Why Ndigbo embraced Biafra struggle –Chris Asoluka - Healthy People Lifestyle Journal

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Why Ndigbo embraced Biafra struggle –Chris Asoluka


Dr Chris Asoluka is a former Vice President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and also a former member of the House of Representatives.
Recently, WILLY EYA engaged him on various national issues including the recession, echoes of disintegration, restructuring among others.
There is tension in the land with echoes of disintegration threatening the nation. In the South East, there are agitations for the state of Biafra; in the North, the Arewa youths have given the Igbo a quit notice with a counter narrative also coming from the South South, the South West and even the Middle Belt. What are your reflections on all of these?
Was the recession sudden? Could it be the cause of the tension and echoes of disintegration? I would not say that the recession was so sudden but Nigerians should also remark that two things happened at the same time and Nigerians should not lose sight of it. We never had an incumbent administration, against the run of play, voted out of power in which case, a new party came into power with their new agenda and approaches including strategy for containment. And when they came, of course they needed time to observe, study and take stock and within that moment, we lost time. You could not see all the kind of responses that could have been immediate if there were no issues of recession; you could see that the response to policies could be faster and you could see that there could have been continuity such that even if you have the recession, it could have been a little bit contained. But when you have a different administration with their different manifest and approach, there could be a little bit of chaos and the effect on Nigerians could be more exaggerated.  What am I talking about? Assuming that it was the same government that continued, of course, they could have played more with their foreign reserve and even running loans in order to shore up the Naira. But the new administration would want to take a total stock and ask some critical questions. Why should we endlessly do this? Why should we not think out of the box? And as you are doing this, you are losing time and momentum. You see that when once you lose one liver in the economy, the other ones go haywire and immediately we lost the battle in the foreign exchange and Naira soared from 182 up to 500, of course, there was panic and the prices of things hit the roof and the effect on Nigerians became more than they could contain. The productivity also in terms of industries collapsed as they could not have access to foreign exchange and subsequently raw materials. This was because their model was more externally influenced rather than an indigenous approach to rely on the local raw materials and when you could not get foreign exchange for your raw materials, of course you start laying off workers. The effect became too large and the effect also on the GDP, the decline became too rapid and was almost becoming a free fall. And what is the technical definition for recession-negative growth for two quarters. The situation continued to slide until the new administration now proposed their own strategy in addressing some of these issues. A new government was entitled to formulate its own response and given this interplay, delay is one poison. But you would not say that the recession was sudden. When the oil prices started dropping from $140 down to amost lest than $40, and you know that this is a mono economy, the import started drying up. So, by the time, this government proposed its own policies, things began gradually to change. That is why you see that the Central Bank of Nigeria is beginning to have a better control in the management of our foreign exchange. But whether the recession created tension, of course, it did. The basic rule is survival and when you have a survival issue, tension could mount.
The Biafra agitation has become a major issue in Nigeria; Why the sudden upsurge  and what are your views on the feeling of discontentment among the people?
You know about the Rostow Conflict escalation theory of one thing leading to another! The Latin Americans went to war because the wives of two presidents disagreed and it affected the attitudes of the principals. In terms of the quit notice, IPOB perhaps took advantage of the growing sentiments of dispossession in the East, the growing unemployment among the youths. Remember certain discriminatory practices like a child scores 260/400 in JAMB, he is still looking for admission while the guy with 130 is given admission. You see that the audience for any speculation of conspiracy is already there but the management of it could be a different thing.
So when Nnamdi Kanu reflected about his views on the goings on in Nigeria, the youths and those who were not gainfully employed and those who thought that they have one grudge or another against certain institutions of the system easily bought into the conspiracy theory. And how to manage and resolve that, there was a waiting philosophy. The Biafra concept has become a Libertarian philosophy; a philosophy of justice, an Eldorado of sorts, a kind of utopia, whether it would appeal or not is not tested. But it now appears as a state when people think things are not going well, you compare it to what Biafra ought to have been. And may be when you read some literatures on the Ahiara declaration, you see that the mission statement and vision of Ojukwu created a kind of utopia but we know that utopias are within the realm of ideas and not that of practicality. But it becomes an easier commodity to sell and because things are not going well, it offers a very handy alternative, real or imagined. For instance, most of the agitators were not even there during the Biafra war to see what Biafra was like. But Biafra as an idea is very interesting and encapsulating. It is an idea of equality, self rule and take your future in your hands so that if there was a conspiracy, you remember what Jefferson said that the price of liberty is internal vigilance. So if people are against you, that you must be vigilant and protect yourself and the approximation of this projection for young people in the East became Biafra. You could see that even in the South East, the divide was sharp. The older people, elite and the experienced group did not support that but the younger people like any quick fix saw it as an alternative. They believe that instead of staying in this servitude, so to speak, Biafra is the way forward. So, you must understand the philosophy of the Biafra concept. It is not a real world but a kind of utopia that offers a mental escape as well as a solution to the younger people that if this nation is not working, that the other one called Biafra where everything could have been well ordered, organised and productive would work. For the Arewa youths, they frown at the vociferous nature of the younger narrative in the East and they make the mistake of saying the South East but luckily, it is being corrected. The South East was a little bit premeditated. If you are talking about the Igbo, you have the Igbo in Delta, Rivers, so why did you single out the Igbo in the South East. In their narrative, they said the people who killed Sauduana but it is not true; the leader of that group, Nzeogwu as well meaning as he was, was from Okpanam and Ifeajuna was from Ubuluku all in Delta State. And also, the most interesting and authoritative book on the 1966 coup was by Adewale Ademoyega, “Why we struck.” In the book, it was clearly stated the fault lines in the Nigerian Army. That man provided a clear and analytical framework towards understanding the coup in Nigeria. If I would repeat his position and abide into that, at independence, Nigeria had four classes of military officers and the four had different orientations and philosophies. The first group were the well groomed Sandhurst officers. They worked through the disciplined training and rigour with the philosophy that the military must be subordinated to the civil authority. So, they do not dabble into politics. They believed that politics would be determined by politicians and whatever is the policy, they execute as soldiers. The second group were those trained at Monks. These were short, crash programme military officers who under one year with school certificate became officers whereas the other ones with school certificates and more, used two to three years to become thoroughbred officers. But for the Monks officers, at a time in Nigeria, six months abroad and you come back and you are commissioned. Those clearly stated were the beneficiaries of politicians who put them there realising that the military would play a critical role in Nigeria. And to this class, they were beholding to the political authorities. They were divided according to their political benefactors. The same Adewale pointed out that the four groups of officers we had, those who rose through the ranks with time and Nigerianisation programme, they were fast-tracked into the officers cadre and were disciplined and committed towards obeying the civil leaders and politicians. But a little bit extreme, they were not officers, so their mindset was more typically straight-jacketed. So anything about challenging those in authority was anathema because they were colonial soldiers. And you have the third group of officers and Ademoyega told us again that after the Coup of Colonel Nasir in Egypt n 1952 and the wonders in Turkey, the educated ones now realised that in the developing world, the military had a developmental role to play. So, with their University degrees, they enlisted into the army. And for some of them, they were determined from day one that their role in the military was to use that institution to rapidly develop the country. Can you see why Ademoyega made some sense? So, rather than using our military coups for ethnic and religious point of view, he was ready to demonstrate the philosophical and ideological foundations of the different classes of military officers in Nigeria. There was a story there that I found quite interesting that these young men who were Igbo, like himself were Dos and left the respect and the prestige of that office under colonial regime where even the whites were Dos to become soldiers. It was quite instructive but they knew what they wanted.
What particularly do you have to say about the quit notice by the Arewa youths to the Igbo in the North?
They see the IPOB challenge as a deliberate scheme where the elders pushed the younger ones to agitate while supporting them. The evidence, they tell you is that on May 30, the IPOB decreed that there would be no activity in the South East and that people should stay at home and lo and behold, people stayed at home. They say that if IPOB did not have that kind of control and support, that the sit-at- home could not have been successful. You see, it is perception. In 2004, the same thing happened when MASSOB ordered the markets to be shut and that people should not move about. The few who disagreed with them, their shops were looted. So in the latest one, to a large extent, being afraid of losing their properties, the traders stayed away. The few who challenged MASSOB got the wrong end and MASSOB started looming large. But to some of us, this idea of challenging the state is not right but you can bring your agitation insisting on justice, equity and all that. However, my story on MASSOB is for another day. So, the Arewa boys took the success of May 30 as symbolic and exaggerated the symbolism. They forgot that first the disenchantment has set in and two, the traders did not want to risk their goods by challenging any such order because in my place, there is a saying that a man who trades in clay pots is never a wealthy man because with one stone, you can ruin his business. So, no trader would like to open his shop and recall that 29th was the Democracy day, a holiday and you know the average Nigerian can be laid back. That provided a good excuse. But do not underrate the fact that some people stayed home out of respect or obedience to IPOB. So, the Arewa boys now said enough of the agitation, you can go. You can see that they were taking the law into their hands. If I say I want to go, does that now give you enough right to say I am pushing you out. You know the Conflict escalation theory where one little thing leads to the other but I thank God that the elders are beginning to talk. It has become clear to the entire nation that when Kanu now said there would not be election in the zone, they said no. We can say that things are not being done properly but you do not now assume the leadership of the Igbo people.
SEE FULL STORY: Sunnewsonline.com

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