Biafra is an idea that often defies simple explaination, because it is, as one lady would say, ‘imilimious’. But since it is one of the hotest topics in Nigeria today, it is important to understand that 6 different ideologieos of Biafra can be identified. These ideologies have been grouped into 3 broad categories but can still be said to exist on their own. It is also important to note that their principles may sometimes overlap, but when looking at them broadly, they can be seen clearly. It is possible for one person to share more than one idea of what Biafra is/should be, while majoring practically in one concept.
So let’s start at the beginning.
The Historic Conepts:They are divided into 2, namely, the ‘Bia fara’ concept and the Ancient Kingdom of Biafra.
1. The ‘Bia fara’ concept states that the ancient Igbos welcomed other peoples that wanted to join them with the words ‘bia fara’, menaing, ‘come and join us’ or ‘come and find a place’ or ‘come and take your share’. In fact, it is said that many groups joined the Igbo nation as a result of this welcoming policy, as the Igbos are known for their welcoming nature if they are sure the person is genuine.
2. The Ancient Kingdom of Biafra. This kingdom existed thousands of years ago, and rather than being a purely Igbo concept, united elements of the the Igbo, Niger Delta and Southern Cameroun. Ancient maps of this kingdom can still be found by those who search for it online, or in rare historical texts. Today, it is a historic concept unting the groups that are said to have formed the ancient kingdom but thousands of years ago, it was a thriving kingdom.
Biafranist Seperatism: This concept of Biafra rejects Nigeria as the home of the Igbo/Lower Niger peoople in protest against the mass killings of the Igbos in the pogroms of 1966 and other percieved areas of unfairness against the Igbo and Niger Delta people. It was the concept championed by Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in the Nigeria-Biafra War and sought to create and sustain an independent state of Biafra, comprising at least a significant fraction of those ethnic groups that once formed the ancient Kingdom of Biafra.
The current leaders of this concept are the IPOB, led by Nnamdi Kanu, and MASSOB, founded by Ralph Uwazurike. It can be subdivided into 2 sub concepts, namely, the Igbo-Biafra concept and the Lower-Niger-Biafra concept.
3. The Igbo Biafranism: Its supporters want an independent Biafra that comprises of just the Igbos. They argue that presently Nigeria doesn’t offer the Igbos a level playing ground, and it will therefore be better for the Igbos to form a separate country. They want to have a Biafra of only Igbo speaking people, largely because they percieve that other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta might not be comfortable with a Biafra where the Igbos are in the majority, and may even fight against it. Call this group the Biafran puritans if you will. They also believe that the Igbos will be able to achieve more in terms of industrialization if they are the only ones in their own country. There proposed State of Biafra is modelled after the Jewish State or Japan. Those who oppose this point out that such an independent Biafra may be landlocked and may therefore be forced to depend on other countries to export or import goods. An analysis of Nigerian online sites where the topic of Biafra is discussed shows that there is nevertheless some level of support for this concept of Biafra.
4. The Lower Niger Biafranism: This group believe that Biafra will be more viable if it exists as a confederation between the Igbo and the Niger Delta because of the freedom of Igbos to use the Niger Ports for trading, the proposed enshrinment of full resource control which many in the Niger Delta want, and unity of purpose. They are the ones behind the concept of a ‘United States of Biafra’ where the present South East and South South states unite in a loose federation where each federating group has a high degree of autonomy and can leave the union at any time if they so wish to.Their model nation would look like Switzerland, a confederation of German, French and Italian cantons. Ralph Uwazurike once proposed this model of Biafra in an interview with NewsWatch or Tell.
5. Biafran Nigerianism: This concept champions a Biafra Of The Mind. In other words, it’s proponents are committed Nigerians who see Biafra primarily as a sociocultural solidarity between the Igbos and the Niger Delta, within the permanent platform of Nigeria. This concept was proposed by Odumegwu Ojukwu after his return to Nigeria following the Nigeria-Biafra War.
Proponents of Biafran Nigerianism or ‘Biafra in Nigeria’ are not after a seperate country called Biafra, but want to be good citizens of Nigeria. They may be divided into two groups, the Biafra Of The Mind Group and the Fiscal Federalists. The Biafra Of The Mind group may include public officials of the South East and South South who hold political offices in Nigeria. To them Biafran Seperatism if at all considered can only be something of a last resort. It is a concept of reconciliiation.
It should be noted that Odumegwu, contested several presidential elections in Nigeria; Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe worked all his life for a united prosperous and great Nigeria. Two factions which are said to have broken from IPOB called RENIPOB and TRIPOB haVE renounced Biafran Seperatism and embraced Biafran Nigerianism.
6. The Fiscal Federalists/National Restrucuralists: They do not necesary come from only the Lower Niger, but include people who call for the restructuring of the country, Sovereign National Conference, and the enthronement of Fiscal Federalism. Like the Biafran Seperatists, they are not satisfied with the present state of the country (2016),and want a change. But unlike the Biafran Seperatists, they want that changed within the entity of Nigeria. They have been agitating for Sovreign National Conference of implementaion of decisions in past confwrences of such nature, but it remains to be seen if their agitation will be accepted by the political establishment, who hold the ace. The Conservative class of Nigerian politics that oppose restrucuring are their natural opponents.