Tofa’s Fictional June 12 and the Book of Biafra By Steve Osuji
I was in a quandary as to how to open and manage the long, sad story of Biafra and June 12, 1993 in just about 1000 words until I read Alhaji Bashir Tofa’s comment on the issue. Recall that June 12 represents the day Nigerians voted for a certain MKO Abiola; the day they bonded and chose Nigeria for the first time in her life and for her sake. Remember June 12, the D-day that took the baton from the Biafra war on our relay race of infamy. And remember Tofa, the neophyte who was drafted to run against MKO on that day of history, a man whom the gods ensconced on the laps of history but who can’t figure out that phenomenon even 20 years after.
What did Tofa say? He said that the June 12, 1993 election is fiction, a dead issue. If you thought he made a mistake, he didn’t, he repeated it a few days later in Daily Sun interview (Wednesday June 12, 2013, page37) thus: “I sincerely believe that it is an episode that we need to get over with and look forward to a better electoral process and, therefore, a better democracy.”
Gee! This really is the real problem with Nigeria; we are so blessed with non-leader leaders. How could a former presidential candidate, a leader in every respect describe his country’s history as fiction and ask that it be forgotten? How can you manage today and shape tomorrow if you discard yesterday? Is it possible that Tofa cannot see the connection between yesterday and today or, is he simply shuffling the cards of perfidy that has been perfected by the average Nigeria elite? Can’t he see that for 20 years June 12 has not gone away and like an aggrieved ghost, it will not? It has to be atoned.
JUNE 12 AS A SHORT CHAPTER IN THE BIAFRA BOOK: If Tofa cannot fathom a history in which he was an actor-observer, how can he decipher the mysteries and metaphysics of the Biafra war of 46 years ago? Of course he suffers a blurred vision (or no vision at all) like most Nigerians, and surely cannot see that June 12 is but a short, sad chapter in the Biafra-Nigeria story. Whereas June 12 is an injustice to MKO Abiola and Nigerians of goodwill, Biafra was injustice to the Igbo race and humanity. Whereas Abiola lost his mandate, his wife, his businesses; a few Nigerians died and we lost our resolve to reconstruct our mother land anew, Igbo race suffered genocide. Untrammeled genocide executed with licentious impunity. It was about the extinguishing of the lives of about one million people, yes 1000,000 people. It was the infamy of a brother gleefully slaughtering his brother man, woman and children by sword, by axe, by machete, mortars and by starvation. It was a cold calculation to exterminate.
The Biafran injustice unlike June 12 is the story of vengeful hatred, of mass killing of a people on the streets of Nigeria, of beheading people and loading their torsos on Eastern region bound trains, of cutting open pregnant women and harvesting their fetuses, of forced digging of own graves and burying alive, of mass execution, and mass burials on shallow graves…of unspeakable blood-cuddling bestiality not known in modern history. To begin to talk of material losses of Ndigbo in that blight is to chase a rat when one’s house is blazing. Is it the malicious shrinking of Igboland into a potato-sized, landlocked area it currently occupies, the excising of the mineral rich areas, the seaports and worse, seizure of entire towns and cities built up by the Igbo. For instance, the entire Port Harcourt which built by Igbo was hijacked and to hide the infamy, a funny re-designation of the streets and neighbourhoods with quasi-Igbo names was enacted. Thus after the war, Umokoro (the children of Okoro) suddenly becomes Rumuokoro, a blatant rumour and national thievery that has remained unchallenged till today. Oh, what woeful national chicanery turned to state policy! And we have lived this lie for 46 years.
The Biafran injustice, unlike June 12, is the orchestrated brigandage of seizing Igbo houses and estates across the country in the guise of abandoned property. If it is not coordinated stealing on a national scale, how could a man abandon his property in his country? And many are still keeping those stolen properties till today, suffering no pang of conscience, passing to their generations, accursed, bloody heritage. What about the stolen shares, voided insurance policies, lost cash balances in the banks, lost businesses and business debts? It was a holocaust by another means but unlike Hiroshima which has continued to enjoy physical, emotional and spiritual restitution, Biafra gets only snide remarks and Igbo have received no concessions, no reconstruction, no reconciliation and no sign of remorse from their traducers.
THRIVING CULT OF VILLAINS: Tofa calls June 12 fiction because Nigeria too is fictional. He wants us to forget it because we are a people living in denial. All this means nothing to him because he is a part of the growing cult of villains leading us as we shamble through this journey to nowhere. They do as they like, they say what they would, they live in a heady, heedless world of their own. They invoked Biafra upon us, reaped the bounties and left us to nurse the wound and live the trauma. For them Biafra was fiction better forgotten and un-interrogated; same June 12 – fictional Nigerian history.
But what might be the mindset of a man who participated in the history of a people and does not recognize it. Tofa did not see his duty as a leader in Nigeria in June 1993 to re-enact a robust democracy in Nigeria. The same way General Ibrahim Babangida could not see that history was handing him a gift as the maker of modern Nigeria. He was so enamoured by the immediate fropperies of power he couldn’t see it. Sadly, he still has not seen it as he still not reconciled to it. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is MKO Abiola’s kinsman who suffered from acute case of sibling envy. He bad-mouthed Abiola even in his travails and in death, he would not acknowledge or recognize him notwithstanding that he was the chief beneficiary of June 12. His tragedy today however, is that even after enjoying the largesse of June 12 as a two-term president of Nigeria he remains a wee little personality under Abiola’s shadow.
General Sani Abacha is gone, so ingloriously gone that he is better left well alone. Chief Ernest Shonekan who was a subterfuge president for a few unremarkable days is still around or is he? Same for Senator Arthur Nzeribe the master of no scruples, the old man who would leak the soup plate with his tongue as Igbo would throw their jibe. He who was in the vanguard of that mindless scheme called ABN; the very instrument for scuttling June12. Where on earth is he now? Name them: Chief Tony Anenih is still up and about, roaming the world seeking to fix things that are not broken. Anenih was the erstwhile chairman of Abiola’s party that won an historic election. We must not forget General David Mark, reigning senate president. He was among the young Turks, the giddy ‘Babangida Boys’ in the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) whom Babangida said, said Abiola must not be president. Mark still has not said anything to Nigeria on June 12.
Enough said. But a man who does not know where the rain started to beat him, will never know where it stopped beating him, that is vintage Chinua Achebe. If we do not know that our troubles started with Biafra and the Igbo question we will be long in the cold.
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