uring the ill-fated Nigerian Civil War, Chinua Achebe was intimately involved in the project of Biafra. He left his lucrative career as a broadcaster in Lagos to join the Biafran propaganda machine, where he worked alongside Nnamdi Azikiwe’s first son, Chukwuma Azikiwe, and Senator Uche Chukwumerije, to sell Biafra to the rest of the world. Not until 1987 that the Professor’s next novel, Anthills Of The Savannah, was published, 21 years after his previous work (A Man Of The People, 1966). The novel was shortlisted among the finalist for the Booker Prize For Fiction, and was dubbed the “most important novel to come out of Africa in the 1980s.”
The protagonist, Sam, a military head of state, declined to visit Abazon, which was suffering from a drought, in the political satire. This put him at odds with his buddy, Ikem Osodi, the Editor of the government-owned National Gazette, who was from there and opposed His Excellency’s choice to ignore the people’s requests.
In his inaugural address as President in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that those who voted for him with 5% of the vote should not expect equal treatment with the rest of the country. This was a regrettable comment because it was immensely divisive and unworthy of a putative national leader. His appointments also did the southeast a disservice because, despite their qualifications, skills and intellect, none of them were deemed worthy of any sensitive post.
Agitations by the secessionists’ group IPOB (Indigenous Peoples of Biafra), controlled by Nnamdi Kanu, reached new heights, and anti-Nigerian sentiments were rampant. Kanu returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, where he was running Radio Biafra, and became an instant hero, as his message echoed strongly with the populace, who felt betrayed by the Buhari regime.
Rather than using diplomacy to put out the fire started by IPOB, as Olusegun Obasanjo did with MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra), controlled by Ralph Uwazurike, Buhari employed strong-arm methods to detain Kanu for treasonable felony.
The fact that he was denied bail despite repeated court rulings inflamed the situation even more. When he finally returned home on bail, his parents’ home in Abia State was severely attacked, forcing Kanu to flee into exile for his life thereafter. Then came IPOB’s ban and identification as a terrorist group, despite the fact that it had never attacked the Nigerian government.
Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen, as well as ISWAP [ Islamic State In West African Province ], whose actions include killing, maiming, and kidnappings, were not labeled as terrorist groups by the government of Nigeria.
Then there was Operation Python Dance, which saw a large influx of military soldiers into the Southeast and the establishment of multiple checkpoints around the region. The current issue, in which public buildings are razed and government-owned facilities, particularly INEC offices and police stations, are vandalized, can be traced back to the chaos and mayhem caused by the military, which made life a living nightmare for the locals.
Buhari then made a major public relations blunder when he tweeted that he would deal with the Igbo in a language they understand, that is, with the use of force, referring to his time as a young vibrant military officer fighting on the Nigerian side during the Civil War. Of course, Twitter removed the post, prompting the government to take punitive action by suspending it and refusing to restore the ban notwithstanding Twitter’s removal of Nnamdi Kanu’s tweets at the request of the Federal Government, which deemed them totally disgusting.
President Buhari portrayed IPOB and all of Igboland as a “dot in a circle” in an interview with Arise Television on June 10, causing widespread outrage among Igbo and their sympathizers across the country and around the world. Buhari has made no apologies for denigrating an entire ethnicity linguistically.
“President Buhari’s declaration that the Igbo (whom he referred to as Indigenous People of Biafra) are ‘a dot in the circle’ is a terrible expression of his insatiable desire, genocidal intent, and ethnic cleansing of the Igbo Biafrans,” said Law Mefor, a prominent Igbo leader.
He claimed that the ongoing militarization of all of Igboland, as well as the initiation of Operations Restore Peace in the South-South and South-East, are a prescription for him to begin the genocide and crimes against humanity, which he claims could not be accomplished between 1967 and 1970. “This is also evocative of Leon Mugesera’s depiction of the Tutsis in Rwanda as “cockroaches” who needed to be eliminated in the run-up to the 1994 genocide there.
Because Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, brought his country together after the 1994 genocide and made them care about Rwanda before their tribe, Rwanda is perhaps Africa’s fastest-growing economy. After putting the killings behind them, the country is making huge achievements in technology, healthcare, education, and many other areas.
This existential threat that Buhari poses to the entire population affects not only the Igbo in the South East, but everyone in the South-South, and it should not be ignored, much to the displeasure of all. Above all, it should not be taken for granted. The people of the South East and South-South self-preservation, which is the most intuitive and innate human response to danger, remains the safest fallback.
In order to unite the country and quell secessionist agitations that are gaining traction by the day, Buhari should act like an elder statesman rather than a tribal jingoist. Is it not a pity that Professor Banji Akintoye and Sunday Adeyemo a.k.a. Sunday Igboho are spearheading the push for the Oduduwa Nation’s emergence, despite the fact that his Vice President is a Yoruba man?
He has vehemently rejected calls for restructuring that would be of benefit to the entire country, arguing that proponents should take their case to the National Assembly, dominated by the conservative North, who benefits the most from the current lopsided structure. And, naturally, it is glaring that they are opposed to change because they would not want to cut their nose to spite their faces.
The current unitary system is causing too much tension, and Buhari should soothe the wounds rather than fan the flames. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of the greatest Igbo leaders, gave up his Prime Ministerial aspirations in 1959 because he believed in one Nigeria, despite the fact that his goal would have sparked ethnic tensions at the moment.
Is this how President Buhari wants to make amends for the Fulani with other tribes whom they have seriously offended and maligned? He has less than two years to ensure that a true federal structure emerges and operates. This will go a long way toward quelling separatist sentiments and easing ethnic tensions in the country. If he does not allow for restructuring, history will not be kind to him.