With the recent call of northern youths to Igbos living in the North to vacate and return to the east, I cannot help but remember the sad history of the Biafran war and the wanton loss of lives and properties which followed. As everyone knows, the Biafrans lost the war to Nigeria. Apart from the fact that Nigeria received more support from the West, as well as being more powerful, Nigeria, equally, had more sophisticated weapons.
Before the massacre of the Igbos began, Northerners were reported to have given an ultimatum to the Igbos to vacate their region within a given period of time. The Igbos who mustered enough courage to run for dear life returned to the East empty handed. They forfeited their investments, lands and businesses which had struggled all their lives to build up. Many Igbo millionaires in the North had no single property in their homelands. They had nothing to fall back to on returning home. Life was unbearable for many returnees, some of whom couldn’t survive the experience.
Some Igbos in the North took the ultimatum lightly and went about their businesses until tragedy struck. Many of them were massacred in a broad daylight, their properties looted and taken over by the Northerners. Many were beheaded right in front of their families. Others were badly injured with some parts of their bodies missing. It was horrible.
During the civil war, countless lives were lost. The most affected being women and children. Tears run down my eyes each time I see the photos of starving Biafran children. Many died of hunger as Nigerian government blocked access to food supplies. Those who survived live with taunting memories of watching family and friends die without unable to save them.
Biafran soldiers unable to continue in the face of the many limitations they faced, gave in to defeat. They surrendered to Nigeria and accepted defeat. The damages done to the Southeast, including infrastructural, were unquantifiable.
After 50 year of defeating Biafra, Nigeria as a country is yet to live up to her promises of reconstructing the Southeast region. Those who went back to the North after the war to reclaim their properties were disappointed. Up till today, there’s very little federal government presence in the Southeast when compared to other regions. Yet, the Igbos through resilience and penchant for hard work have continued to thrive economically.
There’s a glaring marginalization of the Igbos since the end of the civil wars until now. The marginalization has become even more worrisome in recent time particularly since the inception of Buhari’s led government. His political appointments clearly shows he is a northern president, rather than a Nigerian president. He even made it clear that those who voted for him will be favoured more then those who did not. And he has kept his word.
The present administration has equally done everything within their power to repress the renewed agitation of Biafrans for a sovereign nation. An Igbo adage says that you can’t beat a child and at the same time prevent her from crying. This administration has hit Biafrans hard and wants to prevent her from reacting.
The Arewa youth who gave the ultimatum have come out to eat their words, claiming that their words shouldn’t be taken seriously. But how long will the Igbos remain at the mercy of Northerners? How long can they contain the excesses of a group who have not hidden their hatred for them? Will the Igbos ignore the threat and return to their various businesses or will they take it seriously and take their future into their able hands, for the sake of the future generations? It is time for every stakeholder in the Nigerian project to come together and decide in a peaceful way whether to continue as one country or not.
Like in civilized countries, Nigeria ought to give Biafra the right to self determination. And any other region for that matter. Just as it was before the 1914 amalgamation.