Is Buhari recruiting for Radio Biafra and Biafra militants unintentionally?

By John Okiyi Kalu on 18/07/2015

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Radio Biafra has been in existence for at least 3 years as mostly an internet based radio station. Some time in 2013 I listened to them for the first time and didn't think much of the broadcast. There was enough anger and cursing in the broadcast to turn me off and I never bothered to waste internet time on it to date. But during the last general election a friend at Aba suggested we run political adverts with Radio Biafra because "that's what Aba people are listening to". It was as shocking as it was unbelievable to me and I demanded proof. Same day in the evening, my friend took me to somewhere at Umungasi where people were gathered round a transistor radio listening aptly to Radio Biafra and clapping intermittently. I sat with them and listened while nursing a bottle of an Aba made drink. Of course I didn't think further about placing campaign adverts with Radio Biafra even though I took note of the increasing popularity of the station and the potentials with a largely unquestioning audience.

Since the election of President Buhari Radio Biafra patronage appears to have more than doubled. Social media activities of its supporters have also spiked up. Ordinarily I know from calm observation that while most of the social media supporters of Radio Biafra were also sympathetic to former President Jonathan it didn't stop them from romancing their beloved Biafra with it's radio station in defiance of his government. Suggesting that Radio Biafra is a PDP creation is more crass than the suggestion that APC sponsored Boko Haram to wrestle power from Jonathan. More so when Jonathan's government arrested many Biafra activists with some still behind bars to date. What I suspect is that many of Radio Biafra supporters saw President Jonathan as one of them because of his old eastern region origin. Add that to the fact that Jonathan all through his regime was persecuted and taunted by northern politicians as "Igbo President" with one recalcitrant South South APC Governor even going to the extent of alluding to his being a "Biafran President of Nigeria". In case you have forgotten so soon, one loud mouthed APC Governor of a South South state went on air to allege that Jonathan was developing the East to the detriment of the South South and asked "are we Biafrans" to drive home his unfounded allegation of Pro-Igbo agenda. Of course it is well known and documented that Jonathan did more projects in the North followed by the South West and South South. He least developed the South East. A review of the capital expenditure of his regime will confirm that but that particular South South governor is not a man who cares about facts but permanently dwell on the brand of propaganda that Radio Biafra is now dishing out. He even came with Buhari to Etche Road field Aba and turned full cycle to claim that he is more Igbo than Jonathan, in his bid to hoodwink Ndigbo to vote for his party. But our people booed him out of Aba with some damage done to unlucky members of his imported crowd. Aba ma ndi Aba marakwa ndigbo.

The perception of Buhari as an anti-Igbo politician is the creation of Buhari himself. When he came to power in 1984 he was loved by Ndigbo even though there was only one visible Igbo man in his regime then. Our people also loved his tough talking Deputy, Tunde Idiagbon, and generally supported his regime until it was overthrown by our in-law and friend IBB. Of course IBB is a charmer and non discriminatory even as a military President. His regime was easily the most favorable post civil war federal government to Ndigbo. Informed analysts will tell you that IBB it was that truly attempted to fully re-integrate and empower Ndigbo economically and politically more than any other Nigerian leader. Even his civil war records point to a friendly enemy in the battlefield and the leading lights of Igbo land all love IBB from Umuahia through Enugu to Awka. They even gave him one of the more important Chieftaincy titles in Igbo land and still take to him politically.  "Oguguo Ndigbo" remains an Igbo friend even after the death of our daughter and sister Mariam.

For some strange reason, Buhari was never fully accepted as a friend of Ndigbo even when it was on his watch as PTF Chairman that Umuahia-Ohafia highway was done. Our people even point to the non dualization of that road as another evidence of his anti-Igbo posture. That he ran for Presidency twice with Igbo born running mates didn't quite wash with Ndigbo and his post-election violence stance in 2011 worsened the situation. When Buhari took to the Hausa service of BBC and pointedly named Igbo states as places where votes were rigged against him many, including me, believed that was the tipping point that turned the CPC killer mob to Sabon Gari areas where Ndigbo were massacred n cold blood with other southerners. That Buhari never apologized or visited Igbo land to commiserate with them over their massive human and economic losses accentuated the animosity between him and Ndigbo.

That Buhari was elected President in 2015 with minimal Igbo votes is a fact of history. But that is not to say he totally had no Igbo support. Governor Rochas Okorocha, Dr Ogbonnaya Onuh, Dr Chris Ngige and Chief Ikechi Emenike among other leading Igbo politicians backed him at great cost to their political acceptance within Igbo land. Since then Buhari has seemingly committed blunders that have needlessly further hurt his standing with Ndigbo and helped to recruit support for extremist elements of Igbo land seeking territorial Biafra.

First was his purported anti-Igbo speech in the BBC interview that has now been denied to little effect by his media aide. Many of us expected such a denial to come directly from the lips of the President himself to say "I didn't say what was credited to me" or "I didn't mean it the way it was understood". That would have been more acceptable and confidence building. If the material that was rebroadcast was totally fabricated then he didn't help himself by permitting an official response from his spokesman. How many lies from Radio Biafra will he respond to going forward knowing that more will come? Many of us now believe there must have been something in that broadcast that necessitated an official response otherwise it would have been ignored.

Once Buhari was elected President he was expected to think and act like the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that includes Igbo land. His refusal to acknowledge Ndigbo in his inaugural address was a monumental blunder by his speech writers and as expected Ndigbo took note of that. Interestingly, it was people at Radio Biafra that first highlighted this unfortunate error in their bid to recruit support for their Biafra project. Even those of us who are happy to be called Nigerians also took note and shook our heads knowing that such mistakes can only alienate our President from our people.

Call it consistency or what you wish, our President even as a candidate have always called for generous amnesty for Boko Haram fighters that have wrecked havoc on Ndigbo and other Nigerians. For some strange reasons even his call for the rebuilding and compensation of the victims never mentioned Igbo victims including those killed inside churches. Now as President his government is preparing to give amnesty to murderers of Ndigbo and other Nigerians without a consideration for the victims. How do you expect Ndigbo to feel especially knowing that after the genocidal civil war there was no attempt made to reconstruct Igbo land or compensate victims of the war? Rather everything was done to punish Ndigbo and their brethren of the South South seen to have supported Biafra in the war of survival that was imposed on them.

Relocation of Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia, from all indications, was not the brainchild of the Buhari regime. But it was hastily implemented on his watch by people who obviously wish to extend the friction between him and Ndigbo for their own political gains. How do you explain the choice of Ekwulobia when there are better prisons in the North and West? Even though we read from Ebonyi State Governor that the poisonous prisoners have been removed, it can easily be imagined that Radio Biafra and the likes will use the relocation to further recruit support of the traders and people who demonstrated against the shipment of terror to Igbo land. All the President needed to do was to address the concerns of the people and clear the air instead of allowing APC supporters in Anambra State to turn it into a political matter that ended up making them look like they supported the relocation. That was also how they mishandled the Lagos deportation and it is obvious that even Senator Ngige didn't learn anything from that saga. How is it that a leading Igbo son like Senator Ngige does not seem to understand his people and their politics? Instead of denials and passing of buck he easily could have stayed away from the ruckus after investigating quietly to know if there is actually any iota of truth in the relocation rumor. Once it is confirmed all he needed to do was back his people's position and then explain that the policy emanated from a previous regime and make some high sounding noise like "I will see the President who I know love Ndigbo" and that will be it. An opportunity was lost and taken up by others seeking to recruit Ndigbo for utopian Biafra nation. Who do you blame for that?

Recently, Mr President named his new service chiefs and NSA with two of the security appointees coming from Borno state out of 36 states of Nigeria. His supporters have since rationalized it as insistence on appointing professionals who can do the job of fighting Boko Haram because they are from Boko Haram infested areas. If only they remember that former CDS Badeh was from the north east (Adamawa) and at some point Boko Haram sacked his village and drank tuwo from his bedroom. Unless you believe Generals from that part of the country were fueling the insurgency and need to be pacified with key national security appointments it doesn't make sense to reward Borno with 2 security appointments for providing a base for terrorists. Amazingly over 25 Generals, including Igbo born officers, will be retired from the military to make way for these appointees. How else do you define wastefulness and bias? Failure to name any Igbo man among those President Buhari appointed so far, especially service chiefs and NSA can only help the recruitment drive of Biafra agitators. Even Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is too "professional" for an Igbo head and Mr President yesterday by-passed Mr Evan Chidi Ewurum to appoint a northerner.

The merit excuse is hogwash in a country where quota system is yet to be abolished and as a result highly qualified Igbo children are denied admission in unity schools to make room for others with far lower qualification. Nobody should tell us that Igbo generals are not professional enough to be appointed security chief and groups like Radio Biafra have the right to highlight such injustice in Federal Nigeria.

The most brazen proxy recruitment for Radio Biafra and the likes came via the failed  jamming of Radio Biafra broadcast. Not only did the authorities further advertize the internet based radio station to the world they also made the proprietors look like better technology Generals than those available within the Nigerian system.  How come the authorities didn't know that it takes a lot more to stop unlicensed internet based broadcasts? Do they even understand that the station may not have been broadcasting from Nigeria and are possibly validly registered in UK or other country? The people at the Nigerian broadcast commision need to know that technology is changing daily. Similarly the era of control of information flow is gone with the advent of internet technology. Even China and Russia cannot effectively ban information flow through the internet pipe. And If "Radio Chanji" was not jammed out by NBC do not jam Radio Biafra.

If the Government is thinking of arresting Nnamdi Kanu, as alluded by the NBC people, permit me to advice against that. They will only end up making him more popular and a rallying point for others who are not happy with the mistreatment of Ndigbo in Nigeria. What we need are confidence building measures to be taken by the President Buhari to win the hearts and support of Ndigbo. May be the President and his key supporters don't know this: they will need Igbo votes to win re-election in 2019. The alliance with the South West will collapse within 2 years of this regime. Whatever be the issues between Buhari and Ndigbo can easily be repaired.

One quick remedy will be to arrange for the President to visit an Igbo state like Abia state as his first official state visit post inauguration. He should commence work on the Federal roads in Abia like the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Highway that the Jonathan regime failed to reconstruct. That can be awarded alongside Port Harcourt road in Aba that is less than 10km and you will see Ndigbo warm up to the President. There is no Igbo state that is not represented at Aba and they will all see and spread the word. If Ikot-Ekpene-Umuahia road is added to the mix Buhari will turn to an Igbo hero overnight, especially if he also orders contractors handling Enugu-Onitsha and Enugu-PH highways back to work.

If Mr President appoints Dr Ogbonnaya Onuh as SGF, promote Igbo born police officers to Deputy IG and generously promote many in the military to top ranks he has closed the deal with Ndigbo. Onye chuo ya anyi achuo onye ahu (if anyone pursues him we will pursue the person). That is how modern politics is played as against political vindictiveness of the 80s.

But if Mr President decides to continue his real and perceived "wars" against Ndigbo permit me to inform him that every Igbo man is a Biafran at heart. For us Biafra represents an utopian nation where we crawl in when persecuted by Nigeria. If you want us to forget Biafra make us equal stake holders in the Nigerian project. The difference between Nnamdi Kanu and some of us is simply that he is giving life to our concealed utopian land. While I believe in Biafra of the mind as a driving force to excellence Nnamdi and co believe in territorial Biafra where they can have all that Nigeria is refusing to give them. Don't ever expect me to condemn them until Nigeria has fully re-integrated Ndigbo and delivered a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction as promised by President Buhari during the campaigns. But also do not expect me to support their activities because I do not seek a territory called Biafra but want Igbo land to be the best land in Nigeria with well developed educational system, innovation leader, superior technology and high human capital development that will help drive the rest of Nigeria and Africa towards excellence.

My closing advice to my brother Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters is to make sure they don't inject violence into their struggle. I see no illegality in their struggle because even Scots are still agitating for independence from Britain. The response of the English authorities is not to ban or arrest the non violent agitators but rather to engage them and seek ways to take more development to Scotland. As long as Nnamdi and co are not violent nobody should arrest them or use them as excuse to devastate Igbo land. Nnamdi should remember that onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu na eche ndu ya nche. We don't have Federal projects in the East and we don't want anyone to destroy the little development we have toiled to make in the East. Any day they turn violent we will curse them and chase them from pillar to post until we hand them over to the law. But if thier non violent agitation brings global attention to the continuing maltreatment of our people they will be remembered positively by history. They should also stop attacking other Nigerian tribes in thier broadcasts because they did nothing to us as a collective. They have their own stories of marginalization to tell just like us and there is no benefit in making them our enemies. We are all competing for attention from the Federal Government.

Ya gaziere ndi oga agaziri.


Posted on July, 18 2015

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