Biafra will never cease to excite passions, positive and negative. The positivity of the passion lies in its uncommon achievements that signposted infinite possibility. The defunct Republic of Biafra, a country hewn out of necessity comprised present nine states (Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States) straddling the Southsouth and Southeast geo-political zones of Nigeria.
It remains one of the few autochthonously created countries in Black Africa. Its short existence and its achievements in all areas of human endeavours busted the European-disingenuous myth of racial superiority. How? For 30 grueling months, this indigenously-created state was able to withstand the military and diplomatic assaults of two World Super-Powers (Britain and defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and other medium powers such as the defunct United Arab Republic (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, etc), Niger, Ethiopia, etc and still excelled in material and human production such as manufacture of weapons, petrol, construction, operation and maintenance of airports, etc and maintained an unbroken administrative and social services for that difficult period of its history.
The negativity of the passion lay in the feeling of revulsion in the staggering costs of human suffering, death and deprivations that accompanied its birth, the struggle to safeguard its existence and freedom. It was in the light of the foregoing; especially the negative aspect of that history that led one of the victims, Dr. Uju Anya, smarting from the eternal wounds and pains of Biafra War reacted to the transition period of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth by wishing her “excruciating death.”
At the throes of death, Dr. Anya instead of the customary empathy with the sick or the dying and a wish of recovery actually prayed that Her Majesty be afflicted with the most painful death. That is quite audacious given the ruling world culture that enjoins us “not to speak ill of the dead.” This axiomatic cultural injunction perhaps, because of the cultural conditioning has had a benumbing effect on society to the extent that when a known felon bites the dust all his evils are forgiven and interred with him. And nobody calls out the dead on its past because it answers no more. But why the brouhaha of this innocuous tweet by a hitherto unknown teacher at one of American universities? One, as noted earlier, a break of cultural taboo reflectively attracts adverse reactions hence the mixed reactions that trailed Dr. Uju Anya’s tweet to the extent that her employer had to publicly disown her views on the dead monarch.
But note that Dr. Uju Anya is not the first Igbo to attack Britain and its officials for their atrocious conduct against the Igbo in particular over British role in the Biafra War, and Nigeria in general over her colonial policies that was an unapologetic betrayal of trust bestowed on her by the World Powers that gathered in the Berlin Conference in 1885 whereupon she was entrusted with the mandate to manage Nigeria in accordance with customary international law and the protocols/rules under the Protocols and General Act of the West African Conference, Africa, No. 4, 1885 and the General Act of the Brussels Conference Relative to the African Slave Trade Treaty Series, No. 7, 1892. The other notable Igbo is Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) who is not just a Nigerian but a British citizen. In his writings and broadcasts, he attacks Britain ceaselessly for being responsible for the Igbo plight and predicament in Nigeria attributable to British colonial policies that were considered prejudicial to the interest of the Igbo and other ethnic nationalities in favour of the Fulani ethnic group.
Two, any adverse comment by victims of colonialism attract vehement denials and justifications by the perpetrators – be it Britain and its allies using their unipolar communication institutions of the print and electronic media. Third, the international conspiracy by European powers over Biafra like Haiti, Congo and other similar world geo-political sordid incidents pose a moral burden if not a criminal responsibility that weigh heavily on the perpetrators’ conscience and being weighed down by that heavy burden and responsibility and be constantly reminded of such became an anathema that are better buried in dustbin of history than be stoked.
The Biafra story is a difficult one and as said earlier, it excites passions difficult to control by the victims. And the story is most difficult for those who did not personally experience the actual hostilities of that period. The Biafra story is the reverse of the ordered nature of history as it is the defeated victims that are weaving endless yarns of the story to the annoyance of the victors who found the story unpalatable for their taste and conscience.
Not just the story but the fact that declassified records of the British Empire and the United States that are now available in the public space, all vindicating the earlier suspicions, guesses and accusations that Britain instigated the war, supervised and managed it against the Biafrans. The most annoying aspect of these thousandspaged declassified British documents linked up the activities of Britain that deliberately designated the Igbo in particular and other ethnic nationalities to be contained, subjugated and subjected to the rulership of the Fulani. This subversive British treacherous betrayal of trust created by customary international law and statute over Nigeria by way of bias in favour of the Fulani is the trouble that has been responsible for Nigeria’s interminable crisis of existence conducing to state failure with its consequences like poor leadership, corruption, political instability, turbulent, poverty and diseasewracked society.
It is this knowledge of Britain’s subversion that upset many knowledgeable Igbo more against Britain than against their Nigerian ethnic compatriots who were instruments in the hands of Britain to achieve its neocolonial agenda of having and keeping Nigeria as its neocolonial fa-cility. It is this anger that excited Dr. Uju Anya’s outburst against Queen Elizabeth.
Understanding Dr. Uju Anya’s outburst against Queen Elizabeth would be difficult for persons outside the world view and socio-cultural milieu of the Igbo and all those who know the British colonial and reo-colonial agenda that made Biafra war possible. Colonialism, under international customary law was lawful. So, it was an accepted usage which several European states Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Germany, Britain and Belgium) embraced as an economic tool to enrich their respective economics. Almost all these colonizer-countries engaged in humongous acts of violence and dehumanization that dislocated or even obliterated the cultural values and human dignity of the affected societies as witnessed in American India communities, the Congo, Nigeria and southern Africa.
But it was the structuring and administration of these colonies that the actual irreversible damage of the communities happened in terms of their humanity and dignity. And this damage remains quite painful. It is the knowledge of what Britain did to Nigeria and particularly to the Igbo which resulted in Biafra holocaust that is so painful to every Igbo of the younger generation and this pain is what you see physically expressed by Dr. Anya and Nnamdi Kanu in their actions.
When Britain conquered the geographical space containing over 250 ethnics nationalities, humped them together to form Nigeria between 1861-1914, the Igbo were the most difficult to subjugate because of their socio-cultural setting of scattered communities and culturally ingrained ethos of freedom, egalitarianism and equality that made their subjugation difficult.
Having pacified the Igbo and other tribes, Britain set to govern the new country not on the political parameters of Lagos, its first colony’s governance structure, but on the parameters of Sokoto Fulani feudal and autocratic caliphate system and this was inimical to the peoples outside the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate, particularly the Igbo and their immediate neighbours of Akwa-Cross and Rivers areas. The 1929 Aba riots was a testament to these groups’ rejection of feudal and autocratic system. Britain is a slave and conformist society and expected nothing less from its subject-communities.
So, when the Igbo proved stubborn to govern, Britain took note and bided its time. So, when in the 1930s, Nnamdi Azikiwe happened at Accra, Gold Coast now Ghana and later returned to Nigeria settling in Lagos where he became a journalist, founded West African Pilot newspaper that subjected British colonial policy to blistering criticisms and graduated to become one of the early political nationalists that become thorns to the tender skins of British colonialism, Britain took note.
Knowing Azikiwe’s Igbo root, Britain marked the Igbo as public enemy to be dealt with. The major political party, the Nation Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (later National Council of Nigeria Citizens, NCNC) formed by Herbert Macaulay, an Yoruba and Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo became the major vehicle for nationalist agitation for decolonization of Nigeria and again, Britain took note of this seeming Igbo pestilence to Britain that appeared pertinacious threat to British interest.