A STYLISTIC ANALYSIS OF THE SELECTED SPEECHES OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA
This chapter presents the background to the study, statement of research problem, aim and objectives of the study, scope of the study, justification of the study, conceptual clarification and organisation of the work respectively
Background to the Study
Throughout history, there has never been total peace in the world. Conflicts sometimes occur between countries or within a country; and they are either resolved or escalated principally through language (Osimen, Aniga & Bateye, 2015). In fact, conflict is bound to occur in a pluralistic society like Nigeria either because of unequal representation in government or unequal resource distribution among the different ethnic groups that make the country. Irrespective of their sociocultural and religious differences, linguistic diversity, unhealthy competition and striking imbalance in development among the diverse ethnic groups, the British Government amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 to form a country, Nigeria. According to Ezea (2017), this foundational and systemic defect triggered a series of questions, debates and struggle among the ethnic groups from inception. The nationalist struggle and subsequent formation of political parties were influenced by ethnic rather than national interest, and therefore had no unifying effect on the peoples against the colonial master. At independence, in 1960, Nigeria became a federation and remained one country. Afterwards, the struggle for dominance among the different ethnic groups led to a military coup.
The January 15, 1966 coup d’état which claimed several Western and Northern leaders’ lives and the counter-coup in July 29, 1966 – staged mainly by Northern Nigerian officers, who allegedly murdered many Igbo officers – “altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups” (Atofarati, 1992, p. 2). The events killed the ‘one Nigeria’ mantra that characterised the First Republic politics. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Colonel Ojukwu proclaimed the secession of Eastern Nigeria from the country on May 30, 1967; and the Nigeria-Biafra War began and lasted till January 15, 1970 (Atofarati, 1992). Since then, Nigeria has never been the same again (Achebe, 2013). After the civil war, mutual suspicion between the North and South (especially the South-east) pervaded all the political activities of the country. The Nigeria-Biafra Civil War ended with the slogan ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’. However, the allegation of the structural imbalance of the Nigerian federation; and most importantly, lopsidedness in the distribution of political power and wealth among the different ethnic and geopolitical groups fuelled the renewed struggle for Biafra (Falode, 2011). In 1999, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) began operation. Led by an India-trained lawyer – Ralph Uwazuruike – MASSOB is a secessionist movement in Nigeria which supports the revival of the defunct independent nation of Biafra. However, a group of young Igbos, who were led by Nnamdi Kanu and were not satisfied with the results of protests by MASSOB, formed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in 2012. According to Ibeanu, Orji and Iwuamadi (2016, p. 2), IPOB represents “the most highprofile and radical movement for a separate State of Biafra”. To realise their goal, these youths engage in civil disobedience including the declaration of public holidays and closure of markets in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria and Igbo-dominated markets across the nation. They established Biafran Embassies abroad, an online radio and satellite television, and produced a
Biafran passport, flag and other symbols of sovereignty. On 19th December, 2013, IPOB proclaimed the expiration of Nigeria’s amalgamation as the country became 100 years; and, therefore, the group called for a referendum in respect of the self-determination of the Biafran People. Like all agitations, the IPOB struggle is the set of actions that attempt to arouse public feeling in support of or against an idea, in this case, the recognition of the State of Biafra. The group therefore employs slogans and attempts to awaken people from apathy by giving them feasible actions to perform. Since the language of agitation usually exploits the grievances of a group in order to induce sympathy from the public and to expose its opponents to condemnation, IPOB relies substantially on the use of strategic language, such as those related to propaganda.
Propaganda simply means the clever exploitation of language for the promotion of an idea. It is “the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent” of a person or an organisation (Jowett & O’Donnell, 1986, p. 16). It is usually a vague, deceptive, exaggerated statement (that is, a half-truth) or a complete fabrication and is used either to promote or attack a cause. Propagandists present no argument and they usually associate unrelated objects or ideas (as a mask) with their ideology. In other words, they coerce the audience to believe and support their cause. It is employed in politics not only to project the strengths of a particular candidate, but also to expose the perceived weaknesses of the opponents. Full blown propaganda has, in fact, been employed in war time and warlike ethno-religious crises in many countries, including Nigeria
IPOB’s agitation activities became very radical and intolerable to the Federal Government immediately after the assumption of power by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, and Kanu was arrested on 14th October, 2015, detained and charged with treason. As Kanu’s detention and prosecution did not stop the agitation by his supporters, containment measures (codenamed ‘Python Dance’) were taken by the government against the demonstrators. Kanu was denied bail despite several court orders in favour of his release upon meeting the bail conditions until April 2017 when he was released. After several confrontations between the security agencies and IPOB, the group was labeled a terrorist organisation and later proscribed on 20th September, 2017.
However, Kanu’s whereabouts became unknown on 14th September, 2017 after the security agents’ attack on his home. Like advertising, which promotes a product or service, propaganda intends to sell a person, a group or an idea to the public. In this context, IPOB sells Biafra and its ideology to Nigerians and the whole world. In doing this, the group extols the qualities of the Igbo people and the significance of the South-East region to the development of Nigeria, while President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Government, the North, the South-West, Islam and the Igbo leaders who support Nigeria are denigrated. For example, according to Nwaiwu (2017), the group said: We are not surprise (sic) that the present killings and intimidations in South East … has the backing of the present caliphate in Sokoto, which… follow the steps laid down by their forefathers to wipe out Biafrans and to pave way for the islamization of South east.