are, they should remain in Abuja and don’t come home after the ABUJA ACCORD. (?) Now it is the turn of Igbos to produce the President, some groups in Nigeria now want to change to the Parliamentary system of Government. So the Igbos can produce a ceremonial President while the North and the Yorubas would then produce the Prime Minister ?
On the whole, it is expected that at the conclusion of this conclave, conference, dialogue or whatever, all the nationalities shall stand up and insist ON ABUJA WE STAND. President Obasanjo must not be allowed to hijack the Accord which is the people’s wish. The Federal Government or any individual or groups of individuals should not be allowed to maneuver the accord into an ‘accord concordial’
One of the contentious issues that will confront the National Dialogue is the structure of Nigeria. If we are to adopt the US model, the FOUR TIER structure will definitely bring development to the grassroots. The Federal, State or Region, Province and City/Town.
Another issue that will confront the National Dialogue is the State Police. The present structure of the Police is unacceptable, is not working and will never work. The Acting Inspector-General of Police Ehindero is not being forthright when he claims there is movement towards national police forces globally. The United States has about 17,000 independent Police departments and this has worked from time.
The people have two viable choices to make namely adopt the structure proposed in the document MNN ‘S Law Enforcement and Public Safety Reform Agenda (available on request) The other alternative is to create a Divisional Police Command for each City or Town with the State Headquarters providing support services. While the Federal level should be compressed allowing for the emergence of independent and autonomous specialized agencies such as the EFCC, etc.
(For a partial discussion of this option, see http://www.dawodu.com/obi1.htm )
If President Obasanjo has no intention of implementing the recommendations of the National Dialogue, it is better to halt the Dialogue now than allow the dialogue to proceed. To play games with this conference is like setting the Nation on fire.
Good luck NIGERIA!
~ Emmanuel Obi writes from the State of North Carolina. Opinions expressed in this article are entirely mine.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.