(By Ifeanyi Augustine)
“The turn of events can only prove one point; that the sovereignty of the entire nation is more laughable than confused while Biafra, by implication, is more imaginary than realisable. What could explain a situation where living a life that is in conformity with the general will, consciously or unconsciously pitch one against his fellow man— nay a particular will. For where there exist factions against a state, the will of these factions becomes general in relation to its members whereas in relation to the state, it is particular. Besides, this will (defined as the last appetite in deliberation) of MASSOB members is against the spirit of political society.“
THE month of June might have come and gone but its memories remain sore in the mind of many a south-easterner, no thanks to the intrigue and drama that accompanied it. After the successful cerebration of Democracy Day at the centre, our brothers in the south-west looked forward to June 12, a date that mean more to them in democratic terms than May 29. It is seen as the day democracy was murdered in the country, after the annulment of the 1993 general election purportedly won by the candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Moshood Abiola (MKO), a man many believed lived and died for democracy.
The northerners had more in their hands, the insurgency that had been a cog in the wheel of economic development of the region in recent times and had necessitated the declaration of a state of emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan on selected northern states. In the south east, it was a different ball game as people were rather apprehensive of what the period had in stock. In the major cities across the region, Enugu, Aba, Awka, Nnewi and notably, Onitsha, people gathered in twos and threes trying to substantiate a perceived rumour. Some say it was not rumour but confirmed news. The people were confused because it was not aired on the radio nor did it appear on any of the dailies. The few radio stations that did adumbrate it did so at the discretion of their presenters who for obvious reasons used such to cajole residents into participating in their programme. Nobody knew the source of the news but the thing is that it spread much more than the social media would have necessitated.
Most residents went to bed on Friday, June 7, believing the next day has been set aside as Biafra day, therefore a public holiday. By who? We knew not, even those of us that cared to know got nothing for an answer. People that had tangible reasons to be not at home the following day stayed glued to their television sets that Friday night hoping to satisfy their curiosity. From the news highlight to the news proper, there was absolutely nothing on the Biafra day. The ripples it caused was not unexpected, though some remained confident that the soldiers would likely be around to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.
Augustine, a boy from Enugu State was in Nnewi that Friday to buy a motorcycle to start his okada business in the village. So on hearing that neither the Nigeria Television Authority nor Anambra Broadcasting Service could confirm the said public holiday, he left for the village in the wee hours of Saturday with renewed vigour. He had his cousin with him, and they intended on getting to their village through Ifite-Ogwari on the new motorcycle because of its proximity to their village. On getting to Onitsha, they were accosted by angry looking mobs who mounted road blocks. There were no other persons in the vicinity except the uniformed mobs which made the boys to attempt dropping something to ease their passage, thinking such had allowed others that presumably used the road easy access. But before they could alight from the motorcycle, both had taken enough slaps from the red-eyed mobs. On their vest was the inscription, ‘GREAT MASSOBIANS…..ebeano! They were taken to what looked like a hide-out, and joined with other captives (or call them victims). Armed MASSOB members cordoned off the whole place. Others busied themselves smoking and drinking, and like a military regime from a successful peace keeping mission, hummed a chorus; i ma nwudo ojukwu n’aka, meaning, ‘you can never catch Ojukwu red handed’. The scene could be likened to a clip from the emotional but award winning movie, Sometimes in April. And like the Tutsi minorities, Augustine and his cousin were subjected to the most dehumanising treatment, as were others, who, in keeping with the ‘general will’, had gone about their normal business.
To cut a long story short, it took the intervention of Augustine’s elder brother who came to the scene (of course, with some MASSOB mercenaries) after a phone call that cost the victim N2000, for their captors to name the conditions for their release: a non-negotiable sum of N40,000 (for both), and 24 strokes of the cane (koboko) for Augustine and 12 for his cousin. But for the thymotic spirit of the boys, it would have been a tragic end.
Now to the million dollar question: Is the public holiday declared legitimate? If yes, is it binding on south easterners as Nigerians or Biafrans? Was Augustine and others who were caught in the web of MASSOB wrong to have violated a mob order? What beats the imagination of the writer is that despite the apprehension caused by the news, none of the governments of the five Eastern states deemed it necessary to make any categorical statement on the issue. Their indifference to the development is not far-fetched; there is a different sovereignty subsisting in the sovereignty. The indivisibility of sovereignty as a political concept seems not applicable to the Nigerian state. The nation’s sovereignty has conceptually gone haywire, and like the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight, the poor masses are left with no choice but to appeal to Heaven since their ‘common judge’ has inexplicably instigated them against one another.
An analogy by the philosopher, Jean Jacque Rousseau is apposite; we are told that the jugglers of Japan dismember a child before the eyes of the spectators; then they throw all the members into the air one after another, and the child falls down alive and whole. The conjuring tricks of our political theorists are very like that; they first dismember the body politic by an illusion worthy of a fair, and then join it together again we know not how.
In this context, the conjuring trick of the Japanese jugglers is the same as that of our political leaders who for lack of political will, encourage megalothymia citizenry. The turn of events can only prove one point; that the sovereignty of the entire nation is more laughable than confused while Biafra, by implication, is more imaginary than realisable. What could explain a situation where living a life that is in conformity with the general will, consciously or unconsciously pitch one against his fellow man— nay a particular will. For where there exist factions against a state, the will of these factions becomes general in relation to its members whereas in relation to the state, it is particular. Besides, this will (defined as the last appetite in deliberation) of MASSOB members is against the spirit of political society.
The activities of the MASSOB boys in all its manifestations negate the ideological framework upon which Biafra was proposed as a sovereign state. It was to be one of peace and equal justice because of the perceived marginalisation of the region by the Nigerian government. That was the basis of the sovereignty, as proposed. As a matter of emphasis, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the convener of the group was explicit on its mission statement. In ‘ideal Biafra government’ a book he authored, he stated; “ours is a war anchored on non-violence. It is God’s war. I am not afraid because God has always fought just wars.” He went further to assert that, “MASSOB’s non-violent method is a source of worry to Nigeria as she ponders on how to contend with the invisible power of non-violence with which Mahatma Gandhi subdued the mighty British Empire”. That Uwazuruike has remained focused in all his victimisation by the Nigerian government begs the question on why the MASSOB boys have decided to be laws unto themselves. Charity they say begins at home. How would turning against the people that will make up the sovereignty lead to its actualisation? The men make the state and the territory sustains the men, so goes a Greek proverb. Needless to say (I am convinced many would agree with me) that the actualisation of Biafra as a sovereign state died the day the inimitable Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu (Ikemba) took his last breath (if not before).
Whatever that is left of MASSOB ought to be geared towards moral reorientation of these boys because they are more than capable of setting the wheel of social integration in a cycle of decay or worst still plunge the region into a moral war. Being a member of MASSOB makes one to be dreaded among his peers in the south east today, precisely, Onitsha. In most cases, they are used as tax enforcers or debt collectors by some unscrupulous individuals. People are beginning to lose their moral sense owing to the activities of these boys. The determination of what is good or bad, true or false, is now subject to a kind of situational ethical evaluation. The ethical order of society is fast losing its objective format. And though everyone seems to be aware of this social virus, only a handful may have given or could possibly give it a serious thought. The majority seems to be adjusting too quickly to the new trend of societal disorganisation (else you are victimised like Augustine and his cousin) and are apparently quite happy and comfortable with the situation. Think of the consequences of such a situation, where moral issues are subjected to personal standard of evaluation, think of state of nature.
The country has spent (and is still spending) enormous resources on an insurgent that started with ‘mere intimidation’, today the story is different. What constitutes greater fear for the writer is that Anambra State, the haven of these MASSOB boys, will be going to the polls in November. At a time when the aspirants have started identifying with sections of the people, using phrases like the students’ choice, the traders’ choice, the common man’s choice etc, unless drastic measures are taken to clamp down on the irrational activities of these boys, the aspirant that is favoured by them— the MASSOB choice, stands a good chance come March 2014.
• Augustine is a postgraduate student of Unizik.
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