Recent developments are indicating that it is not yet uhuru for the self-determination quest of the Igbos of the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria to have a country of their own under the name, Biafra, as several factors have continued to constitute an obstacle towards achieving their goal.
Not only is there a split in the leadership of Biafra, several ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region hitherto listed among areas delineated as part of Biafra have continued to distance themselves from their struggle.. The Ijaw ethnic nationality, which spread across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ondo, and Rivers States last week, disowned the struggle, saying they were never part of Biafra.
The Ijaw ethnic group comprises smaller groups such as Abua, Degema, Engenni, Ibani, Kalabari, Obolo, Odual, and Wakrike in Rivers State, while Nembe, Brass, Yenagoa, Sagbama, Ekeremor, among others are in Bayelsa. They are also found in other Niger Delta States. Leader of the Supreme Egbesu Council, Werinipre Digifa had last week declared in a chat with TNN that the Ijaws were not and can never be part of Biafra.
Several other ethnic nationalities across the Niger Delta have also told TNN they have nothing to do with Biafra. This runs contrary to the position of the Biafran protagonists that the Niger Delta region was part of their territory. On the map being bandied about by the Biafran separationists, communities such as Annang , Eket, Ikot Ekpene, and Uyo in Akwa Ibom State; Yenagoa in Bayelsa State; Calabar and Ogoja in Cross River State; Agbor, Asaba, Ughelli and Warri in Delta State; and Ahoada, Degema and Port Harcourt in Rivers State, all in the Niger Delta region, were shown as part of Biafra territory.
Other areas shown on the map as part of Biafran territory include Aba and Umuahia in Abia State; Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha in Anambra State; Abakaliki in Ebonyi State; Enugu and Oji River in Enugu State; and Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri in Imo State.
There are currently three different groups agitating for the actualisation of Biafra Republic: the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Ralph Uwazuruike; Biafran Zionist Federation (BZF) led by Benjamin Onwuka; and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu.
In different interviews with TNN, representatives of different ethnic groups across the region all distanced themselves from the agitation of the Biafrans.
Oron Nation: Biafra is meaningless distraction
The Oron nation in Akwa Ibom State dismissed the idea of a Biafra struggle. In a chat with TNN, president general of the Oron Union, Dr. Effiong Edunam described the Biafra agitation as “a meaningless distraction”.
In his words: “What is Biafra? We have more important things to worry about than to worry about Biafra. Are you aware that Oron is not even classified as oil producing? And yet it produces 80 per cent of oil credited to Akwa Ibom? Is that not more important to us than Biafra? We don’t want to be associated with that. It is a meaningless distraction”.
“We were never Biafra before and we will not be so why do you worry? Those who want Biafra know where Biafra is. When the real Biafra was here did we accept it? Is it this artificial Biafra that we would come to accept? We have more pressing things to bother ourselves about than to worry about Biafra,” he stressed.
Ikwerre People: We have nothing to do with Biafra
The Ikwerre ethnic group in Rivers State also distanced themselves from the Biafra struggle. A member of Rumuigbo traditional council in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state, Chief Alex Wele said “the Ikwerres are not part of Biafra. We are not part of them. Yes, there may be one or two persons who identify with them in their personal capacity and you agree with me that they are entitled to that. But the Ikwerre ethnic nationality has nothing to do with Biafra”.
On the recent protests by Biafran agitators in Port Harcourt, Wele said “it is borne out of the false perception that not just Port Harcourt but Rivers State is part of Biafra. But they are wrong. Rivers State is not and cannot be part of Biafra”.
Calabar: Don’t Associate us with Biafra
Toeing the same line, the Efut nation also declared it was not part of Biafra. The Muri Munene of Efut nation in Calabar South of Cross River State, Effiong Mbukpa said “I do not advocate that Cross River should be part of Biafra, I will not.
“I know the ordeal we went through during the civil war, so I do not know if God has changed the minds of the Igbos. I do not also know whether the Ijaw people - Rivers and Bayelsa - are ready to be part of Biafra. Frankly, it was an ugly experience during the civil war. I am not ready to be part of Biafra and I don’t see it working”.
“I don’t advocate for Nigeria to break up, the more united we are, the stronger we become. We should remain as one, we should not split. Very soon the Yoruba’s and other areas will join and once you do not Nigeria will be no more. It is better we stay together and manage our problems, though tribe and tongue may differ but unity should be our strength,” he added.
Ogonis: It’s an insult on us
Also reacting to the issue, president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legborsi Pyagbara Legborsi said the Ogonis have their own struggle which is clearly spelt out in the Ogoni Bill of Rights and as such cannot be part of the Biafran struggle.
He declared that the “Ogoni people do not belong to Biafra. We are not part of Biafra. We are Ogoni and we remain Ogoni.
“The Ogoni people have launched their own struggle and their issues concerning them are clearly spelt out in the Ogoni bill of right. If some people have chosen to go on their own struggle, they cannot coerce us into their own agenda. We have our own separate struggle which is clearly defined. We cannot go with the Biafra”.
“Everybody has a right to their own agitation. They have a right to seek justice and their own right. But they should know that other people have their own right. They should respect the right of others to say we are or we are not part of you. We cannot say we are now part of another process. Our issues are well defined. In the Ogoni bill of right, we did not say we will belong to any other province”.
“It is an insult because they do not recognise us to be different. They didn’t even seek our consent. He who seeks equity should do so with clean hands. There have not been any consultations. For me, it is an insult. We never said at any point in time that we cannot do it alone. We can do it alone,” he stressed.
Annang Nation: We can’t suffer in their hands again
The Annang nation in Akwa Ibom State has also disowned the Biafra agitation. In a chat with TNN, chairman of Eket chapter of Ati Annang, a socio-cultural group of the Annang people, Ime Akpan said they can never be part of the Igbo in a political structure.
Recounting their experiences in the hands of the Igbos during the civil war, Akpan said never again would they suffer in their hands. He listed exploitation, hate, murder, oppression, sabotage, language discrimination and persecution by the Igbos as some of the sad experiences they witnessed at the hands of the Igbos.
Reliable sources have hinted TNN that some leaders of the Biafra struggle have been feeding their fellow Igbos overseas with assurances that the Niger Delta region was part of the struggle for self-determination. They also hold that they are in talks with key stakeholders in the region and are positive that they would support them when the time comes.