Age Of Secession: Biafra

For most of my readers, the name Biafra will have no significance whatsoever.  Once upon a time, though, I thought to write a thesis on military and diplomatic history that examined four quadrants of military and diplomatic effectiveness for separatist groups and rebellions throughout history, and in the quadrant for diplomatic effectiveness but military ineffectiveness, the obvious example would be Biafra.  In the late 1960’s, the Igbo regions of Nigeria along with some other areas (including the oil producing regions around Port Harcourt in the Niger delta region) rebelled against Nigeria in the aftermath of massive interethnic problems in that troubled nation.  Over the next few years the separatist region managed to attract a great deal of international sympathy but was unable to successfully fight off the Nigerian army and preserve its bid for independence.  The end result has been decades of continued abuse and marginalization of the Igbo in a country that is a tinderbox of competing religious and ethnic divides, one of the worst examples of a misbegotten nation that exists in Africa, and the most populous of them as well.

In contrast to the Kurdish region and Catalonia [1], it does not appear that there is an active secessionist movement in southeastern Nigeria at the present day.  As I have readily admitted, my first hand knowledge of the situation is very limited.  That said, an interesting article I read indicates that the smoldering resentment of the past and present marginalization of the area and its people, especially when one considers the high degree of radical Islamism that Nigeria faces in the politically dominant northern part of the country still has not died and still threatens the unity of Nigeria.  As is often the case when one makes hot takes on an ongoing situation, it is unclear what repercussions will result from this particular action, but it is definitely worthwhile to know that there is at least a segment of the world that knows about and that pays attention to what is going on in Nigeria and the way that the resentments of the past can bring with them the possibility of present troubles and divisions within countries.  Hopefully it is not a blameworthy thing for me to be deeply interested in this phenomenon myself.

At any rate, the action of the people of the Igbo regions of Nigeria and surrounding areas along the Niger River and on the coast to their historical resentments and present grievances is to engage in a massive work stoppage.  In contrast to recent work stoppages over gas and oil prices in Brazil, for example, this one is not economic in its basis, at least not entirely.  Southeastern Nigeria does have economic grievances that their region continues to be neglected, in their own eyes, when it comes to development based on the oil money that comes from the region but is often spent elsewhere.  The area seems to view itself as an internal colony whose well-being is not respected by the authorities in Abuja or the military and political elites that misrule Nigeria.  It is possible, though, that a great deal of the economic trouble of present-day Biafra is connected with the interlocking problems of Nigeria that happen to magnify that discontent and make it very unlikely that Nigeria will be able to effectively deal with the separatist region and its continued demands.

It is likely that both the Igbo and the Nigerian state are in a mutual no-win situation when it comes with each other.  The Igbo are predominately Christian in a nation that has largely been ruled over by Muslim dominated elites from the North.  The Igbo are a people whose entrepreneurial skill tends to make them a focus of hostility in the north whenever there are ethnic or religious tensions in that troubled region, and it is likely that the Nigerian central government does not wish to spend infrastructure money in an area where there is a high feeling of separatism.  The Nigerian government neither wants to address the legitimate concerns of its isolated regions nor spend money that may well go to increasing the capacity of the region to resist unwanted unity in other cultural and religious and political aspects, and so it appears as if the region is caught in a spiral of unceasing conflict over a variety of related concerns such as internal colonialism of the kind that, say, West Virginia has long dealt with in the United States, the refusal of the Nigerian government to protect Igbo merchants and residents in other parts of the country, as well as the religious, political, and ethnic divides within Nigeria that prevent its full unity.  So far the work stoppage has done one important thing at least, and that is remind the rest of the world that the people of the area still remember their time as an independent nation and still have unsettled business within Nigeria or apart from them to address.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/10/03/the-age-of-seccession-the-kurds/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/10/04/the-age-of-secession-catalonia/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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