To many people who are familiar with events in the Nigerian political sphere, the man, Joe Igbokwe, needs no introduction. Depending on how one views him, he is an activist, publisher, journalist, politician, a dogged fighter, and a writer. Joe is seen within the All Progressives Congress (APC) circles as a patriot, nationalist and a dogged publicist having been the party’s perhaps most vocal state publicity secretary. But to the ethnic chauvinists, he is nothing but a rebel, infidel, or a traitor. His only offence to this latter class of people is his strong loyalty to his party’s cause and the fact that he holds his views and is never ashamed to defend them. His latest of this is views on the controversial topic of Biafra.
Hardly does a week go by that without Joe making the news. Who can fault that, after all, is he not a party publicist? If he is not putting the records straight on behalf of his party, he is airing his views on an issue of national importance. He is a Nigerian, hence, entitled to his views. His most recent article came when he wrote under the title “Biafra: Truth Be Told”. Surely, this article is one that many pro-Biafrans will not like to read or talk about. To them, it shouldn’t have come at a time like this. To these people, Joe (who hails from Nnewi in Anambra state) is not, or no longer, an Igbo. To this people, as long as you do not support Biafra you are less, or not, Igbo. Also, to these ones, you have automatic “Biafra” citizenship so long as you can call for the release of a certain “Nnamdi Kanu” who himself holds a British citizenship and claims he is not a Nigerian. Igbokwe automatically falls into the category of those Igbos, many of whom I know, who do not support Biafra.
Having laid the above premise, we think it is rather fair to say that there are some genuine issues raised by some Biafra agitators, but what some of us are against is the opportunism and the opportunists who may like to take advantage of genuine issues for their own limited political and economic gains. This is where I agree totally with the salient thesis in “Biafra: Truth Be Told”!
It is on record that people openly campaigned using ethnic appeals for one candidate or the other during the 2015 election. Majority, if not all, of those presently calling out themselves, at the risk of saying the obvious, campaigned vociferously for former President Goodluck Jonathan. They never in their lifetimes believed the man could lose the last presidential election and even concede. No sooner had the man lost and moved on, than some of them got to start wearing their Biafra agitators’ uniforms.
Let us put the issues into proper perspectives, for us not to be misunderstood. Many of the so-called “Biafra” activists saw nothing wrong with Nigeria when they were compensated with juicy appointments under the former president. They controlled the nation as though it was their personal property. In fact, one of them, Emeka Wogu, then Minister for Labour and Productivity made it clear that they were “the ones ruling” hence the “Do not disturb” sign was boldly displayed on the door.
Let us look at Joe’s profound statement in the article: “When they fail in national politics they go back to play ethnic politics and they resort to blackmail, primordial sentiments, ethnic preoccupation, intimidation, harassment and subterfuge.” As obvious as this statement seems, many find it difficult to see. But I put like to expand the discussion a bit.
Let us take a look at some pseudo-Biafra supporters who suddenly found their voices recently. The first, and perhaps the most loquacious of them all is Femi Fani-Kayode. One may argue that he suddenly found his strange love for Igbos, after telling us “The Bitter Truth About The Igbo”. Though, few will agree with this, but it appears FFK as he is often called is still suffering from the excruciating defeat of his paymaster and boss during the March election.
One thing about FFK is that he sees history in relative terms. He owns – and only him has – the licence to murder history, rape history, abuse history, defile history or even re-write history all with reckless abandon. Like his role model, Joself Goebbels who served as Adolf Hitler’s Chief propagandist during the World War II, he believes we all have weak memories. FFK will not even bother to apologise for a previous lie for him to release another. Facts do not matter to Femi as long as the lies are “Big enough” for his gullible disciples to believe.
When he writes these days about Biafra – he now has the authority to do so – his epistles appear like gospel to those who classify themselves as Biafrans and music to those who choose to cry more than former president Jonathan for his electoral defeat. Who dares blame them? After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as a Chinese proverb says. My candid advise to Igbos is to know who their friends are. “Keep your friends close” as the Buddhist saying goes, “and your enemies closer.” Let us let FFK alone before we are accused of giving him too much undeserved attention. Need we add that some of the neo-Biafrans who themselves know next to nothing about the matter, only know what they are told to know? This is a part some people will not like to hear, but we will say it here for historical purposes. When the great Biafran leader, Col. Dim Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was granted a state pardon by President Shehu Shagari in 1982, the Ikemba soon contested for Senate under the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN), but did his people vote for him? Lest we also forget, he contested for the presidency, how many votes did he get even in Anambra?
Let us bring in Chief Alex Ekweme. We recall he, despite being founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), contested for the party nomination for president in 2002. We all remember how the South-East governors then did all they could to outdo themselves to be seen to be more loyal to President Olusegun Obasanjo than even his own ministers. There was nothing wrong in all these for these people as long as it all guarantees fat bank accounts and unmerited rewards. No one talks about Biafra when contract figures are inflated; Biafra makes no sense as long as “our son” is given a juicy political appointment; Biafra could wait a little had Azikiwe won the presidency. Or that Biafra must go if “our daughter” is alleged to have stolen and sacked from office; “Biafra or death” when “our son” leaves a position and the same “son” must replace him; it has to be Biafra because “our son” comprises the majority of those in the team that won the U-17 World Cup, but everything is wrong if the team is composed of those that are not “our sons”. Did Joe Igbokwe really say anything new about Biafra?
Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and an independent political strategist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Follow me on twitter @adgorwell.