There is a mainstream Nigeria, a peaceful independent country with several ethnic groups singing peaceful songs of coming together on Independence Day for a greater purpose. Then there is non-mainstream Nigeria, in forms of radical groups recording and posting beheading on YouTube, and Radio Biafra.
On and on discussions surrounding the post-war effects of the Nigerian Civil War have continued to thrive. Perhaps, like some parts of the world, painful pasts are deliberately easily swept under the carpet, with a delusional intention to bury them. That’s why having a growing population of Nigerians listening to the radical views of a man who goes by the name “Director” is perceived with the all too common notions of irrelevance.
History reminds us that the past may be forgiven and neglected; never however will it be completely forgotten. Two decades after, the Srebenica wounds are still raw, and the graves remain fresh. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić almost forgot this, until he was forced to flee after being targeted by an angry Bosnian mob with stones, shoes, and bottles as he arrived at the mass burial held to mark atrocities he thought had been forgotten. One rock is understood to have struck the leader in his face, breaking his glasses. The grievance, some eight thousand Muslim men and boys were slaughtered at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces amid the break-up of Yugoslavia.
In a staggering contrast, during the two years, six months, one week and two days of the conflict, the Nigerian Civil War is recorded to have cost someone to three million civilian casualties. This raw information, framed in aggressive discourse is what Radio Biafra has consistently introduced to the Nigerian public: that there are still many Nigerians living with embers in their heart, from the brutality of that historic conflict. A point many can agree on is this: the “Director” seems the least of issues the Nigerian government has to face, especially with a terrorist as Shekau still at large. He poses less threat even when compared to seemingly repented militants like Tompolo and Asari Dokubo who took up arms against the Nigerian state in the defense of their beliefs. But, like a dangerous aphrodisiac, the call of the Director serves as a stimulant for conflict. His views, which have merely agitated social space, is a reminder that until certain issues have been addressed, a war that quickly translated into the eradication of an ethnic group will not be so easily forgotten.
In essence, it is important to remember that there are radicals that aren’t terrorists, but you also have terrorists who are not radical: men such as the businessman who sold all his properties, joined Boko Haram and carried out a suicide bomb attack on the police force headquarters in Abuja. As much as it is important to make sure that these concepts are well-divorced, it is important as well to note that both thrive on ideology. Against the core message that the Director preaches are the number of Igbo families that have moved on since the conflict over half a century ago, the staggering number of Igbo entrepreneurs who have held the economics keys to even cities as old and vibrant as Lagos, and the reality that his narrative is completely ethnically skewed in part — by ignoring the equally disturbing number of non-Igbos who suffered as well, some from marginalization by the Biafran soldiers when they were forcefully drafted into and killed by a war that was in essence not their own.
The Director may be indirectly pointing out a path to addressing past problems by confronting them. As morally disturbing as his speeches have been, he reminds his huge radio and online audience about the need to reignite discussions regarding what happened in the past. His method may be quite extreme, the framework of malice and anger, and the shared belief by a growing number that Nigerians are against the Igbo’s is utterly wrong. But the message nonetheless is essentially fundamental if the pillars that now hold Nigeria will stand the test of time.