By Akeem Lasisi
Chido Onumah’s We are all Biafrans brings a fresh perspective to the national question.
In book business, there is definitely something in a name. Once a book passes the test of a title that is not just catchy but also grand, the writer has scored a high point.
With We are All Biafrans, Chido Onumah can lead the class in this respect. The title bears a compelling force and creative mischief that could make even the worst enemy of Biafra want to read it.
But the beauty of the book is the surprise that awaits the reader in terms of its true contents. Instead of being one dangerous argument to convince every reader that he has the Biafran blood in him or that he should be ready to carry arms, it is a collection of essays largely on current national issues, all directly or indirectly establishing why Nigeria needs to politically reinvent itself. It is a collection of the articles that Onumah published in newspapers between 2013 and 2015.
In all the pages, he screams for socio-political justice. The reader will thus have no problem deciding where the writer stands. What some of them who have flair for reading about other areas of life may mildly grumble about is the author’s decision not to include non-political essays. Is it that he did not publish any essay on soft areas during the period captured or he does not engage in this at all? Whatever the situation is, ventilating the book with stuffs on culture, gender and travel would have further enriched it.
But this does not in any way reduce from the importance of the work. We are all Biafrans does not only smartly market the Biafran question. Onumah’s perspective to it is broad and it hammers on what many consider to be the only viable option for the survival of Nigeria in terms of the need to engage in a fundamental dialogue. Although the conference advocated by Onumah is the sovereign type, it is surely not too difficult to see that the country needs something like this since a house built on sand of circumstances and corruption cannot stand forever.
The book opens with a prologue, ‘Settling accounts with Biafra’, an article by seasoned critic and writer, Edwin Madunagu. Onumah uses the piece first published by The GUARDIAN in 200 to wet the ground for the arguments he advances on various national issues, especially as it affects the controversial Biafra phenomenon. Madunagu believes that events have overtaken a replay of the stubborn war, but he opines that some cleansing still needs to be done in terms of what provoked it.
In the title article, “We are all Biafrans”, Onumah reinvents this idea by urging Nigeria to honestly deal with the Biafran ghost. According to him, a major mistake that many people are making is seeing the Biafran agitation as an Igbo affair. He notes on Page 162, “I don’t think there is anything immoral or criminal for Nigerians – from East, West, North or South – who feel justifiably aggrieved or oppressed in a federation to seek to address such grievances or oppression. While the current agitation by Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous People of Biafra movement to wage war against Nigeria can’t be the solution, it affords us the opportunity to, once again, interrogate Nigeria, And it is simply because we have refused to do so that Kanu and others like him across the country have thrived over the years.”