opinionBy TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA
RECENTLY, Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), called for a one day sit-at-home.
I was deeply disturbed that people, especially in Onitsha, heeded his call. But then, the masses barely think, and consequently, are susceptible to political manipulation.
No wonder, Adolf Hitler once told an aide, "never worry about what to tell the people because you can tell them anything and they will believe, and the bigger the lie, the more believable it is to them". It also partially explains why the masses, irrespective of their number, strength and righteous anger, cannot get anything done, unless, they are directed strategically, that is, led. Ralph Uwazurike is an uninformed activist who is strategically misdirecting the Igbo masses.
I once met Ralph Uwazurike. He was in Washington, DC with Chukwuemeka Ojukwu for the opening of the Biafran "House". Eager to assess this then emergent secessionist activist, I listened to him very attentively and observed him very closely.
After the event, I penned my opinion of him thus: "Uwazurike is not a sober and reflective crusader on a planned mission with carefully articulated strategies and objectives. He is an impetus man dabbling recklessly into an issue with potentially momentous consequences. He lacks both charisma and oratorical flourishes.
"He is neither a scholar nor an intellectual; a philosopher nor a deep thinker; a sophisticate nor a cosmopolite. He is a homespun boyish looking man, with an air of arrogance or the self-importance of a parvenu gloating in his new found prominence."
They were to cut the tape, declaring the Biafran "House" open. They were about four hours late. Tired of waiting for them, Prof. Elekwachi of the Biafran Foundation proceeded to cut the tape and declare the Biafran "House" open. About 30 minutes later, Ojukwu, his wife, Bianca, and Uwazurike arrived.
Ojukwu spoke first. He apologised profusely for their lateness. Uwazurike made no apology for his lateness. Evidently, not happy that the Biafran "House" was declared open before their arrival, he said, "you could have gone ahead and done whatever you wanted but whatever you did in the absence of Ojukwu and I was useless".
I was stunned and offended by his bare-faced imprudence. I though it was insensitive and insolent. Even, if it was the President of the United States of America who kept his maids and houseboys waiting for four hours, he would have been polite enough to offer them an apology, no matter how understated.
So, who is this boorish upstart thrust into the limelight by prattling his neo-Biafran nonsense who thinks he could keep more than 100 men and women, some of them older than him, waiting for more than four hours and not only refuses to apologise for his lateness, but also, had the temerity to term whatever they did in his absence useless.
I was dismayed by his delusion of grandeur and false feeling of indispensability. He continued, "Initially, I did not know what I was doing, but, as democracy allows self expression, I decided to express myself". So, I started talking about Biafra, and as people started listening to me, I continued.
I believe that up till now, he still does not know what he is doing. He needs to stop "talking about Biafra," and first of all, endeavour to know what he is doing. He needs to be tutored on the history of Nigeria and her social and political temperament, the strengths and weaknesses of the Igbo nation, and the principles of Nonviolence (which, according to him, informs his activism). And then, the absurdity of his neo-Biafranism will crystallize to him.
Nigeria is not breaking up because the generality of Nigerians, despite their vociferous denunciations of Nigeria for her multiple woes, are committed to a united Nigeria. The early attempt to create Biafra was the pipe-dream of someone who in his studied disdain for reason and caution scorned the advice of his father and Nnamdi Azikiwe and railroaded his self-appointed Consultative Assembly into assenting to his secessionist bid.
Unlike the masses that were whipped into a paranoiac frenzy by Ojukwu's propaganda and falsehood, the politically perceptive Igbo were opposed to Biafra. Like Sir Louis Odumwgwu Ojukwu (before his death) and Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbo political class was opposed to Biafra. However, intimidated by Ojukwu's broad-stroke labelling and chastisement of anyone who disagreed with him as saboteur, they grudgingly conceded, "you can declare Biafra at your earliest possible convenience." It was not a heartfelt, firm endorsement but the reluctant consent of an intimidated Assembly.
Since those nightmare days when the Igbo defeated, battered and tattered stumbled out of the last vestiges of Biafra, we have made enormous progress across the whole spectrum of the Nigerian social life and gained the respect and confidence of other Nigerians.
Uwazurike is undermining the credibility of the Igbo. He is portraying the Igbo as subversive, unreliable and troublous elements and implacable, irredeemable rebels.
Igbo land is landlocked with large tracts of infertile land and a population density three times that of Yoruba land. But countervailing these disadvantages are the Igbo's admirable qualities of courage, determination, hard-edged work ethic and enterprising vigor. Our boundless resourceful energies and effervescent entrepreneur spirit are unyieldingly spilling beyond the confines of our regional borders, and have thus, driven us to every nook and cranny of Nigeria. Operating within an expanded frontier - one Nigeria - is to our advantage.
Although MASSOB operatives are sometimes armed and violent, Uwazurike professes that he is guided by the principles of Nonviolence Civil Disobedience in his struggle for the actualization of his Sovereign State of Biafra. To appreciate the incongruity of this method with the Nigerian political environment and his agitation for Biafra, he needs to read the writings of major proponents of nonviolent protest: David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Igbo masses, like the masses, universally, are not politically savvy, and therefore need to be directed strategically. The man, Ralph Uwazurike, arrogating to himself the role of directing them, admittedly, does not know what he is doing. Is that not a classic case of the metaphorical blind leading the blind?
Mr. TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.