Opinion: We are all Biafrans…
The Court in Abuja has, at last, discharged the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. This followed the withdrawal of the charges levelled against him by the Department of State Services. Counsel to Kanu, Vincent Obeffa, said going by the court’s ruling, the accused has no criminal cases against him in Nigeria or anywhere in the world and as such, he is a free man. No reason was given by the DSS for the sudden volte face but it does appear there is the application of a subtle nolle prosequi by the Federal Government; an indirect response to the appeals from notable Nigerians to the effect that Kanu who is the face of Radio Biafra is not unduly hounded. The sudden freedom of Kanu may now preface the negotiation by the Federal Government with the rampaging youths styled Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who had these past weeks held the South-East and some parts of the South-south captive through their protests.
Kanu, indeed, may be temporarily free but this ‘gesture’ of government has not in any way addressed the issues that in the first instance precipitated the unrest and the acts for self-determination by IPOB members. The agitation by IPOB indexes the ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ theory. Why are the people of Biafra protesting well over four decades after the civil war; a war fought on the props of hate and marginalization? Why are they longing for their independence in an Independent Nigeria? Why do they still feel tethered to the manacles of exclusion, alienation and ostracism? Why are these Biafrans angry, so angry that they took to the streets and locked down major roads?
When the Biafra protests erupted, the initial reaction from the government was to issue a stern warning to the protesters without first trying to understand the psychology and sociology of the protests. Whether it is the Occupy Wall Street protest or the Arab Spring that tore through the Arab world and unseated Presidents, the common denominator of every protest ( an aggregation of people power) is anger towards the establishment, a rage against haves by the have-nots; a movement from the shadows of shackles to the frontiers of freedom.
Social psychologists have often argued that “at the heart of every protest are grievances, be it the experience of illegitimate inequality, feelings of relative deprivation, feelings of injustice, moral indignation about some state of affairs, or a suddenly imposed grievance”. This theory or strand of argument tends to ascribe legitimacy to every protest and by extension to the protesters.
That is why in the case of IPOB, the Nigerian government must tread softly. This is even much more so since Biafra has ceased to be a geographical entity. Biafra movement, just like the Occupy movement that was the forerunner to the Arab Spring, is not about geography, it is about the people, their action when they felt a brazen corrosion of their rights and privileges and a wanton erosion of their values and dignity. In the Nigerian context, Biafrans are not only the mobsters that took hold of Onitsha Head Bridge in Anambra, they are also the angry crowd of militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta whose heritage was despoiled by federal might in cahoots with oil majors and the proceeds used to build marbled mansions in Abuja and the rest plundered by the rapacious club of political elite.
Biafrans are the horde of young Nigerian graduates of all ethnic stocks roaming the streets without jobs. They are in their legion, swarming the streets in aimless swagger, hunting for jobs that have remained a mirage. Biafrans are those under-employed Nigerians whose wages are not living wages but livid wages; they get angry the day they receive their salary because it doesn’t just add up. Their wages cannot guarantee them minimal comfort.
Who really is a Biafran? He is an angry man, a scorned woman; he is the child born into hopelessness. He is that herdsman in Jimetta, Adamawa State whose 50 herds of cattle, his only earthly possession, had been rustled by gutsy Boko Haram insurgents and now he is left with nothing; a Biafran is the young Fulani damsel savagely raped by the beastly insurgents, robbing her of her self-worth and dignity of womanhood. The innocent teenage girl-child from Edo State who was conned into modern day slavery called prostitution in Italy in the guise of greener pasture is a Biafran.
The long queue of pensioners, some dropping dead, who throng the pension offices across the nation to receive their pensions but never got paid because a few privileged Nigerians have rationed their pensions to themselves in an open show of their thieving skills are all Biafrans. Nobody can be more Biafran than that Nigerian worker who slaved all his years in the private sector and who for no just cause is laid off without emolument; and they are many. Some bankers in Nigeria have spent the most active part of their lives inside the banking hall but were disengaged with just a maximum of two months’ salary as their ‘retirement benefit’. Need we chronicle the case of those Nigerians in the private sector who are being owed over six months’ salaries or more and they cannot quit because they have nowhere to go, they are stranded, and have become choleric and angry.
You see, we are all Biafrans; all of us who did not partake in the sharing bonanza in Abuja and in the thieving bazaar that has come to signpost the Nigerian government. When I think of Biafrans, I think of the Ijaw men from Ekeremor in Bayelsa to Ilaje in Ondo State whose means of livelihood, the waters, had been destroyed and denatured by a privileged few; now they cannot fish from the same waters their parents bequeathed to them because the oil majors have spilled raw grease into their aquatic heritage.
Make no mistake about it, Biafra cannot be ignored. It is a spirit. Spirits don’t die. The Biafra spirit is everywhere; in the North and in the South. It is a spirit that rebels against the mindless looting in Abuja, the kleptomania in public life and the ineptitude that runs through the nation’s security apparatchik so much that criminals have become emboldened in the evil ways more than ever. As at the time I was writing this column, naira has slumped to the lowest nadir ever at N277 to a dollar; prices of everything have gone up and there is much pain in the land and the people are completely alienated from the rationing outposts. This is what makes us all Biafrans; a people marginalized.
Author: KEN UGBECHIE…First published in Sunday Sun, December 20, 2016