By by Ephraim Adiele*
Sometime in May 2014, I was at Lekki Beach, a place we like to call CLASS OF WIZARDS or CLASS for short. It’s a place where young men and sometimes women come to chill out and share ideas on every topic there is to discuss.
On this day, one class member, Celestine seemed hyper happy. He kept smiling for no apparent reason. This prompted the rest of the class to ask what the happiness was about. Soon enough he began telling us about Radio Biafra, gave us the dial and started telling us about a demonstration scheduled for May 31, 2014. I calmly told him to relax on the pro-Biafra enthusiasm as although that dream was not dead, it was quite far from realization. I even placed a bet that the May 31 demonstration would be of no national significance. I won the bet.
Soon after the 2015 election and I was in Enugu, one of my favourite places to relax and I was having drinks with several young, enthusiastic and politically conscious Nigerians with whom I started a non-political movement – the Peoples Liberation Congress (PLC) – a movement seeking a working Nigeria with the full involvement of the youth population.
We were having drinks and discussing several issues and the issue of the late senator Chukwumerije came up, we compared his death to that of Oronto Douglas and majority of us were of the opinion that the latter would be remembered more than the aged former because he dedicated his life to a humanitarian cause. At a point I stood up to get drinks for a member of our movement who had just joined us. Just then I was stopped by a bearded man who I must say bore a striking resemblance to the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. He asked if I was an Igbo man, given that I was wearing my trademark Yoruba native caps. I replied “Yes, abu’m nwa Aba” meaning I am from Aba. He then showed me his phone, claiming he had made some calls for us to be dealt with for insulting Chukwumerije in Biafra. I then got into a discussion with this man, explaining certain things.
The man later joined our table and introduced himself as a member of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). After several minutes, we took his contact and promised to be in touch. As he left, we laughed over the fact that he was still thinking of Biafra seceding via violence.
That discussion made me embark on more research about the Biafra movement. I was to find out that the Radio Biafra my friend Celestine had told me about had started gaining the attention of the public in the East. I started asking random people I met in Enugu bars about what they felt about the whole Biafra thing. Their response was divergent. Many wanted Biafra, but a bloodless secession. Others wanted Biafra, and claimed to be ready for bloodshed too. The rest did not even want to hear of Biafra anymore.
Soon enough I was back in Lagos, although I had my ears on the activities of Radio Biafra and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Enugu and other parts of the east. From what I was told, the director and major broadcaster of the pirate radio, Nnamdi Kanu was busy feeding his listeners with hate speeches and vulgarity. I was also told that he was spreading the propaganda of violence to his listeners. I have a problem with this. I, for one have undertaken a long study of Adolf Hitler, who led the most successful “tribe/race based” onslaught in history. One thing I learnt from Hitler was the power of sustained propaganda. Even though Hitler had violence as the means to carry out his plans, it is worthy to note that he spent about 20 years spreading the propaganda of love for “folk and fatherland.”
Now, Nnamdi Kanu has one of the most powerful propaganda medium ever –A RADIO STATION. But in my opinion, he is not spreading the right propaganda. Inciting people towards violence when you live in the UK and hold British citizenship is not a true revolutionary move. At least that’s not what I learnt from Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, not even Hitler. These men all led their revolutions from the front, not from a remote location. I insisted that if Nnamdi Kanu was in anyway serious, he should leave the UK, return to Nigeria and say those things he has been saying, so when he is picked up, his followers can “Mandelarize” him.
Radio Biafra kept waxing strong until they caught the attention of the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, who, in typical Buhari fashion began a clamp down on the station and IPOB members.
In October 2015, I took a week to visit Enugu again. This time around, I had IPOB and Biafra as one of the key reasons for this visit. Soon enough, I had several meetings with members of IPOB. Some were planned while some others happened by chance. We discussed at length, I needed to know the direction the IPOB movement was going. From my findings, Kanu was still on the same track. I was disappointed. But on the flip side, I was greatly impressed.
I was impressed because he had succeeded in planting the idea of ending this Royal Niger Company experiment, this Nigeria that has failed to live up to a quarter of its potential, as a result of a host of factors, including a host of factors (lol). I was impressed because Kanu had succeeded in making people in the South East and South South realize that there is a possibility for them to “leave.” This is okay, but I do not agree with the propaganda that is foisting marginalization as its primary argument and violence as its primary weapon. There is a greatly violent marginalisation happening in the Middle Belt, but… let me hold that thought for another day.
During my stay, I met with these IPOB people and I saw the enthusiasm they had, but it was blind enthusiasm. They did not know the consequences of such an unplanned, violence based secession. How not-so-good-an-idea such a move would be from a diplomatic perspective. And by diplomatic, I mean international relations.
More worrisome was the disdain the IPOB members and their sympathizers had for MASSOB members and any Igbo indigene that refuses to tow their train of thought. That is wrong, from a media perspective; it simply means your propaganda is not sinking in. Anytime I tell any IPOB or MASSOB member that I’m from Aba, they get angrier and I laugh some more. Aba is seen as one of the strongest hold, if not the strongest hold of the Biafra movement, but I’m not a fanatic person, I’m analytic biko.
Take the Buhari case as an example, I always ask people why they never saw Buhari as this incorruptible saint in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential election? The answer is simple; a well-orchestrated propaganda was stringed together within a couple of years which made it possible for him to appear squeaky clean.
In addition to this, Radio Biafra and IPOB are not putting into consideration the millions of Igbos and South South indigenes that are living outside the “Biafran” territory. In plain English: Biafra is not a topic of popular discussion in many, many places in Nigeria. Again, Let me hold the thought I had… But Kanu needs to reach out if he knows what he is doing… which I mostly doubt.
Going back to Lagos, my idea of the realisation of Biafra remained the same: Biafra is a good idea, but Biafra is very far from being ready. I told one pro-Biafran friend of mine, “If Biafra is actualized without years of thorough planning, dem go fight the true true Biafra war within 6 months”
Not soon after I got back to Lagos, I heard that Nnamdi Kanu had returned to Nigerian and was arrested. I swallowed saliva. Things just got interesting!
As I write this, Kanu is yet to be released, I read that his bail conditions are yet to be met or something of that nature. There have been protests in Rivers, Delta, Enugu and Anambra states. There have also been solidarity marches in several countries around the world. But to what end?
I have since told people to leave me out of the Biafra argument, for now. Let us see how Kanu and his cohorts plan to use the event of his arrest to the advantage of their cause. But, if I am to give Kanu just one advise, only one… I will advise him to change the direction of the propaganda. Kanu should imagine the kind of global support the IPOB movement would have garnered if he had continually pushed for a referendum.
That’s the kind of thing that would sell without having to gain unnecessary enemies in the international community before his dream is even actualized. No smart revolutionary goes to public domain to solicit multi-billion dollar funds to acquire weapons. I’ve listened to Kanu several times on Radio Biafra and watched a few video clips. The young man is smart. But not smart enough in my opinion. In every revolutionary move, military tactics can never be overlooked. In fact, it is the most important thing to put into consideration, but you do not bring it to the front burner. It is left in the background while diplomatic strategies are employed and explored to the fullest.
The wiser solution in my opinion is to go back to the drawing board and begin pushing the idea of a referendum. A referendum will have a large majority of people from Southern Nigeria voting in favour of secession.
In case Kanu is not aware, some Yoruba people are also getting very tired of the Fulanis.
But, what do I know?