31 May 2021
30 May is meant to commemorate the millions of people who died on the Biafran side during the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970.
This year, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the leading separatist group, is remembering war victims over two days, with a candlelit march on Sunday evening and a strict order for people to remain indoors on Monday for their own safety. IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu in a broadcast from his safe haven in Hertfordshire, England warned that anyone in the southeast of Nigeria, which formed the breakaway Biafra region in 1967, seen breaking the stay at home order would suffer the consequences, presumably violence.
This is wrong on many counts. For starters, Kanu’s broadcast threatening violence against people that don’t obey the stay at home order is a potential crime in England. If people are killed or hurt as a result of the order, he could be guilty of the crime of “encouraging or assisting a crime”.
Many of Kanu’s supporters claim he is a freedom fighter. However, it is quite clear that he and his followers don’t know what “freedom” really means or even care about it. While it is right to honour the dead from the civil war, it is deeply ironic that the people who died believing they were fighting for their freedom from Nigerian oppression are being used to deny other people their freedom to decide how they spend their day. Even if something is the absolute right thing to do in terms of commemorating the dead, using force to ensure compliance is dangerous do-good fascism.
It is also fraught with problems, beyond the threat of violence, that Kanu and his supporters are too ignorant to recognise. There doesn’t seem to be any consideration for people who may need to leave home because of an emergency. What if a woman goes into labour? What about sickness requiring hospital treatment? The fear of being attacked could prevent people from seeking urgent help.
Kanu in his comfort in Hertfordshire doesn’t seem to have much concern either for many people, who may be sympathetic to Biafra, but are on daily pay. Why should they lose a day’s pay just because it has been dictated to them that they must commemorate the dead? Why should anyone lose pay for people that died 51 years ago?
It is absurd to be honouring people who died for freedom by denying freedom of choice to others. A stay at home order is an affront to the dead. Honouring the dead is a matter of choice. The living also need to be honoured by not being denied the right to earn a living today.