By Buchi Iwuji, Owerri
Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to take proactive steps towards addressing the issues fueling Biafra agitation in the south east through implementation of the Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation (3Rs) programme introduced by General Yakubu Gowon after the Nigeria civil war.
The president of the apex Igbo youth sociocultural organization, Comrade Igboayaka O. Igboayaka, who spoke on behalf of the group on Wednesday in Enugu, condemned non-implementation of the policy initiated by the Gowon led junta to erase the scars of the civil war and give the affected region a sense of belonging.
He stressed that the failure of the successive governments to implement the 3Rs policy contributed largely to the resurgence of Biafra uprisings in the south east geopolitical zone and parts of the south south.
The OYC leader insists that federal government must address the core issues fueling the agitation rather than the ongoing crackdown on the agitators. His words: “I think we have to begin to tell ourselves the truth and also of necessity, learn to separate perceptions from reality. We cannot do this or move forward without a rigorous pursuit of the truth. We consider Biafra a historical fact. When the word Biafra is mentioned or even being discussed, it should be done not under the table but on top of it.
“The history of the Nigeria-Biafra war has become part of the history of Nigeria. Hence there is need for a national conversation on the country’s most weighty calamity since self-rule. The continued avoidance of such a national discussion of Biafra cannot be a smart thing to do as doing so would amount to sweeping under the carpet, a significant portion of our national history.
“If a society studiously pretends that part of its colossal and catastrophic history did not happen, such society would only be investing on the repeat of same in a mindless effort to hide it from its younger generations. We strongly hold that Nigeria cannot survive another war.
“It was the failure of Nigeria to vigorously and successfully implement the Three Rs(3Rs) policy that was partly responsible for the establishment of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“It is well known that there have been so many protests, riots and recently, even terrorism in Nigeria since the end of the civil war. I think our leaders ought to be having a real epiphany right now with what is contemporaneously happening in the Northeast.
“This is because if you fail also to keep the promises of rebuilding that region after the devastation of Boko Haram, if you let the hopes invested in the promise of that rebuilding die like the Three Rs (3Rs) especially reconstruction and rehabilitation, you can also be sure that the children in IDP camps today will grow up and ask questions. Their disagreements with the state then will intensify feelings of deprivation as IPOB members and other pro-Biafra group feel today. I believe that the issues generated by the national question that caused the Biafran war are still very much with us.”
Igboayaka noted that since hostilities ended on January 15, 1970, Nigeria has been engulfed in another kind of battle to keep the country together and tackle the myriads of socio-political and economic problems that initially created the environment for conflict. He added that the renewed ethnic agitations across the land and the recent youths’ unrest that moulded in the form of the #EndSARS protests nationwide have shown that the country has not made appreciable progress in the fight to address the major issues that led to the war.
“Recall that originally, Nigeria’s goal of the civil war was to preserve the country and keep it one as President Mohammadu Buhari boasted recently, yet his Fulani domination agenda is opposite of his claims on the unity of Nigeria. Was it not? Remember also that the common slogan then was ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.’ This task has been bastardized since after the civil war, and it has grow to its peak since Mohammadu Buhari took over in 2015. The military defeat of secession only achieved that goal in half. The other half is the war of re-integration, which I posit can only happen in the battlefields of policy making and implementation where the most effective weapons are the soft tools of reason, justice and fairness.
“Has Nigeria not been fighting in this particular war zone for over 50 odd years? While some territories have been conquered in this war, do you not agree with me that there are still vast areas still in enemy hands? If you ask who this enemy is, my honest answer is that it is we as Nigerians.
“The prolonged wave of ethnic agitations particularly Alaigbo, was due to failure to properly implement the post-war reconciliation programme of the Federal Government,” the Ohanaeze Youth Council leader posited.
The Ohanaeze youth leader urged the Federal government and indeed Nigerians to create a path for future development through reflections on historical occurrences.
“The civil war did not occur in isolation. It was a chain reaction to what happened in the past. Nigeria can win this battle of hearts and minds by plugging all the cracks on the wall of national integration for all Nigerians.
“The country cannot win this war by behaving like ostriches. By hiding its head in the sand and thinking that the system is fair to everyone and that all those protesting against injustice such as IPOB and others are just noisemakers. That’s a great mistake,” he added.
“This is part of our efforts to bring to the consciousness of Nigerians the need to win the Biafra war in all fronts, and then, move on to a collective great future.
“It appears the consensus agreement or position taken by all well-meaning Nigerians is that all of us will be better off if the country stays together with the assurance and implementation of fairness, justice and peace. However, this can begin with a deliberate and sincere implementation of the three Rs that was promised at the end of that horrible genocidal war. This can go a long way in reversing the current situation of conflict in the country.”
Igboayaka warned that failure to address the issued that was causing the agitation could force it to spiral out of control. “Nigeria government should speedily implement 3Rs policy, or be ready to see the manifestation of their fear of Biafra in large proportion because similar agitations like Biafra has showed up and will grow out of external and internal control at the end of 2022.