Biafra, Messiahs and Transactionalists
By Chido Nwangwu
This is the weekend of May 30, the date of the official declaration of the former Republic of Biafra: the Land of the Rising Sun!
Biafra holds a duality of meaning to the Igbo and other Nigerians. To millions, it was the highest point of their expression of the creative skills and existential ingenuity of the Igbo, Annang, Ibibio, the Efik,some sections of Ijaw, Ogoni and other constituent parts of the People’s Republic of Biafra, since 1967.
It saw the Biafrans prove that technological competence and self-reliance are possible for any community, nation, or race that perseveres.
The Igbo and their fellow Biafrans also proved during the 1967-1970 Nigeria Biafra War, that the serial and violent acts of corruption, chocking incapacities and inability to move the needle of technological innovations in Nigeria were not in our genes, but rather environmentally induced. Especially by lack of visionary leadership. Chinua Achebe, the Prophet, and father of African literature, was right: calling the leadership critical towards achieving development.
Say what you may against the Head of State of Biafra, General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, he mobilized and conscientized the collective sense of duty and dedication of the highest intellect to see Biafra through a path of thunder and tempest. He has a permanent place in historical consequence; in my opinion, as not only the greatest Igbo that has ever lived, but one of the most charismatic figures in history! Hence, no matter how many times, no matter how many ways his detractors yell words of derogation or write mountains of malice and lies against him, he is etched in the hearts of an overwhelming majority of the Igbo nation.
I recall the high honor of riding with General Ojukwu and Dr. Chuba Okadigbo to the launch of Ojukwu’s controversial book, Because I am Involved, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos. Chuba was political adviser of the President of Nigeria [Alhaji Shehu Shagari] until December 31, 1993, I was working for Dr. Chuba’s publications as Assistant Editor of Africa & The World Journal and the Platform magazine in 1988 to 1990. I was sent to Chuba by Dr. Stanley Macebuh, then founding Managing Director of The Guardian.
I interviewed Ojukwu three times; one at his house in Lagos (with the prolific scholar and Editor of Platform, Dr. Chidi Amuta and Chuba). I interviewed Ojukwu twice in the U.S.
Biafra has another side. It was a crushing of the highest level of what was possible and shattered it to smithereens. It is a metaphor that even the best of hopes are restrained on the canvas, military, and consorted opposition.
Biafra’s duality of meaning, in my view, has come to shape, the political-economics and social tendencies of the Igbo. The impact of these events and their twists and turns have led me to the stipulations of my theory of the duality of the Igbo outlook, post-1970. Therefore, I classify into two major tendencies as permeating and defining the Igbo political and business behavior.
First, there is the messianic Igbo.
Second, there is the transactionalist Igbo.
The messianic Igbo looks forward to salvational leadership in the mold of the great Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, and Ojukwu. They empower vehicles of agitation which define the Igbo interest as they best know how, such as IPOB, MASSOB, MOBIN, among others.
The messianic Igbo strongly believes that the best way forward is to optimize the resources across the southeast of Nigeria under a new Republic of Biafra.
On the other hand, the transactionalist are focused more on search of economic space and frontiers of business and enterprise from the great city which captures the pulse and unbending will of the Igbo bu Igbo, Aba [my birthplace] all the way to Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mozambique, South Africa, the two Congos, Singapore, the north American continent, Europe and as far away as God zone: New Zealand. They do not seek restrictive borders; they create transnational corporations with operational headquarters in the city or country of their activity while their beloved homeland is crying for investments.
Some of them, I must note, have not come back home with suitcases of success but disgrace! The transactionalists are more likely to join organizations that are pan-Nigerian and pan-African.
Somehow, in unique Igbo-speak and earned ascription of concurrence, both the messianics and the transactionalists find convergence in pursuit of the core and cardinal Igbo prayers, anchored on the principles of fairness, equity and liberty. Since 1948, the Igbo, consistently ask for only One thing: a level playing field for all.
I have studied the pre-colonial and colonial bo history and experiences. I have followed and read a dozen books and hundreds of articles on the Nigeria-Biafra War. I have followed the legitimate issues and concerns about the marginalization of the Igbo [1970-1978], and especially 2015 to date 2020— being the 5th year of the presidency of retired General Muhammadu Buhari.
I believe — as do millions of realistic Nigerians that Buhari has, unwittingly via his lopsided appointments and assorted nepotisms, unleashed it will serve the interests of everyone to the escalating demands against Nigeria’s 1914 colonial borders as imposed and implemented under The Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern regions by the British soldier of raw materials and minerals named Lord Lugard.
I hear the familiar demands approximating the historical agreement at Aburi in Ghana, as reflected in the official minutes, dated January 4-5, 1967. I hear the cries of some young men and young women whose siblings and parents were murdered in the routine killing and genocidal slaughter of the Igbo and the ethnic groups/communities who constituted Biafra. I hear a demand on all those who profit from the militarized impositions of a perpetual, non-negotiable “national unity” since the 1960s to date, circa 2020.
It seems to be a demand against domestic agents and foreign corporations whose actions have turned the once evergreen Niger Delta into a decimated, polluted environmental nightmare.
One thing is certain: the ideological children and grandchildren of Odumegwu Ojukwu, of Chinua Achebe, of Gen. Effiong, of Christopher Okigbo, of Wole Soyinka, have kept a message of national identity, unapologetic zeal and unbowed resilience regarding the 1967-1970 war. Especially, those who swear “citizenship” under the golden yellow colors of the Land of the Rising Sun! Biafra.
I hear a demand for economic security and against 10 years of unemployment after graduation. I hear, loud and clear, a stand against discrimination in admissions and employment. I hear…
*Dr. Chido Nwangwu who appears as an analyst on CNN and SKYnews serves as Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet, USAfricaonline.com, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston. He is the author of the November 2020 book, MLK, Mandela & Achebe: Power, Leadership and Identity. @Chidö247