My father remembers it vividly. As a boy of fourteen, he joined the Young Biafra Boy Soldiers. When he recounts this story to me, he punctuates it with regular interludes of; “war is bad!” The memories of the civil war still ravishes the psyche of my father, even now that he is quite advanced in age, not because he was an infant soldier but because of his own uncle whose charred remains could not be brought back home for a proper burial. My Granduncle’s charred remains that I sometimes imagine haphazardly sailing through the air of Asaba where the bomb shells exploded on him and scattered him in infinitesimal fractions still give me shivers. I feel sorry for letting my father to go through the pain of telling me this story. With his face tightened in a grimace, he tells this story of ‘This Biafra, The Biafra, Our Biafra’.
My father’s many stories about the war taught me one thing; that Biafra was a country that was just inches away from Utopia. So, as a young boy I imagined Biafra as a land of indestructible unity, peace, joy and love. A land of willowy palm trees that were sunk deep; flourishing, in rich crude oil fields. A land whose achievements would have resounded throughout the whole world, that was if the country was given a chance. I guarded this dream jealousy, more of a surreal and overrated infant infatuation, never wanting to tell anyone because of the fear that my hopes would be dashed. I dreamt, I slept, I hoped and prayed. Soon, my dreams dwindled into a mere wishful thinking, one that cleared away after a heavy meal of rice and stew. Still, I comforted myself with the fact that maybe Biafra will come to become for me when I die and hopefully clinch a lodging in the much anticipated paradise. This thoughts of paradise were fostered with my reading of Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Achebe’s There Was A Country. These two books made “This Biafra, The Biafra, Our Biafra” a place to be.
Years later, as I grew older, the cacophonous interpretation of an erratic radio station began to reawaken my dreams in a different kind of way. I tried hard to stuff my ears with cotton wool, to force myself to believe that I was hallucinating, anything just not to hear what I was hearing. No, the more I tried, the more everyone around me talked about it. So, I decided to get into mood of things and listen to the much discussed Radio Biafra. First feelings, first reactions, first perceptions and I was confused or better said- angry. Whoever was behind the microphone in whatever erstwhile radio house, ruptured the dreams I had dreamt about; “This Biafra, The Biafra, Our Biafra’. He, whoever the radio presenter was, preached an entirely the different gospel of Biafra that was quite different from and
alien to the one my father told me. It was more like a parody of Biafra, a Biafra that preached hate and contempt and rancor and discord and violence. A radion broadcast where the presenter is so chicken hearted that he hides under the table and slanders the president of a country that he is a full citizen of. When I listened to the radio, I yearned to hear the ear-soothing, thought-reawakening and learned voice of Late Ojukwu, whose pictures and lovely beards still caress my mind and cloud my dreams. What I hear is the voice of a quintessential example of the Lost Generation Youth that is creating a striking, yet, wrong perception of the Igbo nation as treacherous, barbaric, unlearned, half baked and aloevera in an ice cream bunch of headless beings.
Lord have mercy! I was just ill-fated to listen to that radio broadcast on the night after the announcement of results of the Presidential election. If ears could bleed, mine was bleeding without wanting to clot. I doubted the radio presenter’s claim of being an intelligentsia because learned beings do not just reel off things from their vocal cavity. He spoke, and spoke, and justified his action by the clause; “Freedom of the Press.” Yes, methinks that he should be asked to explain who gave him the right to call the incumbent president a terrorist. That radio broadcast was the most horrible thing I ever witnessed, it ranked past 9/11 and watching Fifty Shades of Grey on my horror list. The broadcast had not even a smidgen trace of Basic Broadcasting Ethics.
I respect Ralf Uwazurike’s constructed and diplomatic charisma in pursing the course of Biafra. In fact, in a recent publication by the Nation Newspaper, he heavily criticized the young zealot and affirmed that Biafra can only be achieved through Alternative Non-Violent Means. I respect dignity in everything. If the Igbos, by consensus, are tired of being called Nigerians; fine and good, after all they don’t have the much coveted crude oil and are more or less a national liability and a clog in the wheel. But, it must be achieved with elegant dignity and not as loud mouthed rebels.
Yes I have to admit it, “This Biafra, The Biafra, Our Biafra”, died long ago; after the civil war and was buried along with Ojukwu. What Radio Biafra is pursuing now is a distorted version of the dreams Achebe, Ojukwu, my grandfather, your grandfather, me and you and the entire Igbo nation had. A distorted dream sponsored by silhouetted shadow characters who are hell bent on dragging the Igbo nation down with them in their walk of shame. I have nothing against the herald of sweaty, shirtless and energetic youths who are screaming; “GIVE US BIAFRA”, in the streets of Porthacourt, Umuahia and Enugu. If they were gainfully employed, they would be exerting this unusual burst of extra-sized energy in building their career.
Hmmm, the possibility of the Biafra of Radio Biafra and NNAMDI Kalu, scoffs, I puke in my teacup. I puke in my teacup and say to hell with them all. Before we can talk about Biafra, we must address relevant issues of Igbos inhumanity to other Igbos. Truth be told, we have drifted far apart after the war, being frayed at the edges. We have stopped loving ourselves, now it is all about the money. Before we talk about Biafra, let us first address the issues we have caused ourselves. Yes, the Igbos are discriminated, marginalized, not given their fair share of the national Hollandia Yogurt and other bla bla bla. Certainly, the federal government is not responsible for Dr. T.A Orji’s sack of all Igbo teachers who are not from Abia state. This our proud Biafra big daddy is in the Senate and the Radio Biafra kept mute. I laugh in Swahili. Let us not forget the unpaid pensions and gratuities of state government workers in Enugu state. Let us not forget my beloved I Phone 6 that was submerged in the floods of the deathtraps called roads in Aba. Let us also remember the unpaid salaries of our civil servants. Let us not forget the marginalization Igbos face in securing admission in other Igbo state universities. Let us not forget how we are billed exorbitantly by an Igbo electricity company; EEDC, without prepaid meters. Let us not forget you and I that is compelled to live in perpetual squalor. Let us tackle this issues first before we talk about Biafra.
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