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Nigeria Masterweb News Report

    Dateline: 06/09/2001 23:58:00

    Voice and Embassy of Biafra
    By Bola A. Akinterinwa

    The leaders of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) announced, last week, the establishment of its Voice of Biafra and an Embassy of Biafra. The Voice of Biafra (VOB) was scheduled to commence operations this week in the United States, wbich is also to play host to the Embassy of Biafra (EOB).

    Establishing a VOB and an EOB in the United States is questionable but interesting from many perspectives. The raison d'etre of the VOB and EOB is shrouded in ambiguity and, therefore, poses challenges of how to interpret the intention of the MASSOB leaders. The choice of the United States as siege social of the VOB and EOB raises the question of probability of US complicity. It is a truism that the US is universally recognised as land of liberty where citizens and foreigners alike can enjoy the right of freedom, have access to justice and exercise their entrepreneurial skills. In this context, will the Bisfrans be promoting their culture, development agenda and general interests in the United States, or they want to use the United States as an instrument against the sovereign and territorial integrity of Nigeria? As land of liberty, can this liberty be used, with or without the complicity of the United States, to undermine the political stability of an independent nation state like Nigeria? Who is sponsoring the MASSOB? Why the choice of the United

    States as host country and not France, which supported the idea of Biafranisation of Nigeria in 1967-1970? More importantly, does MASSOB retlect truly the aspirations of the Igbo people? Who are really the Bisfrans as at today? What is the extent of support of the Igbo people for the MASSOB? Is the MASSOB really serious? In fact, how do we explain and internalise the birth of the VOB and the EOB?

    The VOB and the EOB may be seen as an expression of a political struggle, political protest and therefore, a request from the international community, in general, and the Nigerian government, in particular, to give sympathetic attention to their plight. But what is their plight? From their name, it can be argued that the VOB and the EOB will be campaigning for a State of Bisfra that will be independent and sovereign, and hence will be requiring the re-drawing of Nigeria's international borders. If this argument is tenable, the objective cannot but directly negate the principle of sanctity of colonial frontiers, which is also one of the important pillars of the OAU and the new African Union. But why should any Nigerian be thinking of dismantling Nigeria at this point in time? Without any jet of doubt, MASSOB is complaining against Nigeria as it is and this is why, rather than taking the MASSOB's initiative with kid gloves, Nigerians should seek to understand why the MASSOB opted to have an embassy and a radio station abroad. In responding appropriately to this phenomenon, the problems and implications of the MASSOB's initiative should be put in context.

    First, the EOB is meaningless within the context of international diplomatic practice. It is not an embassy that can lay claim to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. In other words, the embassy is not an official representation that can be recognised. An embassy can have a private or a public character. The EOB cannot be official and therefore, the ambassador-designate of Biafra cannot use the following universally-accepted titles: ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, High Commissioner, High Representative, Charge d'Affaires (including ad interim), Permanent

    Representative, envoy etc. Besides, there is no known State of Biafra with a distinct population, well recognised and that can enter into international relations. As such, the EOB may not be taken seriously. However, current international political history reminds us that people and organisations in similar situation of the MASSOB can still be covertly or overtly supported, especially if the host countries believe in their cause. For instance, the Palestine Liberation Organisation was allowed to be off'cially represented in Nigeria. The PLO had a special status even though the PLO did not meet the requirements for statehood as at the time it opened omce in Lagos. Nigeria considers that the Palestinians are entitled to their own home and to security. Thus, the position of the US government has to be made clear on this. While the likelihood of undermining a united and virile Nigeria by the US is remote, especially in the light of the special Nigeria-US rapprochement, it will still be myopic to take anything for granted.

    Secondly, the issue of VOB and EOB also raises the problem of anti-Nigeria activities at the home level. Many Nigerians want a national dialogue, be it sovereign or otherwise, on issues dividing the people of Nigeria but the Government has been dragging its feet. The MASSOB, whether or not a sovereign State of Biafra is feasible, may not be blamed in the light of the many problems confronting other Nigerians, and more so, in the absence of a forum to discuss the problems. For instance, many Nigerians do not give the desired legitimacy to the National Assembly, which some Nigerians say ought to be the forum for discussion of Nigeria's problems. The manner of election of the members, the personality of many of the Honourable Members, etc, is nothing to write home about. The first Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Fourth Republic, Alhaii Salisu Buhari, made false statements about his personality and induced Nigerians into error to elect him. He was found guilty but the Government pardoned him. The first Senate President, Chief Evan or Evans Enwerem also had the same problem. He was simply relieved of his functions rather than actually punishing him. Again, this is condoning dishonest practices. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, who succeeded Senator Enwerem, was indicted in the Kuta Report, for in11ating contract prices. The leaders simply removed him from offfice. In fact, many Senators were reported to have fake certificates but the politics of cover up is what Nigerians seem to be currently witnessing. The polity cannot be stable for as long as leaders try to be economic with the truth.

    It is particularly saddening that the Federal Government collected deposits from thousands of Nigerians in 1994 for the purposes of building affordable houses and allocating them to the depositors. As at the time of this write-up, houses are yet to be allocated. The deposits have not been refunded but very conveniently, the Government again is contemplating the building of new houses. This type of situation can only demoralise Nigerians and even compel them to want to check out of the country.

    Additionally, last week witnessed a high level of acrimony in professional politics in Nigeria. Four PDP politicians were allegedly killed by the police in controversial circumstances. In the eyes of the Police, the deceased politicians were 'robbery suspects.'. Governor Mbadinuju of Anambra and Chief Offor, a PDP stalwart, have been at a logger head for some time. Governor Sam Egwu of Ebonyi State and the President of the Senate, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, elevated their disagreement to the level of criminal allegations last week. Anyim alleged that some people were after his life. True enough again, the life of Admiral Augustus Aikhomu was threatened before then. So was that of Mrs Nimota

    Ibrahim in llorin. Zamfara, Bauchi, Osun and Lagos States have also had their own shares of the increasing political violence in the country.

    It is also important to draw attention to the fears of Alhaji M.D. Yusuf, former Presidential aspirant and Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum. He said that Nigerians are not likely to have "a credible civilian to civilian succession in 2003... This failure will prepare the ground for military or another form of dictatorial rule." This observation directly raises the problem of Nigeria's professional politicians. Another problem is the phenomenon of sacred cows in national politics. There is still another aspect of the national problem. How, for instance, can we explain the fact that I paid NITEL, Victoria Island, for a change of ownership of a telephone line for more than a year now and still the NITEL Management is not yet able to reflect the new change? If this minor observation is linked to some of the specific fears of the Igbo people, for example, between 1970 and May 1999, no Igbo citizen was in charge of any Command and none of them got to the rank of a General with the exception of Senator Ike Nwachukwu, who again has Northern connection, the MASSOB can be said to have a legitimate basis to exist. However, this problem of marginalisation of the Igbo people has partly, but also significantly, addressed the problem, meaning that there is no need for encouraging the disintegration of Nigeria.

    Whatever is the case, the VOB and the EOB is a pointer to future problems. There is no disputing the fact that the MASSOB has the right to exist as a movement or association seeking protection of Igbo interests. But the protective strategies to be adopted should not be allowed to adversely affect the survival of a united and stronger Nigeria that will be able to protect the interests of all Africans and the dignity of the Black man in the world. In the same vein, Government needs to take the issue of national conference more seriously, as there are problems that have to be addressed beyond the various levels of Government.

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