Nigeria has had turbulent times with separatists’ agitations since independence. The Odemegwu Ojukwu’s declaration of a “Biafran Republic,” in 1967 opened the floodgates for these secession movements. The declaration plunged Nigeria into the unfortunate thirty-month civil war. The gory relics daily remind Nigerians of this disgusting history.
Thereafter, Nigeria has contended with such senseless agitations in different parts of the country. In the Southeast alone, the Ralph Uwazuruike-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and its latest violence-prone sucker, the Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) are tormenting Nigeria in continuum.
A man’s heart is infinitely evil. Even from the semantics of the IPOB secession sect, one sees the traces of segregation within the “Biafran” enclave, in the phrase “indigenous peoples.” It implies, there are other tribes domiciled in the Southeast, but not aborigines of Igbo nation and therefore, not covered by this proposed republic.
This philosophical or ideological assumption, as embedded in the name of IPOB, signifies hard times ahead for blind followers of Biafra and precisely, the minority tribes in the Southeast. It is pointless to identify these ethnicities by names, but sane minds among them know how precarious the pendulum dangles against them in this would-be republic of Biafra.
So, regrettably, in the South-South, the violent campaigns for resource control in the oil-rich Niger Delta hatched countless militant groups. These militant groups unleashed senseless and lethal violence on their people and security agents. They excitedly destroyed their flourishing home-based economy and that of the nation. They damaged and vandalized oil and gas installations and facilities. They abducted foreign oil workers in the creeks of Niger Delta and demanded awful ransoms.
Miserably, militancy in the Niger Delta reached a crescendo when the militant sect, the Isaac Romeo- led Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) proposed the declaration of the “Niger Delta Republic,” last year. It took the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari to peacefully manage this delicate and potentially explosive matter. Nigerian soldiers were handy to save the situation that held the promise of catapulting into a national disaster.
In the Northeast, the first interpretation of the mission of the Abubakar Shekau cum Musab al-Barnawi led Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) is the struggle to establish an “Islamic State” in Northern Nigeria. This is evident in the declaration and foisting of flags of their version of Islamic Caliphate on territories in the Northeast captured by Boko Haram insurgents.
In the Southwest, the Yorubas were at the cusp of declaring an “Oduduwa Republic,” in the wake of the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election presumed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola. The annulment decision sealed by the then Nigeria’s Military President Ibrahim Babangida was adjudged as unpopular. And serious agitations sprouted in pro-democracy groups like the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and the rest. The Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) became the militant wing of this struggle. But somehow, Nigeria waggled its way out of the dilemma.
Elsewhere in the Middle Belt, there have been faint voices or murmurings about the desire of the people to have a republic of their own, separate from the core north. The voices are no doubt feeble, but it does not erase the fact of the desire of the people to become independent. And almost always, only the national government is abandoned with the burden of quelling the crises.
As re-echoed severally, anywhere in the world, people have the right to self-determination. But the Nigerian instance is absurd because the proponents tilt towards criminality, blackmail of other regions or tribes in the country and pander to questionable interests and publicize other reprehensible ulterior motives far beyond the brandished mission.
Secession in Nigeria garbs the coat of political vendetta, like singer Dolly Paton would say, in different colours, than genuine aspirations of a people who wish to redefine their destiny. So, politicians hijack and deploy these separationists’ movements as attack dogs against opponents. It is reason Nigeria’s separatism movements are inherently resentful by millions of Nigerians, who perceive it more as distractions.
But these “secessionists” proponents expect government and everyone else affected by their overbearing attitude and conduct to keep mum. The latest instance of IPOB clearly illustrates the extent these groups tempt and stretch the patience of government.
Kanu knows and Nigerians’ are aware that the dubious activities of IPOB in the Southeast have no bearing with a candid intention of a people yearning for independence. They gruesomely murder opponents, create confusion and loot the people. Any day IPOB members are incensed for whatever reasons, they cripple business and economic activities, harass and intimidate all at sight. They violently attack security agents and kill some of them in the process.
The IPOB leader himself has admitted severally that the only language he knows and must deploy to his service is violence. This is what Nigerians; particularly Southeasterners have endured for the years of Kanu’s intransigence in IPOB. The exhibition of the penchant for violence is the language for their advertisement billboard.
MASSOB leader divulged at consultation parley with Northern youths in Kaduna state in the wake of the quit notice issued to Ndi’gbo in the North by a coalition of Northern youths that politicians have hijacked IPOB . He was plain and also frank that these politicians are using Kanu for objectives unrelated to the Biafran quest.
So, when Kanu shouts very loud on the streets of Nigeria about “Biafra,” he knows his destination in the effects he has programmed and the personal monetary gains. It is not altogether strange that IPOB is only vocal when a Northerner ascends the throne of President of Nigeria.
Therefore, it is glaring politicians have hired the services of IPOB and since Kanu is an undertaker, he accepted it. He has been pulling the strings against his people very hard, but erroneously thinking, it is Nigeria that is troubled. And Ndi’gbo leaders are quiet, an indication of consent to Kanu/IPOB’s aberrations’ and criminality.
The North must not have peace because they head political leadership in Nigeria today. This is the source of the provocation leading to the “Kaduna Declaration” by the coalition of Northern youths.
From the litany of issues raised by the National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, in the Kaduna Declaration, its clear Northern youths are aware of the concealed political motives in Kanu’s IPOB.
While the Northern youths coalition insists on a peaceful pull out of Ndi’gbo to their “Biafran country,” Shettima was vehement that they would only retract their decision or eviction notice, if Ndi’gbo jettisons the idea of Biafra; opts to remain in Nigeria and decently enlist in the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria.
His fears were expressed thus; “We are not comfortable with the way Kanu and co are taking this issue, which may snowball into violence. So, basically, our position was just an intervention to save this country from plunging into chaos or another civil war.”
Apparently, this is Northern youth’s strategy to end the madness of Kanu’s IPOB on the Nigerian state. The youths have repeatedly echoed that they are not after violence as insinuated, but for a peaceful actualization of Biafra, beginning with a referendum. And by another interpretation the eviction order on Ndi’gbos in the North is to enable them relocate to their ancestral abodes to effectively partake in the referendum, to forestall future lamentations of exclusion from the process.
It is expected that an Ndi’gbo truly committed to the Biafran cause would have embraced this opportunity warmly. But they are foot-dragging and leveling all manner of accusations such as plots of genocide of the Igbos and confiscation of their investments in the North. That’s where the problem is seated. There is a price for everything and if they are so desperate for a Biafra, why do the Ndi’gbos dread everything? So, Biafra is all about senseless and distractive noise?
The clairvoyance of northern youths has sighted and appropriately dissected the clamour for a Biafra as bandied today by IPOB as more political than anything near the Ojukwu version of Biafra. So, tolerance of it morphed into intolerance and then, came the resounding voice from Northern youths to Nigeria, “Let them go!”
So, the “notice to quit” issued by the Arewa Youth group to the Igbos is just a way of checkmating strengths in street nuisance and hooliganism. It means nothing beyond it and everybody knows. But it was necessary to remind Kanu and his band of “Biafran republic” anarchists’ that no one has monopoly of violence. It was a timely counsel that “check your house and outings.”
Therefore, the reaction of the North as reflected in the “Kaduna Declaration,” by the coalition of Northern groups under the banner of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, (AYCF) is just a demonstration of their own automatic response to the Southeastern verbal, psychological and physical assault on Nigeria in the guise of separatism.
Leader of MASSOB, Ralph Uwazuruike led a delegation of Igbo leaders to Kaduna to broker peace between the northerners and the Igbos and was equivocal that “We are not saying Nigeria should be divided….”
It is relieving that the “Kaduna Declaration,’ in a split-second has abruptly ended the years of siege and uncensored madness by Kanu’s IPOB. Kanu and his co-travellers are at liberty to begin their renewed agitations in any other country, where he feels or claims citizenship. But this is a plea that he must leave Nigeria alone.
While Nigeria enjoys the needed peace, government would focus on building lasting institutions that will sustain development plans for the next millennium. Good night to Kanu’s IPOB and version of Biafra in Nigeria.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.