In what looked like a dress rehearsal for the golden jubilee anniversary of the declaration of the Republic, which comes up this Tuesday, May 30, the Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) marched through the streets of major cities in the South East and South South on Monday, May 22, in processions that were remarkably peaceful despite a few skirmishes with and arrests by, security agents.
The processions were ordered by the Ralph Uwazuruike-led BIM in commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the founding of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) by Uwazuruike on may 22, 2000.
Indigenous People of Biafra and MASSOB now led by Comrade UchennaMadu, did not participate in the marches, reserving their own anniversary celebrations for Tuesday, May 30 proper.
But, the peaceful nature of the marches has been seen in many quarters as sign of possible overallpeaceful, violence-free 50th anniversary celebrations of theBiafra proclamation.
“Security agents should see from what happened on Monday that a peaceful protest by people pushing for self-determination does not exactly amount to dismembering the country,” said one police officer who would not be named, in a chat with The Oracle Today in Onitsha.
The one-week celebration will end on May 30, the day marking the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by then Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late Biafran leader and IkemebNnewi on May 30, 1967.
In Onitsha, Anambra State, Enugu, Nsukka, Abakaliki, Asaba, Calabar, among others, the processions, which commenced on Monday, May 22, were largely peaceful.
In Onitsha, scores of police officers and soldiers were deployed to strategic places within the metropolis to maintain peace and order but they did not molest the marchers, an indication of a new attempt by security agents to handle protests in public space in more civilised manners.
However arrests were made in Enugu, Asaba, Abakaliki,Calabar and a few other places, where police dispersed the BIM rallies and arrested some members of the pro-Biafra group.
But, observers who spoke with The Oracle Todayin Onitsha during the week, expressed fears that the seeming lack of unanimity of purpose among the pro-Biafra groups, evident in the BIM processions to which IPOB and MASSOB did not subscribe, might spell doom for the self-actualisation efforts of Biafrans.
According to Mr. John Ezeliaku (Nwaojukwu), “what I read some BIM voice out made me fear for the entire pro-Biafra Movement.”
“As far as some or most of Uwazuruike’s boys are concerned, this thing is no longer about Biafra but about the supremacy of their leader over other leaders. Some of them said they were happy at the huge turnout of people mainly because it had shut up those opposed to Uwazuruike. Whatever the outcome of the different celebrations would be in the end, the truth is that the movement will no longer move in one well-defined direction,”Ezeliaku stressed.
While the Uchenna Madu-led MASSOB has dissociated itself from processions, IPOB had from the beginning opted for sit-at-home protest to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra by the late Ojukwu.
Even as the BIM marches were going on, The Oracle Today correspondents in Nsukka, Umuahia and other places reported that sizeable numbers of IPOB members were also on the streets mobilizing people to sit at home on May 30th to mark the day.
Agonized Ezeliaku: “BIM’s Uwazuruike wants Biafrans to march in protest on May 30, IPOB’s NnamdiKanu wants them to stay at home.
Whichever way it goes, one or the other’s ego would have been hurt and the fight will continue to the detriment of the self-actualisation project embarked upon by the entire people of Biafra.”
He wants the elders of the overall pro-Biafra Movement, therefore, to intervene to put the project back on track for the overall good of all Biafrans.
“I appeal to Justice Eze Ozobu, Dozie Ikedife, Col. Joe Achizia and all other elders of the Pro-Biafra Movement to intervene and get leaders of the various organisations to work together to achieve a common goal,” Ezeliaku suggested.
The 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra and the 30-month civil war that followed is coming against the backdrop of ethnic tensions, religious intolerance leading sectarian violence and mayhem, acts of corruption and outright incompetence in the management of public affairs that have continued to gnaw at the very foundation of Nigeria’s existence.
These, political observers told The Oracle Today, are the exact same factors that precipitated the Biafran separatist agitation and, eventually, the Nigerian Civil War.
“Nothing has changed; they still treat us as a conquered people,” lamented Chief NniaNwodo, President_General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. “If you drive through the South East, there is a military checkpoint in every major town you go into. If they screen you for arms and ammunition, I will understand that it is a national security imperative. But, they collect money from you; we are forced to pay.”
In his own reaction, the Deputy Publicity Secretary of Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), DedeUzor A. Uzor said: “The effect of what led to the civil war remains unresolved till date. Going by the position of the present administration of General Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments of Nigerian citizens into various strategic positions, Ndigbo remain grossly marginalized and disappointed.
“For instance, no Igboman is in top four echelon in the strategic security apparatus of the nation, ranging from Chief Of Army Staff, COAS, Chief Of Defence Staff, CDS, Insoector-General of Police, IGP, Director-General of State Security Services, D-G SSS, Specurity Adviser, SSA, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Immigration Service, Prisons Service, NAFDAC, NIMASA, Aviation, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, among others.”
He queried: “Does it mean that no Igboman is qualified or educationally sound to hold such a strategic positions? These are the issues behind the continued agitation of ndigbo for restoration or actualization of Biafra.
“Since these fundamental issues are yet to be addressed, we in the ECA would want to align ourselves with some prominent Igbo personalities like Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Second Republic Vice President who are in support of NnamdiKanu’s continuation with his clamour for the restoration of Biafra”.
But, while the federal government has blamed for not doing much to mitigate the factors that led to Biafra, many others have blamed Biafrans, especially Ndigbo, for not doing enough on their own to help themselves.
Declared Rommy Ezeonwuka, the Ogirisi Igboland: “If you call yourself an Igboman or a Biafran, you must have heard that only 20 pounds was released to every Igbo man shortly after the civil war, and their properties were forcefully taken away from them in some parts of the country in the name of abandoned properties, yet they managed to survive.
“However, it is quite unfortunate that the same Ndigbo who suffered these deprivations have not learnt our lessons from it, to the extent that after surviving the post-civil war trauma, they still went ahead to invest all their monies outside Igbo land where their monies and properties could be abandoned for the second time in the event of another outbreak of war or possible break-up of the country”.
“I presume that Ndigbo cannot be identified as fools with their first mistakes but with these second mistakes of continuing to invest massively in other parts of the country, as they are doing now in their numbers, they can be identified as proper fools and as such, the step could be likened to an Igbo adage which states that first fool is not fool but second fool is proper foolishness,” he agonized.
“To me, Biafran Republic has already been declared by Ojukwu in 1967 and there will be no need for declaration of Biafra for the second time. Ojukwu declared it, fought for it and died for it. There will be no need for a second declaration. All we need to do is to do remembrance anniversaries and befitting burials for those who died during the struggle.”
On General Alani Akinrinade’s open confession that he would not have fought against Biafra if he knew that things would turn out this way in the country, Ezeonwuka stated that such a confessional statement amounted to “medicine after death or better still, crying over spilt milk.”