ADAMANT and resolute, the Biafra State agitators celebrated the 50th anniversary of their quest for independence and it seems they are not giving up on their call. They are not deterred despite the Federal Government’s use of force, which has either injured, maimed or killed several of the protesters who see themselves as Biafrans rather than Nigerians and who believe the cause of the Late Odimegwu Ojukwu is a business they must successfully finish. Despite the high-handedness of the Federal Government towards bringing normalcy to the SouthEast region, the agitators remain undaunted as they continue campaigning and fighting for that which they claim Nigeria owes them. In some cities in the region such as the economic centres, Onitsha and Aba, security agencies often clash with the unarmed civilians, leading to loss of lives and properties. In November 2016, Amnesty International accused Nigerian security forces of killing at least 150 peaceful Biafran advocates. That was apart from the molestation, intimidation and humiliation of the secessionists which occur whenever the military uses live ammunition to disperse the protesters.
Some factors contribute to the rise in the clamour for the independence of the Republic of Biafra. First, the campaigns on social media are enormous and really trending. Pieces of information are shared online and blogs with the objective of projecting the Republic of Biafra. More sympathisers and supporters are joining the call for secession. Most of the online activities poison minds about the ruthlessness of the Federal Government and Nigeria as a whole. Hence, hatred is created as the agitation and protests soar. The Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Comrade Uchenna Madu-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) constitute another factor. These two secessionist groups successfully ordered a Biafra sit-at-home and total shutdown in South-East to mark the anniversary. The people would rather listen to the two movements. The success recorded in the five states of the region and some cities (Port Harcourt, Asaba and Bayelsa) in the Niger Delta region apparently shows that Biafra lives. The compliance and celebration of the fallen heroes and heroines were celebrated across the globe by the adherents of the Republic of Biafra.
The Federal Government thinks that the protesters can be silenced easily. The political leaders in the region overtly throw their weight behind the Federal Government. The South-East Peoples Assembly (SEPA) has asked the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to revoke the IPOB leader’s bail. In 2015, Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio–cultural organisation disowned and dissociated itself from the activities of the Biafra agitators. The Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, and some other political leaders in the region usually lash and condemn the agitation and the movements just to assure the Federal Government that all is well. It thinks the condemnation can dissuade the Biafrans from pursuing further their goals.
The present Niger Delta region was part of the then Biafra. Luckily enough for the the region, it is blessed with oil, which is the backbone to the economy of the country. When force failed to curb the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and others like the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the Federal Government employed dialogue and negotiation which produced the Amnesty Programme for the militants. But what does the Igbo nation possess to coax the national government to negotiate with it? It actually has what the nation needs the most, unity, though the Federal Government can only profess the essence of national unity with little meaningful efforts to achieve such. Yet the fragile unity is at stake.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has been carrying arms and ammunition against the Turkish government since 1984. The secessionist group has been listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the USA and European Union. Yet it ceaselessly bombs, attacks and kills military personnel and civilians. The issue is not peculiar to Nigeria. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC) resisted all military pressure of Colombia till late last year. The IPOB and MASSOB limit their activities to peaceful protests and demonstrations. They are yet to be taking up arms and ammunition against the Federal Government. Frustration and more intimidation can move the agitators to take up arms against the forces. And a full-scale violence will become indispensable. So, a quick, peaceful resolution is still possible.
The Federal Government, of course, can apply one of the methods being used by the protesters and the two movements to showcase their pursuit. Such a campaign will be run against those of the Biafran agitators. It will certainly work to some extent so long as it reaches every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The awareness to be carried out by the government should specifically target those yearning for independence. It is really more effective than the condemned means the government is using. The Ministry of Information is readily available to carry out this task by collaborating with the state-run radio and television stations in the South-East region.
Granting Nnamdi Kanu bail is not a mistake. It should rather be considered as a step towards settling the half-a-decade-old crisis. Negotiation is a viable and credible means of calming the nerves and settling the rising dust. Though the region may not have what will make it qualify for this as it is in Niger Delta area, being an integral part of Nigeria is enough to call the demonstrators to the round-table. The IPOB and MASSOB are the major groups that voice the interest of the Igbo. Involving political jobbers who can only deceive the government will only rekindle the protest. Besides, Governor Richard Okorocha’s plea to the traders fell on deaf ears. The two movements have a structure each, and the leaders of these groups can be summoned and consulted. They understand the aggrieved Igbo very well. And force can only aggravate the tension and crisis.
Northern Nigeria is afraid of restructuring. The South-West, South-South and South-East have shown their readiness for the restructuring of Nigeria. Prominent Northerners like the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, too, believe that a way forward in the country is restructuring. The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari should check the potency of this suggestion for laying to rest the burning secession issue the country is confronting.
- Faboade writes in from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State
ADAMANT and resolute, the Biafra State agitators celebrated the 50th anniversary of their quest for independence and it seems they are not giving up on their call. They are not deterred despite the Federal Government’s [...]Read Full Story