Need for cooperation between Igbo leaders and southeast secessionists

The fallout of Lord Lugard’s yoking together of disparate ethnic nationalities to make up the political entity called Nigeria without getting the concurrence of ethnic leaders is the incessant threats of secession, which are being mouthed by Nigeria’s ethnic champions.

The chequered history of Nigeria is replete with morbid tales about how some ethnic groups tried to secede from Nigeria at different periods since she came into being. But Nigeria, a heterogenous country, has not disintegrated, as feared by many people. Some other countries,which have ethnic heterogeneity as Nigeria has, have, however, split into many different countries. For example, think about Ethiopia and Sudan. The two countries, which have the common feature of ethnic heterogeneity, had broken up, causing other countries to emerge from them.

Is Nigeria not a cat with nine lives? It is a cat with nine lives in the sense that the fratricidal Biafra-Nigeria civil war and other bloody political conflicts, which occurred in Nigeria, had failed to cause her dismemberment. Had the Igbo people won the civil war, the map of Nigeria would have been re-drawn, excising the sovereign state of Biafra, and perhaps other areas, from Nigeria.

Before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war, Isaac Adaka Boro had declared the Niger-delta republic. The metaphoric reference to it as a candle in the wind aptly illustrates and encapsulates its brevity. Again, we have not forgotten that the northern people threatened to pull out of Nigeria in their nine-point programme over some national issues. Nigeria overcame that threat to her existence and continued to exist as one indivisible political entity.

More so, over the years, Nigeria has been wracked by ethno-religious crises, which had the potential of causing her dismemberment. The north, which is the hotbed of religious crisis, has been erupting in religious conflicts with its disastrous consequences. The maitatsine religious crisis, which occurred in the 1980s, is still fresh in our minds. Again, when Abuja was slated to host the 2002 Miss World Beauty Pageant, Moslem faithful kicked against it, throwing Nigeria into a religious crisis. In fact, a fatwa was placed on a journalist, who wrote that Prophet Mohammed would have been a spectator at a Miss World Beauty were he alive. Sectarian violence, which has characterized Nigeria since her inception, has not caused her disintegration.

More so, the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola, polarized Nigeria. It threw Nigeria into a political cul-de-sac, and caused the deaths of some notable NADECO members, who were agitating for the revalidation of MKO Abiola’s stolen political mandate. It took the deaths of key political actors during that period such as Chief MKO Abiola and Sani Abacha for Nigeria to return to political stability. Their deaths paved the way for the birthing of the fourth republic in Nigeria.

Although Nigeria has practised representative government for more than two-twenty years, her successive leaders (both political leaders and military rulers) have failed abysmally to make Nigeria a truly united and egalitarian nation-state. Consequently, the issues that caused the Nigeria-Biafra civil war have continued to rear their ugly heads up in our political polity. The Igbo people have continued to allege that injustices are being meted out to them in the country. For example, they always point to the fact that no Igbo person is deemed qualified to occupy a top position in our country’s security architecture. Again, admission into unity schools in the country is designed to favour northern school pupils at the expense of those from the southeast. That discriminatory school admission policy is a proof that Nigeria has not become an egalitarian nation-state.

The maltreatment of the Igbo people in Nigeria has caused the resurgence of the pro-Biafra separatist rhetoric and sentiments. So, when Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed IPOB, launched into a ceaseless tirade against the ruling Fulani political oligarchy, it resonated with millions of Igbo people. They idolise, eulogize, and lionize him, exalting him to the status of a god. And they have acquiesced into his teachings and ideologies. It is believed that his regular radio programme radicalized his followers. His radio programme, which was always broadcast on the pirate Biafra radio, would demonize the ruling political elites.

Read also: Nigeria versus Biafra: the hypocrisy of Great Britain

In fact, the violent agitation for the creation of the sovereign state of Biafra is linked to Nnamdi Kanu’s incendiary comments on the radio Biafra. The militant wing of the proscribed IPOB is accused of executing homicidal deeds in the southeast. But the leaders of IPOB have continually denied that their members were perpetrators of those murderous deeds. So the atrocious murders committed in the southeast are blamed on unknown gunmen. But who are the unknown gunmen? Today, the spectre of the dreaded unknown gunmen attacking innocent people creates a climate of fear among the southeast people.

That is the chief reason why people abide by the weekly sit-at-home order declared by the secessionists to show solidarity with the detained Nnamdi Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu, who jumped bail and went abroad, was brought back to Nigeria through extraordinary rendition. He is, now, standing trial for treasonous offences. His detention and ongoing trial at the federal high court, Abuja, has incensed his followers to no end. Consequently, in response to his continued detention at the DSS facility in Abuja, the IPOB group has declared a weekly sit-at-home on Mondays to compel the federal government to release him, unconditionally. However, the IPOB leadership said that it has suspended the weekly sit-at-home order.

For a while now, the southeast is shut down on every Monday. The observation of sit-at-home on Mondays, and on other days, which IPOB leaders will ask people to sit-at-home, depending on their whims and caprices, have caused problems for the people of the southeast area. The shutdown of the southeast on every Monday and on some other days have caused economic losses to the southeast governments and the downtrodden. People whose survival depends on their daily earnings are deprived of the opportunity to either ply their trade or open their shops for businesses on Mondays so as to earn money. As a result, they go to bed on empty stomachs on those days. Again, it has negatively affected school children in the area because their teachers have not taught all the topics in their schools’ curricula. Can ill-prepared pupils and students pass competitive external examinations by themselves?

While IPOB leaders have repeatedly said that the group has suspended the observation of the sit-at-home on every Monday, it is still observed as the people in the area have mortal fear for the enforcers of the sit-at-home order. But one pertinent question has cropped up: Are the IPOB leaders and the enforcers of the sit-at-home working at cross-purposes? My extrapolation from the IPOB leaders’ narratives is that the falcon cannot hear the falconer, anymore. Has the IPOB supreme leader created a Frankenstein monster, which he and his leadership team cannot control?

Now, at this critical juncture of Nnamdi Kanu versus the federal government of Nigeria, it is pertinent that Igbo leaders and the IPOB leadership should reach a common ground and tease out a concurrence on their stand regarding the detention of Nnamdi Kanu and the IPOB’s agitation for the creation of the sovereign state of Biafra.

Both groups should, also, know that the strident calls for the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will not become a reality if the Igbo people fail to put their house in order and achieve unity. Releasing Nnamdi Kanu, unconditionally, and ceding the presidential seat to the southeast geopolitical zone are steps that should be taken to douse the rising political tension in the area. They will address the issues of marginalization and political ostracization, which the Igbo people alleged that they are experiencing

Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State. 08062220654

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