THE LETTER is a 2012 American movie starring Winona Ryder and James Franco. According to the plot, a playwright suffers from paranoia and hallucinations as she attempts to stage a new production. She is uncertain over whether she is deluded or if there is a plot against her.
There is palpable paranoia and hallucinations in the Southeast of Nigeria as some Igbo youth, probably sponsored and godfathered, orchestrate some dangerously amateur experiment with the follies of youth. And the face of this macabre dance routine is a young British-Nigerian born four months before the declaration of the ill-fated Republic of Biafra by the progenitor of Biafra himself. What befuddles me is that almost all the Igbo intelligentsia, prominent politicians and Ohanaeze Ndigbo are mute without calling the follies of youth to order.
What is eerie about this ongoing agitation for the Biafra of now is that the Biafra of yore was stillborn ab initio, and the aftermath of the Biafra of yore is yet to settle before some youth (who has never seen, known or experienced hunger, starvation, misery, deprivation, suffering, homelessness, pain, lack, penury, kwashiorkor, blood and death associated with war), is the person attempting to stage a new production of Biafra.
Like the playwright, is the British-Nigerian uncertain over whether he is deluded or if there is a plot against the Igbo? Which plot, I may ask? The Igbo resourcefulness, success-oriented mentality, a penchant for hard work, resiliency, yearnings for education and achievement has seen them dispersed all over Nigeria and abroad. It is a truism that the dispersal of the Igbo almost everywhere, is not unconnected with the lack of living space (Lebensraum) available to the Igbo in Igboland, and this is intrinsic to the natural dispersal of a people who need space to excel.
There is a trite saying that if anybody sojourns to a new land or faraway destination, the first question to ask is: “is there any Igboman here?” If there is non, then the person better vamoose because the new land or destination will not be viable for business or living. Such is the reputation of the Igbo which precedes them. A new Biafra now is not an automatic open sesame to nationhood, statehood, or indeed a country.
The Igbo need space to thrive and Nigeria’s landmass is not even enough for the Igbo expansionist disposition to trade, because of their massive population, inadequate enclave-Igboland with population density approximately 500 persons per square kilometer. They possess individualistic and democratic streaks to succeed, and go back to their small villages to show off success stories, both viva voce and materially, once a year or thereabout.
The Biafra of yore encapsulated (by accident of regionalism) the present day south-south zone including Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states of the former Eastern region. The Eastern Region was an administrative region in Nigeria, dating back originally from the division of the colony of Southern Nigeria in 1954. The region was autonomized on October 1, 1954 and stayed like that until the short-lived metamorphosis to the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. The Biafra of yore included the Igbo, who mostly dominated and lorded over other ethnic groups, viz., the Ijaw, Efik, Annang, Ibibio and Ikwerre (who denounced their Igbohood/Igboness after the Nigeria-Biafra war) and others in the Niger Delta.
Is the Biafra of now going to include the people of the south-south zone? These ethnic groups were former Biafrans of yore by accident of colonial partition and amalgamation in 1954, and forced by exigent circumstances of location and geopolitical factors in the 1967 declaration of Biafra to acquiesce, albeit reluctantly, to the Biafran experiment.
A proverb says that “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot force it to drink!” These reluctant Biafrans of yore have stated unequivocally that they are not and will never be part of the Biafra of now, the new Biafra. That leaves the Igbo to produce the new Biafra on their own, from five landlocked southeastern states of Igboland with Nigeria in total encirclement of the new Biafra – no access to the sea, just like the Biafra of yore, encircled by the Nigerian 3rd Marine Commandos led by the late military tactician, Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, with Uli and Uga Airports as the only gateways out of Biafra. It will be recalled that the so-called mighty men of war, the “Ohafia brave warriors”, who were supposed to fight and defend the Biafra of yore turned out to be historic relics of a diminished military culture.
In his 07:00 am national broadcast on Monday August 21, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari stated, inter alia “. . . the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu came and stayed as my guest in my hometown Daura. Over two days we discussed . . . and analyzed the problems of Nigeria. We both came to the conclusion that the country must remain one and united. Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood . . .”
The United States of America is the most diversified country on earth, peopled by whites, blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics or Latinos, Europeans and other ethnic groups too numerous to mention, and yet, it is the richest and most powerful nation on earth. There is unity in diversity and the full strength and potential of Nigeria cannot be realized without the Igbo onboard. The ‘follies of youth’ must not be allowed to guide the Igbo into another debacle that is Biafra, all over again! I’ve seen it before. This is my ‘Letter from Biafra’.