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Biafra Remembrance: Celebration Beyond Threats And Chaos

“Biafra remembrance is about the people’s struggles and their faith in a glorious future” —Ebuka Onyekwelu

As recent as 2020, May 30th was greeted with total wilful compliance in honour of fallen Biafra heroes. In 2024, the compliance is much the same but for a different reason; more out of fear of horror. On May 30th, 1967, the sovereign state of Biafra was declared by Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. This declaration was in response to the unresolved political disputes that had snowballed into ethnic killings in which Igbos were targeted in northern parts of Nigeria and massacred in large numbers. From that point till now, even after the civil war, Nigeria and the Eastern Region, more precisely, Southeast, have never been the same.

The 2024 Biafra remembrance day, just like that of the previous year, signals a new phase in the Biafra struggle. It does appear that the era of forced compliance is now here. But no agitation or popular struggle that prefers terror over patriotic honour is worth its essence.

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In the past four years, there has been a consistent effort to associate the Biafra struggle with violence and terror, chaos and disorder. Given peculiar circumstances, Biafra cause always enjoyed the popular support of the people. But since 2021, it has become increasingly difficult to disassociate Biafra agitation with rising chaos and violence by criminal gangs across the Southeast, forcing a lot of people to withdraw their wilful support and goodwill to the Biafra cause. Since 2021, hundreds of people have died due to the activities of so-called “unknown gunmen,” which so many claims allege have links with the agitation for Biafra. Today, the Southeast is traumatized, far more traumatized than it had been, some argued, since the end of the civil war. It’s nearly a free-for-all all, with gangs posing, under some Biafra agitation nomenclature, to obtain some form of legitimacy from the populace, while continuing their nefarious criminality.

Monday sit-at-home is a case of Southeast against Southeast businesses and investment opportunities.

The fact is that the Southeast is now under some exacerbated struggle against itself and this is literally speaking. The negative effects of the prevailing state of the Biafra agitation happen and are only experienced in the Southeast by mainly easterners. The irregular and regular Monday sit-at-home is a case of Southeast against Southeast businesses and investment opportunities. It is a verdict against the Southeast’s greatest selling points: industry and commerce. The South-South geopolitical zone has now positioned to rob Southeast of its comparative advantage, with Onitsha almost fully emptied into Asaba, among others. The far-reaching implication is that the Southeast might become a disserted zone shortly with no viable economic or political relevance. This might sound outrageous but, a few years ago, the Southeast was the most peaceful zone in Nigeria.  Yet, as the most peaceful zone in Nigeria, the Southeast could not attract major national or international attention and investments. The bulk of what the Southeast has is a consequence of the people’s commitment to the zone, setting up indigenous industries and business interests across the zone. How much worse for a violent Southeast zone! It is these indigenous investments driven by the people themselves that are not only discouraged but destroyed in the current phase of the agitation. Many industries had been put on hold in consequence. Many have been shut down, as well also jobs and other related opportunities.

In the Southeast, conversation about Biafra is now considered dangerous, except in support of the radical approach. Yet, in Israel, Jews also do yearly remembrance day of the holocaust and it is not done under any kind of threat or fear. But in the Southeast in 2024 just like last year, students writing WAEC, an important sub-continental exam must endure delays or altogether sacrifice their education because of the past. Businesses must be closed and productive hours must be spent at home for a past that we cannot rewrite. In reality, this agitation is punishing the future, to remember the past. This is tragic on many levels. It is not Nigeria or Nigerians that are punished. But Southeast and Ndi Igbo, not in the north or other parts of Nigeria, but in the Southeast! This might give the idea that even the Southeast is no longer safe or accommodating for the Igbos.

So far, there have been reports of violent attacks in Enugu and Abia by enforcers of sit at home for Biafra remembrance in 2024. In perspective, Biafrans are now being coerced with arms to honour their heroes in a particular way. This was the same thing they did willingly before now. But today, the same Biafrans have to be compelled to sit at home for the remembrance. Otherwise, they may suffer pain or death because they must honour their heroes in a certain way that satisfies the enforcers.

Biafra remembrance is about the people’s struggles and their faith in a glorious future. Any kind of threat against any Biafran in the Southeast or the future of Biafrans negates the essence of the Biafra struggle in its entirety.

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