United Bank Africa

The Dearth of Debating Society and the Need for Those on Biafran Front to Debate without Abuse

Pro-Biafra demonstrators across Nigeria in 2017

By Nkem Ekeopara

Last year, some statements were attributed to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the author of the critically acclaimed novel on Biafra, Half of a Yellow Sun, and winner of the prestigious Orange Prize for Literature. She was quoted to have said or written that “I’m Nigerian because a White man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I’m black because the White man constructed black to be different from his white. But, I was Igbo/Biafran before the White man came.” These looked very much like what she could say or write, because of the crafting and truth in those statements. And so many Igbo/Biafrans and some others took to liking it, positively commenting on it, and sharing it when it was posted on the social media by some websites with catchy headlines.

However, after some days, she came out to say that she did not say or write those words, asserting that they were completely invented. It’s sad that people could make out time to create, and put words as it were into the mouths of respected members of our society. It’s sadder that after she denied what was attributed to her, many of those who had hailed her initially started abusing her. I found that quite unbecoming and nauseating.

I’m recalling the above now, because currently, an Ex-US Army Captain, Ij Onuigbo, who runs a Foundation, Ijeoma E. Onuigbo Life Foundation that gives interest free loan to young enterprising Igbo/Biafran men and women to set up and grow their businesses is being recklessly abused on the social media. Her sin is that she called for unity among the groups crusading for the restoration of Biafra. The torrent of abuse being poured on her is very wrong, and quite condemnable. This is not the way to go! Our folks should retrace their steps from this path that practically adds nothing to the cause.

There’s no doubt that issues about Igbo/Biafra are quite emotive, especially now. This should not be a reason for the increasing abusive language we see expressed in discussions on it on the social media. Although this is not unique to the Igbo/Biafrans alone as other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria engage in this habit too, one expects that the Igbo/Biafrans should control their thoughts and weigh what they say or write for better understanding and appreciation of their cause. This is because abusive language could put off someone or a group of people, who could be of great help to their cause. Clear and refined communication should be part of the strategies for pursuing the restoration of Biafra.

It’s said that you cannot give what you don’t have. Perhaps, this trend is as a result of the current state of education in the contraption, Nigeria and the continued erosion of societal values. But this habit is not restricted to the younger generation alone. We’ve seen older generation of Nigerians, of a every extraction, be it of Biafra, Oduduwa, Arewa, Middle Belt and Niger Delta engage in abusive and intolerant language, especially during electioneering campaigns, and even after they’ve been ‘elected’ into office. We’ve even witnessed their use of abusive language on the floor of the National Assembly.

This does not bold well for the society. Sometimes, you see people who are supposedly friends on Facebook for instance say nothing constructive on any issue, but spend so much time abusing each other. This makes one wonder whether friendship has lost its meaning as a result of social media. A true friend is like a good brother/sister. He is protective of his friend in words and in action. I believe that the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, probably envisaged this trend. This is why he incorporated “unfriend” and “block” options in his creation. These enable one to checkmate those whose pastime it is to use abusive language against those they call their friend(s). And I believe that many Facebook users have used these options to weed out unfriendly friends at one time or the other.

Habits when acquired take time to be unlearned if ever they will be unlearned. This is why it’s worrisome. Notwithstanding, people can always activate the “unfriend” and “block” options. But before one could do that, one would have read the abusive language and been offended by it. This can be quite upsetting!

It’s a big shame that a creation that should be used to unite humanity, and used constructively to advance just causes like Biafra is being abused by some people. Those crusading for Biafra need friends. It’ll help their cause. Therefore, those in the Biafran front should embrace the tendency to debate without abuse. Surely, it’ll advance the just cause they are pursuing. And as it’s said, a word is enough for the wise!