There is no journey without a beginning. The agitation for Biafra restoration is heterogeneous today, but has it always been so? If we track the development of the movement, we will find out that several years ago it existed as some other struggle by the Ogoni and Ijaw people in the coastal part of Biafra. The absence of the need for synergy of the various constituents of Biafra made some of them fight for freedom in exclusion to others.
Dr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, having replaced his boss, Dr. Leton – the real manufacturer of OGBUNIGWE, used by Biafrans in the Civil War – saw the need for the Ogoni people to demand fair and better treatment from Nigeria. The Ogoni Bill of Right became the product of that clamour, the same agitation that led to the loss of many lives, including that of the learned poet, writer, and environmentalist. All Dr. Kenule Benson Saro-Wiwa wanted for his people was justice in terms of the management and control of their natural endowment – black gold. He was guillotined and cremated for that noble course. But did that end the struggle? Ogoni people are still in full control of their oil, thereby denying Nigeria proceeds from it. How can we forget Dr. Kenule Saro-Wiwa? We now understand why it was easy for my team to get a positive nod from Ogoni for Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of the hinterland part of Biafra to visit. That visit, according to Legborsi Emmanuel, a Ogoni son, would have taken the struggle to the heart of the UN, since whatever concerns Ogoni becomes a global concern. Of course, we know that Nigeria was sanctioned for killing Dr. Kenule Benson Saro-Wiwa!
Jasper Adaka Boro, an illustrious son of Ijaw tribe, is another old driver of the current agitation. He was a student of UNN, Nsukka who tried to become the SUG president on the heels of his support from his brothers and sisters in the East. The story goes that the easterners were too tribalistic to let him win, preferring instead their own brother. Well, this planted a lasting seed of discord in Boro. He eventually became the students’ pilot, but he never forgot the tribalism. When he was ready to agitate for freedom, he directed his attack on the internal situation of the Eastern Region. Boro, having been victimised in the past, sought the end of Igbo and Nigerian domination of the Niger Delta, with particular reference to the Ijaw nation. Boro was charged with treasonable felony by Aguiyi Ironsi, the Head of State then, and committed to prison. At the onset of the Civil War, Boro was granted amnesty by Gowon and used to scuttle the plans of Biafrans. The tragedy of it all is that Boro was killed by those that used him.
Both Boro and Saro-Wiwa were potential allies to Ojukwu, but something was not right. Boro and Saro-Wiwa cannot take the blame alone anymore. I used to blame them, but I can see what they saw. Yes, having pitched tents with my Igbo brothers and sisters, even against the advice of great activists and resource persons in the coastal region, I think I understand how difficult it is to work with our hinterland counterpart to actualise the same goal. I know better now why Saro-Wiwa and Ojukwu had their feud and why same affected the struggle then. I understand why Boro had burning dislike for the Igbo, after having been denied a shot at the SUG presidency and committed to prison by Ironsi.
Sometime ago, I wrote a classicus about the entrepreneurial mindset of the Igbo, the IGBO CONCEPT OF NWANNE. The submissions thereto remain relevant, no doubt, but there is an observation. The unity we seek today is replete with discordant reasons, especially from our Igbo brothers and sisters. There are those who still think the coastal component of Biafra constitute the MINORITY. This is a very dangerous notion that must die. Here in the coast, we still have people that fear that the Igbo will dominate us the way they dominated the Old Eastern Region. Well, that fear is real, but we must work hard to kill it. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Kenule Saro-Wiwa, Jasper Adaka Boro, Dr. Obi Wali, etc were men of great academic and economic standing, yet they all faltered. Zik was carried away by his wild dream to become the Father of Africa. Saro-Wiwa put his own people, the Ogoni, first. Ojukwu brought military mentality into a civil struggle. Adaka Boro refused to go beyond his past experiences, and Obi Wali narrowed down his agitation to the liberation of his people, the Ikwerre.
Russell Bluejack, Tari Nemi, Legborsi Emmanuel, Cosmos George Oto’obong, and several other citizens of the coastal part of Biafra are much younger than the heroes of the past, but have decided to see the bigger picture. Like our heroes of yore, we have spotted some unbecoming and dispiriting attitude in our hinterland brothers, but we are determined to break through it and get the desired result. For us, what matters is the liberation of our generation from the stranglehold of oppression and economic parasitism. We have noticed to our dismay the exclusion of our activities by those that should support us. We have been left to operate like derelicts because of where we come from and where we operate from. Even so, we have resolved to continue to push for the unity of our regions. We will not lose our temper like our heroes. We shall stay the course and get the desired result. We were supposed to be broadcasting here in the coast. There was an arrangement for that. There is no serious media activity of the IPOB in the South-South. This is wrong. It simply confirms the fear of domination. Is someone thinking? If my team had not taken it upon ourselves to do all we have been doing, the coast would have remained barren. This is a very poor strategy. We are crying out now so that posterity can judge us when the time comes.
Yes, we complain about the obvious discrimination we have experienced, but because we are thinkers divinely ordained for this task, we have decided to work in our own way for the salvation of our people. As a matter of fact, the coastal team have decided to take the struggle even much deeper than before. We shall now proceed to liaise with Asari Dokubo and all the Ijaw and Ibibio/Efik stakeholders to form a very solid COMMITTEE OF ELDERS in the South-South, hoping that the Igbo will do same for the eventual convocation of both teams for dialogue. It is time to relive Boro, Saro-Wiwa, and Wali because they are the GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE. However, it is time to exceed their limits by working hard to unite with our hinterland counterpart against all odds. The few shenanigans in the East cannot stop our unity. The spoilers in the coast have all been dealt with. We must tolerate one another and work together. When our committees for the restoration sit and discuss the way forward, all the fears our people have will be dealt with through serious documentation. Our brother, Cosmos George Oto’obong, has a tripartite agreement that binds the Ibibio/Efik, Igbo, and Riverine components of Biafra. It may not be absolute, but it is a good way to start.
Those with devious intention concerning this unity project should jettison it because we know how to guard against all forms of domination. We are too educated and tactical to fall into any trap. The kind of nation we shall build will be too spick-and-span and progressive for malfeasance. In Biafra there shall be religious tolerance and mutual respect for cultural and traditional disparity. Those of you that truly support the unity of our regions should do well to support the publishing of Biafra Network Newsletter, since it is the coastal region’s contribution to the election boycott. Let the unity start in earnest. All hail Biafra!
(Russell Idatoru Sunju Bluejack writes for and on behalf the Coastal component of the South-East/South-South Coalition for Biafra.)