THE FACTIONALIZED BIAFRA MOVEMENTS AND THE STATE OF BIAFRA
We have come to the year 2020, and it is 50 years since the end of Nigeria-Biafra war in 1970. That was when the State of Biafra beat a retreat. We do not say “surrender”, because to surrender is to give up, to accept defeat, to condition oneself to a particular state in perpetuity, which may be injurious, irritating, agitating, unconscionable, and inimical to human progress.
Biafra did not surrender, she merely beat a retreat. Biafra is a protest. It is a struggle against injustice, against oppression, against man’s inhumanity to man. Once there is injustice, once there is oppression, once there is segregation, there will be a Biafra to rise to the challenge, to oppose such injustice, such state of affair.
For long, the circumstances that led to the formal birth of Biafra, on May 30, 1967, that is, injustice and oppression, did not abate. It continued to manifest in various forms and dimensions, in degree and in intensity. But the people did not have a voice to complain, to agitate. They merely grumbled, murmured, without crying out for the world to hear them.
The first open revolt or protest against the injustice meted out to the Igbo, the denial to them of Nigerian Presidency, was in September 1999, when a group of young men came together to launch what is now known as the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, two distinguished Igbo sons, had in January 1999, contested the Presidency on the platforms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Peoples Party (APP) respectively, but were both denied the position. Many people were aggrieved. They were agitated. They were not happy. They were downcast, but they did not have the mouth to complain.
MASSOB, led by one Ralph Uwazurike, an Indian trained lawyer, came on hand, as a reprieve. It decried the continued marginalization of the Igbo in Nigeria, the denial of their rights in the country, and declared that it was out to lead the people to salvation, the State of Biafra.
It said that it was only in the State of Biafra that the Igbo could have salvation, and that it was wholly committed to the struggle, using nonviolent method. It mapped out a 25-point programme for the realization of its objective, the State of Biafra.
The founding of MASSOB attracted sympathy for thousands of jobless young men, who mostly bore the brunt of Nigeria’s socioeconomic and political disorder. They looked fervently on Biafra as their only hope of salvation.
Notwithstanding the fact that MASSOB had presented itself to be a nonviolent liberation movement, the Nigerian authorities still saw the group as their number one enemy. Using their security agencies they constantly harassed, arrested, killed and incarcerated many MASSOB members. The leader of the group, Ralph Uwazurike, was himself detained for more than two years.
In spite of these harassments, the intimidations and the arrests, the group remained resolute and steadfast in their quest for Biafra. They continued to press for the restoration of Biafra Republic. For more than one decade, MASSOB remained the toast of the people and held hope for thousands of youths, who had lost hope in the entity called Nigeria, and who were pained by the injustice and oppression existing in the country.
In course of time, however, with the Biafra dream still unrealized, misunderstandings began to creep in among the leadership of MASSOB. It reached its nadir in 2014, when a factional war broke out at the group’s headquarters at Okwe, in Okigwe, Imo State. Some MASSOB members were killed, and several others severely wounded. Uwazurike was accused of sundry offences, including personal enrichments and mismanagement of the group’s finances.
The resultant outcome of that war was the splitting of MASSOB into different factions, notably the Benjamin Onwuka led Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM), the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, while the remaining faction remained loyal to Uwazurike.
More and more factional groups were to emerge thereafter. Each of these groups believed itself to be the authentic liberation movement fighting for the restoration of Biafra, not to discountenance the Asari Dokubo led Biafra group.
The question is: how are these splinter groups, this breaking of Biafra libration movements into factions, helping the Biafra cause, the realization of the State of Biafra?
It is true that each of these groups mouth “Biafra” both in their slogans and their utterances, but they seem to be sworn enemies. They seem to have their different ideas and concepts of Biafra. That’s why they work at cross purposes, fight against one another, and uncoordinated in their efforts and actions.
The breaking of the Biafran liberation movement into splinter groups is the handiwork of the enemies of Biafra. They infiltrated into the group with some fifth columnists, who ensured that the solidarity among the group was broken, so that that there would no longer be unity of action, no united action against the enemy.
The present state of affairs in the country does not require the existence of factional groups. It does not require the existence of different Biafra groups. It requires unity of action, a united front against the enemy, because the enemy themselves are united against the people. They are united in unleashing their venom against the people. They are united in their onslaught against the people.
The earlier leaders of these splinter Biafra groups realized this, sank their differences, buried their personal egos, and come together as one united front, the better for all.