The author of the 1976 novel, Sunset at Dawn, Chukwuemeka Ike popularized the term, Biafranisation. A phenomenon he tagged a revival of the Igbo ingenuity, grit, innovation and resourcefulness that were spontaneously employed during the war. A Biafra defined not by territorial boundaries, but by character and identity.
A question that is often asked is ‘How can the Igbo manage a Biafra, when they cannot manage a South East region?’. A question that I find puzzling because the world is aware of the human resource quality of the Igbo people. Igbo people head some of the most renowned global offices. But the irony is that the ancestral home of this highly revered people has become the direct opposite of what the people are or are meant to represent. The worst in the society have taken over the leadership, leaving the region to ruins. An excuse that is readily whipped out is that, such poor leadership is a Nigerian problem and that the region has not reached its economic heights because of the constitutional limitations of Nigeria’s fiscal federalism.
Dr. Opata, a lecturer of mine was fond of saying that Biafra would resemble Burundi if it succeeds today, because of one reason- food. Unfortunately for the excuse givers, production of food is not within the Exclusive list. Let us rewind to the years between 1960 and 1966. Micahel Okpara, the last true regional transformist leader led an Eastern region that produced half the world’s output of palm kernels and was a net exporter in agricultural produce; exporting cotton, cocoa, ground nut and other cash crops. Over 50 industries sprouted around Umuahia, Aba, Enugu, Okigwe, and Onitsha within the same period. Today, the food insecurity in the East is alarming and has become more obvious with this regime’s land border closure policy and the flooding and dessertification problem in the North. Additionally, if the Agatu area in Benue and other food producing parts of the North decide to halt trade with the East, hunger would ensue. A nation that is not food secured cannot survive. This, did the Igbo people experience firsthand during the war, when the young country, Biafra, was blockaded, and thereafter forced to surrender.
Biafranisation over Biafra
The activities that triggered a declaration of the state of Biafra on May 30, 1967 were justifiable. The pogrom, the disregard of the Aburi accord, the coup and targeted killings are little or non-existent now. In fact, Nigeria is unfair to everyone today, except those in government. In 1967, the Igbo people had only one enemy and found unity in suffering and pain. Such is not the case now. Today, South East leaders are the biggest oppressors of the Igbo people.
More so, the reasons for desiring Biafra in 1967 are almost not valid today. The coming together of different ethnic nationalities to form an independent country outside Nigeria cannot happen today with the new turn in political aspirations. Thus, as the term ‘Biafra’ was not original to the Igbo people between 1967 and 1970, the map, arrangement and the name cannot be claimed by the Igbo people alone today.
Furthermore, and explicitly important to note is a tendency to ride on the wave of sentiments that the lost war and the further injustice trigger. More Biafran agitators are driven by what Igboland can be if it ceased to be a part of Nigeria, than actually practising how to make the region as desirable as they would want it in a new country. It begs one to wonder if the hubris of keeping a struggle alive is more important that developing the region. For the past years, Biafran agitators have avoided any attempt at developing their region. The focus has long been on the Federal government yielding to a referendum while the more direct and closest detractors plunder and pillage what is left of Igboland.
A Biafranisation would rather understand the consequences of the unabated deterioration and underdevelopment in the region, by galvanizing and harmonizing the human capital resources of the Igbo people, both home and abroad, to form a bloc that would design and implement a new future for the region. The devil’s blame game on the federal government has become abysmally too stale and embarrassing because it expresses indolence, victim-mentality and a sense of misplaced priority.
The resourceful people of the old Eastern region made make shifts inventions during the war. They refined the fuel that powered their war tanks, made bombs and other weapons of warfare. They made airstrips, trained soldiers within the shortest possible time. Most impressive, were the concerted efforts to refurbish and rebuild their war-devasted home. Late. Sam Mbakwe led his people in a crowd funding system to build the airport in Owerri. Young volunteer men and women offered their time and energy to fix and build roads, bridges, houses and industries. The onye aghana nwanne ya cultural concept was activated with people moving to help their neighbours for they knew that the development of the region was hinged on the development of the people. The communal-capitalist economic model, Igbo apprenticeship system, that is presently under the Harvard Business Review was brushed off and reactivated after the war to help the people rise from the ashes. They embodied a dream, a Biafranisation that became an identity and not merely an approved distinct national territory.
From history, when the Igbo people are coerced to work together by fate or circumstances, magic always happens. There has been no recent communally driven invention because work has not been done.
This is a clarion call to all Igbo youths especially, to declare a state of emergency on the underdevelopment of Igboland and innovate political, economic, socio-cultural interventions to drive the necessary growth and to create a befitting homeland.