In a recent interview, the newly crowned Lion King of Ndigbo Chief Nnamdi Kanu made a sudden 180 degree turn when he said that there is “no deadline for the actualization of Biafra.” This reversal of his previous position that Biafra is seconds away from being actualized indicates that the current fantasies on Biafra are colliding with practical and political realities on the ground. The admission also supports my thesis that Biafra is like the mathematical concept of infinity, elusive, yet enigmatic. I will support this assertion with analogies and examples.
One of the enigmas in mathematics is the concept of infinity. No matter the school age at which you are introduced to the infinity concept, it is incomprehensible to the mind. Infinity is a mystery, perhaps, too abstract and too far from reality that it could mean anything. In Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics, Prof. Eugenia Cheng stated that if we’re not careful about exactly what we mean by “infinity,” then logic will take us to some very strange places that we didn’t intend to go.
Like infinity, people that are not exactly sure of what to make of Biafra have been coming up with strange characterization. For example, Biafra has been turned into a metaphor for people that feel “discontent with the Nigerian Project.” It has also been characterized by Prof. Pat Utomi as “a catchall phrase for being unhappy.” As some point too, our very own Mr. Osita Okechukwu even pronounced Biafra dead.
To understand this enigma called Biafra, let us for a moment equate it to infinity. Infinity goes on forever, so Mr. Okechukwu must be wrong in pronouncing Biafra dead; it is older than Nigeria and therefore, cannot be for the people “discontent with Nigerian project”. Of course, it is bigger than anything we can think of and therefore cannot be the tiny enclave IPOB, MOSSOB and Co are attempting to confine it to.
Next logical step; let’s assume that infinity and by extension Biafra is a number. Mathematically, infinity plus one is still infinity. This is saying ∞ + 1 = ∞. This follows from the fact that if infinity is the biggest thing there is, then adding one can’t make it any bigger. Now, subtract infinity from both sides using the standard rules of cancellation will leave us with 1=0. This is a disaster in mathematics. Something has evidently gone wrong. What is it?
To understand what has gone wrong, we need to go back to the basic rules of mathematics. The equation was manipulated as if infinity was an ordinary number. But according to Prof. Cheng, infinity definitely isn’t an ordinary number. Subsequently, Biafra is not an ordinary entity that can be hijacked and used for personal aggrandizement. The question though, remains; why is the “realization” of Biafra elusive? Is it a Spirit? If it is a Spirit, what does the Biafran Spirit look like?
Though I am not claiming to know it all, I know for certain that Biafra is like chi, in Igbo culture, a concept (according to Chinua Achebe) so central in Igbo psychology and yet so “elusive and enigmatic.” Like the Chi, Biafra is and may remain elusive in order to be eternal and enigmatic. So, while I may not know the whole truth about Biafra, I know that those who attempt to rebel, in an attempt to “realize” Biafra, by becoming nihilists fail to achieve authentic rebellion.
Remember Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart? His Chi agreed with him when he strived for prosperity. But the moment he chose to become arrogantly domineering, to the extent of killing Ikemefuna, he fell. He fell because his Chi disagreed with his actions. He walked before his godly guardian and therefore ran the race of his life to exile. Ojukwu was also made to run the race of his life to Ivory Coast. We know what happened to Uwazurike. Now, for Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, the fantasies of Biafra is once more colliding with the realities. That is why he is admitting that there is “no deadline for the actualization of Biafra.” He is also beginning to sound like Uwazurike.
So, is the quest to “realize” Biafra a walk before our godly guardian? How can we really discover what Biafra is all about?
The journey to discovering the type of thing that makes sense of infinity, according to Prof. Cheng, took Mathematicians thousands of years. This discovery process involved some of the most important developments in mathematics such as set theory and calculus. The step to the discovery of Biafra should start with our acknowledgment that Biafra, like Chi, has been our guardian spirit from birth. It is only the enigmatic Biafran Spirt that could explain how a people crushed by the Civil War could rise from the ashes of defeat and once more reclaim an envious position in Nigeria. To remain enigmatic, all we need do is to discover, demonstrate and display this Biafran Spirit.
In math jargon, the Biafran Spirit is enigmatic, ranging from negative to positive infinity. The reason why it has remained elusive like infinity is for it to remain enigmatic and eternal. To really understand how the enigmatic Biafra Spirit is, you should attempt to internalize the concept of a circle not having a start-end point. Biafra is like a circle with infinite radius, an infinitely long line. It goes on forever. Is an attempt to actualize Biafra an attempt to truncate its radius?
There is another terrible thing Prof. Cheng said could happen to infinity if we think too hard about it: multiplying infinity by infinity will still give us infinity. That is ∞ x ∞ = ∞. Canceling out one infinity on each side, we get ∞ = 1. This is the worst outcome because an infinity that is supposed to be the biggest thing there is, should definitely not be equal to something as small as 1. Similarly, Biafra is humongous and should never be equated to 1. So, don’t think too hard about it.
The moral of the analogy for Biafra is that just like infinity, we have to be rather careful what we do with manipulating the enigmatic Biafran Spirit in order to avoid weird things happening. We should though completely disagree with the pronouncement of the death of Biafra or the misrepresentation of Biafra, my Biafra to unhappiness. So rather than being frightened that Biafra, will not be actualized now, I want you to be astonished that it will remain enigmatic and will defy space and time. Let Biafra continue to inspire mystery, bafflement, awe, and even skepticism.
I know that the mere thought of Biafra as an elusive concept makes your brain hurt. Don’t worry, we all felt the same way after being introduced to the concept of infinity in math. But once we rose above the psychological drama-trauma of the new concept, we figured out how to solve problems with infinity even without wrapping our brains around it completely. To remain enigmatic, Biafran separatists must rise above the drama-trauma of “Biafra or death”. No matter how beautiful and well-crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death.
So, don’t hold the Biafran Spirit hostage or think too much about it. Just use it to advance your personal and collective goals across the breadth and width of Nigeria and the world. Elevate the “never say die” Biafran Spirit into a pragmatic politics.
The summary of this thesis written as directed by my Biafran Spirit is this: Biafra like God, which is Chi in Igbo Cosmology is unique, enigmatic and mysteriously eternal. Whether it is “actualized” or not, there will be no other concept of a physical or ideological nation on earth like it. Not one. Not now. Not ever.
You can email Churchill at Churchill.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi