BIAFRA AS PROTEST AGAINST INJUSTICE
May 30 is historic. May 30 is significant. May 30 is memorable. May 30 is Biafra Day. On May 30, 1967, Biafra was proclaimed as a sovereign nation, independent of Nigeria. The day remains evergreen and stamps permanently in the minds of the people, in their psyche, and in their subconscious.
Biafra stands in judgment against Nigeria. Biafra is a sad reminder of the injustice done to the Igbo in the past and which continues even up till today . The more you try to suppress Biafra, the more it continues to resonate, to haunt the people, and to convict the nation of its ugly and despicable past.
On May 29, 1966, thousands of Eastern Nigerians, and particularly, the Igbo, resident in different parts of Northern Nigeria, were descended upon in well coordinated mob attacks by Hausa/Fulani youths, sponsored by their elders. In the process, many of the Igbo people were killed or maimed and their property looted or destroyed. Yet, it could not prick the conscience of Nigerians. Many of them kept quiet and did not say anything.
On July 29, 1966, the same coordinated attacks by the same group of people were again launched on the Igbo. This time around, it assumed the status of a counter coup, with hundreds of Senior Igbo military officers and soldiers of other ranks, including the then Head of State, Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, and his host, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of Western Region, as well as thousands of civilians, killed and their property looted. The nation and the world still kept quiet.
The same pattern of killings were again repeated on September 29, 1966. This time, it was no longer confined to the North, but spread to all parts of the country. That was when the Igbo realized that they were no longer wanted in Nigeria. They then decided to make their way back to the East.
By the end of the year, 1966, no less than 30,000 Eastern Nigerians, and the Igbo, in particular, had returned to the East as refugees, while over 3,000 others were killed or maimed and their property looted or destroyed.
Every effort made to resolve the crisis, including a meeting of the ruling military officers held at Aburi in Ghana in January 1967, hit brick walls, as every Nigerian was out to push the Igbo or the East, out of Nigeria. That was when the people of the East decided to take their destiny in their hand, and to seek refuge in their own land. This led to the birth Biafra, on May 30, 1967, when Ojukwu declared Biafra, which was a defence mechanism.
But that was not the end. A genocidal war was then unleashed on the people, and everything possible done to wipe Biafrans out of the surface of the earth, including the use of most unconventional methods of modern warfare, starvation, and what have you. But the people would not be annihilated, they continued to trudge on.
At the end of the war, every Igbo man who did not perish in the war, and who had money deposited in banks before the war, was reduced to twenty pounds, or forty naira, no matter the amount he had in those banks. This was to further crush them the more. From then on, the Igbo, or the Biafrans, were relegated to the background and no longer counted, or had fair share in the entity called Nigeria.
Far back in 1591, Biafra was seen on the world map, on the Portuguese map, showing an area inhabited by some “vigorous people whose deep culture celebrated energy, accomplishment and wisdom”. On May 30, 1967, a new Biafra emerged, inhabited by the same “vigorous people”, but this time, it was Biafra, standing as resentment or as a protest against injustice, against oppression, and against man’s inhumanity to man.
Modern Biafra is therefore on historic mission. It is on mission to humanize Nigeria, to rid the country of injustice and oppression. Even if all the armies in the world were to be mobilized and marshalled out against Biafra, they would not succeed in defeating Biafra, because Biafra has become a phenomenon, a movement engraved in the minds of the people, and in their subconscious, from 1591 to date.
Most of the people who are currently championing Biafra, campaigning or agitating for the actualization of Biafra, were young men and women who were born long after Biafra was said to have been defeated in 1970. That was about 52 years ago. But the Biafra movement is still vigorously alive and will continue to thrive.
This is because Biafra is aimed to convict Nigeria of injustice. There are many injustices in Nigeria. There is injustice in access to political power. There is injustice in allocation of resources. There is injustice in the distribution of political offices. There is injustice in the siting of projects. There is injustice in the utilization of the nation’s Commonwealth, etc.
In particular, Nigeria has not been fair to the Igbo. Accordingly, Biafra stands as a protest against a system which consistently denies a particular ethnic group, the right to aspire to the highest office in the land, the Presidency; which excludes them from occupying top positions in the country’s Armed Forces, the Police, and other security services, etc.; which fails to recognize the talents or the worth of Igbo man, the sacrifices he had made or his contributions in building Nigeria; and which keeps out the Igbo from participating in the sharing of the country’s resources.
Biafra is also a reminder of the faulty foundation of Nigeria: that Nigeria was an imposition, an unholy wedlock or forced marriage, which was contrived by Great Britain without the consent of the marriage partners.
Biafra is also a clarion call for an urgent review of this unholy wedlock, before it gets messier or torn to pieces.
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