Jon West

Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, US President, on a solidarity visit to West Berliners in commemoration of the lifting of the blockade of West Berlin by East German and Warsaw Pact forces.

I must confess to plagiarizing the title of this article from the comments of a social media former adversary and now convenient friend of mine. As an unapologetic proponent of the state of Biafra, if only the Biafra of the Mind espoused by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, my new friend , in response to recent developments in Nigeria, especially the inertia of Government and the constant clamour for restructuring of the Nigerian federation, even from hitherto antagonistic sources, posited that perhaps almost everyone, being fed up with the reality of Nigeria and wishing for some change, perhaps any change, it could be reasonably argued that we are now all Biafrans, wanting an exit from the current almost failed state status of Nigeria.

The current state of angst pervading the country was further exposed by a viral social media post by a faceless meeting of Northern youths in Kaduna, in which the youths , in reaction to the request of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for the creation of a new state of Biafra , after fifty years of a previous failed and bloody attempt, and the sit-at-home order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that failed project, were supposed to have asked all Igbos to leave the North within six months, while at the same tone advising all Northerners resident in the East to return to the North. The very interesting aspect of this communique is the statement that the Northern youth are unhappy with what they called “the mistake of 1914” (a euphemism of a statement by the Father of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, during the Independence negotiations in the 1950s). The youth hinged their current attitude to the Nigerian federation, on the buy-in of some Northern political heavyweights to the idea of political and economic restructuring of the Nigerian federation, especially Alhaji Atiku Abubaker, former Vice-President under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

That the youth of the North of Nigeria, brought up and constantly fed with a diet of the inviolability of the Nigerian state as is, and their role as the scions and beneficiaries of that political dogma, can even consider the restructuring of the Nigerian reality, with all the risks and unintended consequences of tampering with the constitution bequeathed to the Nigerian people by a string of military rulers from the North of Nigeria, who also left the illusion of the inviolability of the Nigerian state they shed the blood of millions of men , women and children to enforce, is a pointer to the evolution of a new Nigerian reality, fed by economic, political and social mismanagement of the vision of Nigeria.
Perhaps all is not yet lost. Ensuing from the expulsion threats of the so-called Northern youth on the Igbo in the North, simultaneous social media communiques were issued by Middle Belt , Southsouth and Yoruba youths castigating the Arewa youths for their threat , with the Middle Belt youths distancing themselves from the Arewa youths and signaling the end of Northern solidarity and inviting any Igbos leaving the far North to set up domicile in the Middle Belt. It appears that a new political alignment, driven by the general hopelessness and sense of injustice of the ethnic nationalities all over Nigeria, has driven the South and Middle Belt to an enforced unity of ideas and dogma.

It must be stated that the generally impolitic actions of the IPOB agitation, which includes the rather insensitive and almost laughable inclusion of people who have no cultural and religious affinity with the Igbo, in the mythical new state, have riled a lot of Nigerians and given fodder to those who feed the false notion of Igbo expansionism, a fallacy in historical terms, even though no single Igbo politician or ethnic figure, has come out in support of IPOB and its aims and aspirations. However, even closet admires of the IPOB agenda, would like the agitation to be more civil and controlled by the more intellectual sections of Igbo society, in order to play to the sensitivities of other Nigerians, even if with no interest in their buy-in of the Biafran agenda.
A worrying aspect of these developments, which perhaps is a reflection of the descent to primordial instincts and the consequent intellectual atrophy of many Nigerians, is the ethnic hostility that the IPOB agitation has generated, especially among the youth who pervade the social media. A normally placid acquaintance of mine suggested that perhaps Nigeria should let the Igbo go so that there will be peace in the rump state resulting from Biafraexit, but was insistent that the Niger Delta not be allowed to go either with Biafra or on its own, and you now know why resource control is still an anathema to many Nigerians, even those who pretend to support true federalism. It then becomes apparent that the agitation for resource control, true federalism and secession will need more than mere agitation to achieve.

A worrying aspect of the recent developments is the latent but sickening obsession of many people with the properties of potential exiters from the Nigerian federation, a very sad throwback to the era of abandoned properties. There is an unspoken impression that the breakup of the Nigerian federation will lead to the abandonment of properties by those leaving their places of abode, a ploy that will leave the most economically spread operators holding the short end of the stick.
The issue of abandoned property really amuses me and shows the shallowness of intellect pervading Nigeria. This is not the 60s , and the world has changed. Nobody can leave the Nigerian federation by force and any exit will be supervised by the United Nations and the terms and conditions of exit have to be negotiated a la Brexit, Scotland, South Sudan, Czechoslovakia, East Timor, the Soviet Union etc, so those who seem to be salivating at the prospects of abandoned property are in for a great surprise and disappointment.
The agitation for Biafra 2.0, may be the defining moment or watershed of the movement to restructure Nigeria, in order to make it fulfill its destiny, failing which, the union should be peacefully dissolved under the auspices of the United Nations. There is no guarantee that if the Igbo were subjected to a referendum, the majority of the populace will vote for Biafra 2.0 and its realities. However, Africa must move on into the global community of states run with proper Governance protocols, which the call for restructuring is a sine quo non .

Biafra and resource control are imperatives for the development of Nigeria and Africa. The continent needs a development paradigm shift, or else be exposed to further ignominy and inconsequence in global political and economic matters.
We are all Biafrans now, a la JF Kennedy in his statement of solidarity with besieged West Berlin during the Cold War. However, ours is firstly, the Biafra of the Mind; a quest for a new model of Governance, where diverse peoples can live together or even apart , but with a vision to lift Africa out of the bondage of the ages. We have run out of time, and no amount of threats and grandstanding will stop an idea whose time has come. Nigeria has to come to the reality of its failing state status, and take the hard and bitter decisions that will assure some kind of hopeful future for the present and future generations.
Enough is enough; let Nigeria’s evolving Biafras be let loose on this hopeless reality. We should not be afraid of the death of the Phoenix, but have great hopes in its rise from the ashes of the hopelessness that caused its demise in the first place.
Jon West

Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri