Return of the Biafran Tide


Written by Lewis Obi

BIAFRA is not an enclave, a bight, a people, a tribe, or an institution. It is not quite easy to define which is why it is difficult to control, or push, or hide, to say nothing of killing. It cannot be conquered or defeated or extinguished. My candid observation is that it is like a tide. It comes sometimes with a clamor, sometimes, it comes in silence. But when it comes, it poses a challenge for both sides.
The current arrival of the tide was quiet. Almost everyone ignored it. Most were indifferent. We’ve seen many tides before. They never amounted to much. Then, someone said there was a Radio Biafra, a pirate radio station pretending to speak for Biafra and Biafrans. Like most people, this writer waved it off and never had the inclination, having lost radio listening habit decades ago. My last radio set was left in the village when I discovered that a set of batteries perished inside it, damaging the battery compartment and the springs that held the batteries.
When the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) began to campaign against Radio Biafra, I was aghast. Why do you want to make a hero out of a pirate radio that no one listens to? No one ever did a comprehensive review of the station’s programs, if it had any. Soon enough the station was “captured” and put off the air or so it was announced. This was to be expected. It was kind of an anti-climax and I imagined that would be quiet thereafter.
Then, I heard of a protest, a pro-Biafra protest for the seizure of the radio. Which meant that there were people who actually listened to Radio Biafra. Then the man who was said to be the motivator, producer, director, the heart and soul of the radio station, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, was also taken into custody. Having captured the radio and its broadcaster, the next logical thing was to put the man and his co-conspirators on trial.
When this was not done, I thought Mr. Kanu had been cautioned and discharged. Then, there were more protests that Mr. Kanu was still being held, and appeals by the “Indigenous People of Biafra” went out to the world. You wouldn’t blame them.
This week was 20 years Mr. Ken Saro- Wiwa was ‘murdered’ on the order of a kangaroo court set up to try him for a murder he was no where near where it was committed. ‘Like play, like play,’ Mr. Saro-Wiwa was arrested. A special tribunal was set up which wasted no time in condemning him to death by hanging, an execution which was carried out almost before the ink was dried on the paper on which that travesty of a judgment was written.
So, I don’t blame Nnamdi Kanu’s listeners, friends, and well-wishers who have kept protesting his continued detention. My fear is that the Ogonis also protested Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s incarceration, to no avail. The hope is that Mr. Kanu’s case would be different, although there is no basis for that optimism, given the silence and the dark signals emanating from all the power centers, including those who keep reminding the Biafrans of Biafra.
Biafra survives because it is an idea based on the laws of nature which impels any living organism to strive for self-survival. I think this is the only way one can explain the now and again return of the tide of Biafra. It survives because there is a Biafra perpetuation syndrome which plagues the Nigerian nation. Unless the Biafra perpetuation syndrome is cured, the Biafra tide will continue to return. And when it returns, it comes to haunt Nigeria in a manner that nothing else does.
The Biafra tide whenever it returns takes you all the way back to January 1966 when a group of misguided murderous soldiers unleashed irrational violence on some eminent Nigerians. After the deed was done, rather than hunt down the murderers, it was found quite convenient to condemn an entire region for the crimes of a few. That was the origin of Biafra. Almost all the young men and women protesting in the name of Biafra today were not born in 1966. So, why do they need to protest? The answer must be given by the young people themselves. But a bulk of them is of Igbo origin. The important fact about that is that the Igbo are not given to protesting.
The young men and women look around them and see nothing but injustice all around them. Then they put this side by side with the experience of their parents which, at first, they had thought unbelievable. They put two plus two together.
The Guardian reported one million marchers in Aba. If that figure is right, then it is foolhardy for anyone in Aso Villa to pretend that this is a freak protest, even if it is. Nnamdi Kanu should be taken to the courts and arraigned. He has caused no violence; he has threatened no one, and, like my people say, it is cheaper to sacrifice a day-old chick early in lieu of having to provide an elephant later.
Biafra will not go away. Holding Nnamdi Kanu won’t just help in any form. Unless, of course, the Buhari administration wants to begin the assembly of political prisoners. Kanu would be an excellent start.
First published 12th November, 2015


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