Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
Sheik Abubakar, Ogbeni Sunday Igboho, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. These are three different individuals who however, have one thing in common which is that they are involved in one way or other with Nigeria’s security concerns. Kanu is leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which is more of a movement than a geographical expression in practice. His objective is to have a ‘Biafra state’ carved out of the present Nigerian nation and he defines its geographical composition as consisting of all five states in the south-east zone, Rivers, Delta, Kogi and Benue states, despite objections from some of the listed states. IPOB has eclipsed its predecessor, the Movement for the Sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB) led by Ralph Uwazuruike. Reason for this may be IPOB’s rather extremist tactics and media visibility with its own radio to boot. Majority of people in the south east zone do not agree with Kanu or MASSOB on the issue of secession. They believe that their personal and collective interests are best served in a (bigger) Nigerian state with proper governance structures to address their cry of marginalization. For one, the zone is situated on a relatively small land mass such that were every easterner to pitch his/her tent there, it would not accommodate them all literally. Secondly, southeasterners are generally widely travelled people that invest and build wealth wherever they are, outside of the zone. So, they are more or less stakeholders wherever they find themselves. An unofficial statistic showed that Igbos are the second most populous group in most Nigerian towns after the native, indigenous group. In this circumstance the best policy for the Igbos is one of ‘live and let live’
Kanu disdains this time honoured policy and instead he embraces a policy of antagonism, vilification of his fatherland, other tribes as well as pouring vituperations on the presidency as an institution and the president as a person. Needless to add that he only succeeded in distancing right thinking Nigerians from himself, courting enemies for the Igbos. Unfortunately, some Nigerians view him as personification of the ‘Igbo agenda’. It bears repeating that Kanu does not speak for the Igbos, he does not represent their cause nor Igbo nationalism. Evidence of this is that no notable Igbo personality sides with him. The political class, clerics, apex cultural organization, opinion leaders, etc., do not approve of his agenda or ways which sometimes verges on inciting violence. Imo state governor Hope Uzodinnma calls his foot soldiers, (members of the IPOB) which activities in Nigeria are illegal by virtue of its proscription, ‘’militants’’. This followed recent clash between the eastern security network, an unregistered organization that is affiliated to IPOB and policemen in the Orlu senatorial district which necessitated invitation of soldiers to restore order. Similarly Governor Nyesom Wike had to call in soldiers to help quell crisis in the Obiokpor local government in which he fingered IPOB members whom he referred to as ‘’criminal elements’’.
Truly, no government in the world would fold its arms while a group unilaterally declares its intent to secede, having its own currency, flag , army, etc., attacking the police at will and setting up road blocks in its supposed sphere of influence while verbally insulting constituted authority and others via its radio station transmitting within the Nigerian state. Such was the situation when the Nigerian president ordered troops to storm Kanu’s home town/base in Abia state. Recall that Kanu had been charged to court and granted bail. As should be expected, wherever soldiers are called in for whatever reasons, some collateral damage may occur. Kanu reportedly thereafter fled to the UK where he holds a British citizenship and remains there to-date from where he continues to shoot his poisonous darts via his online, diaspora based Radio Biafra as well as give orders to his foot soldiers here at home, orders that are apparently carried out to the letter by them. Kanu’s followers are largely disenchanted youths that are angry with the Nigerian state for various reasons. He no doubt has a strong hold on them. This iron grip and cult following has been helped by his spewing of conspiracy theories in his media outlet as well as the conservative and social media that continue to provide him a platform to voice his agenda. He and his band of followers believe that they are fighting a just cause for the Igbos and see themselves as Igbo nationalists.
They err for, even if a ‘Biafra state’ were to be realized (as a hypothesis) there would still be grumblings, echoes of dissatisfactions within because of its latent diversity; it is not a strictly homogenous entity as such. Even within family units, there are dissensions, how much more within larger entities? Each component unit that makes up Nigeria has its strengths and weaknesses and the union should grow stronger through mutual exchange. No single unit is an island nor can it develop fully as an island unto itself. Many Igbos believe that they are not getting a fair share out of the Nigerian state. However, the way to redress the situation is not by spewing hatred among Nigerians or drumming songs of war and secession which is highly improbable. Rather it is through dialogue – representatives of the nation’s diverse groups sitting down to fashion out a satisfactory (not a perfect model) to live and pursue everyone’s aspirations in harmony for the common good. This requires that each component unit tables its fears and hopes and all reaching a compromise in the spirit of give and take, on a political, social, economic template that is agreeable to all while preserving our common heritage. You may call this template whatever name you wish.
To be continued…