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Nigeria @ 61: If There Was Biafra

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  • Should there be, BIAFRA would be one of the most overpopulated countries, vis-à-vis its landmass and population

By Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.

It is no longer debatable that Nigeria, despite its crippling challenges, may never disintegrate, at least geographically. Of course, the animosities, hatred and distrust between the ethnic and regional nationalities might worsen, but Nigeria’s elasticity is exemplary and uncommon. However, I still do not accept the convenient folktale deployed by politicians that our country’s unity is non-negotiable.

By now, our experience as a nation should have liberated our minds to begin a conversation on any topic of national interest, no matter the controversy or emotional delicacy.

As we attain the 61st birthday of our beloved country, I find it imperative to discuss this controversial but important issue.

From the outset, let me clarify that this article is not about the Igbo as an ethnic group or the southeast as a region. Given the rise in pro-Biafra sentiments and agitations at the moment, this article is only meant to provide an outsider view of some arguments espoused by the secessionists in their attempt to generate sympathy and popularity.

When you think of Nigeria’s disintegration, the first thing that comes to mind is Biafra – a defunct Igbo separatist nation in the country’s southeastern part.

The attempt to curve this region from Nigeria in 1967 remains one of the most gruelling experiences of our country. A barely six-year-old nation was thrown into chaos by a set of greedy politicians and unscrupulous military officers who wanted power at the centre. Within those thirty months, millions of innocent citizens lost their lives, got injured or lost their possessions. In addition, Nigeria lost a large chunk of its national treasury meant to set the country on the right footing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Instead of learning from our past mistakes to avoid the recurrence of this destructive, reckless and unnecessary event, Nigerians of this generation seem to be oblivious of the necessary truth. As with most factual historical events in the Nigerian psyche, this painful experience, its true causes, and damning consequences are not well-known to the younger generations. The biased narratives in various country sections ensure that our population only hear the stories that suit their mindsets without alternative facts that would open their minds to self-criticism.

In the case of Biafra, most of the young Igbo folks have a pretty false image of their fate as a people if Biafra had happened. This skewed imagination is not unconnected with the biased, often imaginative stories these young Nigerians were told about their defunct “nation”. The Igbo popular culture and the intelligentsia depict a fictional image of Biafra as a dream-nation where the Igbos shall live in peace and prosperity devoid of challenges.

They imagine, albeit naively, that Biafra will be unlike Nigeria and that their lot would have been better than it is today. These unsuspecting chaps are led into believing a mirage of living in a nation flowing with honey and milk. They are also told that other ethnic and geopolitical sections of Nigeria are responsible for all their woes. They argue, albeit ignorantly, that if not for the North, the West, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, etc., theirs would have been a heaven on earth. These ignorant tales conclude that a united Nigeria does not help their course as a people.

Well, I think that these views are simplistic. I also believe that it is our responsibility to tell our brethren the truth that they need to hear.

Firstly, the creation, proclamation of Biafra was not in the interest of the ordinary Igbo people. It was the last-ditch by Igbo politicians to hide their faces from problems they caused and ensure they stayed in power.

Secondly, our brethren are mischievously told that the Igbo were so rich that the Igboland was the largest economic contributor to the federation. Unfortunately, the falsity of this assertion is not far-fetched, as the southeast was and is still the least contributor to the Nigerian GDP. Moreover, during the attempted secession, Nigeria’s GDP was mainly from the agricultural sector, predominantly from the North.

Thirdly, it seems that many people are misled into believing that Biafra would be an oil-rich country even though none of the Southeastern states is truly oil-producing. The Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil pot, was not and will never be part of Biafra.

Fourthly, young Igbo people tend to believe that the southeast was Nigeria’s cash-cow at independence. The bitter truth is that even in the ’60s, the perceived strong Igbo economy depended entirely on other regions. This scenario is worse today as there are probably more Igbo people and Igbo businesses in other parts of the country than in Igboland. Worse still, the Igboland is closed and unfriendly to Nigerians, making external investments impossible.

The most supposedly intelligent argument advanced by the secessionists hinges on the current centralized federal system. They claim that the centre is too powerful and that Igbo states are marginalized. This is an argument of convenience, at best. Nigerians are not oblivious that the current unitary system was the handwork of Igbo politicians who saw a unitary arrangement as the answer to their political agenda. Today, the tides have turned, and these very people are calling for the system they abolished.

Restructuring this country – whatever that means – might be a good idea, but only after a genuine debate that will ensure we do not return to the same vicious circle.

People with secessionist tendencies have used the challenges in northern Nigeria as reasons for disintegration. However, Biafra will by no means be a safer or better place.

Currently, some of the most terrible crimes bedevilling this country are not unconnected with the southeast. From drugs to internet fraud, armed robbery and kidnapping to arms smuggling, if not worse, the southeast is not holier than other parts of this country.

Another commonplace argument is that the industrious nature of the Igbo people is enough evidence that Biafra will be a great country. But this argument, too, has failed to account for the fact that the wealthiest and most successful Igbo people and their businesses owe their success significantly to Nigeria and not Igboland. The Igbo people are traders, and the economic success of trading lies in the customer market, not the number of sellers. What do the Igbo people actually produce or sell that does not rely on the larger Nigerian population?

On the one hand, there is nothing that the southeast offers that cannot be produced or sold by other Nigerians. But, on the other hand, everything from food to livestock, energy, and the market for everything sold depend on the other regions. The southeast is asking to leave under this situation is the most absurd strategic blunder of the century.

Similarly, Igbo politicians and administrators have not distinguished themselves from the rotten Nigerian public servants. We do not see a difference between southeastern institutions or southeasterners in Nigerian public offices and their counterparts in other regions or ethnic groups. The same crop of people will lead Biafra. So, nobody should be enthusiastic.

Therefore, it is evident from the preceding that the viability of Biafra as an independent state is not assured. For one, it will be a landlocked, forty-one thousand kilometres square piece of land, which is just a half of Niger state and less than the size of Kaduna state. Worse still, it will be circled on all four corners by its biggest adversary, the Nigerian state. Secondly, it will depend on its biggest adversary for nearly everything except air, including waterways, food, and labour. Third, it would be one of the most overpopulated countries vis-à-vis its landmass and population.

The bitter truth is that these ecological, geographical, demographic and economic factors do not support the presupposition that the Igboland is better off as a separate entity than it is within the Nigerian federation. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that even if Biafra was to happen on a platter of gold, it is not going to be the rose garden these populists have configured our brothers to believe. Thus, we should all look before we leap!

Dr Ahmadu Shehu is a nomad cum herdsman, an Assistant Professor at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, and is passionate about the Nigerian project. You can reach him at ahmadsheehu@yahoo.com.

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Government

Adamawa Govt Approves 16.6km Roads Network At 1,000 Housing Estate Malkohi

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By Muhammad B. Muhammad

Adamawa State Executive Council at its first 2023 meeting has approved 16.6km roads network at the 1,000 Housing Units Malkohi in Yola South Local Government Area at the cost N3.744b.

According to the resolution of the council meeting presided over by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, the project was awarded to Messrs Jodas Salamu Global Nigeria Limited.

State Commissioner of Works and Energy, Alh Adamu Atiku Abubakar revealed this to newsmen after the council meeting that held in the Council Chambers, Government House, Yola Monday.

Abubakar added that the road network project which is to be completed in 12 months, is inline with the policies of the present administration to ensuring rural and urban renewal.

The Commissioner further said the Council after deliberations has approved construction and renovation of 12 lots of classroom blocks, laboratories and library in Government Secondary School Fufore.

He said the project awarded at N151m is being spread across 12 independent contractors adding that work will soon commence.

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Government

Gov Fintiri Mourns Apostle Hinjari, Calls For Arrest Of His Killers

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Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State has expressed sadness over the gruesome murder of Apostle Jerry Hinjari at his residence recently, describing it as a colossal loss. “I am heartbroken and devastated by this senseless loss.”

Governor Fintiri in a statement by his Press Secretary, Mr Humwashi Wonosikou noted that , “Apostle Hinjari while on earth led a purposeful and impactful life. He was an ardent preacher of the word, a passionate soul winner, a transformational leader and a builder of men.”

Though young at heart, the Governor said “He stood tall and had never wavered in continuously delivering messages of hope, talking about boisterous relationship issues and good Christian conduct that found ready expression with the youths. Adamawa community has lost a true soldier in the army of Christ.’’

The Governor who described as wicked the act of his assailants assured that on no account will Government allow enemies of progress have their way and directed security agencies to rise to the occasion and unearthed the killers of the popular preacher.

“Going into elections, we as a Government will do everything humanly possible to ensure criminals have no hiding place. We have worked hard to restore the peace of the State and will not allow hoodlums turn the wheel of progress of Adamawa State.”

He stated that the Preacher will be remembered for his life-changing messages and that the church and indeed the Christian community is elated that he left a worthy legacy behind.

Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has also expressed sadness over the death of Abdullahi Duda a former Chairman of Madagali Local Government, describing as shocking the news of his passage.

“Honestly, I lack words; I got confused when I got the message and could not recover, but I had to sum up my courage and strength.”

Abdullahi Duda who was the Interim Chairman before the present leadership in Local Government Councils of the State died on Saturday at the age of 55.

“Abdullahi’s contribution to the development of the state will not be forgotten in a hurry. He was an astute politician who was very loyal. He continued to contribute his quota to the development of the state.”

“On behalf of the government and good people of Adamawa State, I want to express our heartfelt condolences to the family and Madagali community on this great and irreparable loss. He surely paid his dues and the State and Madagali community will always remember him.”

“The State Government under my administration will continue to ensure that the ideals he propagated while alive will continue to be upheld and improved upon,” the Governor said.

The deceased who returned from treatment in India on Thursday died Saturday night.

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Politics

Work On Gyawana-Opalo-Hoki Electricity Project Will Begin Soon – Gov Fintiri

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By Muhammad B. Muhammad

Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State has announced that work on Gyawana-Opalo-Hoki electricity project in Lamurde Local government area will commence soon.

The Governor who revealed this when he led the campaign train of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to canvassing for votes in Gyawana, Lamurde Local Government Area ahead of the forthcoming elections said Government will begin connection of the remaining communities without light to the national grid.

He told the people of Gyawana, Opalo Ngbakowo and Dubwangun wards that his administration has constructed 4km in Lamurde town, 11km of rural road and built 60-bed capacity hospital among others in the local government area.

Governor Umaru Fintiri while noting how his administration turned around the education sector, said he has given local government council chairmen approval to employ more qualified teachers into primary schools to enhance teaching and learning in the state.

On the tussle between host community/workers and management of Dangote Sugar Refinary Numan, Governor Fintiri told the electorates how he asked Alhaji Aliko Dangote to pay compensation among other things to the victims.

He called on the people to support his re-election bid and vote for all PDP candidates in the forthcoming general elections from top to bottom for better Adamawa and Nigeria as a whole.

After the Gyawana rally, Governor Umaru Fintiri alongside top government officials has commissioned Lecture Hall at College of Agriculture Ganye Satelitte Campus Gyawana in Lamurde Local government area.

Meanwhile, Governor Umaru Fintiri in Suwa, Lamurde LGA for the campaign has reassured his commitment to maintain the diversity of Adamawa people and provide equity and fairness to all tribes in the state for peace and tranquility.

Governor Fintiri told the people of Suwa, Sabon Layi and Waduku Wards that the government would continue to protect their lives and property to the best of its ability urging them to vote for PDP candidates in the forthcoming elections.

According to the Governor, It is only quality and affordable education that will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and therefore reiterates his continued commitment to provide free education in the state.

He promised to drill borehole in Suwa and directed the State Ministry of Rural Infrastructure and Community Development to connect the area and Waduku to the national grid with immediate effect.

Governor Fintiri has during the rally sympathized with the people over the death of PDP Youth Leader in Suwa Ward, Hon. Mairiga Yohannah who was being laid to rest today (Saturday) in Lamurde and prayed to God to grant him eternal rest.

An elder statesman in Suwa, Mr Gabriel Yakubu commended Governor Fintiri for his free education Programme among other giant strides of his administration and assured him and other PDP candidates massive votes of the community.

While on a stop over in Timnu in the Local Government Area, Governor Umaru Fintiri has promised to procure brand new additional transformer for the community for improved electricity as requested by leaders of the community.

The Governor asked the electorates to continue to maintain peace among them as according to him government on its part will not relent until the citizens sleep with their two eyes close across the state.

The State Chairman of PDP, Barrister Tahir Shehu while presenting flag to Hon. Pawikai Bauna as the party’s Candidate for State Assembly Member Lamurde Constituency in Gyawana urged the people to maintain their support for the party.

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