Chris Nwaokobia, head of Change Ambassadors of Nigeria, a strategic team which played a prominent role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, in this interview with Legit.ng talks about the agitation for Biafra championed by some people and how the real problem is with regional leadership and not Nigeria.
The call by some people for the Republic of Biafra, to me, is a question mark on the Nigerian federation. I do not think those calling for Biafra has studied the full details. For me, it is a question mark on the collective conscience of federation. The reasons are simple: the South-east is the only region in the country that has five states as opposed to the other regions, some of which have six and seven. And you have three major tribes in this country, the Yorubas, the Igbos and the Hausas. And it smacks of some kind of inequality, inequity and unfairness in terms of allocation of states.
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I think the call for Biafra is a call for equity, justice and true brotherhood, both those insisting on Biafra as a separate territory do not have my blessings, I do not believe in it. This is because, primarily, my brothers in the South-east must first look inwards. The South-east leadership has failed, sizeably in developing that space and this is point number one. Point number two is that those who think that Nigeria is a problem of the Igbo man are unaware of the present reality. I once asked somebody: "if you think Nigeria is the problem, what was the problem between the Umuleri man and the Agwuleri man when they went against themselves for years and were killing themselves? It is almost like what happened between the Ife man and the Modakeke man. I think ethnic and clannish tendencies will not do us any good in this world that is gradually becoming a global bedroom.
The world is removing from a global village.
If you want to advance a separatist agenda, you do it peacefully and get your territory understood. I have asked people talking about Biafra: "where is this new Biafran territory? They say the whole of the South-east and the South-south and the South-south man is saying: "I don't belong to Biafra." So even if you were to canvass an argument, you don't have a territory.
The South-east is alone and land-locked as it were, the South-south is saying it wants to remain in Nigeria. I think that what my brothers in the South-east must do is to canvass responsible and responsive governance. It was in the same South-east where my brothers are angling for Biafra that a former governor chased away all non-Abia people from the civil service. These are people from Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi. He said the civil service was only for Abian indigenes. These are the same people asking for Biafra. It is laughable.
So what can be done?
What we must do first is to talk about brotherhood, love for ourselves and move from there to talk about a responsible and responsive leadership in the South-east, and then move from that to demanding justice within the Nigerian federation. I believe that the only people who have truly, and I say this advisedly, made this country their home is the Igbo man. So the few people who say they need Biafra are not in sync with reality. Go to Kano; after the indigenous population, the second largest are the Igbos. Come to Lagos, after the indigenous Yoruba population, the next highest are the Igbos. These are people who have travelled in search of livelihood and advancement of commerce because they believe in Nigeria. And I know that 90 per cent of these people do not believe in the Biafran story and struggle.
What is important, by my own understanding is that Biafra is a call for justice, equity and true brotherhood in the Nigerian federation. How well have we integrated, since the war, our Igbo brothers? How well have we accepted them much as they have accepted us? How well have we given them the opportunities to play? I think these are natural argument that proceed from the Biafran agitation. Outside that, the question that proceeds from the Biafran territory is absolutely not in sync with the realities of history.
Look at the argument, everybody who talks argues about Biafra is almost insulting another person. MASSOB leader will insult everybody who does not accept the concept of Biafra, then the Indigenous People of Biafra led by Nnamdi Kanu, will insult everybody and call Nigerians inhabitants of a zoo. And I do sincerely believe that the intellectual content of the Biafran agitation is lacking and that would tell you that those agitating for Biafra are not good students of history. I want to say, with the greatest sense of respect, that I believe in the Nigerian federation and believe that this country is Africa's opportunity to rule the world, step to the height of global thinking and together, we can remove this country from poverty, disease, hopelessness and want to the amazing place of promise.