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Aanu Ayoleke: Looking Past Sentiments to Discuss Biafra

Aanu Ayoleke

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A week after Independence Day, I met an American raised Igbo girl who has quickly become a close friend. Excited as ever to meet yet another Nigerian girl in this small southern American town, I gladly embraced her. She was happy to meet fellow Nigerians after growing up with very little Nigerian interaction. One thing struck me as we all chatted; she had introduced herself as Biafran. It was the first time I’d ever heard anyone refer to himself in that, and I was intrigued.

Now with Nnamdi Kanu’s jail stint and release, the call for Biafra has become louder and louder. This issue has exposed bitter tribalism. I’ve witnessed such ignorant online anti-Igbo remarks that made me want to slap the commenter through my screen. Yet I’ve also seen many educated responses. As a proud Nigerian, I am definitely conflicted. On one hand, I love the brotherhood between numerous ethnic groups. But I also have witnessed the unresolved bitterness and tribalism that is part of our nation.

To many Nigerians, our loyalties are conflicted. Let’s not pretend that for many of us, our loyalties are to our ethnic group (tribe) before Nigeria. Of course, every nation has its divisions. Yet, a lot of Nigeria’s problems stem from our origins. Before colonization, we lived as separate tribes, in individual kingdoms/communities. We traded, traveled, and waged wars among ourselves. We were Yoruba, Tiv, Igbo, Idoma, Kanuri, etc.

Before the merger of the Northern and Southern protectorates, was there even a Nigeria? Like many other African countries, Nigeria was carved by inconsiderate European nations who ignored previous tribal boundaries. Nigeria is a fabrication, an illusion we desperately cling to. Sadly, Nigeria has failed its citizens since independence. Coups, corruption, failure to provide vital infrastructure, poor governance are a few of our problems.

I love Nigeria, so much that the thought of Biafra is almost heartbreaking. Yet I must take into account that many of my Igbo brethren are tired of Nigeria failing them. If a group of people feels oppressed, who am I to belittle their oppression? If this is the solution they see fit, I put my feelings aside and try to understand. If my Igbo peers become Biafrans, I will accept it. In the future, I may have beautiful half Nigerian, half Biafran children. I’m fine with that. Can we all look past our sentiments and have meaningful discussions on this issue? Can we refrain from insulting each other, and discuss our nation’s pitiful state. Biafra or not, Nigeria needs help.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Mimagephotography

Aanu Ayoleke is a shameless, melodramatic foodie, whose hobbies include TALKING, acting, singing, traveling and reading. She describes herself as a hustling creative. Aanu is happiest when she's eating akara and surrounded by loud laughter. Blog: www.jadedunni.comInstagram: @jadedunni

26 Comments

  1. Emeka Ndukwe

    December 2, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Now here, we have a truly educated man. A man without the silly sentiments of typical Nigerians. I am Ibo and Pro-Biafra but with the exact thinking in your writing. In fact, I do not know whether you are acting or really saying it the way you see it. Which ever way, as long as this came from you, even if by mistake, may God prosper you in his truth. Please keep your mind working this way. I have learnt that it is the best if you want to grow above the world. Please take this from me. I am speaking both physically and spiritually. Try it and you will see in a couple of years how you will stand tall above all in the midst of humanity. May the Lord God from whom all places and times began, and whom the heavens and earth are enclosed develop and direct you and your family, amen.

    • NIRA

      December 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Nnaa, it’s’ Igbo’, not ‘ibo’.Get thr name of your tribe right first before you form loyalty and Voltron. Biafra cannot be achieved by protesting on the streets, shutting down shops and crippling people’s businesses at Onitsha and Aba. My people should go and ask Serbia and co how they did their secession. Unfortunately, most of these protesters are not looking at beyond actualization of this Biafra. When we get Biafra, what happens next? It’s not a case of ‘let’s get it first’; we need to have a plan for governance and Igbos are too disunited and selfish to agree on one thing. To the writer, ask your new-found friend what passport she travels with; Biafran? I doubt it. I am a proud Igbo girl, and I opine that the way we are going about it will not work. If care is not taken, an extremist group will penetrate and high-jack this struggle and before we know it, we’d have another ‘north east’ incident on our hands. Igbos can attest to the fact that whatever we get involved in, we do it more than the originators, be it good or bad things. (example, we took over kidnapping from the militants and started kidnapping our family and kinsmen, unlike the militants that were kidnapping only oyibos). Let us not have another South Sudan on our hands o! Most of the people sitting and gingering these ppl are not in Nigeria; when push comes to shove and war breaks out, they won’t be here to fight. Let things get done the right way, that’s all I’m saying. For those screaming marginalisation, remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. What has the Igbo ppl who have been in power for decades done for the Igbo race?? Where are the Igbo leaders and statesman. Late Ojukwu said that it will be foolish to provoke another Biafran War,and this will lead to it if care is not taken.

    • Jade

      December 3, 2015 at 6:45 am

      @ Emeka Ndukwe

      I agree, Biafra should be addressed, acknowledged and not be pushed aside. However, this tribal hatred is all propaganda and blown out of proportion. Nigerians have lived peacefully among one another for years. The main leader of Biafra, ojukwu lived in Nigeria. If he saw Nigeria as a threat or a hateful place it could have lived somewhere else the way these modern Biafra cowards are doing it. There might be disagreement, tribal favoritism, discrimination etc which every tribe is guilty of, with Igbos not being an exemption or the only victims. It’s still very low in percentage looking at how big Nigeria is. We have learned to live in harmony. If the hatred is so thick, the way we mingle, live among each other, will be non existent. Same tribes hate, kill each other more than opposite tribes. There’s been intertribal marriages, for years and till today.
      There’s a difference between wanting Biafra to be acknowledged and hating another tribe in the midst of it which Nnandi Kanu is guilty of. He perpetuates hatred towards Yoruba, Fulani, as well as inciting violence. That’s not what Biafra should stand for. You can fight for equality, under Nigeria, fight for equal representation in government, fight and work towards having an Igbo president but asking for a Biafra state is a very senseless approach. It’s unreasonable. There’s deep conflict among Igbos themselves. Not only should Nigeria as a whole acknowledge it, discussion between pro biafrans and non Biafra Igbos should also happen. Igbos need to unify.
      And Nigeria is already divided, that’s the reason we have south, north, east and west with a larger population of a particular tribe in each region. And within those states we have boundaries and limitation. It’s completely fine if Igbos are elected to only represent themselves in their states, same for Yorubas. And the more diverse places like Lagos, Abuja, port harcourt where different tribes have settled for years, let the majority rule.

    • Jade

      December 3, 2015 at 6:52 am

      @ Emeka Ndukwe

      *Perpetrating hatred

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 4:54 am

      Well, thank you! I’m truly honored. Amen and Amen to your prayers. I’m happy you were the first commentator. I’m truly flattered by your response.

  2. Ibe

    December 2, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Well said!

  3. Puzzles

    December 2, 2015 at 9:12 am

    For once, a very reasonable article on the Nigeria-Biafra debate

  4. sarah

    December 2, 2015 at 9:19 am

    I am sorry,I am only a little girl o, but I heard a lot about the first Biafran war and there is no one of them (the old people that experience it) that want to live through it again. Or do you think the government of Nigeria will just say o.k go and form your Biafra,we are going to be neighbours.there is going to be war and bloodshed. The sad part is that most of the pple gingering this problem are abroad and they are pushing you people in Nigeria to go and die. If they are truly pro biafran they should leave the white man country and come and fight physically, they are skyping and tearing their Nigerian passport.they should come and do it physically. Pls what Injustice is an Igbo person facing that an average Nigerian is not facing

  5. Ngozi

    December 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

    They stay in America and other countries and proclaim themselves Biafran lmao , clowns . They leave the uneducated poor ones here to be closing their shops and rallying as if that is how it is done. If a war breaks out she will stay in America and be yarning dust while the mumus here will be dying. If they want Biafra let them go about it in a sensible way. Let them ask their leaders to ask for a referendum instead of crowding the streets , closing shops and constituting a nuisance. Talking about tribal insults Abeg no tribe is exempt. You want to separate yet an Imo man will still can an Anambra man names? So how does that solve anything. The Abia state government fired civil servants from other Igbo States and you are talking about discrimination!

  6. Julius Ceaser

    December 2, 2015 at 10:31 am

    This biafran thing started becoming intense because Chimamanda and Chinua instigated people with their books.
    If a few people are feeling oppressed and wanna form their own country then fine, let them go just dont go and be doing demonstration and all and be obstructing other people like us who face reality and have to keep surviving in this already harsh world.
    War brings NOTHING but loss of lives, property, child-soldiers losing their innocence and what not.
    the people instigating and fighting for biafra are all selfish and only want power, while using the helpless and unemployed to do their dirty jobs,
    Truth is if Biafra wants to be let them be abeg, it will be a long change for the wealthy who already have properties in “Nigeria” but if they want to go let them go,
    btw what happens to people like me who want to remain Nigerian but Igbo, do I not have a say?

    • NaijaPikin

      December 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      Don’t be silly. Because they documented history they are now instigators? Nigeria should ask US how it is still trying to manage the effect of the civil war, ask Rwanda how it is overcoming the after effect of the genocide that occured from Tutsi and Hutu clash.

      The truth is you can never wish an issue away. To bring true closure, the issue needs to be discussed, lessons need to be learned. Everyone else is teaching their regional/country wars as part of their educational curriculum, naija is doing what it does best, keeping it hush hush and acting like it never happened.

      Naija curriculum will teach you about the entire world but not naija. Honestly, from reading about the war, i got an understanding of why my parents, aunts and uncles held certain sentiments about different tribal groups. However, rather than join them, i chose a different path. 95% of my closest friends are not from my tribe and its ok. I love them for who they are, not what their ancestors did/did not do. Reading about the war has helped me seperate the past from my future. So thank you to Chimanda and Chinua for telling their story before someone else comes to rewrite their history for them.

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 4:57 am

      You said all I wanted to concerning how we need to learn from history, not hide it away.

  7. Adaeze Writes

    December 2, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I am igbo and I believe strongly in one Nigeria! The pro-biafra protests came as a surprise to me because I really have never heard of Igbos protesting over such stuff like that.
    Can we all live as one and in peace? Please!
    Can we focus our attention on those in the North going through life-threatening attacks?
    Can we learn to care about everyone and focus on developing this nation and becoming one?
    Thank You!

    You write well Aanu!

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 5:14 am

      Thank you! I checked out your blog, and you’ve got me hooked. Boko Haram should be dealt with, and although I didn’t expect the current Biafra protests, I can’t say I’m quite shocked. In fact we’re all frustrated with Nigeria. Living together in peace would be nice.

  8. #forReal

    December 2, 2015 at 11:05 am

    “Biafra or not, Nigeria needs help” kpomkwem!, fullstop! Otitan! Shikena! Datsall!

    Whether they are agitating or not, even a blind man knows that we need help. Discrimination in 9ja is like MTN, every where you go. We can’t help it, religious divides, ethnic, familial, complexion…..in every freaking thing, we know how to create those tiny boxes within the already tiny boxes, where we know how to categorise people. If only we realise that in order to properly categorise, we need as many boxes as there are individuals. Everything is going wrong in this country, little wonder whether we were correctly put together, in the first place. Instead of shutting Ibos (abi na biafra) down, take a minute and listen to their grievances, then please tell me why the entire Nigeria is not agitating. When we should be yelling for Nigeria to be fixed and not just Biafra, we are busy trying to close their mouth.

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 5:11 am

      I would love for Nigerians to come together to fix our broken nation. We hold on to petty differences that we use to discriminate and divide ourselves. We need to allow each other to respectfully air our sorrows and grievances. We need to listen, not assume and shout over one another. Protest and rioting is desperation and frustration crying out. I agree with you. Chop knuckle.

  9. NIGERIAN NOT BIAFRAN

    December 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I an Nigerian and Nigeria is not a fabrication or an illusion. Has Nigeria failed it’s citizens? yes! Can every single tribe in this country claim to be marginalized? yes! Do we in our little tribal pockets still discriminate against each other? yes! The Ibibio’s send the Efik”s packing, Abia State fires those from other states, the Yoruba’s and Hausa’s do the same. We all discriminate against each other but that isn’t enough reason for one to secede because this will mean WAR! you all agitating for Biafra weren’t even born during the civil war, so you have no idea what you are wishing for? Are you my Igbo brethren sure that you can live peacefully with each other? Have yu considered this carefully? Shouldn’t dialogue be the way to go? I’m not sure what the law says about this, but me thinks this is treason.
    Please, Nigeria has enough problems as things are, let’s not add war to the list.

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 5:05 am

      I definitely agree with the fact that we have all been marginalized. And we have inter- and intra-ethnic discriminations, so we do have a lot to deal with.

  10. Sika

    December 2, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    The fact is this.. biafra can happen without a war. If Nigeria simply allows people who do not want to be Nigerian become what they want to be freely then no war should ensue. War happens because people are selfish! If oil was not involved i am very sure all other tribes who have no oil will gladly let people go and create their own country. We are all tribalists anyway so why pretend? Nigeria is a failed state. lets all agree on that reality for starters, hiss!

  11. larz

    December 2, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    The UK has different nations England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. They all co-exist in peace, why cant we? There was a Scottish referendum that recently took place where majority of voters chose to stay within the UK. That is what a healthy system should look like. People should explore different options and lobby hard to let it happen. We can move to a multi-nation country that allows different regions have a certain degree of autonomy or perhaps a full emancipation of the regions. Nigeria government should encourage healthy political debate and to try to win people over by campaigning heavily to ensure their case are heard and ultimately, the general public can decide through an election.

    Personally, I don’t think Nigeria should split up completely, but that is just my opinion. There are many others out there and they all should have a voice and the general consensus should be allowed to rule.

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 4:52 am

      I actually suggested this option to a friend of mine. Sounds like a great idea. Although I wonder what sort of powers each nation would have..

  12. nwa eji eme onu

    December 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Lol.
    The funny thing is most of these people agitating for Biafra have very little idea what the cause is for. Just a case of herd-mentality. ‘Okoro is doing, let me join’. Many have been brainwashed.
    How many of these agitators have sat down to really think?
    They claim they have been oppressed. Oppressed by who is what I ask?
    An average Nigerian is being oppressed by bad leadership regardless of tribe. Go to the north. You will see the definition of poverty and backwardness. You will weep. A lot of children are malnourished. Many are sick with no food, no good health care system. Or do we talk about those in Boko Haram affected areas?
    Among the yorubas, look at Lagos, same story. A lot of jobless hungry youths sleeping under the bridge. Who e beta for? So why this sudden victim mentality igbos are having?
    Our problem is bad leadership which igbos themselves have. Igbos have had access to key positions. What impact did they make? Your traditional rulers and governors, what impact have they made in their own little way? So how does Biafra solve it?
    They keep saying they are not asking for war. Boko Haram started as a non-violent sect. Now see where they have gotten to. This is how it starts. A lot of these youths are easy prey for brainwashing. Tell them anything to feed their ego and they carry their guns and misuse it. That’s how terrorism starts.
    I keep saying it, nobody is oppressing anybody. In this same Nigeria, Igbos have made billions. Owned estates. Innoson, coscharis etc. Late Dora Akunyili made her impact in the world, her tribe ddnt limit her. So did Okonjo Iweala and very many others. The problem with Igbos is instead they will unite, think and strategize politically, they rather betray their own, enrich themselves and come home to cry ‘wolf’.
    Nigeria has its many challenges so does every country. Secession is no solution. Dear Agitators, go and read what happened to Sudan. I’m sure they are regretting their secession plan now. Biafra is no solution. The average igbo man is corrupt and is tribalistic even to his own fellow igbo brothers. So pls y’all should save it.
    I am IGBO and I am NIGERIAN.

  13. ElessarisElendil

    December 3, 2015 at 2:22 am

    “Yoruba and Igbo”: LOL! No!! there was no such thing as ‘Igbo’ and ‘Yoruba’, there were instead Oyo, Ijebu, Ekiti e.t.c and Akegbe, Aro, Agbor e.t.c. So if the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are able to live in unity with the sun-groups the same colonial masters grouped as one why not Nigeria?

    “Before the merger of the Northern and Southern protectorates, was there even a Nigeria? Like many other African countries, Nigeria was carved by inconsiderate European nations who ignored previous tribal boundaries. ” And yet Biafra would claim those same boundaries?? Hypocritical no?

    All nations in the world including the European nations were all carved out by inconsiderate nations, so I find that argument fallible.

    I’ve thought through this Biafra issue and come to the conclusion that its simply not sustainable, as far back as the 18th century, the homelands were already the most densely populated parts of West Africa, Biafra lacks many of the resources we take for granted in Nigeria. I can’t waste my youth on an ego trip.

    Nigeria is the best chance of progress all 170m(ish) of us have for progress, don’t let anybody deceive you.

    I’m tired of this Biafra matter.

    • Aanu Ayoleke

      Aanu Ayoleke

      December 4, 2015 at 5:01 am

      Interesting. You bring up such valid points. I do have a question. Even if when we were Oyo, Ekiti, etc., did we not acknowledge “brother” kingdoms? I’m curious.

  14. Angela

    December 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I am one of the few Non Igbo’s that has taken out my time to research on the igbo plight in the union called Nigeria.I am a political scientist and have been a government and history student for the most years of my education and scholarly experience.Now,every sincere nation built on the foundation of unity and common interest has records of their struggles and ensures this history is taught to younger generations to foster continuity and avert future conflicts,but the nigerian example is a sad one,we all mention the civil war but no body has really come out to tell this generation what this civil war was all about and why the igbo’s wanted to breakfree,instead,other ethnic groups have successfully incited hatred against the igbo’s and marketed them so wrongly without studying this people.Moreso,after the civil war till date the nigerian state has been unable to dissolve and neutralize the trauma suffered by the igbo’s during this civil war neither have they reintegrated them fully into society,instead the average igbo man is seen as a threat to his non igbo neighbour and landlord despite they have forcefully spread themselves across the country to have a sense of belonging.I grew up with the notion that igbo’s were criminals,wicked and killers,not until i began to interact and saw that an average igbo man is peaceful and minding his business and his goal which is to amass wealth and make a standard living till he is tampered with before he makes trouble.We have discriminated against the igbo’s so much that we haven’t for once thought of how we would have developed the Creativity of this People in Aba and turned nigeria into Africas china.While it is Difficult to admit that these group remains the most successful in this country when it comes to wealth and enterprise,we have humiliated the igbo’s and their children and have viewed them as a problem to the Nigerian state,but yet the igbo man is the only man who can ignore his brother and employ a yoruba man based on merit,the average igbo man is not as tribalistic as most Nigerian groups.My Igbo brothers are really tired of famzing nigeria and pretending to be Nigerians at all cost,they have been killed in Kano severally,humiliated in Kaduna,cursed by the Oba of Lagos and rejected through the Ballot Box,what more can they do than ask to break free?i see prospects in them because they are not a lazy group,if giving them Biafra will make them feel at home pls let the igbo’s go. Achebe’s there was a Country summarises this people and their plight better.

  15. Mabel

    February 14, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    This civil tension should not be allowed be thrive, as it, as before, cause unwanted situations, if not properly managed. To curb this crisis, as learnt from my course, Communication, Culture, and Identity, I advise that the tool of communication for mutual understanding, be employed to contain this conflict, bearing in mind the high power distance culture both parties have- where people are quick to stress whatever power they possess and
    1. Identity the problem while avoiding the blame game.
    2. Come up with several possible solutions. Profer a list of different possible ideas to reach a agreement.
    3. Evaluate the solutions provided while considering the pros ad cons, every party ready for a comprise.
    4. Decide on a perfect choice of action.
    5. Implement this solution.
    6. Continue to evaluate the solution.
    Progressive and admirable results would be realised from choosing dialogue rather than batons.

    Mass Communication
    Caleb University
    Lagos

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