By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Biafra was justice and freedom. But Biafra has become a tool for charlatans, a toy for dissipation of youthful exuberance. Biafra once evoked Igbo unity and enterprise. But Biafra has now been appropriated by jobless opportunists who exploit the frustrations of their poor brothers. Biafra was Igbo fellowship. But this their new Biafra thrives on cannibalizing fellow Igbos. Biafra was consultation, consensus. This Biafra is now extremism, hallucination, egocentrism.
This Biafra is propelled by shallowness, mental shabbiness and intolerance. Biafra was refuge for Igbos. Biafra is now out of bounds to contrary Igbo opinions and ideas. Biafra birthed genius. Biafra now mints Igbo traitors , ‘efulefus’ everyday. Biafra was home. It was welcoming. This new Biafra is frightening.
I don’t like the present day Nigeria. But an Igbo land controlled by the IPOB is a nightmare.
The IPOB has become a gross security nuisance. The IPOB proclaims non violence but threatens mayhem at the merest of excitations. The IPOB forcibly shuts down markets. The IPOB freely preaches hate. The IPOB frivolously announces threats to stop elections in Igbo land. The IPOB lacks a moral foundation. The IPOB has a philosophy of violence. Nnamdi Kanu in 2015 told the gathering at the World Igbo Congress that Biafra would only materialize through violence.
The Arewa Youths committed treason. Yes. And they should be in Enugu prisons. But the Federal Government’s double standards cannot justify the trenchant belligerence of the IPOB. The IPOB is dangerously implacable.
The IPOB has refused to refrain from incendiary speeches. They have fallen in love with slipperiness and ambiguity. Nnamdi Kanu cannot remember he once asked for guns and bullets. He now mouths civil disobedience. Yet this new pacifist Nnamdi Kanu talked about going to Abuja with two million people. He talked about burning Abuja if his bail was revoked. Then he talked about beheading the president. Then he announced that any policeman who tried to execute a bench warrant against him would be slaughtered.
Nnamdi Kanu is not insane. But everybody, it appears, wants him clothed with the immunity reserved for the insane. The response from Igbo politicians has been has trepidation. They think he must be left alone. So that he doesn’t bring Armageddon down on the society. Who would blame the Igbo politicians? A top government official told a stunned country government didn’t prosecute the Arewa Youths because the boys were misquoted even as they kept repeating their order until they recently rescinded it. The government official of ministerial status is guilty of nepotism. But nothing justifies Nnamdi Kanu.
This Crisis has lurked and loomed. It is now unfurling. Some have spoken against the army’s intervention. Many out of timidity. The IPOB’s wrath is now dreaded by all. Others out of useless idealism. Their examples are Norway and Canada. And a few out of sadism. The argument that the army should not be found in civilian spaces is unrealistic.
The army is part and parcel of the civilian security infrastructure in Nigeria. It checks armed robbery. The army helps with security for conduct of elections. You can label them aberrations. They are certainly cultural now. The Army once rescued a lost Abia from kidnappers. Was the army supposed to get involved now only after Nnamdi Kanu’s bail has been revoked and his boys started burning the country?
The idea that operation python dance is illegal or illegitimate is faulty. The army was deployed by a legitimate civilian authority. It was deployed to perform a constitutional role. The Army is constitutionally mandated to provide internal security against insurrection. Operation python dance is an internal security operation. These operations have taken place in other regions of the country.
The propriety of the operations and the barbarity of some soldiers are separate considerations. Soldiers ought to be professional. Soldiers must respect the rights of citizens and groups, including Kanu and his IPOB. These operations are fraught with risks. But the military must maintain strict rules of engagement.
Soldiers cannot kill IPOB members indiscriminately. Soldiers cannot engage in the torture of any citizen. The army authorities must have a firm grip of the operation. If the video clips being circulated are true, the army must find and punish soldiers that kill or torture indiscriminately. Murder is murder. The invasion of the offices of Nigerian union of journalists is condemnable. Those who stormed those offices and beat up journalists are bad eggs, rogue soldiers. Journalists ought to cover the movement of troops on the streets. The soldiers who assaulted Journalists must be sanctioned.
But the idea that army’s presence around Afara ukwu, the ancestral home of Nnamdi Kanu amounts to provocation, is utter nonsense. The army must concentrate on deterring potential trouble makers. If the army cannot pass through the streets near Nnamdi Kanu’s house why would the army pass by anybody’s house at all? We cannot treat the IPOB as an inflammable group whose precarious moods the whole nation must stoop to nurse.
The politicians in the Southeast haven’t shown courage. They have chosen demagoguery and ambivalence and called it tact. Ohaneze, which has been described by the IPOB as a bunch of old men, who have sold their conscience for political crumbs, are intimidated. They have asked the army to leave. If the army is intimidated out of Igbo land, my honest advise would be for all Igbo politicians to relocate to Abuja. The monster that the IPOB has become cannot be contained by the police alone.
The IPOB is intent on an immediate take over of the political structures in Igbo land. That’s a lofty ambition. But the group is disdainful of routine democratic processes. The group is intimidating opposing voices into lamentable silence. A mentally malnourished and rabid IPOB seeks domination of Igbo politics.
That is a nightmare. The army must remain in the southeast. The army must remain to forestall a total breakdown of law and order. The army and its operations are part of the negotiations that should take place. The army must find ways to win the hearts and minds of Igbos while maintaining order in Igbo land. Peace should matter to all.
Operation python dance could include repairs of roads and bridges and some rural schools by the military.
But there is no military solution to the real problem. The Federal government should begin processes that would lead to true fiscal federalism and devolution of powers to the regions. Many who have fallen into the hands of the IPOB and their wiles have done so out of economic and political frustrations. They are redeemable.
The overall interests of the Igbos are served best by an equitable and fair Nigeria. Biafra should be a last defensive resort. Igbos, in present day Nigeria, are marginalized. But they are not desperately seeking an enclave for refuge.