On the 29th of October, 2011 Biafra Liberation in Exile, BILIE was formerly inaugurated at the Disney Hotel in Owerri. It was a milestone. By that event the indigenous peoples of Biafra finally announced to the world that they have come of age and would take their destiny in their hands and free themselves out of the Nigerian bondage.
Representatives from the states that made up the former Eastern Region were present during the launch. There were detectable mixed feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and yet a lot of expectation and enthusiasm for anticipated liberation. In the inaugural speech by the Secretary of the organization, Dr. Joseph Chukwuderah Madu BILIE’s aim was explained. The Secretary reiterated that the organization’s primary objective is to join efforts with the indigenous peoples of Biafra and other pro-Biafra groups, through peaceful and legal means, in liberating the peoples and land of Biafra from the Nigerian state into a separate, secure, sovereign and independent nation.
The people were reminded that the Project for Biafra’s liberation is purely that of the co-operation of peoples who due to centuries of domicile proximity and interactions have had similar experiences and common historical antecedents. Over the years, the people through interactions of various kinds came to have a good understanding of one another which has resulted in mutual respect, relative peace and stability due to a common world view. It was emphasized that Biafra is a coalition of nations of peoples who are bound by one goal and one destiny; to free themselves from the senselessness of a one-Nigeria. Biafrans are those peoples who want to restore their national sovereignty essentially as they had it before the advent of the European colonialists. Biafrans are peoples who have come to accept that they are on a journey together and want to help each other to achieve their best potentials in a free, secure, peaceful and stable society which Nigeria is incapable of providing for them.
Clearly, there is no group of Biafran nations that wants to dominate and rule over the other. In Biafra, persons can assume positions of responsibility only through a mutually acceptable sociopolitical system of administration. It must be realized that it has never been in the nature of any one nation within Biafra to dominate and lord it over the other. The peoples have always known, as against feudalism, healthy competitions as in the communal wrestling matches which have always been based on the principles of fair play and sportsmanship. Hence it was made clear that in keeping with this age-old spirit of independence and private ownership that has guided the people and just as they have always had it, resources and wealth found anywhere in Biafraland will always belong to the individual or community landowner who only pays taxes to the state for the running and provision of those communal utilities and infrastructures that are better jointly owned and operated. It was also pointed out that a Biafra without a clearly defined and effective system of high standard of accountability, transparency and the consciousness of quality service to the people cannot be imagined.
Around the world and to the peoples within its borders, Nigeria is known as a failed state and the only reasonable thing to do by the various nations hitherto entrapped in it is to get out quickly. And that is what BILIE and other pro-Biafra movements want to help accomplish for Biafra and Biafrans. As a failed state Nigeria is incapable of performing those functions or providing those essential services to the people within its boundaries to justify its continued existence. The reason for this unfortunate predicament is the obvious lack of sociocultural cohesion which is the result of distrust of one another. This distrust comes from irreconcilable and fatally conflicting worldview of the various peoples that make up the Nigerian country.
Some have argued that Nigeria should not have existed in the first place. They say that because it ever existed was the reason for its failure and the inevitable disastrous end. Nigeria from 1914 has existed as a mishmash and motley of different indigenous nations which suddenly found themselves in a state marriage or an inconvenient union orchestrated by some accident of colonial fiats. Nigeria became a fictitious country made up of peoples from very disagreeable and incompatible backgrounds who cannot tolerate one another as fellow citizen of one country. So, with all these myriad of very fundamental problems that have agitated the country, the Nigerian state lost its raison d’etre. In the real world, every institution loses its relevance once it ceases to function for the preservation and benefit of the members. Biafrans argue that Nigeria had long ceased to exist for them because it has long proved that it only exists to their pain, suffering, retrogression, destruction and death. The people unanimously agree that Biafra must leave Nigeria and the question becomes when and how. To answer the first question of when, they agree that the time to free Biafra is now. BILIE stated that it will pursue the goal of Biafra’s independence through peaceful and legal means in conjunction with other pro-Biafra groups which adopt similar views. At the same time BILIE acknowledged that it will readily recognize all other pro-Biafra groups whose views may be different from its own but are genuinely pursuing the goal of Biafra’s freedom and independence.
Ever since the various nations were merged together without consultations or consent by a foreign colonial power, the Great Britain, Nigerians have had daggers drawn at each other’s neck and the radical Islamic Boko Haram has always slashed to kill at the slightest disagreement. At first it was just the poison-tainted daggers but now they use machine guns, bombs and every kind of weapon of mass destruction. And the very urgent question is, of what use is the continuance of a union or unity that only exists at its best, for the destruction of its members? The Nigerian experience has remained that of a society in constant and endemic war with itself; the demonic monster that feeds only on its flesh.
Some people who are of the opinion that the demon should be kept alive argue that separation is like cutting and running away from one’s problem rather than facing up to situation and dealing with it. That sounds manly isn’t it? But if we try to consider the universally acceptable terms of social unions as contractual and that in every contract each party is expected to keep their own part, the question then is has the Nigerian state kept its part for the Biafrans? The government is supposed to provide security and protection equally for its citizens. But what happens when the same government carries out the killings and destruction and acquiesces, even colludes with others who do the same thing? Since 1945 till today none of the perpetrators get punished neither does the state compensate the survivors. Some reading this today will remember the recent three-year jail term given to Ali Sanda Umar Konduga the convicted Boko Haram operative. And in another mind-boggling move by the Nigerian government it decided to pay compensation of N100,000,000, the equivalent of nearly $1 million dollars to the family of the father-in-law of Mohammed Yusuf the founder of the terrorist Islamic Boko Haram sect.
Without doubt Nigeria’s greatest problem from inception has always been its sociocultural diversity. Because Nigeria is made up of peoples who would not agree with each other, it produced a corrupt political leadership and of course, an equally corrupt and decadent populace. It is because of the diversity of the peoples in the Nigerian state that has caused it to be underdeveloped and bereft of any cohesive and enduring national culture which engenders progress of any kind, be it social, economic, political, and scientific or technology. It is the diversity in Nigeria’s population that is responsible for every conflict that ever erupted within its borders, from the smallest to the grandest; the Biafra War of 1967 to 1970 in which a total of 3.1 million Biafran people perished. Nigeria’s diversity therefore is at the root of every problem or conflict in the society. We can name a few, bad governance, corruption, ineptitude, distrust, retrogression, injustice, poverty, lack of a unifying/rallying culture, lack of patriotism and every other vice imaginable that has ever affected Nigeria, is traceable to the diversity in its population.
It is the identification of this all-pervasive problem that has served to hold all the peoples within the Nigerian society from making any progress as the rest societies around the world that gave birth to the acronym BILIE. Ever since its inception the word has been subjected to various interpretations by many people but it can only mean one thing ? Freedom. BILIE or bilie has somehow become a universal slogan to which all oppressed peoples across the world can identify with. It is now an individual’s as well as the collective’s private and open cry for freedom for all people everywhere. But particularly for Biafrans, it spells a people’s dream and their courage to work selflessly, transparently and tirelessly to achieve freedom, excellence and greatness. To the Igbo there is a word in their language that sounds and spells exactly the same and it is translated as; stand, wake, arise. Interesting, isn’t it? Yes, but what is even more interesting is that none of the words is anything passive but they are all action words? What that is saying to us is that freedom is synonymous with action. Both in its initial acquisition and its continued retention, the people must remain active and vigilant and must continue to sacrifice either to gain their freedom or to maintain it. That is what BILIE or bilie is about.
BILIE or bilie is not an ad hoc arrangement. It is a permanent institution, an idea that will continue to serve to remind all men everywhere of the cost and sacredness of whatever freedom they have and why they must actively work hard to maintain it even long after the struggle to win it is over. BILIE or bilie is a people’s vigilante institution to serve as custodian, guard and promoter of a people’s freedom. It tells us that freedom and its struggle is not a time event, it is a permanent struggle between light and darkness, between good and bad, between freedom and oppression. Bilie will continually remind us that we must never go to sleep when we would have won this freedom and that the absence of conflict has never meant the presence of freedom. So at all times we must always check again to be sure that what we got is pure freedom or a tainted one. Bilie will always stand guard at those subtle doors and crevices through which oppression, repression and insecurity creep into the society of free peoples everywhere.
Yes, BILIE, Bilie or bilie is both an institution as well as an idea and will always be the people’s collective property; the commonwealth of all the oppressed, persecuted and unjustly treated people all over the world. Let us cherish her, identify with her and be proud of this timeless idea and institution. Bilie is anti-oppression, anti-persecution and anti-slavery. On the day that Biafra and her people are finally liberated BILIE will formally become Bilie. The change will become necessary because then all the exiled Biafran sons and daughters would have come home and they will no longer have to liberate their Fatherland from abroad. While inside the nation’s secured borders the people will carry on with this march to freedom because the journey has no end, the people will never go to sleep in their watch.
In conclusion we want to show that BILIE or bilie is not only morally right, it is also legally right. On 13 September 2007 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution whose effect is far reaching and altogether wholesome. That was the beginning of a quiet revolution for oppressed peoples everywhere in the world. According to the Chairman of the committee the resolution was the culmination of a 25-year struggle of whether to be or not to be. She said that some powerful nations including the United States and a few others, for selfish reasons, wanted the resolution dead before it was born. (It should be noted that about a year ago the United States discovered the futility in trying to cover the sun with bare hands. They discovered that there is absolutely no reason to be afraid of the freedom and liberty of others. They saw that when all people everywhere are free then everyone actually becomes the winner. So the US finally reversed their position and now supports the resolution. In the end truth, reason and justice prevailed). ?The Declaration (of 13 September 2007) sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It also “emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”. It “promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development”.
By this declaration the floodgates of freedom were thrown open by the apex organization of the world community. By that declaration the world collectively said that all peoples everywhere who had previously been held in bondage or subjugated by any power or principality can now walk free. That marked the reversal of a world order; a dog eat dog world where might was right, was replaced with a more humane world order. For centuries weaker communities and nations of the world had been unwillingly and, outside their own choice, subjects and vassals of other foreign countries. But by that single promulgation the world with one voice said that the captives and slaves are now free and can determine their future and destiny by freely of their own accord, choose who should preside over their own affairs and how. The world finally declared, right as might and ever since has struggled to promote justice and freedom for all oppressed peoples across the world without bias to color, creed or economic status of the people.
On that day the world collectively announced; ?the rights of native people to protect their lands and resources, and to maintain their unique cultures and traditions.? It was a pronouncement that is guaranteed by the collective will and might of the world. In stressing the significance of this resolution the UN General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa in a statement delivered by Assembly Vice-President, Aminu Bashir Wali of Nigeria said; ?The importance of this document for indigenous peoples and, more broadly, for the human rights agenda, cannot be underestimated,? She said that effective implementation of the Declaration would test the commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights. ?I call on Governments, the UN system, indigenous peoples and civil society at large to rise to the historic task before us and make the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a living document for the common future of humanity,? she concluded.
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which came into effect on 25 January 2005 went even further. The Charter recognizes collective or group rights, or peoples’ rights. As such the Charter recognizes group rights to a degree not matched by the European or Inter-American regional human rights instruments. The Charter clearly states in (Article 18) that the state must protect the rights of families and individuals who live within its jurisdiction. (Article 19) says that “peoples” have the right to equality. Right to self-determination (Article 20), the right to freely dispose of their wealth and national resources (Article 21), the right to development (Article 22), the right to peace and security (Article 23) and “a generally satisfactory environment” (Article 24).
But there is one vital caveat here that must not escape our attention. The enactment of rules or laws does not automatically confer on them the practical implementation which is the only thing that makes laws beneficial or otherwise to human societies for which they are made. Laws that are not applied do not worth more than the paper they are written on. So what we are saying is that though the United Nations and African Union have passed laws or resolutions that are binding on member countries of these organizations, the onus still falls on the peoples around the world to actively avail themselves of the injunctions of these rules. Experience has thought us that it is one thing to unlock and open a door within which the captive had been previously held but it is another thing for the captive to find the faith and courage to walk through that open door of freedom. The key here is making the various rules ?living documents? by acting upon them.
This truth can be attested to by those who know a bit about the proclamations of the emancipation of slaves in the old colonial time in the United States and other places in the British dominion, not all the slaves walked free after the declarations of freedom. Some, out of several reasons would not walk through that gate of freedom. But BILIE and other pro-Biafran groups have chosen to walk through this gate of freedom as thrown open to oppressed peoples everywhere in the world. Biafrans by virtue of the declarations of the UN and AU have chosen to become free and independent of the Nigerian state. They will go ahead and through the provisions of these legal documents work to determine their future and destiny without the interference, disruption and conflict of any Islamic hatred, cultural intolerance and the influence of a strange and debilitating culture/religion.
In the end there cannot be a better time than now for Igbo and other Biafrans to chant again as one people the wakeup call by the Lady of Songs, Christy Esien-Igbokwe; teta nu n’ula nihi oge nzoputa elugo. All over the world people are asserting themselves through Self Determination. We have witnessed it in all corners of the world. We saw it in Kosovo. In Ethiopia, Eritrea had to separate to manage their affairs by themselves. And just recently in our very eyes in 2011, Southern Sudan had to part ways with Sudan. Sudan used to be called the largest country in Africa in terms of land mass just as Nigeria is today regarded as the most populous country in Africa. Changes happen and statuses shift, but we must warn us here; 99% of changes in all human societies are initiated and followed through by the human members. And Biafra’s case cannot be different. Through some efforts the people must will Biafra into existence. Let the people be ready to give Biafra everything it will take to be free, including their very lives. We want to see a people who plan and occasion their death for what they seek rather than those that die because they had no choice. Biafra in the 1960s was of the later instance but we are talking of a new one; that must be willed into being through much work and sacrifice.
By: Osita Ebiem.