GUEST Column by Fredrick Nwabufo
The so-called Igbo struggle is an enterprise. Individuals from the south-east, who find themselves in position of political influence, hawk the ‘’Igbo agitation’’ as merchandise in self-seeking ventures. These politicians pursue personal gains robed in the collective agenda. And this is largely because of the people who have become addlepated by barbiturated sentiments, conspiracy theories, and nerve-raising nothings.
There are 15 lawmakers from the south-east at the senate and more of this number at the house of representatives, but no single region-centred legislation has reached fruition. In March 2020, these lawmakers in league with their colleagues approved the $22.7 billion loan request of President Muhammadu Buhari unfettered.
But a week after some public-spirited Nigerians raised the alarm that the south-east was excluded in the projects the loan was meant for, these lawmakers in caucuses retreated to playing to the gallery and lacquering their action. They resumed the accustomed showmanship and grandstanding in the face of an obvious fait accompli. Nothing happened afterwards.
Also, most of the lawmakers from the south-east are members of the opposition — the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — but clearly, they have failed in providing leadership in opposition. Some contentious bills were passed right under the stoned watch of these lawmakers. Currently, there are two anti-citizen bills – on hate speech and social media. But these lawmakers do not think they are worth advocating over. These are bills targeted at garrisoning the civic space, the media and the populace.
Considering the disaffection of a section of the south-east with the Buhari administration and juxtaposing that with those who have been operational in their dissent against the administration, is it not logical that the opposition secure the fort of varied voices by working to extirpate these gag bills?
Perhaps, the bills when passed will put a hedge around them – to protect them from minatory probes by their constituents whom they have been remiss in representing. The legislation serves them.
There is now an exhumation of the interred National Water Resources Bill which reposes control of the country’s water resources – both over and underground – in the executive, and which requires Nigerians to get a licence before drilling a borehole (in a nation that cannot provide pipe-borne water for citizens). This legislation, with implications of slavish proportions, is already at an advanced stage at the house of representatives – where there are lawmakers from the south-east — which will be maximally impacted by this bill when passed. This is where Igbo political leaders, particularly those in the national assembly, should be leading the charge. Whatever development we want in the south-east must proceed from the law; so, change must begin from parliament.
Why have I zeroed in on lawmakers from the south-east? Well, because they are the representatives of the people of the region and they form a bulk of the opposition in the legislature. Naturally, they should wear the shoes of the commoner in the region and feel his pain. They should be the voice of the region. They should be in the vanguard of whatever the people are agitating for provided it is within the remit of the constitution. I have no doubt that whatever they set to achieve for the region in parliament, regional and national consciences will be mobilised in support as long as the agenda is not jaundiced.
But these politicians have commoditised the Igbo interest, blaring hot air on issues affecting the region. They know the people are very emotive and unthinking, so they flagellate the usual marginalisation slant and other conspiracy theories to thrust themselves into public consciousness. And they remain there by constantly reinventing the wheel and stroking the people sore with sentimental nothings.
Some unarmed young men were mowed down by guilty bullets in Enugu a few days ago. Though the DSS said two of its operatives were killed in an encounter with some Biafra agitators. This incident, no doubt, deserves a thorough investigation and the culprits punished at the end of a credible hearing. We cannot keep losing citizens to summary executions. I believe this is a matter on which the voice of lawmakers from the south-east should be loudest. They should not only speak up when it is politically convenient to do so.
I have been threatened by these agitators, but I strongly believe it is against natural propriety if my voice is muted out of grudge on this case. Every Nigerian deserves to live; even if there is an offence, the law must take its course. Summary executions are a reprise of the military era; they have no place in a democracy.
Really, the biggest adversary of the Igbo is not the Hausa, the Yoruba or the Fulani, but fiendish leaders of the ethnic group who secrete their interest in the ‘’Igbo agenda’’; who pit the people against their neighbours and other groups, and who flagellate ethnic emotions for insular ends.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist