South East Denial: What Next For Kanu, IPOB

South East Denial: What Next For Kanu, IPOB
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Ameh George

Of all the groups alleged to be threatening Nigeria at the moment, none appears to be causing as much concern to the current administration as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a radical breakaway faction of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), an openly secessionist movement whose aim is to “restore the independent state of Biafra” in the mainly Igbo-speaking south-east region.

IPOB is not the only secessionist movement in Nigeria; there is also one in the west, the Oodua Republic movement. Technically, Boko Haram, the extremist Islamic group that has terrorised the northeastern part of Nigeria for more than a decade with aims to create an Islamic State in the territory of Nigeria, is another secessionist group. But none vexes the Nigerian government and some elements in northern Nigeria like IPOB and the Igbo tribe.

For many jobless, disenfranchised jobless Igbo youth, Biafra has become an idea, a dream, an imagined better place than a Nigeria that has shuttered opportunities for them. Unfortunately, Nigerian authorities and Igbo leaders have failed to recognise the new meaning of Biafra as an idea, an aspiration, similar in emotive power as “Next year in Jerusalem” was and remains for Jews all over the world.

Biafra is an idea, a dream, founded on a shared sense of loss, grief and victimhood. IPOB, driven by this idea, is seen by Nigerian authorities as a strong challenge to the state.

The agitation for Biafra as the most visible expression of the endless but legitimate complaints by Igbo of marginalisation by Nigeria has created what I would call the “Igbo problem.”

Some commentators have argued that the “Igbo problem” was created by the Igbo themselves – that it is an injury that Igbos inflicted on themselves by staging the first coup d’état in 1966 and then trying to secede from the federation, leading the country to wage war against them.

No one will win the argument about which ethnic group is accountable or responsible for the many difficulties of Nigeria and its failure thus far to be a successful country. A debate about the incompetence of the current federal government has quickly degenerated to one of mutual hurling of insults across ethnic lines.

All ethnic groups are affected by the poor state of governance in Nigeria today and are protesting. The most intriguing thing is the discriminatory attitude of the federal government to particular protests and other threats to the integrity of the country.

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Killings by Fulani herdsmen appears to be tolerable but protests by IPOB about the status and conditions of Ndi’igbo in Nigeria are without hesitation classified as a threat of the highest level to national security by the current administration.

The agitation in the south-east is now presented by some sections of the country as worse than the longstanding brutal, extremist Islamic insurgency in the north-east, as well as the unbridled banditry and the modern-day inter-tribal wars in southern Kaduna and Plateau State.

Hostages of the Nigerian state and economy, some Igbo “leaders” have condemned IPOB and its paramilitary wing – Eastern Security Network (ESN), much more vehemently and unreservedly than many northern Nigeria leaders have condemned Boko Haram in ten years.

Nigeria is not working for most Nigerians. Many of the youth, whether Igbo, Yoruba, Izon, or Tivi, do not see any future in the country. Those able to leaving. There has to be a stop to this under-performance. If something is not working, it is futile to continue to expend precious and scarce time and resources on it.

One way to get Nigeria to work for Nigerians could be for “Nigerians” who hate Ndi’igbo to just expel them since they are believed by some powerful segments to be the country’s problem.

There is no reason to continue to co-habit in the same political space with “irritants, endless agitators, criminals, and impossible-to-satisfy-secessionists” as some northern Nigerian groups have described Ndi’igbo. The expulsion of Ndi’Igbo from Nigeria could be by a vote in both houses of the National Assembly,

No referendum would be required. Convene a joint session of the National Assembly and take an up and down vote on whether Ndi’Igbo should continue to be a part of Nigeria. Expulsion will be an infinitely better option than another civil war. A vote in the National Assembly will infinitely cost less in terms of lives and treasure than a referendum.

There is no profit in staying in a toxic relationship and hoping that it will, perhaps by the grace of God, improve sometime in the future.

This is not a radical idea. I am proposing a feasible solution to a seemingly endless/intractable problem. There is no profit in staying in a toxic relationship and hoping that it will, perhaps by the grace of God, improve sometime in the future. There is no point in hoping for this as the national leadership is not making any good faith effort in that direction. Nigeria will not progress as fast as it ought to as long as the Igbo “continue to hold her down with their never-ending irritating conduct.”

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Nigeria, since she appears unwilling to grant Ndi’igbo full citizenship rights, should have the courage to bring a peaceful end to the “Igbo problem”. Either accept Ndi’igbo as Nigerians with the full prerogatives, rights and responsibilities of citizenship, or expel them from the federation – let them go to either succeed or fail.

And note, just as Israel has not succeeded in subduing Hamas by force, so the Buhari administration will be unable to subdue IPOB. The reason is simple – Biafra is an idea and the only way to counter an idea is with a superior idea.

The federal government must make a strong case for Nigerian unity. The Buhari administration perhaps thinks that asserting that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable is sufficient. It deludes itself. It should look at the USSR, former Czechoslovakia, former Yugoslavia and the ongoing efforts by Scotland to secede from the UK after more than 300 years of union.

The decision of the federal government to direct the Nigerian armed forces to bomb Eastern Nigeria to flush out the abominable secessionist IPOB is unwarranted and unfair.

It exposes everyone in the region to military action. Yet not every Igbo is in IPOB/ESN or even a sympathiser. It is also resulting in the loss of life and assets and cannot therefore be an idea superior to the idea of “Biafra, a state of our own where we will be treated with dignity and respect as full citizens.”

One Nigeria is increasingly a tall challenge because the idea does not hold great appeal for many young people from the south of the country, especially Igbo youth. Do not get me wrong: I do not advocate the splintering of Nigeria into separate sovereignties. I want a united, progressive and stable Nigeria.

I want to remain Nigerian. But it must be a Nigeria that works for everyone, for all of us, a Nigeria where everyone’s right to full citizenship is not abridged or circumscribed in any way, either wittingly or unwittingly by race, religion, or ethnicity or by the government; a Nigeria with constituent parts that are respectful of each other.

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A Nigeria that fails to guarantee full citizenship rights to all its citizens will remain an arena of endless protests and conflicts. And that Nigeria is unlikely to achieve her potentials and arrive at her destiny. The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has denied issuing a statement on the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indeginous People of Biafra (IPOB).

However, Ohanaeze distanced itself from the statement which purported the group as welcoming Kanu’s arrest and extradition to the country.

The group described as “fallacy”, the statement which quoted its organization as saying that Kanu’s arrest would bring peace to the South – East region.

“Ordinarily, we would have ignored the said press release, but silence in this circumstance would mean giving validity to such fallacy by the unsuspecting public,” Ohanaeze said in a statement issued on Tuesday night by its national publicity secretary, Chiedozie Alex. Ogbonnia.

The statement said, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor has not issued any press statement on the matter. Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the apex Igbo cultural organization does not issue public statements in a hurry.  “We hereby dissociate ourselves from the said press release and also warn those mischief makers, impostors and charlatans peddling the name of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to achieve selfish gains to desist from that shameful misadventure.

“In the event of further breach of this warning Ohanaeze Ndigbo will be compelled to invoke the full weight of the law to deal with the offenders.”

Earlier, there it has been reported that the IPOB leader appeared in court in handcuffs barely an hour after the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced his extradition to the country.

Malami, who did not disclose the circumstances surrounding Kanu’s arrest, noted that the separatist group’s leader was accused of instigating violence in the South-East region.

The IPOB leader’s arrest came few years after he reportedly jumped bail and fled to the United Kingdom while facing charges bordering on treason.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the Nigerian Government may not have followed due process in the arrest and extradition of Kanu to the country.


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