Secession: How Igbos can achieve Biafra without fighting another civil war

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Editor’s note: Following the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which was popularly known as Brexit, the Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) announced the launching of ‎’Biafrexit’ as its campaign slogan for the Biafra course. In this light, Kess Ewubare, Senior Editor at Naij.com explains how the Igbos can achieve the Biafra state without resorting to a civil war.

Biafran troops advance on Nigerian army positions during the civil war.

Biafran troops advance on Nigerian army positions during the civil war.

The world politics was in state of surprise when Britain decided to leave the European Union following a referendum on Thursday, June 23 which deeply divided the nation.

Within hours of the outcome of the referendum which saw  51.89% of Brits in favour of leaving the EU against 48.11%, British prime minister, David Cameron announced his intention to stand down.

The United Kingdom’s historic Brexit vote to leave the EU is one of the most decisive decisions that nation has taken since the WWII, as there was a mixture of jubilation and tearful disbelief in the UK as people awoke to the final result from the referendum.

Britain’s exit will affect the British economy, immigration policy, and lots more. It will take years for the full consequences to become clear. But as emotions ran high following the result of the poll, all Brits concerned themselves with the way forward.

Brittan’s exit from the EU could pose some lessons for Nigeria which currently has agitations from a section of the country for the state of Biafra.

But unlike Brexit, a separation from the EU which is an economic and political union of 28 countries. The agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra is a call for the succession from the Federal Republic of Nigeria by some easterners over claims that the region has been marginalised.

The roots for the Biafra agitation is traced to the fallout of a military coup in January 1966 led by Maj. Nzeogwu and other officers belonging to the Ibo ethnic group who overthrew the civil government and murdered the prime minister and the premiers of the north and western regions.

According to a paper by Major Abubakar A. Atofarati titled: The Nigerian Civil War, Causes, Strategies, And Lessons Learnt, most of the coup planners were of Eastern origin, thus the northerners in particular saw it as a deliberate plan to eliminate the political heavy weights in the north in order to pave way for the easterners to take over the leadership role from them.

The coup came to an end when military government of Maj Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, an easterner, unfolded its plans.

 Maj. Nzeogwu and other officers belonging to the Ibo ethnic group planned the January 1966 coup.

Maj. Nzeogwu and other officers belonging to the Ibo ethnic group planned the January 1966 coup.

However after failing to court martial the coup plotters as mutineers and murderers. The north felt resentment over the issue culminating in the May 1966 riots throughout the north during which most easterners residing in the north were attacked and killed.

A counter coup was staged by northern military officers on 29 July 1966 with two aims: revenge on the east, and a breakup of the country. But the counsel of dedicated Nigerians, interested and well-disposed foreigners prevailed. The head of state, Maj. Gen Aguiyi Ironsi and many other senior officers of eastern origin were killed.

Sequel to the northern coup, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, at the time the most senior officer of northern origin and then the chief of staff, Nigerian Army, emerged as the new Nigerian political leader.

But this did not stop the general lawlessness and disorder, the senseless looting and killing of Igbos throughout the north, particularly on 29 September 1966.

Part of the first recommendation was implemented on 13 August 1966 to unify the country after the coup saw troops of eastern Nigeria origin serving elsewhere in the country posted to Enugu, the capital of Eastern Region,

Troops of non-eastern origin in Enugu were moved to Kaduna and Lagos.  This marked the beginning of division and disunity within the rank and file of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

The rift between the Eastern Region and the rest of the country was escalated when most of the civilian of Eastern Region origin who had never lived in the East and would have continued to live elsewhere in the country lost confidence and moved to the East.  Some of them when they arrived at their destination became refugees in their own country.

With the troops of Eastern Region back in Enugu and the non-eastern troops withdrawn from there, with Nigerians of non-eastern origin driven out of the east in their own interest, and with easterners at home and abroad returning home with news of Nigerian’s brutality against them, the way was now open for the implementation of the secession.

The tension between the east and the north reached a climax and all conciliatory meetings to resolve the issue achieved nothing because odumegwu Ojukwu was adamant.

After several failed meetings, on 30 May 1967 Ojukwu proclaimed the secession of the Eastern Region and the formation of the Republic of Biafra. Soon, fighting broke out between the federal and the Biafran forces.

Biafra day

Ojukwu during the Biafra declaration on 30th May 1967.

Although the Biafran forces at first did well, by early October the federal forces had captured Enugu, their capital. Despite attempts by the Organization of African Unity to end the civil war, hostilities continued until 1970 at which point the federal forces had starved the Biafran population into submission. Ojukwu fled the country on January 11, and a delegation to Lagos formally surrendered on January 15, 1970, thus ending the existence of the Republic of Biafra.

The Biafra war embarked on by the Eastern region looked justified but could have been avoided if Odumegwu Ojukwu was not hasty in the declaration of the Biafra state. According to Obasanjo the driving force behind Ojukwu’s Biafra declaration was more of a desire to rule than to liberate the Igbos.

The untold hardships occasioned by the civil war on the ordinary Igbo was not felt by privileged Igbos like Ojukwu among others. Those who suffered from the Biafra war were the ordinary Ibos who never envisaged that the struggle for Biafra would come at a great cost.

Now 49 years after the Nigerian civil war, a new Biafra uprising has began with many pro Biafra groups such as the, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) the Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) and the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB under the leadership of Nnamdi Kanu. Sad to say most of the leaders of these pro Biafra groups are privileged Ibos who have investment in other parts of the country but have chosen to climb on the euphoria of the Biafra movement to for personal gains.

A new wave of Briafa agitation has gained prominence in recent times.

A new wave of Briafa agitation has gained prominence in recent times.

For instance, Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the IPOB was arrestedby the DSS in Golden Tulip Hotel in Amuwo Odofin Lagos where he was lodging with a lady while his pregnant wife was abroad. Some have questioned why Kanu who claims be so passionate about the Biafra struggle left all the Hotels in the east to come lodge in a hotel in Lagos.

While those agitating for the Biafra state claim to represent the majority of Ibos, it is a known fact that majority of  easterners, especially those who have investment in other parts of the country see the Biafra movement as unrealisable.

In saner climes the proper thing to do is to agitate for a referendum where people can vote to secede to form Biafra or stay as a Nigerian state just as the Brits did in their Brexit vote.

Carrying out demostrations by blocking the Niger bridge is a primitive way of agitation for the Biara state which may lead to dire consequences as occasioned by the civil war.

The best way for Igbos to get the Biafra state they are agitating for is to do it the Brexit way, ask for a referendum.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.

The post Secession: How Igbos can achieve Biafra without fighting another civil war appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Nigerian newspapers.

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