Some may say it has a new life. Others call it alive but with a false breath of life. Others will conclude that Biafra is not alive, but dead. Others still observe that the so-called southeast maelstrom is merely imbuing Biafra with a life that is not there.
If it is dead, why are we discussing it? Why is a freebooter with a spectacle and a bigoted register at the head of its boil? if it is boiling, does it make it alive? If it is alive though, what kind of life can we attribute to an agitation that the Igbo elite are too ashamed or timid to define or associate with in clear language? Why is the acting president convening dialogues, why are senators sniping, a former central bank boss (Soludo) a sympathiser, an Igbo intellectual like Nwabueze lying from both sides of his octogenarian mouth to appease the cause?
But for this writer, Biafra is dead. It is only pretending to be alive, propped up by phony leaders, polemicised by unfledged intellectuals, triggered by a lure of enterprise and profit, backed by incendiary propaganda machine, fired on by an imperial state of mind, enriched by a tribe of gullible followers and riven by a lack of ideological or cultural clarity.
For all those who know this and still war on, they say in their minds, “Biafra is dead. Long live Biafra!” The irony and hypocrisy fascinate. They know that the pursuit of an independent state of Biafra is like Samuel Becket’s waiting for Godot. It is like a song, an intoxicant, an aphrodisiac, a rallying cry. It is melodious, beautiful, demoniac, soulful, lurks in the heart, burns the adrenaline, and no more.
Biafra had life once, and breathed into being in the tactile air of tyranny. It was a great and worthy cause then. It rose on the ashes of tribesmen and women slashed and daggered to death in pogroms. Its leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu with his immaculate diction and soaring rhetoric, jolted the nation and, some may say, the world in its early months. Until it fell foul of its own logic by owning other Nigerians in what is now the Niger Delta. Biafra lost it moral impetus for everyone except the southeast. Since then it has flailed to its death. It had neither the support nor sympathy of the southern minorities. Biafra literally shot itself in the foot.
After the hostilities ceased, Biafra has only lived in fantasy. Ojukwu knew that when he returned from exile. He did not pitch his tent with his southeast political brotherhood, but dined with the same seance against which he asked his fellow tribes men to fight and die. The NPN, that is. So, he did not really hate those for whom he asked his people to die. The poet Yeats captured this in these lines: “Those I fight I do not hate/ those I guard I do not love.” By that very association of surrender with the NPN, Ojukwu resounded the gong and euthanasia of Biafra. He embalmed the idea. All his protestations for Biafra after that misadventure were like trying to save a beheaded John the Baptist.
Since then the mention of Biafra has been a romance with the dead. It has been a corpse that has refused to decompose, but a corpse all the same. It reminds one of the Spanish film, the Corpse of Anna Fritz, where the body of a model captures the erotic embers of some young men who make love to it in the mortuary. Senegalese Poet Leopold Senghor describes it as the “dead who have refused to die.” It is gone but not in the fantasies of the obsessed.
The golden age of Biafra was, unfortunately, an age of misadventure and failure. The Chinese leaders of the 20th century have characterised the 19th century as their age of humiliation, where nations like Japan and Russia made mincemeat of the people that once towered over the east. Biafra’s age of humiliation was the 1960’s. It duelled and expired in the dust of heroic miscalculations and strategic naiveté.
The ethnic entrepreneur, Nnamdi Kanu, has been owned by his followers in high and low places in the east as a pretext to fight for restructuring, a voice not heard in the buccaneering days of Jonathan. Now they are saying that we are all Biafrans. By that they mean anyone who is up against the inequity of this federal contraption is riding on the genius of Kanu.
Kanu is an opportunist just like Judas Iscariot. His votaries are conjuring his name to push for a fairer arrangement. He has entered the fray to corrupt it. Judas Iscariot came to the life of Jesus to corrupt the cause. The crucifixion happened and Christians claim redemption from the betrayal of Judas. But the same Judas has been dismissed as a son of perdition. No one thanks Judas for betraying the lord.
For those who say we all are Biafrans, they are not only wrong but wrong-headed. Kanu, for instance, claims that Biafra will extend to the animated states of the Niger Delta, including Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, etc. The fellow recently claims he inspired a great crowd in Port Harcourt. As I noted last week, he rallied Igbos, not the indigenes. The phrase “we are all Biafrans” is an imperial insult on the South-south. That mindset has not learned from the remonstrations of the minorities against the injustices Biafra inflicted them with during the war. They are trying to levitate Kanu, a fringe felon, to a mainstream hero. They are trying to legitimise a cynical buccaneer.
Meanwhile, they are carrying the corpse along, and hoping that someday it will come back, breathing and jerking like a new-born, the failure of a fantastic necrophilia. It’s like the family in William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, where the children take their mother’s corpse on a journey to a place they want it buried. She is laid to mother earth when the stench makes everyone unhappy. If Biafra is so beloved, its fanatics should let it down before it suffocates others. They should make Biafra, in the words of Charles Dicken, “a lovely corpse.” Not a stinking one.