Desperate activists bastardize Biafra’s “May 30, sacredness” into an outrageous blood-spattered rite of remembrance.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombarded Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of U.S. servicemen. America, divided by ideological differences concerning warfare, united behind a declaration of war with Japan. That is the power of communal closeness after a tragedy. Thus, the psychology of unity after tragedy remains a natural phenomenon that instills a feeling of closeness following a tragedy. It breaks down walls of differences within a population and unites them against a common enemy. It activates innate instincts of empathy and comradeship and enables people to find solidarity in times of adversity through collective values of harmony, love, and togetherness. This was how the Igbos in eastern Nigeria lived during and after a three-year Nigerian civil war that ended in 1970.
Since this date, the separationist state, Biafra, has remained a symbol of unity, spiritual motivation, psychological healing, and shared identity among the Igbos and other tribes that make up the failed state. The horrific three-year event, now history, is still fresh in the minds of those who lived through it.
To refresh our memory, on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives established the Republic of Biafra and proclaimed its independence after suffering years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government. War broke out in July 1967, between Nigeria and Biafra, after several diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite them. On January 11, 1970, Biafra was defeated. Ojukwu fled to the Ivory Coast and Biafra as a nation surrendered to Nigeria.
Since then, the people that once made up this region have honored this date, May 30, with a passionate and spiritual sense of nationalism. Igbos all over the world celebrate this date to recall memories and honor their fallen heroes. It is a holistic day of tribute to a war that took millions of lives and destroyed towns. The war set the entire social, political, and economic values of the Igbos years back. They organize seminars, community gatherings, and religious services, display the Biafran colors, and share impressive photographs and memorabilia related to the struggle.
Still on May 30 commemoration, the Igbos hold religious services in their language and Biafran ex-servicemen, who often dress in their military camouflage gear, are invited. Families conduct special services for loved ones lost during this war. Igbo communities in other parts of the world hold events and carnival-like parades where participants sing Biafran songs, dance, eat, and drink.
Because most parts of Nigeria see Biafra as a vicious cult of untrusted comrades, the name remains a divine symbol of unanimity and brotherhood among the Igbos.
What is left of Biafra after the war is a covenant of spiritual sensation uniting a population of survivors. Because most parts of Nigeria see Biafra as a vicious cult of untrusted comrades, the name remains a divine symbol of unanimity and brotherhood among the Igbos.
Regrettably, this impeccable Biafran philosophy has been weather-beaten by the insane actions of unscrupulous career activists. Over the years, the covenant that Biafran Igbos uphold has been swapped for unrestrained horror. Events saw street vandalism, hooliganism, and massacre. This year, for instance, before the May 30 commemoration, tension mounted in the five states of the south-eastern zone that once made up Biafra, as the sit-at-home order issued by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a self-termination group, took effect.
The leader of this group, Nnamdi Kanu, issued the no-movement directive to commemorate this date. In a social media post, he threatened schools, airports, and markets to close, and ordered people to remain in their homes or be killed. Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State countered with a statewide broadcast threatening to seize any shop that the owner refused to open. The governor ordered security agents to shoot on sight anyone trying to attack them.
Amid rising insecurity in the southeast region, there were growing concerns regarding the IPOB, and the government’s shoot-on-sight order, and therefore subjecting this celebration to another bloody nightmare. Across the southeast, many public places, including markets, banks, and schools, remained shut. Popular markets were deserted as individuals feared for their lives.
There was a killer-military personnel parading with a shoot-on-sight order against the IPOB. The IPOB vandals were obeying the directive to execute innocent citizens who defied their master’s orders. There were hooligans, who took advantage of the state of uncertainty to carry out fatal robberies. This is what Biafra’s May 30 was reduced to.
Igbos should be concerned about events occurring in their region and that their struggle has been hijacked by dishonest vandals and desperate self-seeking activists taking advantage of the people’s politics. These activists have created an unpleasant culture of self-aggrandizement and dishonest self-actualization advocacy, using conspiracy theories to enchant idle and vulnerable young Igbos into civil disorder.
For instance, on Facebook and YouTube, scores of different “Biafra” social media influencers operate (mainly women living in Europe), spewing false narratives about the Biafran struggle to boost account followers and inspire engagement. They use IPOB’s and Kanu’s inflammatory videos to gain followers and provoke them to cause public unrest.
The worst harm to a people’s struggle is to radicalize the youth with self-destructive conspiracy theories, and these activists have indeed authored this mayhem.
The worst harm to a people’s struggle is to radicalize the youth with self-destructive conspiracy theories, and these activists have indeed authored this mayhem. It is concerning that most Igbos failed to articulate the dire implications of Mr. Kanu’s YouTube sit-down order. For a regular citizen to accord himself the power to order that all airports, schools, and markets be shut down and order no people on the streets, is simply a sign that Mr. Kanu understands nothing about how the system works. A sit-down order instead of a discretionary public holiday is tyrannical and contradicts the ideals of freedom he advocates. It contravenes individual freedom of movement and makes a mockery of his self-actualization ventures. Indeed, if people stayed home for fear of their lives, it is no longer a memorial affair but a sorry hostage situation.
Indeed, if people stayed home for fear of their lives, it is no longer a memorial affair but a sorry hostage situation.
Without a doubt, Biafra’s “May 30 solemnness” has now metamorphosed into an outrageous blood-spattered rite of remembrance. The horrific events of the civil war that once united the Igbos are now perceived as farcical. So, what would the Igbo’s dialogue be with this mob of fraudulent activists with poor listening skills? What would the Igbo’s dialogue be with a gang of unskilled social media influencers who disseminate nonsensical, violent content to sustain paid engagements? How can the Igbos coordinate orientation and education for their self-acclaimed “self-determination” fighters on the legislative processes and key functions of government? How do they approach Mr. Kanu, with his arrogance, and other group leaders of Biafra’s cause who have been destroying each other? And last, how do the Igbos address and redirect thousands of youths who have been brainwashed by these rogue activists?
To move forward as a united entity, progress as a tribe, overcome any challenges, and defeat the so-called enemy, the Igbos must address these questions with effective resolutions.
♦ Professor Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News.
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