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The audacity of conviction

Conviction is a stimulant. Being convinced about a course, a mission; can be so strong it damns consequences, effects, and reactions. It knows no obstacles. It sees only possibilities. Conviction is a genus of optimism; that it can be so passionately intense, its sheer forceful will, to the external observer can be frighteningly repelling. That was the story of Biafra. Biafra’s audacious conviction was most frighteningly repelling; particularly because, before Biafra, and indeed after Biafra, the world has seen no such sheer drive of conviction from a single black entity of Africa; even in the face of imminent brutal annihilation. It was plain frightening.

It is in that sense that the story of Biafra is indeed the story of Africa. It is the telling of the size of Africa’s potency to define and invent herself within the cultures that define her identity. And for that one last time, Africa’s history; a history of distortions, of displacements, of disintegration, was set to be righted by an audacious Igbo tribe of black Africa; to rewrite their verisimilitude; their personhood. “Black” was the frightening dominant appellation. So, “In Biafra Africa died”. Yes, Emefiena Ezeani is right that “In Biafra Africa Died” not because the sun set even before dawn for the land of the rising sun, it died because the fall of Biafra was the death of Africa’s audacious conviction to reinvent herself. A fact that is much more immediately true for Nigeria’s reality. So why did Biafra happen?

Nigeria’s historiography reveals the sad truth that there are foundational problems in the very political idea on which Nigeria has wrongly progressed till date. To correct this, there have been several conferences since the Ibadan conference of 1950; the last of which was the 2014 CONFAB. All in an effort to right a foundational wrong for which the British colonial government have been rightly held culpable. But like every other thing about Nigeria, these attempts became dominated by narrow-minded politics, and were consequently killed. One of such important conferences was the Aburi Conference, dubbed the “Aburi Accord”.

As a consequence, these foundational issues are at the core of why you have a Biafran movement five decades after the civil war. It is the reason for the Niger Delta militancy. It is why you have the chant for an ‘Ogoni republic’. It is why the OPC happened. It is why you have a sharia law in a secular Nigeria, and the underlining reason behind the emergence of Boko Haram, and why northern Nigeria for decades have continued to be a hotbed of ethno-religious crisis. To underscore this, on May 9 2014, speaking as a guest on BBC’s Hard Talk, Prof. Wole Soyinka situated the crisis in the north as resulting the moment there was the creation of a theocratic structure called sharia state within a federal secular entity. These issues are at the core of the complexities holding down Nigeria.

Writing in her book “Patterns of Culture” the late American anthropologist Ruth Benedict stated that “no man ever looked at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. Even in his philosophical probing (sic) he cannot go behind these stereotypes; his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs.” In those lines, Benedict advanced an anthropological truth consistent with the evolution of heterogeneous societies like Nigeria. Thus, she posits that many times, seeming pristine conceptions are in fact products of traditional patterns of thought. That cultural leanings and structures have overtime shaped much of people’s perceptions and response to social issues. And that progressive insights (the reason why progressive societies have moved on), have always been products of pristine thinking which have their roots firmly hinged on cultural mental formulations.

It is then of imperative concern to state that like Biafra, Nigeria needs the conviction of converging belief in evolving a civilised federal political system that guarantees progress. Because like the French philosopher Rousseau surmised, the peace of a nation (which is what guarantees progress), necessarily flows from the adherence to a single legislative document representing the will of the general people to which all is equal both in protection and punishment. The moment there is the enactment of a skewed legislation, there is then a foundation for the creation of a system that will not serve the interest of the collective will. That is the message of May 30. The absence of such just system that guarantees development in a heterogeneous society as demanded in the call to restructure the polity, is instructively why Nigeria has failed to completely exorcise herself of the spirit of Biafra.

Chike Nwodo

Chike is an academic and social analyst, wrote from Enugu.

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