When Biafra, Arewa, Odua, Niger Delta republics got writers talking
When the June edition of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Lagos Chapter, recently held its monthly reading and discussion, it had current agitations in parts of the country and the question of Nigeria’s survival as its focus. Lagos Chapter chairman, Mr. Femi Onileagbon, fired the first shot when he warned agitators for Biafra, Arewa and Odua and Niger Delta Republics to thread with caution, arguing that Nigeria wasn’t a finished business yet.
Held in Surulere, Lagos, with ‘Niger Delta, Biafra and the Nigeria State: Authors in the Eyes of the Storm,’ Onileagbon said writers should not wait till things get out of hand before talking and making meaningful inputs to savage the situation.
According to him, “Right here in our midst and elsewhere, we have a mixture of Yoruba, Niger Delta, Igbo and other ethnic groups. So, we are going to talk about Biafra, Niger Delta and the Nigeria state. Are we going to start talking now or wait till when things get out of hand? A lot of people who comment on Facebook are usually ignorant. As authors, our speeches should be free from ethnicity bias.
“We are using Christopher Okigbo as a model for discussion, an author who dropped his pen and picked up a gun and went to war. The good thing is that we don’t have a war yet, but we have a situation where a certain part of the country is telling another to move out before a particular day. We do not want a war, but whether there is a war or not, or Nigeria tears apart or not, we are deeply involved and we need to start deciding what to do. We shouldn’t be reactive. ANA is going to be proactive; we are going to be part of everything. The bottom line is, are we preaching war or a referendum? Writers should not be afraid to speak out.”
Presiding over the reading was Mr. Elohor Ediuri, who castigated many Nigerian elites for being apathetic to the electioneering process, but turn around to blame bad leaders that eventually emerge to ruin the polity. Ediuri described personal voter card (PVC) as the best weapon of political warfare in the hands of Nigerians. But unfortunately, he lamented, Nigerians, who are most vocal about the challenges plaguing the country don’t wield it well enough to win political battles on account of their apathy towards electioneering process.
He noted that those who are agitating for creation of geopolitical zones and regions should know that it is the National Assembly that should effect amendment to the Constitution to provide those clauses for restructuring.
According to him, “Many Nigerians don’t cast their votes during election. They sit at home and believe things will turn around. People supporting any regional agitation should lobby their representatives in the National Assembly for a Constitutional amendment. Those talking about separation should think of the consequences involved.
“If the South West is a country on its own, I will need to change my currency before traveling to Kano. We will have to import cows from the North, but remember that statistics last week showed that thousand cows are slaughter in Lagos State every day. There is advantage in size. The bigger, the better.”
Former chairman, ANA Lagos, AJ Dagar Tola, said, “War is evil, but if those who ought to be canvassing the right war are not canvassing it, then those canvassing the wrong war will become the popular leaders. We should be ready to walk our talk.
“The death of Okigbo in war front is lamentable, but I don’t think anybody wants to say that Okigbo made an error in deciding for the issues he decided for. Today, we all respect Okigbo; we respect him first for his poetry, but even that poetry is poetry that grows in the depth of the ideas of what he wanted Nigeria to be.
“I must confess that I am a socialite; I’m all for a socialite revolution, but the truth is, if a group of people say practically they want to opt out of a country, I support it if it is a mass-based democratically arrived agitation. The only warning is that the issues of bread and butter are not issues of language, of where we are born or where we come from. They are the issues of how the economy and the resources of every given society are managed. Who and who will manage the resources in the Biafra, Odua or Niger Delta Republics?
“These are the fundamental issues we must begin as authors to look at. Who controls the Nigeria’s economy? Why is it that we cannot build or operate refineries? Why don’t we have the resources for our education to be free for every single child born in this country? So, if you tell me you want a Biafra, my question is, will a Biafra give free education? I am not opposed to the Biafra agitation, but even those agitating for Biafra, we must tell them to begin to canvass for the democratic ideals, because if they cannot fight for democratic ideals in Nigeria, they also cannot fight for democratic ideals, whether in Biafra, Odua or whatever!
“We must not be in a hurry to replace some set of collective tyrants with another set of tribal tyrants. Nigeria is rich enough for all with its resources, but one thing is clear: we need a war in this country! Let us not run away from it. War is evil and the life we live now is also evil and we must stand up against that evil.”
BOOK of the month, Sweet Crude Odyssey by Lawrence Amaechi, was also presented to the house. It focuses on issues related to suffering in oil-rich Niger Delta. Amaechi said the book is fictional, but every character in it is real as far as the situation of Niger Delta is concerned, due to many years of oil exploitation, neglect and marginalisation. The book focuses on illegal sale of crude oil, blowing up of pipelines, and those who empower boys to blow up pipelines.
Also, the author of Frogs for Dinner, Feyin Abiodun, lamented the high piracy rate in the country, saying the situation discourages prospective writers, as they are unable to make money from writing to sustain themselves.
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