The southeast, which is composed of five states, is one of the geopolitical zones that make up the Lugardian contraption and geographical expression called Nigeria. The southeast, which is the homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, is one of the legs of the tripod on which Nigeria rests. The Igbo people, who inhabit the southeast zone, are predominantly Christians and practitioners of African traditional religion. The culture of the Igbo people during the pre-colonial era is encapsulated in Chinua Achebe’s anthropological novels; Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine; and other literary works.
And, from their forebears, today’s Igbo people inherited rich cultural heritage, which they are still upholding till now. Colonial rule, which the Igbo people experienced, couldn’t obliterate the Igbo culture. And people of Igbo extraction, such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nwafor Orizu, Mokwugo Okoye, Osita Agwuna, and others fought tirelessly for the political emancipation of Nigeria. Nnamdi Azikiwe played a pivotal rule in the decolonization of Africa. But when Nigeria got political independence, the British colonial overlords helped in the enthronement of the Hausa/Fulani political hegemony in Nigeria.
So, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa defeated his political betters like Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe to become the Prime Minister of Nigeria. However, he was overwhelmed by the political trouble in the western region, then. Consequently, he was killed in a bloody military putsch executed by soldiers, who had revolutionary bent. Because the north’s top military brass and leading politicians were killed while Igbo top politicians were spared, it was tagged an Igbo coup. Consequently, there was a counter-coup in July 1966, which led to the genocidal decimation of the Igbo people in the north. So, the country descended into a civil war following the failure of the secessionist Biafra and the Federal government to reach a truce.
The secessionist Biafra, which was led by Lt. Col. Ojukwu, lost the war. And, since the end of the civil war, efforts are being made to re-integrate the Igbo people into Nigerian society and into our country’s mainstream political parties. But have other Nigerians forgiven the Igbo people for fighting a secessionist war? No, they have not forgiven the Igbo people for fighting a secessionist war. Today, the Igbo people living outside the southeast zone in Nigeria are stereotyped as bad people. And other Nigerians treat them with utter distain and suspicion. Worst still, they have not been receiving a fair deal in the country. They are marginalized in Nigeria’s scheme of things. And, they are treated as second class citizens in the country to which they’ve been contributing their quotas for its development. The sidelining of eminently qualified people of Igbo extraction and the injustices that are meted out to Igbo people have caused the resurgence and resurrection of the pro-Biafra separatist rhetoric and sentiments.
Today, Nnamdi Kanu’s proscribed IPOB has a great number of members, who are ready and willing to execute the IPOB agenda. In the past, before its proscription, the southeast had quaked with violent protests carried out by IPOB members. Although the group has been proscribed, it has formed the Eastern Security Network (ESN). ESN is charged with protecting forests in the southeast. We all know that the Fulani cattle herders live in forests, the place from which they launch attacks on people. And, till now, there is no let-up in the Fulani’s herders’ pillaging of farmlands in the southeast. In addition, they had raped defenceless women and killed farmers who barred them from entering their farmlands.
Those atrocious deeds committed by Fulani cattle herders have scarred the southeast landscape and underlined the necessity of having a security outfit that can complement the efforts of the police personnel. So, the southeast governors had collaborated and birthed a regional security outfit called Ebube Agu. Ebube Agu, which could be likened to the Yorubas’ Amotekun, should be given legal teeth to perform the functions for which it is created. But can Ebube Agu solve the southeast security challenges?
Now, the southeast has become a theatre of a mini-war. It has come under siege what with the violent bloody happenings unfolding in the region with ceaseless rapidity. Now, policemen in the southeast are endangered species. Unknown gunmen do stalk and kill them. And police stations are not spared assault and attack by the assailants.
In Anambra State, a governorship aspirant on APGA platform and former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, was attacked by gunmen while presiding over a youth meeting at Isuofia, Anambra state. Three policemen guarding him were killed in that attack. And the Zone 13 Police headquarters in Ukpo, Anambra state came under attack, too. Two of the policemen who engaged the attackers in a gun duel were killed; and the Ukpo police headquarters destroyed.
In Enugu and Abia states, there were incidences of brutal and fatal attacks on police stations and police personnel resulting in deaths of policemen and destruction of police buildings. In Imo state, not only were police stations and police personnel attacked but also a Correctional Centre was overrun by the rampaging gunmen, leading to thousands of the inmates escaping from the facility. In Ebonyi state, herdsmen had sacked towns there with impunity. And the state has witnessed and experienced coordinated attacks on police stations and police personnel.
But the incidences of attack on police officers and the destruction of police buildings may not abate soon. The masterminds and executioners of brutal attacks on police officers and destruction of police stations have not been unmasked, not to talk of knowing their ideologies and motives for carrying out the bloody campaigns. Now, the frequency of the attack is alarming, and it can cause the incapacitation of police officers, if the perpetrators of the heinous deeds are not found quickly.
Now, it is evident and obvious to us that the entire southeast is being enveloped and thrown into a cataclysm of unremitting bloody violence, which can cause an anarchic situation there. The area is being turned into a river of blood with its dire and unpalatable consequences. And nobody is unaware that anarchic condition and national development are mutually exclusive. Development is put in abeyance in a country that has bloody conflicts.
The governors of the southeast states should settle their political differences, band together, and proffer solutions to the security challenges besetting the area. If no urgent action is taken to address the matter, the southeast may become like the northeast of Nigeria, sooner than later.
Okoye, a poet writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.