As Things Stand Today

If as we are clamouring today to do, the realisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, or whatever other name it is called, becomes a reality, we would be faced with, First, dire food shortage, Energy crisis and then a breakdown in the process of getting the essentials required to run a stable society. I had earlier mentioned that there is likely going to be chaos, in the hands of the political class.

Biafra, or whatever name the new South East Independent State would go by, cannot be sudden, quick and immediate. It would be stupid to think or even plan it so. A slow, negotiated disengagement and back up plans must be put in place to steady the ship. We must develop the skills and mindset of the marathon runner. Let’s take a trip across the South-East today…

Daily, about 200 trucks and lorries dock in Asaba, Obolo Afọr and the Hausa enclaves along the Enugu Port Harcourt express way, to unload the food we eat. Beans, tomatoes, onions and every other item grown there. These are then distributed by a wide network of women into the hinterland across the South-East. Any sudden shift in real policy and practice would cut this off. We do not produce enough of our own home grown staple food to deliver to the South-East market. Our cassava, yams and rice are simply not enough for our population.

We are still largely subsistence farmers and the logic of feeding a large population with peanut and water would be damaging to our efforts at independence and nation building. We are going to have a food and hunger crisis on a scale much more and much worse than the war era. Under the circumstances, I think the efforts of the government’s, entrepreneurs, Buisness communities and leadership would be to declare an emergency in this direction. There is no need acting as if this is a thing for scoring cheap political points. Food production is serious Buisness. It takes years to develop the right kind of culture and determination to get it going. Our people over the years has become lazy and to change that mindset requires some gargantuan efforts. Some years back Prof. Rev. Nzamujo came to the South East and spoke to the government’s of the various States, explaining the scary situation we are in, in terms of food security. And proposed that each earmarks a land space for an agricultural projects that would make us self sufficient. This comes with a selection of modern technology and improved seedlings. The proposal was not adopted and met with stiff baeuracratic minefields, which eventually sent him packing. Today the farm is thriving in Port Novo, the Republic of Benin and every Governor I know in the South-East,master and present, Buisness communities and leadership has gone there for retreats. No equivalent is yet to be set up anywhere across Igboland.

I figure some would argue that we would import from elsewhere. Correct. But the only flip side is that the uncaring and uncharacteristically egocentric politics of self which has been the case across the South-East and exhibited by the various Biafran agitators, has dogged us and put a serious dent on our shared experiences with the nations of the South South through whose shores we would expect to import our wares. No, some would yell at me. Port Harcourt, or any other name we wish to call it, is our own, we would have it back. Sure. We would. But we must get it done first. The realities are simple, we would be landlocked and the unfairness of seeking for independence in a haste, and without planning and negotiations either with our neighbours or with the rest of Nigeria, is that others around you would seek theirs too. If they should choose to go it alone, who are we to deny them that? Under such scenario, we would have to find another way to deal with the basic but seriously damaging food shortages that would ensue after we get our way, without the prior planning and management overview necessary for success.

We do not generate a single kilowatt of energy anywhere in the South-East. If Nigeria caputs, we would be the only geographical area that would have to start from the scratch and with little or no resources to build an energy infrastructure and grid. The efforts of Prof. Nnaji’s Geometric, the first indigenous and independent effort, was and continues to be sabotaged by the very Ndigbo seeking a homeland for all Igbos.

We have the natural resources. We have the technical know how’s, but we do not have two major ingredients: the political will and money to develop them. In the long run, this would not be a problem, but with Biafra or any nation foisted on us without adequate planning, we would be served a cold dish in winter. No need pretending. Other regions have seen services and facilities built up in their areas with present Nigerian funds which we owe collectively.

The evidence is pathetic in the South-East. We have over the years invested our efforts for crumbs, while others were looking for and securing serious investments for their places. We must design a plan that allows us become independent in phases. Energy is development. We cannot plan an independent industrialized nation on generators. I worry because, the ideas merchants in Igboland have been sheepishly silent. The entrepreneurs has been silent stingy with their money. And the public planners aren’t giving serious thoughts about the immediate future. We cannot in all good faith tell our selves that we are serious about having our own nation, when staring at us are life threatening questions we just don’t have answers to. A few years back, we hyped the idea of setting up a Natural gas refinery, by floating the Orient Oil Company. Most Igbos, including myself bought into the idea and the enterprise. Natural gas we have in abundance around the Anambra basin. But what has become of the efforts is mind numbing. Another dead effort on the road to Biafra.

Today the fuel that drives the South-East economy and society, comes either from Port Harcourt or from Lagos. Driven by road mostly, through, soon to be foreign countries and the cost isn’t going to be any cheaper nor the impact any easier on the people. We had refined crude before during the critical days of the first Biafra some would say? I agree. But they didn’t bargain for that or didn’t anticipate that. However everything we’ve done in the past 40 years, points to the fact that we are seeking for an excision from Nigeria, and if that be so, what are the contingency plans to be energy independent and sufficient in the short term and long term?

We must not betray ourselves, even before we get a sniff of the new nation. Our unplanned and extremely blind exist strategy from Nigeria is a shambles and threatens to do us irreparable damage. For over 40 years, the South-East, or by whatever name, has not had any industrial policy of any kind. This is the core of the most important and visionary part of any drive for civilization. How many multinational companies are in the South-East? The indigenous companies we have, how healthy and competitive are they? They are not export driven and the local market is simply too poor to sustain them. However, this is only a short overview of the problem.

We would be shortchanging our selves, if we beat a quick exit and retreat from Nigeria, without opreationalizing the infrastructural facilities that would drive the economy of the new state. Nigeria owes us that. We owe it to ourselves to get it, take it or grab it. Otherwise we will have failed ourselves and the dead, whom we make so much noise about, would have died in vain. Nigerian owes us. We have been too preoccupied with our wounded mentality to recognise that, what we’ve been asking all along is our indispensable rights.

The three R’s as it has come to be known, has not been implemented. The surface is unscratched and for us to exit this space, OUR SPACE, we must get it. Reparation, compensation or whatever name one considers appetising to him, is a must for us before picking up the idea of exiting Nigeria for free. Can’t we see that they are simply nudging us out of the door, with no thank you for our efforts even? As Machiavelli puts it succinctly, “Whether you realise it or not, the powerful are always testing, always evaluating. They yield milligrams of respect only to those who consistently pass their evaluations; a fluke of success will not earn you their respect, it’ll get you a glance.” My take is that Nigeria stopped taking us serious a long time ago. Change of plans and tactics required Urgently.

Without a deal in place before exiting Nigeria, for a full range of recompense to the South-East in particular and the old Eastern Nigeria in general would be a disaster. Assessing the reparations agreement after the second world war to the Jews, David Ben-Gurion said: “For the first time in the history of relations between people, a precedent has been created by which a great State, as a result of moral pressure alone, takes it upon itself to pay compensation to the victims of the government that preceded it. For the first time in the history of a people that has been persecuted, oppressed, plundered and despoiled for hundreds of years in the countries of Europe, a persecutor and despoiler has been obliged to return part of his spoils and has even undertaken to make collective reparation as partial compensation for material losses.” Our negotiations with Nigeria must seek to encompasses the above as an acceptable remedy.

Nothing is being done at all in the direction of negotiations and planning. The various Igbo groups and organisations are simply buried in their blind arguments and lousy educational mind trips, offering platitudes about Igbo and Biafran independence with no agreed deal or any strategy. Even the most innocent opponent in the North or in the South West can see this is vainglorious posturing. We are betting on a deal being struck without negotiations. We are betting on Nigeria letting us go, just like that (However, I know Nigeria isn’t holding us).

As matters stand,We need to get a core team of NEGOTIATORS. These are men and women, we would saddle with the responsibility of engaging Nigeria and the rest of the world, outside the present channels and slowly, without showing their hand, get things sorted out. These men and women must understand the current situation, in Igboland, Nigeria and the World and be fully charged with the responsibility of doing deals for us. Ohanaeze can oversee this, but it is a matter of getting a coordinating grip on all aspects of Igbo thoughts and ideas. They must be rigid in character and flexible in making compromises. The Biafra or Igbo nation of tomorrow must be negotiated today. We can’t be caught with our pants down this time. The situation is far too complex, complicated and nuanced to simply allow to continue unattended to.

Street agitators and lectern agitators must go on doing their thing, but it is in the back rooms of serious negotiations and horse trading that stuffs get done. Press conferences and newspaper advertorials, the sickening habit of Ndigbo, is no replacement for deep committed engagement. We need not as in the past rush out and start tweeting about this or that. Across the Internet, I belong to over 15 WhatsApp and Internet mailing discussion groups all touting themselves as serious platforms for Igbo thoughts and discussions. But in truth, after the initial euphoric engagements, it simply gets stuck in a narrow narrative of marginalization and marginalised. Ideas are stifled, conversations become mundane and hypocritical and none is even listening to the other. It’s a past time of the Igbo neo elites. We must be aware of the enormity of the challenges before us. And tailor our engagements to specifics.

Action they say speaks louder the voice. But the scenario today amongst us, is a case of voices, several and fanatical, speaking louder than action. We must stem the tide. Chinese leaders since Deng Xiaoping have adhered to a principle known as “Hide your strength, bide your time.” We must learn something from this. Exposing ourselves to all manners of distressing distractions is not good. A new approach must be designed. Nigeria has invited us to all manners of conferences and we have attended them with no meaningful results. We must try some informal out of the way meetings and engagements. While this is going on, there must be a concerted effort to start a wide scale redemption and redevelopment of the place. The bane of our previous efforts and the lessons must help us negotiate with a firm hand. An independent, economically vibrant nation is possible on the shores of the South East, but it must not be our end game.

As Lenin ordained, in 1902, “For the center . . . to actually direct the orchestra, it needs to know who plays violin and where, who plays a false note and why.”

Igbo bụ Igbo… Echi dị ime!

Ireke A Kalu Onuma

June 4 2017

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