Obama, Buhari, and the Preventing of a Free Biafra
“The Buhari administration I think has really reenergised the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way,” a United States official said as reports that it is seeking approval to sell Nigeria 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.
Either the Obama administration is ignorant of Buhari’s human rights abuses against the Igbo in Biafra or they are complicit. Buhari has often used Boko Haram as a foil to generate arms and sympathy from the West.
The United States has begun to strengthen ties with Buhari ever since he attained power in Africa’s most populous country. The previous President, Goodluck Jonathan was a friend of Israel and yet spurned the Obama administration. With Buhari now as President the tables have turned. Nigeria is now ruled by a former military leader and an avowed Islamist.
Given Obama’s engagement and pasting over of Buhari’s own abuses, little doubt remains that Obama knows of and believes Buhari’s Islamist background is a strength.
Obama has also strengthened US Special Forces throughout Africa, placing Nigeria as a priority. Yet, given reports that Buhari has used weapons given to him to fight Boko Haram, on the Igbo in South East Nigeria as well as willfully encouraging Fulani Tribesman to butcher unarmed Igbos, one wonders why improving ties between the US government and Buhari is something to be cheered from the perspective of the USA.
Buhari has allowed the Fulani herdsman to run wild and murder the Igbo. Independence movements have grown, and a near unanimous belief that Buhari is complicit pervades Biafra.
At the end of the day, the Obama foreign policy has actively sought out to strengthen Islamic regimes at the expense of moderate actors, whether they have been secular Islamic states, Sub-Saharan Christians, or Israel. By selling military armaments to Buhari, the Obama administration has pitted itself against Israel’s growing presence in the region and has hampered Israel’s ability to militarily support an independent Biafra.
Why Biafra Matters to a Decolonized Africa
Across the African continent, foreign powers came from both the East and West, drawing artificial boundaries and using their control to plunder and ravage traditional communities. Nowhere else in the Eastern Hemisphere did humanity witness such a concerted effort to destroy once thriving communities. From slavery (backed by both the Europeans and Arabs) to economic and political control, Africans were colonized in mind and body.
The current conflict in Biafra is a microcosm of a new sort of colonial struggle. The slow creeping takeover of Southern Nigeria by Islam is no longer slow. Nigeria and other countries like it, where an admixture of various peoples were smashed together by the colonial powers have become even more susceptible to an Islam supercharged in a mission to gain control of Nigeria’s Southern region, which is where much of its industry and oil are.
An example of this are the raids by Northern Fulani herdsman have grown more punitive and destructive. This past week on February 28th Fulani herdsman killed at least 300 people in Agatu. One survivor said, “As we speak, Odigbeho-Agatu has been razed. The massacre there today (Monday) had no equal because Odigbeho is one of the most important and well-populated villages in Agatu. Our people were caught napping because we relaxed when we heard what we considered the cheering news that the federal government has intervened. Unfortunately, the Fulanis knew we had relaxed and took advantage of us to unleash a terrible massacre on us. As we speak, corpses litter everywhere in the village. I have been trying to reach many of my family members without success. We feel terribly let down by the government that announced a joint security team. We have not seen the security men- be they policemen or military, as I speak.”
Essentially the central government offers the Biafra region protection, but never enough against the raiders. Both the central government and the Fulani are Muslim. Along with the growing violence the Free Biafra movement has been hit hard recently. Their leader Nnamdi Kanu is on trial for treason. Biafrans have been outraged as they fear and feel a return to the turmoil that marked the Biafran Civil War, where 3 million were killed or starved to death between the years of 1967-1970.
The military and police have taken to killing unarmed protesters as the situation becomes increasingly bloody.
What makes Biafra all the more crucial for the future of Sub-Sahara Africa is that it is made up of an overwhelming number of Igbo. The Igbo believe they are descended from Israel and self identify as Israelites. With this in mind It is not surprising that in the Biafran Civil War, Israel actually gave supplies and support to the region. The Nigerian dilemma essentially pits Islam, Christians, and the Igbo who have long struggled to reclaim their heritage from colonization against one another.
Biafra has become a battleground to learn whether Africa can prevent a continuance of colonial influence under the guise of a religious conflict or if it can rise and understand that much of the ideologies confronting one another were imported from those nations who forced both slavery and colonization on Africa. That goes for both Christian Europe and Islamic Middle East. The irony is that the Igbo, as they begin to decolonize their religion and culture, have exemplified far more indigenous behavior than their fellow Nigerians. This is what makes Biafra important. It is a region experiencing a return to its ancient Hebrew roots and should be supported in its desire and drive to do so.
There have always been those leaders who have argued for a Pan Africanism, as if Africa was ever pan or of one mold. It never has been. Such assumptions are reactions to the trauma of being subjugated by foreign powers. What is important to understand though, is that Africanism is more about a return to accepting the fact that the artificial constructs of a post colonial Africa has essentially committed Africans to constant struggle within their current boundaries.
A free Biafra would be a recognition that the boundaries are meaningless and should be exchanged for a return to what was before. This would go a long way to reconstructing Igboland to what it was before Europeans and Arabs uprooted it along with wreaking havoc across the rest of Africa. Biafra should serve as a test case for other areas of Africa.