July 9, 2017
Nnamdi Kanu is definitely a force to recon with. His consistency, resolve and the following he has amassed the world over among the Igbos is phenomenal. I admire him for these and more. Many people are however worried that his rhetoric is largely emotional, stirring up the emotions of the Igbos. These emotions are stirred for good reason though: the marginalisation of the Igbos and other eastern tribes of Nigeria since the end of the war some fifty years ago. This ‘marginalisation’ is a contentious and debatable concept but most people will agree that it was only a matter of course that ruling powers would attempt to keep the boisterous and powerful Igbos in check after such a showdown. This control makes even more sense in view of the fact that before the war, the Igbos were more or less the dominant tribe. Even now, while not dominant politically or in the Nigerian Army, they have strong influence in the nation as business owners.
Nnamdi Kanu appears to be an intelligent man with a lot of knowledge of history and culture but some may doubt his depth and understanding of governance and political power. His humility in refusing to be called ‘Eze Ndi Igbo’ is inspiring. His willingness to continue the struggle after being incarcerated is an even more powerful testament to his resolve. His persistent reference to God as the initiator of the idea of Biafra’s separation from Nigeria is something I keep contemplating. I listened to his wife too who appears to share his vision and passion. My personal thoughts are that the logic was largely lacking. Again, emotions.
The large crowds at Onitsha, Owerri and other cities who cheer Mazi Kanu are largely, as some analysts put it, unemployed, disgruntled youth who did not even experience the Biafran War. Apparently Ohaneze Ndi Igbo do not back Kanu. The war veterans, I hear, do not back him. The other tribes who originally composed Biafra also do not back him. The elite Igbos of Nigeria appear silent: The Jim Ovias, Tony Elumelus, Oby Ezekwesilis and so on seem to be silent. I can understand when the politicians do not back him because they have vested interest in the nation called Nigeria and may even be part of the problem but I am wondering why he doesn’t have strong backing from the Igbo movers and shakers in Nigeria and beyond.
But then, it could also be an issue of vested interest or caution in the interest of ‘Business Continuity’. The Igbos are known to be more concerned they prosperity of their individual families than a common cause built on an ideology. Will a Jim Ovia move Zenith Bank to Enugu as international headquarters? Will Mr. Elumelu register UBA as a Biafran Bank? And fo goodness sakes where is Ralph Uwazuruike in all this?
Educated or not, elite or not, it seems the following this new Biafran leader has is so strong that the Nigeria government is scared stiff of a referendum.
My thoughts in the previous section spill over to this section, introducing the question of strategy. Who will be president of Biafra? Who will be in the central government (I understand it will be a confederation)? Who will drive Biafra’s development? I guess we have to count out the existing political leaders of Igbo extraction who do not even want a nation called Biafra to arrive and ‘pour san-san in their garri’. If the Igbo technocrats of Nigeria are not backing Nnamdi Kanu, who will build Biafra? Will we end up being delayed again by power struggles among inexperienced folk trying to grow a baby nation?
The concept of building a new nation does sound exciting. The possibility of starting on a new slate, correcting the mistakes of Nigeria. Maybe the Biafran government will pay more attention to the likes of Innosen and Tinapa. Maybe we will finally get resource control for the Ijaws if they do agree to join in secession. Maybe government will be a bit more transparent. Just maybe.
Most people may prefer to keep mute and see how things turn out before commenting on such sensitive issues as secession. It is probably safer to keep away and see how things turn out but I do think every middle aged person of Igbo descent along with our neighbours in Eastern Nigeria should be concerned about the unfolding events. Our children might just be living in a country different from where we grew up.