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The Homogeneous History Of The Heterogeneous Call For Biafra: Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa, Obi Wali, Jasper Adaka Boro

Biafra

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.)

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Origin Of The Name ‘Biafra’, The Failure Of The Struggle Then And The Need For S’East, S’South To Unite |The Republican News

Biafra

By Russell Bluejack

I write as an Ijaw son from Bonny and Nkoro in Rivers State. Ijaw is my tribe, but Biafra remains my national consciousness. I have noticed an inexplicable and unnecessary division in the South-East and South-South in analogy to the reinvigorated quest to restore the Sovereign States of Biafra. I think our people in these sister regions should reflect on these political and divisive ascriptions and rediscover themselves. We are neither South-South nor South-East. We are the people of the Eastern Region, a people politically and economically impugned by our enemy in their bid to break our solid SOLIDARITY. We were too formidable for our enemies. Some of our people think Biafra is an Igbo thing because they are ignorant of the origin of the name. Let me do justice to the origin of Biafra.

THE ORIGIN OF BIAFRA

Biafra is not aboriginal to Biafrans since it was birthed out of the need to work together and escape the pogromists, rapists, land invaders, and religious fundamentalists called Fulani. The leader of the Eastern Region, Dim Ojukwu, an educated military officer, assembled stakeholders from Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, and other tribes that constituted the region in his bid to come up with a name that would reflect the heterogeneous ambience of the region. Chief Frank Opigo, an Ijaw traditional ruler that hails from today’s Bayelsa, suggested BIAFRA, and this went down well with everyone in attendance, for it referred to the water body that covers the entire region. What Ojukwu sought after was a name that would not be exclusionary to any of the tribes (Ijaw, Ibibio, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Anioma etc) in the region. Biafra became the baby of that quest.

Biafra, having come from a non-Igbo stakeholder, became the national consciousness of both the Igbo and non-Igbo constituents of the Eastern Region. Thenceforth, the need to actualise the nation of their dreams, the Land of the Rising Sun, became the aspiration of every easterner. The failure of Nigeria to heed the Aburi Accord reached in Ghana for restructuring stoked the fire of the agitation for freedom. The Sovereign States of Biafra was declared, but it was short-lived because of avoidable internal wranglings that spiralled into the loss of the Civil War. The incongruity in the Eastern Region was the result of the feud between Ojukwu and Dr Kenule Benson Saro-Wiwa, an illustrious Ogoni son and Ojukwu’s military mentality and disposition.
WHY THE STRUGGLE FAILED IN THE 60S

Popular perception has it that the struggle for emancipation from perceived and obvious oppression by Nigeria was scuttled by the Civil War. That is part of the truth, not the whole. Biafra was rocked by internal wranglings. Two prominent figures in the region, Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa, became estranged friends over an issue that should have remained personal. In one of our serious meetings, I was made to understand this side of the story. Legborsi, Emmanuel, a very prominent Ogoni son who doubles as a formidable member of my team, THE SOUTH-EAST/SOUTH-SOUTH COALITION FOR BIAFRA, opened up the Pandora Box concerning the real cause of their feud. Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa were caught in a love triangle, with Princess Amina, the daughter of the then Sultan as the magnetic force. As scions (sons of very wealthy parents), they had the needed charisma to steer the imagination of the Sultan. Gowon, a senior military officer, joined the fray, but found himself as an underdog, financially and academically, for the duo of Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa were of both fabulous financial and transformative academic standing.

Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa, once friends, now rivals, had to slug it out. The laurel at stake was Amina’s affection. Saro-Wiwa dishonestly struck a cord in Amina’s emotion and carried the day. The Sultan, according to the veracious story, could not find his daughter and had the innocent Gowon, the suitor he abhorred, to blame for it. A triangle of hate became the result of this misdeed by Saro-Wiwa: Gowon hated both Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa; Ojukwu hated Saro-Wiwa for edging him out in the most dishonest manner, and Saro-Wiwa burned in annoyance over the contest. An Ikwerre elder, nonagenarian, corroborated this story when I met him. He told me that the struggle hit the rock then because of two reasons:
(1) the feud between Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa
(2) the militarised mentality of Ojukwu’s.

The elder thinks that if Ojukwu, though well educated and exposed, were a civilian, he would have appreciated the need to dialogue with other stakeholders before going to war. If the stakeholders had been told what each constituent would benefit from the emerging nation, the leaders would have had what to say to their people to excite them to take the struggle seriously. Ojukwu, on the other hand, wanted these stakeholders to convince their people to fight first and discuss later. This did not go down well with them. Some, however, saw the need to fight. The festering relationship between Ojukwu and Saro-Wiwa led to a huge sabotage. The bottom line of the accounts of Legborsi and the elder is that our people were not united. Our disunity caused by personal grouse and lack of tact cost us that war. It is incontrovertible that we would have won the war had our house not been in disarray.

THE URGENT NEED FOR OUR UNITY NOW

Several years have gone by, yet the socio-economic and political inconcinnities that gave rise to the agitation then still stare us in the face. As a matter of fact, there is no gainsaying that if our fathers had reasons to fight then, there are more reasons to fight now. The situation today is worse than it was then. Oppression, socio-economic exclusion, and glaring prejudice meted out to the South-South and South-East, the real economic mainstay of this contraption called Nigeria, have reached unbelievable and unimaginable proportions. Even Ojukwu could not have conceived the precarious level of hate shown to us by the sons and daughters of Uthman Dan Fodio. The unfair treatment we are shown should make our unity imperative. Our personality issues and lack of tact gave them the happenstance to divide us and make us conquerable. We, the South-East and South-South people, are the victims of their jihadist rituals. Our women get raped, our lands invaded, our crops killed, and our men butchered.

The Igbo, Ijaw, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Anioma, Ibibio, Efik etc have always lived together in love and conviviality. A critical observation of our values and culture reveals our common ancestry. We dress alike, eat alike, behave alike, and worship alike. How different are we, brothers and sisters? Let us come together and fight this monster. They have sent their soldiers to occupy our two regions out of fear of our imminent reunion. Exasperated by their inability to stop us from uniting, they have taken to poisoning our children under the pretence of immunization devoid of the viva of the health departments. In their bid to hold on to power at all cost, they flouted the constitutional proviso concerning the absence of the President. Their hatred for us led to the embargo placed on our Igbo brothers and sisters, which makes it difficult for any of them to become President of Nigeria. We and our Igbo brothers and sisters are the real victims here. We have to come together, sit together, discuss together, reach a documented agreement, and escape together.

Our unity is the only leeway out of this fortress called Nigeria. Is it not shameful that whereas we have all the resources the Gambari are the ones exercising power over them all? Our Igbo brothers and sisters own both oil and the business environment that sustain this oppressive dungeon called Nigeria, but travel to the East and you will weep. They killed the Bill seeking the relocation of company headquarters to regions where the raw material is fetched. They killed the Bill seeking compensation to developing the Eastern Region. Whatever comes from the South-East and South-South dies on arrival. If bills that seek better welfare packages for our regions always die, who is that mad person that is telling you that we can restructure this dangerous citadel that they claim belongs to them? Was it not the failure of Nigeria to heed restructuring agreement that sparked off the Civil War? The only way out of this quagmire is the unity of South-East and South-South. Let us unite and live in peace and harmony. Our sister regions need a respite from rape, massacre, genocide, pogrom, alienation, discrimination, and prejudice. Let us keep our unreal differences aside and face the enemy together. They will continue to defeat us as long as we remain divided. Our division is their strength, but our unity is their weakness. Jasper Adaka Boro, Dr Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Sen. (Dr.) Obi Wali is some of the great men this fake nation has killed gruesomely. We have not found Mazi Nnamdi Kanu even as I write. Do you see how they hate us? The python that danced in the East has become a crocodile smiling in the South-South.

Brothers and sisters, Saro-Wiwa was guillotined by Nigeria after a kangaroo judgment. Boro was used and shot. Obi Wali was butchered like a condemned chicken. Our beloved leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is nowhere to be found because of his liberating activities. Nigeria is a place where it is a heinous crime to speak up against oppression and neo-slavery. Nigeria has become too dangerous for Christians. Nigeria has become too stuffy for anything that breathes. We have to go, brothers and sisters. We have overstayed in this prison. We do not even know who signed the 1914 amalgamation since all our nationalists were either adolescents, toddlers, or unborn at the time. Nigeria is the property of Britain’s under the management of the Fulani. Let the South-South and South-East come together and rebirth Biafra. They hate us and we hate ourselves. Let love and understanding lead the way this time. Let us dialogue and end our differences once and for all. The enemy has become vicious. We should become more tactical now. May God bless us all as we heed this clarion call. May God bless the entire constituents of the Old Eastern Region.

(Russell Idatoru Bluejack is a thinker, revolutionary writer, university tutor, and socio-economic and political analyst that writes from the creeks in the coastal part of Biafra.)

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I Am Bitter About How Nigeria Killed My Father, Says Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Son | The Republican News

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Ken Saro-Wiwa jr. is the eldest son of hanged author and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa. He talks about the values his father cherished with GBENGA ADENIJI

What do you do at the moment? 

I am currently serving as the Senior Special Assistant on International Media to the President.

You are a writer. Did your late dad influence your interest in writing being a writer himself?

Yes he did. Just as sons of doctors or lawyers often end up as doctors or lawyers, so writers beget writers. I am sure he passed down his love of books and words and storytelling – in fact, almost all my siblings are fantastic storytellers. We are all creative, so it must be in the DNA.

Did he also encourage your other siblings on their career choice?

You have to ask them about that but as I said before, we are all creative in one way or another.

What memory of your growing up years with him can you recall?

There are so many. They are narrated in my book, In the Shadow of a Saint. His influence is in almost everything I do. My memories of him change with time but my earliest and strongest memory in life is of my father.

Considering his busy schedule then, how did he create time for his family?

Looking back, I realise that he made a lot of time for us. We did quite a lot together, considering how busy he was. I realise this now because I have children and I have similar kinds of pressures. I now appreciate the time he was able to give us.

How often did he take his family out for picnics?

We never went on picnics. We played football once or twice and table tennis but he drove me all around Europe one summer in 1980 – we went from London to Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Cologne, Amsterdam and back to London. He drove all the way in his car for two weeks. I remember that holiday so well – he taught us about the United Nations in Geneva. We went up the Eiffel Tower. We travelled. Two years later, we travelled all over the States – New York, Washington, LA, Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, San Francisco. He gave me a love of travel and wonder about the world.

How did he relax when he was at home?

My father read and wrote. He always seemed to be writing one book or newspaper article. I used to hear his typewriter clapping away till late at night and early in the morning. He liked to listen to the radio and he watched television or he would have friends come around. He liked sports but he was obsessed with politics and literature. He was always writing.

What are the values you have imbibed from him?

One of the values I imbibed from him is a reverence for the importance of ideas. Also, his appreciation of the things that really matter in the world. If I have a strong political conscience, then he was and still my moral compass. From him too, I eventually imbibed the value of hard work and the practicalities of sacrifice to a higher cause.

How has his name helped you when people know you are his child?

Of course his name helps me but sometimes it doesn’t. On the whole, it opens doors but such is Nigeria and human nature that I sometimes feel I am knocking on an open door. He used to reassure me that I wouldn’t inherit his enemies. But I’m not so sure about that.

What are the values he cherished?

He believed in equity and equal opportunity. It is not about who you are or where you come from – it is about what you have to offer and whether you are prepared to work hard for the collective good.

How did he handle misunderstandings with your mother?

The relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife is a complex one and it is not easy to characterise in a few well-chosen words. My father was a product of his generation, of his circumstance and upbringing. He was not perfect but he tried. In the end, the only opinion that is valid is that of Mrs. Maria Saro-Wiwa — my mother.

How did you feel each time he expressed his displeasure about the state of the Ogoni people?

Sometimes I felt guilty, sometimes I felt angry and sometimes I even felt ashamed. In the end, it was his choice to dedicate his life to a better Nigeria and I am proud of him for doing that. Who wouldn’t want to have a father like Ken Saro-Wiwa?

What impression of him do you have reading about his literary works?

Strangely enough, I have an impression of someone who might have felt a little sadness that he missed his true vocation and calling as a writer. But then again when I evaluate his output as a writer – it is not the beauty of his words or the number of books he sold – it is that his words, his life, his story continues to be told. As such he has been posthumously fulfilled because that is the true test of the value of a writer.

Who were your father’s friends?

My father had friends from all walks of life in Nigeria and beyond. I always meet all kinds of people who remember him fondly and they always say to me: ‘‘Your father was my friend.’’

How did he enforce discipline on any of his children who did something wrong?

I never did anything wrong. Seriously though, he drew a hard line in the sand – as long as you worked hard at your studies and produced results — he was happy. He was strict in some ways but very liberal in others. He was not very effective at disciplining me though. Maybe he should have used the cane.

How do you feel being a son to him?

That is so complicated that I had to write a book about it. I will write more books about it still but like I say, his influence remains in everything I do especially in my relationships with my children.

What was his favourite meal?

I really do not know.  What I do know is that he always used a knife and fork to eat pounded yam. I do the same. He liked fruit in the morning and smoked fish. I do too. He liked fried plantain and pepper soup. Actually, if I study my eating habits and preferences, I’m sure I’d find we have similar tastes.

Did he have any special mode of dressing?

He is well known for wearing a simple adire and was always with his pipe. That was his signature attire later in life. He was a simple man who valued books and good company. I have pictures of him from earlier years when he used to dress in crisp, white flannel Italian suits. I like the pictures of that guy – he looked really sharp, handsome.

What was his schedule like?

He travelled a lot, always on the move. He was never in the same place or country for very long, maybe three weeks at a time.

How close were you to him?

As a child, we were very close. He was my mother and father really for the first three years of my life because my mother was away at boarding school finishing the education that the Civil War had interrupted. As I got older and especially when I went to school in England, we grew apart. But I am much closer to him now, if that makes sense. In a way that’s how it should be with fathers and sons – I had to get away from him to become my own man and once I had done that, it was easier to appreciate him as a man and a father but of course by then, he was late.

How often did he call or visit his children who were then studying abroad?

Making phone calls was not easy in those days. We didn’t have GSM. He wrote letters though – plenty of them. I still have a few.

How sociable was he?

I’m told he was very sociable. He was a likeable guy with a booming laugh. I heard that laughter a few times. He would throw his head back and show his teeth. He had a keen sense of humour – many people have very fond memories of him.

Where were you the day he was hanged along with eight other Ogoni environmentalists?

I was in Auckland, New Zealand where I had gone to lobby the Commonwealth and Nelson Mandela to put pressure on General Sani Abacha to spare the lives of the Ogoni nine.

When was your last moment with him?

I think it was in England in July 1993. He had just been released from detention and he came over to see his family and deal with the administrative details of burying my brother who had passed away a few months before. It was a really difficult and complex time for all of us but I didn’t know I would never see him again. Two years later, he was dead.

 Would you have wished he was not involved in activism?

Sometimes I think about that but then he was involved in activism and one cannot change that now. That is the reality and my history, so I have to live with it. He left me with a good name and as my grandfather used to say, a good name is better than riches.

What do you miss most about him?

I miss the fact that here was a wise, gentleman who was much loved, who knew so much about the world and so much about this country. I don’t have a father figure or mentor to guide me through life now and he would have been available to me to confide in, especially in these challenging times. Most of all, I miss the fact that he is not around to be a grandfather to my children.

It is 18 years since his death, how has the family been coping without him?

If truth be told, the family has really struggled. We lost a great man, father, husband, brother and son. He was a father to so many people. He encouraged a downtrodden community to stand up for their rights, he gave people hope, he mentored and sponsored so many people. Many people have given up their lives for Nigeria but few had the impact that Ken Saro-Wiwa had on the history of this country. He gave more than he had, more than he ever received. What pains me now is the condition of the Ogoni people. It is as if the struggles we have had as a family is a metaphor for the Ogoni people. We contributed to the struggle to end military rule but we have not benefitted from democracy. It is a shame on Nigeria.

My family was financially penalised by his murder and many of us have been psychologically traumatised by his hanging. Most people have so many wrong assumptions about Ken Saro-Wiwa and his family. People just assume they know what we have been through and are going through. I remember the day I buried my father. I stood in his grave arranging his bones in his coffin as my siblings and my children looked on. I cradled his skull and arranged what was left of his remains in that coffin. At one point, I looked up from the grave to wipe the sweat and tears from my face and I could barely look at my kids who were watching me with a look on their faces that I can’t even begin to describe or imagine. I hate to think what was going through their young minds but I’m pretty sure they would never forget that day as long as they live. This was 10 years after my father’s execution. Ten years after Nigeria killed my father. I feel very bitter about it – especially as so many people who never lifted a finger to defend the integrity of Nigeria and the Niger Delta have become beneficiaries of his sacrifice and yet have done nothing to honour his name, his memory, his people or his family. We have had to struggle to survive, and I’m sure that if Ken Saro-Wiwa had known that this is how Nigeria’s leaders would treat his family and his people after his death, he would have thought long and hard about giving up everything he loved to try to make this country a better place. (Punchng.com)

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