#WeAreAllBiafrans is not about Biafra agitation, says author
We Are All Biafrans is a collection of essays focusing on the crisis of nationhood in Nigeria.
In this book, Chido Onumah argues that many, if not all, of the problems of Nigeria are rooted in the structure of the country. He makes a case, as he did in his previous books, for the socio-political restructuring of Nigeria. He argues that the country needs to engage episodic political convulsions that threaten its very foundation, including Biafra, June 12, Boko Haram, the “National Question”, citizenship rights, and “militocracy”.
In We are all Biafrans, Onumah takes on Nigeria’s indolent and reactionary ruling elite – civilian and military – and their allies, as well as bandits in uniform, scoundrels posing as statesmen, and conservative ideologues, religious bigots and ethnic chauvinists posing as patriots. He raises fundamental questions: What is Nigeria and who is a Nigerian? If Nigeria is a federal republic, what constitutes or should constitute the federating units? He posits that the different manifestation of Biafra may well be a metaphor and, to that extent, we are all Biafrans as long as we seek to confront the clear and present danger.
The author notes that we can’t achieve any meaningful progress as a people until we come to terms with the reality of our existence – that Nigeria is a deeply flawed nation – and sincerely and selflessly confront it.
Forging a nation out of the disparate and often antagonistic entities, in the author’s view, is perhaps the greatest challenge confronting Nigeria.
This book, a compilation of my articles published in traditional and online newspapers in the last three years (2013 to 2016), is divided into five chapters.
The first chapter, “The Politics of 2015”, deals with the high-wire politics of the 2015 election which, given its zero-sum character, was rightly regarded by many as a crucial factor in the survival of Nigeria as a country. As it turned out, the election was concluded without any major crisis.
The second chapter, “Dancing on the Brink”, focuses on the issue of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), a controversial subject that splits Nigerians right down the middle, but which the rulers of the country have not been bold enough to confront in a fruitful way.
The third chapter, “Unmaking Nigeria”, highlights those phenomena that not only constitute an ugly phase of our history, but also expose our pretence to being a nation.
The fourth chapter, “Of scoundrels and statesmen”, is a narrative of some individuals and groups in and out of government whose actions have either enriched our polity or reinforced it as “the giant of Africa” only in name.
Chapter five, “Last ‘Missionary’ journey”, is again a reminder that unless we sit at a table to negotiate the terms of our co-existence as a people, our country, to quote the late human rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, “would continue to go round and round”.
Can anyone confidently say that so far Beko’s prophesy has not been the dominant feature of our country’s destiny?
Indeed, in the last fifty-five years this country has been saddled with a cycle of bad rulers whose main preoccupation is enriching themselves, their families, and their friends, instead of initiating clear-cut strategies for taking the mass of our people out of poverty.
Blinded by their frenetic obsession with primitive accumulation and conspicuous consumption, these rulers could not recognize that the only way to build a nation from a multiethnic and multi-cultural society like ours is to construct a national philosophy that will ensure equity, justice and the inclusiveness of all groups, no matter their size.
The failure of our rulers in this regard has only guaranteed that today Nigeria remains nothing but a nationless state. Every action, consciously or unconsciously, that our rulers have taken since independence has only served to amplify our fault lines and unmake Nigeria. Yet, they expect the country to be one united, indivisible and progressive nation.
Of course, the status quo cannot be sustained for much longer, given the growing agitations in different forms across the country.
This book, seeks to trigger the debate that will eventually nudge Nigerians towards kick-starting the process of a genuine re-invention of our country.
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