By Afam Echi
States in the South East region of Nigeria have been on the boil since the factional Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sought to enforce its sit-at-home order imposed since last week. The enforcement has taken a toll on the area causing loss of lives, shutting down economic activities and overwhelming people with fear. Lives were lost and properties destroyed in Imo and Ebonyi. Enugu was not left out in the mayhem which got school children and teachers humiliated.
The official IPOB group led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu reportedly has ended the sit-at-home order following the consequences in the region but the Simon Ekpa faction are still bent on imposing and enforcing it. This has left observers wondering at the leadership tussle where the agitators are working at cross purposes against each other.
The IPOB agitation is a struggle that cannot be wished away no matter how much we pretend about it. The consequences are huge each time it is played. I guess it is on account of this that the South East delegation which came as an off shoot of a meeting hosted by the Imo State government agreed to approach the federal authorities.
The sit-at-home order is a pressure action on the federal government to release the IPOB leader who was inhumanly rendition from Kenya and has been incarcerated since June 2021. After the federal government showed defiance to a court order ordering his release, it went ahead to press more charges against the IPOB leader.
At this point we must tell ourselves the truth. Those who think that freeing Kalu will cease the Biafra agitation may be on the wrong path. I think Kalu’s release is only a palliative action to stem the violent uprising frequently occurring in the South East region. It does not strictly address the root of the crises. Biafra agitation might scale up even with the release.
This is because what is at the centre of the agitation is the injustice meted to Ndigbo which is very very provocative to the youths and which cannot be justified. Naturally, people are free to let out their emotions in any situation. You cannot beat a child and force him not to cry. That is another height of injustice.
Ndigbo are critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project and have made immense contribution to be so unfairly and unjustly treated. Some see it as mere wickedness and enviousness against Ndigbo? The success story of the people and their enterprising spirit in virtually every endeavor globally is alleged to be the main reason it is hated by other ethnic group.
There are also those who still nurse the anger against the South Easterners for prosecuting a war against the rest of the country. It has been posited in certain quarters that this is the major reason other tribes do not want the Igbo to occupy the highest seat in the land which they once tasted 63 years ago.
No other Igbo man has become the president of Nigeria after Nnamdi Azikiwe who fought so hard to secure independence for the country alongside other patriotic citizens. It is like an unwritten official policy that no Igbo man should rule Nigeria again drawing from the body language of other ethnic groups, yet Gowon on the side of the federal troops after the ward declared “no victor, no vanquish”
You can never beat a child and shut him up from crying. That is a greater injustice. There is usually no peace in any environment where injustice is the order of the day. The acclaimed marginalization of Ndigbo is real and it became very pronounced under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who took it to the roof top.
It would be recalled that early in the life of the Buhari administration MNK was also incarcerated from 2015 to 2017. He was released on bail by two Igbo senators and was accused of jumping bail after the military attacked his country home in a raid 17 Igbo youths met their untimely death, Kalu escaped by the whiskers.
There are strong indications that even the end of MNK will not end the Biafra agitation just like the end of Odumegwu Ojukwu and the exit of Raph Uwazuruike (Massob) has not stopped Kanu, Ekpa and their loyalists from springing up to continue the fight. If the real issues are not addressed, the gross marginalization of Ndigbo, the fight for a separatist state of Biafra will continue to hunt the country.
The stakeholders interfacing with the federal authorities should take this issue into consideration as they struggle for Kalu’s release to avoid shooting themselves in the leg. This is in the event that Kanu or any other person resumes the fight. The nonchalant attitude of ignoring the agitation by the authorities is an all wind that blows none any good.
The negative impact of the fight on the Nigerian nation is comparable to the disruptions that occur in a system. According to the Systems theory, because of the inter-connectivity in a system, once a part malfunctions it is going to affect the entire system. Stability can only return when the disrupted part is fixed.
Some Nigerians mock the disruption of business activities in the South East region and the consequent insecurity saying “let them kill themselves, after all it doesn’t concern us”. That is pure fallacy. When there is sit-at-home in the region and consequently insecurity, the food supplies from the north cannot come down and the suppliers lose money.
Similarly, the federal government and other levels of government lose revenue that should accrue from business activities. The impact is far from being restricted to Ndigbo. In the same vein, whatever happens in other parts of the region affect the entire country. It is foolhardy to say, ‘’it is their concern”
Simon Ekpa reports indicate have released another date for a sit-at-home again commencing from 31st July and running for two weeks. This should not be allowed to happen. Those negotiating peaceful settlement should pedal down more strongly. Ndigbo in other parts of the land are relocating back to base following the ill treatment and discrimination that they are experiencing.
It will amount to double tragedy returning home to face another bigger challenge of insecurity that can consume their lives. East or West, home is best as the refrain goes. The home ground should not be made scary to any willing returnee. It is hypocritical to deny the contributions of Ndigbo in all aspects of development.
The government we must state should demonstrate some sincerity in applying political solution to the MNK imbroglio. This is purely a political challenge and insisting on the court to resolve same may mean unnecessary elongation and playing to the gallery. This we think is the best approach. Beyond that it should bring justice to bear.
We insist on the above because knowing our governments and their capacity it appears practically impossible to win a guerilla warfare which the agitators are using to launch their protest. The government would not be able to police the entire environment same time with its available resources and manpower to tame the boys.
These and more are the reasons it should end the Biafra agitation by doing what is right.
Dr. Afam Echi, is an Owerri based journalist and opinion analyst, writes on national issues.