Biafran-flag

While it is certain that no ethnic group is greater than the Nigerian state, it is in the Igbos interest to fight for a better share of the national cake rather than alienating themselves. The Igbos, like other ethnic groups, have an crucial stake in a better Nigeria where people have opportunities to realise their potentials… Despising other ethnic groups will do them no good, but compound their woes in a nation where they are already struggling with an image problem.


The title of this piece emanates from reactions to my last article “Aisha Buhari: Fayose and Ignorance 101”. At the last count, the article had 416 share, 241 likes, and 79 comments on the Facebook page of Premium Times, while equally inspiring four e-mails to me. Out of the 79 comments, eighty percent were from people of South-Eastern origin, who were either attacking my person, Aisha Buhari or the president. One of the comments by one Chukwudi Onah goes, “Abdulrafiu Lawal is a buffoon, a cheap blogger who lacks family values….. Governor Fayose is speaking the minds of Nigerians.”

What baffles me is that the content of the article has neither links with Igbos nor their aspiration within the Nigerian federation. Ordinarily, I would not have bothered writing another piece because of the sensitive nature of the topic, but as the Yorubas will say, “an issue cannot be too difficult to surmount, that will warrant using a knife to cut it.” After all, evil continues in the society because good people refused to act.

Before I go further, I will use three different scenarios to drive home my point in order to explain the politics of manipulation going on between the Igbo elites and the masses. During my active days of journalism in Maiduguri, Borno State a few years ago, Jim Nwobodo, a former civilian governor of Anambra state was in town for a political event and his good friend, Mohammed Goni, the first civilian governor of Borno welcomed him warmly. From a short distance, I watched their exchange of pleasantries, with the duo asking after each other’s children. From the way they interacted, one does not need to be told that their bond is strong and based on mutual trust and respect.

While the Goni/Nwobodo story looks like a scene from a Nollywood movie, another good example of handshake across the Niger is the relationship between former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and Lawan Bukar Alhaji, former Registrar of the University of Maiduguri. Their friendship is so strong that at some point, some members of the University community were asking questions about the basis of the friendship.

If Alhaji’s case looks normal since Kalu once lived in Maiduguri, how does one describe the relationship between the families of the former minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai? If you did not know the duo beforehand and see them relating, you’d think El-Rufai and Ezekwesili are from the same parents. His son, Bello El-Rufai took to twitter in April 2015 to appreciate Ezekwesili for her tremendous support during his wedding.

The question is, why do Igbo elites interact with their counterparts in other parts of the country warmly and exchange visits, but the Igbo middle class despises other groups, whether Yoruba or Hausa? Hate being spun against President Buhari, Yorubas and Hausas on social media in the last fifteen months by middle class people of South-Eastern origin is growing worse daily and calls for critical examination.

Unknown to many of these Igbo masses, Okorocha, like many other Igbo elites, understand the politics and geography of Nigeria that many of them will never comprehend. Hence, the elites will continue to smile to the banks as they get a good share of the national cake, while the middle classes wallow in poverty and frustration.


The answer to this issue is quite complex and has a historical dimension. Since the end of the civil war in 1970, some Igbo elites have continued to feed the masses with a negative propaganda that a conspiracy between Obafemi Awolowo and Yakubu Gowon was responsible for their impoverishment after the war, but are always running to Abuja to share contracts with Yorubas and Hausas over meals and drinks.

These elites have made their people believe that if Biafra had succeeded, it would have been a paradise today. These masses with limited education, and who are mostly traders, have bought into this cheap and destructive propaganda, the flames of which is spreading like wildfire today and makes the likes of Nnamdi Kanu whose generation never witnessed the civil war believe a Biafra republic is the answer to Igbo problems.

For those who have forgotten, the late Obafemi Awolowo could not campaign in some parts of the South-East during his contest with Shehu Shagari in 1979. Where he did, it was under tight security. This was because many Igbos were brainwashed to believe he was responsible for the starvation of Biafran children during the war. President Muhammadu Buhari could not make any in-road into the region in the 2015 presidential elections because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fell back to the same negative propaganda, telling the people that All Progressives Congress (APC) was the party of people who killed the Igbos during the civil war. Some of them went to the extent of saying that Buhari was an enemy of the Igbos. This is a claim yet to be substantiated, looking at the strategic positions held by Igbos in this government from that of the Central Bank governor, in the Budget Office to five strategic ministries. When Buhari floored Jonathan in the last presidential elections, Igbo elites who were part of the PDP government reinforced the hate propaganda against him.

The likes of Rochas Okorocha, the Imo State governor who made a political gamble by running on the APC platform but was lucky to coast home to victory, is today seen as a political sellout because of his association with Northern politicians.

Unknown to many of these Igbo masses, Okorocha, like many other Igbo elites, understand the politics and geography of Nigeria that many of them will never comprehend. Hence, the elites will continue to smile to the banks as they get a good share of the national cake, while the middle classes wallow in poverty and frustration. Late Ojo Maduekwe, a former minister of Transport continued to say time was not ripe for an Igbo presidency during the Obasanjo years. Maduekwe forgot the fact that Alex Ekwueme, Shagari’s vice president waited anxiously to actualise this dream and remained the best candidate to make this happen because of his acceptability across the country. His defeat at the Jos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries by Obasanjo will remain a bitter pill to swallow for his people. They however forget that Obasanjo used his fellow Igbo kinsmen like Ojo Maduekwe, Orji Uzor Kalu and Chimaroke Nnamani to bury Ekwueme’s dream of occupying Aso Rock.

Anyone who has read Fredrick Forsyth’s Emeka will understand why this kind of negative propaganda will continue to sell among the Igbo middle class, because you can only get power in a society like theirs through the utilisation of money and this sort of propaganda.

Igbo political elites have continued to feed fat on this unfortunate situation for political mileage. However what the Igbo fail to conceptualise is what their interests are in the Ngerian state? How can they protect these interests without burning bridges? Can Biafra be the solution to their economic woes?


Another classical example of Igbo elite manipulation played out when the deputy senate President, Ike Ekweremadu appeared in court on June 27, 2016 for alleged forgery of Senate rules, along with Bukola Saraki and two others, in full Igbo regalia, unlike the usual suites which he wears on ordinary days. Some traditional rulers in his state also said he was being persecuted for speaking against the killing of Biafra protesters. Some of his kinsmen took to social media to insult President Buhari. The question here is, what is the relationship between the charge of alleged forgery of Senate rules and Biafran protesters?

The reason anti-Buhari sentiments will continue to sell among the Igbos is that the average trader from the South-East, with limited education, just like the Fulani herdsman sees his or her business as his or her heartbeat. Since Muhammadu Buhari came to power fifteen months ago, the shortage of forex and dwindling purchasing power of the average Nigerian has taken its toll on their businesses. This is unlike what obtained under Goodluck Jonathan where the borders were wide open and there was enough forex to bring in goods from China and other Asian countries.

Igbo political elites have continued to feed fat on this unfortunate situation for political mileage. However what the Igbo fail to conceptualise is what their interests are in the Ngerian state? How can they protect these interests without burning bridges? Can Biafra be the solution to their economic woes?

Regardless of the pride and ethnocentrism of the average Igbo person, they are industrious and commercially enterprising. Probably, this may be why Chinua Achebe in his controversial book There was a Country said they hold the key to the country’s future. However, I disagree with Achebe on this as there is no empirical evidence to prove it. The bitter truth all Nigerians must face is that we all need one another and there can never be progress in isolation.

Hence, rather than articulate their position with one voice in the Nigerian state, they have continued to alienate themselves, while despising other ethnic groups. Some of them will tell you that these ethnic groups have not forgiven them for their attempt to secede in 1967. Thus, they are better off in a country of their own. This is a narrative common among the Igbo middle class, as you never hear the thoroughbred, well educated Igbo man talking about Biafra, because he knows it is an exercise in futility. The truth is that both sides suffered casualties that one may never know the true statistics of. Like Chimamanda Adichie says in her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun war is ugly and leaves emotional and physical scars.

In the long run, it will be difficult to actualise an Igbo presidency very soon because of the mistrust they have built in the minds of other Nigerians. They need to ask themselves whether it is Biafra, the Presidency or a fair share of the national cake that they want.

The Igbo elites must realise there is a limit to this kind of negative propaganda. A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes, according to a popular saying. I foresee a revolution in the South-East someday where the masses will turn against the elites for using and dumping them.


It is imperative to ask if the Igbos in the South-West and Northern Nigeria can find a place to do their businesses comfortably in the Biafra that they are agitating for, like they do in Lagos, Kaduna and Kano. The challenges of power sharing that is tearing South Sudan apart indicates that Igbos may end up not finding their rhythm in Biafra. This is partly due to the fact that in the present Nigerian state, the Igbos have never been united.

Despite their obsession with Jonathan, who is of the Ijaw ethnic stock, his six years in power as president left them worse than he met them. The South-East still has the worst federal roads in Ngeria, with gully erosion haven eaten up two-thirds of the roads and poverty growing in geometrical progression. This is second only to the North-East. The ground breaking ceremony of the second Niger Bridge by former President Jonathan was the biggest scam of the century against the Igbos. Why then is it difficult for them to move on by negotiating a better deal with Buhari?

Negative propaganda is not the exclusive preserve of Igbos elites, as the Yoruba and Hausa elites have theirs too. The difference is that the degrees vary. Ayi Kwei Armah, the famous Ghanian writer who wrote the book The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born says African leaders and followers are nothing but deceivers all.

The Igbo elites must realise there is a limit to this kind of negative propaganda. A lie travels around the globe while the truth is putting on its shoes, according to a popular saying. I foresee a revolution in the South-East someday where the masses will turn against the elites for using and dumping them.

While it is certain that no ethnic group is greater than the Nigerian state, it is in the Igbos interest to fight for a better share of the national cake rather than alienating themselves. The Igbos, like other ethnic groups, have a crucial stake in a better Nigeria where people have opportunities to realise their potentials opened up to them, without discrimination of the basis of their identities. Despising other ethnic groups will do them no good, but compound their woes in a nation where they are already struggling with an image problem. It is time to join hands to move Nigeria forward, as Biafra is dead and buried in the dustbin of history.

Abdulrafiu Lawal, a Public Commentator can be reached through rafla2002pl@yahoo.com. Twitter @AbdulRafiu19