• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo


How regional agitations breed instability, heats up polity

How regional agitations breed instability, heats up polity

…Govt must be deliberate to end hostility – Observers

In 1990, when the late Ken Saro-Wiwa founded the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), the campaign or rather, agitation for socio-economic and environmental justice for Ogoniland was formalised.

Since then, the Ogoni ethnic minority people of the South-South geopolitical zone have persisted with their non-violent resistance and protests, even after the death of their leader.

From the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), to the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and the Yoruba Nation the in South-West Nigeria, to Boko Haram in the North East, and probably, to the most pronounced, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East, different demands have been made and are still being made on the Nigerian state.

Read also: Military vows payback after IPOB kills 5 soldiers in Abia State

But as every region of Nigeria agitates for one thing or the other, the demands keep breeding instability and heating up the polity, amid fragile peace.

Some pundits are not living in denial of the impact of the many agitations, especially on the economy and security of the country.

If there were no agitations, Bem Hembafan, a retired security officer, noted that the billions of Naira expended in fighting the agitators would have gone into developmental projects.

“In the last 10 years, Nigeria has spent huge funds, enough to build two new cities like Abuja, in fighting Boko Haram and insecurity. That fund would have built industries and other infrastructural amenities for the people of the North-East zone if there was no insurgency,” Hembafan argued.

Many businesses that closed down in the North-East at the peak of the insurgency are still struggling to rebound and some corporate organisations that left the region have not returned, leaving the region’s economy in shambles.

Moreover, the economic impact, according to Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior university lecturer, is obvious in the South-East zone, especially with the sit-at-home order that grounds businesses across the zone every Monday.

“If it is possible, no government will allow public holidays because there are less activities, hence they lose revenue. Then imagine what both the government and businesses lose every Monday due to the sit-at-home order enforced by IPOB. So, agitations come with a huge cost on the economy,” he noted.

He further argued that the Federal Inland Revenue Service and even the state revenue services cannot collect revenues due to the government in places where agitations are rampant.

“You cannot go to a place besieged by agitators to ask for taxes because businesses are often closed down and the owners even need help from the government to rebound,” he noted.

Of course, the government has been tasked severally by some concerned citizens to find lasting solutions to the agitations.

In his comment on the recent killing of soldiers in Aba, Abia State, during the sit-at-home observance in remembrance of Biafra Day across the South-East zone by alleged IPOB members, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, president general, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who condemned the killing, also tasked the government to find lasting solutions to the recurring agitations across the country.

Read also: Shutdown in Aba as residents comply with IPOB sit-at home order

The leader of the pan-Igbo cultural group suggested dialogue in handling the agitators rather than force, which has not quelled the agitations.

Toeing the same line, Hembafan argued that Boko Haram still kills, sacks villages and holds people hostage today, in spite of the force used on them.

“I think that sustained dialogue with these groups will help in understanding them, discouraging them and reintegrating them into a one and united country.

For Akagbule, the government should also make efforts to address some of the genuine concerns of the agitators.

“If the government cannot grant IPOB its wishes, at least, it should obey court order to release their leader to ensure peace in the South-East, those who have been crying for marginalisation, economic emancipation and better representation in government should be heard, while those asking for impossible things should be told why such cannot be granted. This is the dialogue people are asking for in handling agitations,” he said.

Considering the growing insecurity situation in the country, which is almost overwhelming the security apparatus, Marvin Okemute, a lawyer, noted that the government should be firm in handling agitations to quell recurrence because huge funds are deployed and lost in fighting agitations and most importantly, lives are lost including soldiers, whose families suffer the most.

According to him, the country should deploy its scarce resources in developmental projects and in reviving the economy now than in fighting agitations.

But leaving agitations to escalate, according to Hembafan, will result in anarchy as many non-state actors will take advantage of the situation to terrorize innocent citizens.

But the pundits unanimously agreed that Nigeria should address the root cause of the agitations by going back to her constitution and reviewing it to accommodate the welfare and protection of all citizens to ensure more understanding and peaceful coexistence among the people.

A concerned citizen, who craved anonymity, said that there would be no amount of force that can bring lasting peace in Nigeria except deliberate dialogue.

“I have said it on several occasions that kinetic means will not yield the desire result. The more government uses force, the more the agitators develop thicker skin. The solution for me is a transparent dialogue with all those who have one issue or the other against the government of Nigeria. The government must listen to them. If it means conducting a referendum to feel the pulse of the citizens and to find out what they really want, so be it. We cannot continue to live a lie that all is well, when it is crystal clear that the country is torn apart,” the concerned citizen said.