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Discover Nigeria: Our Union, Biafra and a State of Different Things

Questions have always been powerful tools for teaching, particularly based on the capacity they give to us to read between the lines and truly interact with the subject being taught, in a manner that arms us with knowledge that is experiential.

If you will allow me to quibble a bit: ‘History’, someone once said, ‘may not actually repeat itself, but it often rhymes.’ And now more than ever before, Nigerian history seems to rhyme like copious poetry. Cases in point being Buhari’s reclamation of Nigerian territory as a General Officer Commanding and then as Commander-in-Chief from Chad and Boko Haram in 1983 and 2016 respectively. Then, his preference for cerebral Yoruba speaking ‘matadors’ rather than ‘doormats’ to deputize him in Idiagbon and Osinbajo while maintaining his hardliner stances on corruption at both eras of his leadership of Nigeria. Call it poetic license, déjà vu or the self-plagiarizing of our national story and you won’t be wrong. The facts on ground remain: Nigerian history does rhyme—almost repeating itself on many occasions.

That said, I have written this piece to help you further discover Nigeria…and possibly, the defunct Republic of Biafra—a part of our rich history, swept under the carpet, for which we remain in denial about.  So let me ask a few questions: Why did Jaja Wachuku, Nigeria’s first Speaker of the House of Representatives resign on the eve of the January 15, 1966 coup? Being a friend of United States President, John F. Kennedy, could he have known about the coup before it happened? Did his claim of resigning based on his disaffection with the political status quo at the time, exonerate him from being killed? Or was is it all coincidence? I think not if you read between the lines.

Nigerian history does rhyme—almost repeating itself on many occasions.

A popular Judeo-Christian tradition is the Jubilee. It is a fifty-year period in which Jews are required to cancel the debts of fellow Jews, liberate slaves and reinstate landed property to the rightful owners. It is also a time when Jehovah, the God of the Jewish nation is expected to liberate them from oppression. Two of the most significant Jubilees have been the last two before this one; the first in 1917 characterized by the Balfour Declaration which liberated the land (now called Israel) from several hundreds of years of Ottoman Turk rule; and the second being in 1967 when the Jerusalem was recaptured in the resounding victory of Israel over the Arab world during the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War.

Now, you might ask why all of this? Or even dispel this piece as an attempt at cheap Zionism. But the significance of the Jewish Jubilees to the happenings in Nigeria between 1966 and 1967, with happenings in 2017 pertaining the quest for an Igbo State just do not go away at the whim of any anti-Semitic ideals. Very recently, pro-Biafran agitator, Nnamdi Kanu’s profession of being a Jewish proselyte coupled with his ability to meet steep bail conditions, one of which was to produce a highly respected Jewish leader as a surety, fuelled many more questions in mind. I mean, it is widely known that the Igbos have always claimed to originally be from Israel, and without doubt, bear many cultural similarities with the Jews which in themselves, may not be enough to establish any real connection. Both are a hated people; largely distrusted; who subsisting by commerce have won for themselves a reputation for amassing great wealth over a period of time, often from little or nothing. Yet the Igbo-Jewish connection leave many unanswered questions:

For instance, were the happenings that culminated in the declaration of independence of the Republic of Biafra related to the Jewish Jubilee Year of 1967? Why was Israel one of the first countries to provide support and assistance to the fledgling Igbo Republic when it seceded? Does the current of State of Israel tacitly approve of agitations for Igbo self-determination? What did Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reference to Biafra as victim of a genocide in his 2017 Holocaust Remembrance Day speech mean? Did Israel support Biafra out of kin or out of duty because it likened the humanitarian calamity of the Nigerian Civil War to the Holocaust? Was Nnamdi Kanu’s incarceration and release connected to the Jewish Jubilee of 2017?

These questions do not seem like questions Nigeria would want to answer today. But they are questions that would not go unanswered for too long. Perhaps, in another fifty years, the country will be politically matured to confront the obvious but until then, 2017 may jolly well be 2067 as 1917 became 1967 for the State of Israel.

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Nehikhare Omotayo Igbinijesu is an Economist, Poet, and Social Entrepreneur. 'He is the author of The Code: A Simple Story About Raising Great Women' and 'Marriage: 12 Questions You Need To Ask Before You Say, “I Do”'. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Akudo and two sons. He is Co-founder of Stuffsilos.com, a motivational resources company based in Lagos. You can email him via nehijesu [at] yahoo.co.uk

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