| by Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
(Review essay of Osita Ebiem, Nigeria, Biafra & Boko Haram: Ending the Genocides through Multi-State Solution [New York: Page Publishing, 2014, 222 pp, US$12.84, pbk, US$10.00, kindle ed/£9.53, pbk, £5.99, kindle ed])
( June 5, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) On this very day of 29 May 2014 that commemorates 48 years of Nigeria’s launch of the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, what more appropriate publication to read, and review, than Osita Ebiem’s excellent book, Nigeria, Biafra & Boko Haram: Ending the Genocides through Multi-State Solution.
Ebiem wastes no time, at all, to locate the source of this catastrophe, human-made, lest we forget: Nigeria. His chosen epigram for his 222-page thesis is from cerebral playwright and poet Esiaba Irobi: “… Nigeria, a fiction on the edge of extinction”. What a choice! The great Irobi would be proud of Ebiem’s masterful production.
Ebiem’s discourse on the catastrophe that is Nigeria is an urgent reminder to the world of the responsibilities of the state in society and the dire consequences that could occur if there were any doubts or erosions on the salient features of these roles. Ebiem zeroes in on the Nigeria state as a genocide-state. Indeed. No organisation in human society has yet demonstrated a greater capacity and facility to carry out a genocide against a designated people as the state, as history clearly demonstrates in the past 150 years – starting from the Belgian monarchy/state-organised genocide in the Congo basin in the 19th century (3 million African constituent peoples murdered), the German-state genocide against the Herero people in Namibia in the early 1900s (65,000 out of 80,000 Herero were murdered or 80 per cent of the total Herero population wiped out), the German state genocide against the Nama people in Namibia in the early 1900s (10,000 Nama were murdered or 50 per cent of the Nama population destroyed) the Turkish state genocide against the Armenians in 1915 (1.5 million Armenians were murdered), the German state organised genocide against the Jews (1938-1945 [6 million Jews were murdered]), the Nigeria state organised genocide against the Igbo (29 May 1966- 12 January 1970 [3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of Igbo population murdered], 13 January 1970-Present Day [tens of thousands of Igbo murdered]), Rwanda state genocide against the Tutsi (1994 [800,000 Tutsi murdered]), the Sudanese state genocide against the Darfuri (2003 [300,000 Darfuri murdered]) and other constituent nations in the south of the country (since 2006 - [tens of thousands murdered]), the Democratic Republic of the Congo/contiguous states/proxy states genocide against constituent peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (since the mid-1990s [5 million constituent peoples murdered]).
The irony of the Nigeria genocide-state is that its British conquest creators (human-made!) were aware, right from the outset, of this impending catastrophe: chief conquest state operative Frederick Lugard had intoned: “south and north [Nigeria] are like oil and water that do not mix” (Ebiem, Nigeria, Biafra & Boko Haram, 2014: 47). Another conquest overseer, Hugh Clifford, responds to the subject, quite profoundly, in the contexts of both history and geography: “Nigeria is a collection of independent states, separated from one another by great distances, by differences of history and traditions and by racial, political, social and religious barriers” (Ebiem, 2014: 11). Regardless of these thoughts, though, the conquest administration “cobbled together” (12) these disparate peoples and worldviews for the express interests of British political and economic expropriatory goals (12, 26-27). Igbo resistance to the conquest was instant and variegated, as Ebiem recalls, and the occupation’s response to the Igbo was consistently and uncompromisingly brutal. Thus, the occupation’s indifference and/or connivance at Hausa-Fulani-north region organised pogroms of Igbo immigrant populations in Jos andKano (1945 and1953 respectively) and its police’s massacre of 21 unarmed, protesting Igbo mineworkers in the Enuugwu colliery in 1949 (Ebiem: 27) underscored this British trenchant policy to the Igbo. Against this sordid background of Anglo-Igbo relations, Ebiem contends, British activist involvement in the Igbo genocide, launched in north Nigeria on 29 May 1966, became largely predictable (77-81). This genocide is ongoing, as indicated earlier.
“[I]n the interest of the next ones”
If the catastrophe that is Nigeria is human-made, what about its solution? Human-agency, of course! Osita Ebiem:
No generation of human beings should live as if the world comes to an end after them. Every new generation of people must conduct their affairs with the understanding that whatever prestige, respect, advantage, and infrastructure they enjoy as a people or society was worked for by the people in their past … Hence the people in this generation must work at freeing all the entrapped sovereign nations and their people from the traumatic union of one Nigeria … this generation cannot afford to depart this stage without dissolving the Nigerian union in the interest of the next ones. (added emphasis) (184-185)
It is not often that one reads a book on such an incalculable human-made catastrophe by an author of demanding honesty, some might say, “insistent honesty”. Ebiem is calmly but emphatically telling all the constituent peoples in the catastrophe that is Nigeria: Every people here, please go your own separate ways in peace; live and let live. Nothing more.
On this 29th day of May, every Igbo woman and man and every woman and man of goodwill across the world would do well to order Ebiem’s Nigeria, Biafra & Boko Haram. Please read it with family and especially children (10+). The world is surely a much safer place with this text.
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is visiting professor at Universidade de Fortaleza and specialist on the state and on genocide and wars in Africa. Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe