WHEN agitators for Biafran independence under the aegis of the Independent Peoples of Biafra(IPOB), took the South-East and parts of the South South by storm recently with a sit-at-home order to mark 50 years of Biafra, tongues were set wagging.
A number of people claimed that proponents of new Biafra, were younger elements, many of who did not see the war. Many said that those who actually saw the war will never seek a repeat of that experience. But it is also real that there is a limit to the endurance level of human beings and that the suicidal instinct of a human can trigger when conditions become excruciating.
Like some of the agitators, I was just making it out of the womb when the Civil War started in 1967, so I cannot claim to have seen the war. As of that time, I could not differentiate my right from the left.
Even though the war came very close to my place of birth in Ondo, when the battle got Ore, I didn’t feel it.
Having read the series of accounts of the war, I can now see through that war. Through the different accounts from the books, a lot of damages were caused to millions of Nigerians in the South-East and other parts of the country. One good turn at the end of the war however was the fact Nigeria did not break up after the three year battle.
One lesson the civil war should teach the actors and the bystanders is the reality of the fragile union they have inherited from the first generation politicians and that should teach them to nurture it. There is also the lesson that the inherited union can break up if it is not well nurtured.
They should also have learnt that one way to keep the guns at bay should be to consistently work at the issues that cement the relationship of the different segments of the country and to ensure that generations after generations forget the touchy issues that divide.
But 50 years after, have we put the issues of Biafra behind us? Can we really say that the war is over and as the former Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon declared, is there no victor, no vanquished?
By casting a mere glance at the Nigerian setting of today, the signals of a divided country are written all over. The fact remains that those who should do something about achieving change appears bent on doing the wrong things.
When proponents of the new Biafra under the aegis of MASSOB and IPOB celebrated the 50th anniversary of the civil war, the government in Abuja and its agents in uniform were on edge. The Police flared its anger and sought to annihilate Biafran agitators across the South-East and South-South.
To me, the decision to bare the fangs by either the police or the military and deal some blows on the agitators amounts to missing the point. The same mistake was made by the Nigerian nation after the declaration of the 3RS by the Government of Gowon government in 1970.
After the war, the government headed by General Yakubu Gowon declared a policy of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Re-integration.
But more like the various government slogans we have witnessed one regime after the other, the 3Rs went down our consciousness and many part of the country just think of the war as one owambe event that only passed away like a flash.
If the government is worried at the growing number of Biafran agitators across the land what then can be done? A lot can still be done but much has got to do with the paradise missed.
A young Nigerian Southerner serving in the North does not need to stay too long before he is told he is a foreigner in the land of his Youth Service. The same way a Northern youth who find himself in the South will see himself more like a fish out of water.
But the signals of a divided country are far more noticeable in the North. A Southern graduate Teacher is till today only employable as a Contract Staff. No matter the number of years he or she puts in, he cannot be regularised as a full staff. I learnt that most of the northern states prefer to recruit Egyptians rather than their compatriots from the South.
Again, once a a son or daughter of the soils shows up with an equivalent certificate, the contract of the Southerner is terminated.
In the North, you will be shocked to see that Egyptians are readily employed and given full benefits more than Nigerians graduates of Southern extraction. The former Governor of Niger state, Dr. Babangida Aliyu was said to have been attacked by some forces for his decision to stop the contract staff thing in Niger state.
I heard of the discriminatory school fees for indigenes and non-indigenes for the first time in the North but it has gone round the entire country right now.
What this shows is just that the One Nigeria slogan or agenda is more on the lips than in practice.
With that kind of a situation, it is difficult to wish away the Biafran agitators. It is even more difficult to stop like-minded agitators from other zones.
A situation where the occupant of the most important office in the state or at the federal level will only surround himself with those who speak his language or come from his village cannot assist the quest for unity and one Nigeria. I do not think we can wish away the agitations without taking practical steps.