The re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and his subsequent detention at the Department of State Service (DSS) has further pitted the Federal Government against Kanu’s supporters.
The manner of his arrest, which many have described as “kidnapping” from Kenya, and the refusal of government to proceed with his trial, may have riled many of his supporters.
On July 26, 2021 when Kanu was to appear before the court, the DSS refused to produce him, which angered many.
“If there are any serious allegations against Nnamdi Kanu, the regime will hurry to try him and convict him. Since there is no serious case against him, the regime has chosen to play ‘hide and seek’, while desperately searching for a political solution. The allegation of treasonable felony seems frivolous as we all know that,” Martin Onovo, a former presidential candidate, said.
To press for the unconditional release of their leader, IPOB has since announced a sit-at-home in all the states in the South-East for Monday, August 9, 2023.
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But the agitators have been advised to seek other avenues of resolving the impasse as shutting down economic and social activities in the geo-political zone may boomerang on the people in many ways than one.
They have also been warned that toeing that route may aggravate the standoff between Abuja and the secessionist agitators, which may lead to use of force by security agencies. So, to avoid unnecessary loss of lives, the group has been urged to tread with caution.
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Recently, Samuel Ikome Sako, president of the internationally unrecognised proto-state of Federal Republic of Ambazonia, which has been fighting with the Cameroonian authorities for declaring its independence, has been touring Nigeria with his team, meeting and deliberating with the Nigerian government on the safety of his people who are across some states in Nigeria as refugees.
In one of those meetings, the president noted that the leadership of the country carved out of southern Cameroon, was in Nigeria to plead for the authorities to see his people as helpless refugees, hence, demand for valid documentation and harassment would add to their suffering as many at home are dying in the hands of Cameroonian soldiers.
The rationale for him is, “If my people all die, whose liberation are we fighting then, and there cannot be a country with a people”.
Same principles apply to the several agitations across Nigeria today. From Biafra to Oduduwa, the safety of lives and property within the areas of the agitators, matters most.
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Of course, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which has not hidden its demand from the Federal Government, is set to clash with the government for re-arresting Nnamdi Kanu, its leader.
While Nigerians await retaliatory actions from IPOB, which has been brimming hot since the incarceration of its leader, many observers think that any aggressive action from IPOB may result in bloodbath in the region as witnessed recently with the growing insecurity in the region.
Already, IPOB is set to enforce its sit-at-home order across the eastern states from August 9, 2021, an order many think will further stifle the economy of the region, which is recovering from the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and growing insecurity in recent times that has seen many businesses exit the region.
According to Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian historian and Commonwealth researcher based in Brussels, African governments on several occasions have used force to quell agitations in their countries and Nigeria is not different.
“It has happened in Southern Sudan, Eritrea, and the same is happening in Ethiopia now, Southern Cameroon and Nigeria,” he said.
He noted that in recent times, Nigeria has stepped up actions against agitations, especially IPOB and now Oduduwa Nation agitators, for a singular reason that no voice of discord should be heard even when the conditions of coexisting as a country are not favourable.
“In every agitation, people will die for challenging the status quo or for seeking their rights, but it is usually the innocent and poor people that are sacrificed when weapons clash in such areas,” he said.
Citing an example with the Tigray war, he noted that the Ethiopian government would do everything to ensure that the region remains in the East African country despite the huge casualties.
Onikoyi advised IPOB to tread with caution and bear the interest of the people they are fighting for in mind, as ordering businesses to shut down and people to sit at home will only worsen their woes.
In his views Chigbu Onumah, a lawyer and activist based in Onitsha, Anambra State, noted that more young people have lost their lives to the Biafran cause since the emergence of IPOB and that more are going to die considering the inhuman approach of the present administration to agitations.
“I will advise IPOB to suspend the sit-at-home order for now and look for other ways to demand for the release of their leader because our people are the ones that will die in the hands of the Nigerian soldiers again. I have seen soldiers open fire on Biafra agitators, many lives were lost and they will not relent in killing more when ordered to do so again. But it is a shame that the government has refused to address the reasons for the agitations and rather use force to suppress people,” he said.
He thinks that a better way to go is by changing their strategy of engaging the governors, senators and prominent Igbo sons, dialoguing more and taking the matter to the United Nations as it is clear the safety of the Igbo Nation is not guaranteed in Nigeria, especially by the present government.
In same vein, Valentine Nkwazema, real estate developer and hotel owner in Owerri, noted that most people across the eastern states live on self-help as government presence has always been lacking in the region, so closing down their source of livelihood for a day or two may not draw the needed sympathy.
“The Nigerian government has always frowned at the Biafra cause, and with the look of things, it will go any length to suppress the agitation and that is why we want IPOB to use other means that will not expose the vulnerable people to more hardship to fight the Biafra cause,” he said.
“Governors, senators and prominent people from the region are not talking because of fear of intimidation by the government; their children are also not here, so IPOB should bear our safety in mind because our governors are more interested in the national cake than lending support to the Biafra cause”.
However, Onikoyi insisted that when violence fails, dialogue will win, hence advising the agitators for Biafra, Oduduwa, Ambazonia Republic and even in Spain, to keep the dialogue on without violence, pressing harder at the UN and other international bodies to make their cases.
But will the Nigerian agitators listen as the government fails to address reasons for the agitations?
A prominent South-Easterner has also urged against being confrontational with the current government, as according to him, “it has proven that it can wipe out the entire people without batting eyelids.”
“Our people must be careful in the strategies they adopt in the pursuit of self-determination. Shutting down the entire East is further punishing your people. The Federal Government actors are not there. By so doing, you are destroying your economy. I think we should not give the government the opportunity to inflict more harm on us,” the observer said on condition of anonymity.
He urged the agitators to liaise with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other groups that have shown to be concerned about the plight of the Igbo Nation, for a harmonised approach to seek the political and economic emancipation of the people in the zone.
He also noted that with the campaign being mounted, not just by some leaders and groups in the South East, but many others across South-South, South-West and the Middle Belt, the struggle is no longer that of IPOB alone.
He also alluded to the recent letter by the Nigerian Indigenous National Alliance for Self-determination (NINAS) calling on the western countries, including the United States, to stop selling arms to the Nigerian government as part of the efforts showing that the campaign for self-determination is not just a matter for IPOB.
Recall that NINAS’ letter alleged that previous arms sold to the Buhari-led administration with borrowed funds have found their way into the hands of herdsmen, Boko Haram, ISIS, and other terrorists that are currently terrorising the Indigenous People of the South and Middle Belt.
The group also urged western countries to impose heavy sanctions on the Nigerian government for undermining democracy and continuously abusing human rights.
This was contained in a statement by the communications manager to NINAS, Maxwell Adeleye.
The CFM signatories who wrote the petition to the US government and European countries, according to the statement, included a renowned Historian, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye, former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nnia Nwodo; respected Varsity Don, Yusuf Turaki, Secretary-General of NINAS, Tony Nnadi; Pioneer Commissioner for Education in Osun State and National Chairman of Ilana Omo Oodua, Professor Wale Adeniran, among others.
According to the group, “The arms being sold to the Nigerian Government with funds borrowed from your territory are now being used to kill, oppress, harass, intimidate and strangulate harmless protesters and defenseless people of the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria who are exercising their rights to self-determination and peaceful assembly.
“Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen and bandits are now maiming, harassing and killing our people on the roads and in their farmlands with same arms and ammunition bought from your countries with impunity.
“Today, peaceful protest is an aberration in Nigeria. Opposition voices are now being arrested and caged behind the bar for demanding good governance and their inalienable right to self-determination.”
The group further said: “Freedom of speech is now an essential commodity in Nigeria. The leadership of Nigeria is now censoring the media to prevent free speech to alert the world to the ingoing genocide. Social Media is now under threat in Nigeria.
“Fulani herdsmen have taken over our farm lands, which is rapidly resulting in food scarcity which is responsible for the current booming reign of hunger and starvation in our land especially given the government induced over 42 percent poverty level.
“We, as a people, consider the current government of Nigeria a danger to democracy, and we demand, on behalf of our people, that an axe of sanction should be dangled on the government for undermining democracy, and for contravening the fundamental human rights of the people of the South and Middle Belt.
“We appeal to you, in the interest of peace-loving people of the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria to halt further sale of arms to the Nigerian Government until the country surrenders the sovereignty of the people back to them.”