I was surfing the net last Monday, when I incidentally saw that my article of last week on the above subject had been posted on the Nairaland forum for discussion. Nairaland is a popular online social forum among bright and curious, informed and willing-to-be-informed minds for discussion of topical issues of national and international interest. The views could be critical, serious and sometimes comic; but it is a forum where young minds share ideas and exchange jabs on hot matters or breaking news.
My piece was actually termed “Breaking News” and by the time I visited the site, there were already hundreds of comments on the two threads discussing the article. There were mixed reactions from different sections. What did not surprise me was the ethnic dimension to the arguments- persons with Yoruba names and other Southern groups aside Igbo berating the Igbo for being pathological secessionists and having no regard for One Nigeria; and the interesting manner the Hausa names dismiss the threat of secession as an empty one, saying that the Igbos were just noisemakers who did not have the substance of war or political will as well as rallying point to secede in the current arrangement of things. The Northerners and (non-Igbo) Southerners on that forum had rabid remarks on the Biafran Pound issue, describing it as a betrayal on the part of the Igbo, who had always been the black sheep.
But the Igbo folks were divided on the issue. Some, who were probably hearing of the development for the first time, were, surprisingly, very proud of it, describing it as warning signals to the Nigerian State of an impending and inevitable breakup from the rest of the polity in the face of deprivations, denials and marginalization the Igbo people had suffered since independence. The sentiments were that the Igbo Nation would be the stronger and more prosperous of the two when it eventually breaks away, as exemplified by the popular acceptance, attraction and higher value of the Pound vis-à-vis the Naira. This group insisted that the Igbo people would not rest on the oars until they got what they wanted or complete what was started in 1967.
The other Igbo group pooh-poohed the entire line of discussion, claiming that the Igbo had no such ambition to re-invent or re-create Biafra. In fact, they consider the piece posted on Nairaland as the architect of some government agent sponsored to indict the Igbos and seek ways to label them as felons so as to punish them for not supporting or voting for President Buhari. Put differently or simply, it was an article meant to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
To my amusement, the name “Sheriff Folarin” even became a subject for discussion; it was not anyone’s name, but a fabrication. But the Igbos said it was not their propaganda to intimidate the rest of the country as the author, “Sheriff Folarin” was obviously a Yoruba name and that National Mirror was a Yoruba newspaper. But the other ethnic elements contended that the name was adopted by one Igbo writer to give the impression that it was either a government ploy to damage their reputation and go after the Igbo folks, or it was an Igbo agenda to tell the world how much prepared they were to leave Nigeria and how accepted and prosperous they would be in the eventuality. But someone mentioned further that “Sheriff Folarin” was real and that he was indeed a very senior academic in the university and a popular columnist that was well respected. It was then that some commented that the Biafran Pound article was an old one by the same author sensationally and mischievously recycled by the person that posted it on Nairaland. One very critical commentator said Nigerian academics were in the habit of writing “beautiful proses” out of the figment of their imagination, just to enjoy themselves and display their writing skills and in the process, heating up the polity or raising unnecessary alarm. He said there was never and there would never be a Biafran Pound accepted or spent outside the shores of Nigeria. However, when another member of the forum asked if the critical commentator had ever travelled to the places the author mentioned to find out for himself, the Mr. Critical Commentator never said anything again.
The article is still being discussed on Nairaland, and as the comments come, the “non-existent” Sheriff Folarin simply reads and smiles and checks himself regularly in the mirror to be sure he is still in existence or that the forum members are right after all. Well, for the avoidance of doubt, I am Sheriff Folarin and I authored that article under review only last week after returning from one of my numerous visits to West African countries. As a scholar of international relations, I take pleasure in “voyages” of discovery and enjoy travelling by all means of transport (except Legedez Benz) to understand social and human (informal) relations among West Africans in its totality. The journeys enrich me with deeper knowledge from this social laboratory; it also helps me in my research and teaching of regional integration, African international politics and Nigeria’s diplomacy. I enjoin Nairaland members to at least travel to Ave-Condji/Ila-Condji (Benin-Togo borders) and find out the truth. They will return with details that will be useful to themselves, their forum, Nigeria and to the sub-region of West Africa. I hope to return to Togo for a conference in few days, and I have chosen to drive myself like I did in in mid-July, which will afford me the opportunity to follow up on the Biafran Pound development.
As for the Federal Government, whatever action that might have been taken so far should see to it that Nigeria’s neighbours are not in actual fact compromising its territorial integrity and that the Nigerian embassies and military attaches are doing the job they are there for- smoothening relationship and scooping information that are of interest to national security, and feeding home with such for prompt but carefully thought-out action. A situation, in which an outlawed currency in a sovereign state is still a legal tender in neighbouring states, no matter the academic approach is applied to describing it, is, to say the least, an affront on Nigeria’s territorial integrity, undermining of its stature and position in African politics, and embarrassing to all of us.
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