How Buhari Can Kill Biafra Agitation Without Spraying Bullets–– by Ufok Ibekwe
The Nigerian government can kill the Biafra agitation without spraying bullets or mobilizing the Nigerian military to lay siege and boom guns in Igbo land. The best approach to achieve this is to adopt a counter insurgency formula of chasing victory without bloodshed. This is a classic military philosophy accredited to Master Sun Tzu of ancient China who deeply believed that winning a political conflict without gun or sword fighting was the cornerstone of strategic leadership. Sun Tzu, who concentrated on the highest political and strategic level of leadership was keenly interested in achieving a bloodless victory by tactically avoiding the outbreak of blood spilling shooting war. He focused mostly on assigning a higher priority on the use of non-military means to resolve disputes. Master Sun believed that the best strategy that results in a glorious outcome is the one that delivers victory without the loss of lives. Sun Tzu’s bloodless philosophy in my honest opinion is what the Buhari led administration in Nigeria should adopt to kill the Biafra secessionist agitation.
It is important to note that the Nigerian Civil war that took place between 1967 to 1970 ended without armistice or treaty of peace. An armistice is a formal agreement to cease all forms of military hostilities in a conflict to pave way for peace. It simply brings an end to belligerent activities, but it does not establish permanent peace. To establish a lasting a peace and normalcy in a conflict situation, a treaty of peace must be negotiated and ratified by both warring parties under the supervision of a recognized mediator. Sadly, this did not happen in the Nigeria- Biafra war.
The war simply ended with Biafra land as a conquered territory and the Igbos as a vanquished people. No formal peace agreement was put in place for sustainable peaceful future post war coexistence. The Nigerian State led by General Gowon gloating in victory and consumed by immature ego neglected a critical element needed to build peace in the post-civil war Nigeria. Unfortunately for the Nigerian State, the Igbos were only defeated but their spirits were not crushed nor their minds psychologically debriefed.
More than 50 years down the line after the cessation of the Civil War, there has been a resurgence of Biafran consciousness and agitation for a return of the defunct Republic of Biafra among the Igbos people of Nigeria. The Civil War only signaled a long silence by the Biafran secessionist-activists, but it did not signify an end to the appeal of Biafra ideology to the succeeding generations. Many Igbos still believe today that although they lost the civil war, that they won the battle of making Biafra ideology to penetrate and sit deep in the Igbo collective psyche. To them this makes Biafra more spiritual than physical.
With the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1999 and the emergence of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the year 2000, followed by IPOB and the military wing ESN, the previously comatose Biafra consciousness and agitation have once again been reactivated. It is important to note that, within the last twenty years, the idea of Biafra has once again gained social traction and high momentum among the Igbo people in South-Eastern Nigeria. Biafra agitation and its popularity have continued to generate repeated open and violent confrontations between members of Biafra activists, their supporters and the coercive forces of the Nigerian state.
Currently, there appears to be unexplained silence among Igbo elders and leaders concerning the activities of IPOB and ESN led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, clearly suggesting that they are either condoning and spiritual blessing their activities or they are deeply afraid of them. This shows that many Igbo elders are most likely voluntarily or fearfully supporting Biafra in their closets, while the youth are proclaiming Biafra openly.
The Eastern region of Nigeria especially Imo State is currently ravaged by insecurity involving open confrontations between security force and ESN. Many lives have been lost while public properties have been destroyed too. The government and the IPOB secessionists are spoiling for war as none of the parties is blinking. But the solution cannot be secure through military means because any war between Nigeria and Biafra in this technological and internet age will drag for years and bury both parties in the sand dune of time.
In a country where a particular ethnic group lays claim to the seat of power as its fiefdom by exhibiting excessive chauvinism, religious bigotry and nepotism, such atmosphere is enough to fuel secessionist feelings among some component units that feel marginalized.When such problems are allowed to fester, then the issue of agitation for autonomy will continue to grow, and it will be very difficult to stop it even with bullets unless the grievances are addressed to the satisfaction of aggrieved parties.
A Critical look at the claims and demands of IPOB, ESN and MASSOB for instance will reveal that they are looking for social justice, social equality and inclusion. Many Igbo feel politically and economically marginalized, and the government’s hardliner stance is not helping the situation. That is all they are calling for and once that is attended to, you will see that the issue of agitation for Biafra will disappear. And this can only be done through a sincere and holistic amendment to the Nigerian constitution or the enactment of a fresh autochthonous constitution.
Alternatively, the country can revert to the 1963 Republican constitution with stronger six geopolitical regions and States with a small weak center under a true fiscal federal system. If this approach is adopted, the Biafra agitation will be killed automatically. But if ignored and Biafra eventually breaks away, other regions may follow suit like the former Yugoslavia.