The most solemn prayer in my heart this Sunday morning is that the multi-level clampdown on the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) on Friday, mark the end of agitations in the South East. And that it will be the harbinger of the peace that our country sorely needs.
Recall that on Friday, Nigeria’s Military proclaimed IPOB a terrorist organisation, indicating that anyone pledging allegiance to the ideals or lack of it of this misguided group, opens himself up to the law as a terrorist.
It also suggests that anyone who identifies with the group’s ideals may also be accused of complicity in terrorism and be made to face the law for same.
I do not plan to open an argument about whether IPOB has done anything to be so classified or whether the military’s declaration is ultra vires or not here. Those are issues for another day. Here, I am concerned about what this implies for members of IPOB, those who sympathise with them and Nigeria as a country under God.
And I think that should be our immediate concern especially as hours after the military released this information, governors of the five states in the South East rose from a meeting to proscribe the body across the region.
They also warned that protests will no longer be tolerated and that all grievances should be channeled through already established political structures.
This indicates that the political leaders understand that there could be legitimate aspirations but they are not comfortable with the current method of ventilation. That is fair enough.
But can we ask these governors and political leaders why the structures they want explored now, have been unable to deal with the discontents before its escalation to this near crisis situation?
Are there enduring assurances of the political will to finally determine these issues and terminate them permanently or are these mere tentative cutting off of a sore finger that constantly cast our minds back to our failure as a people?
I am worried about our impulsive, not well thought out attitude to solving problems in Nigeria. Our seeming default state of jumping at conclusions without weighing their pros and cons is second to our almost incurable failure to learn from the past. And this does no good for the country.
We should all remember that just a couple of years back, there was an organisation known as the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) with Ralph Uwazuruike. MASSOB, actually still exists only that it is now a shadow of itself.
But in it’s hey days, it was as notorious as Kanu’s IPOB. Although Uwazurike, a graduate of Political Science and Law from two Indian Universities professed the non-violent posture of India’s Mahatma Gandhi and America’s Martin Luther King, Jr, he rankled the Nigerian government without end. At some point, he was not only charged for treason but remained in jail for about 24 months while his bail hearing took forever. This was in 2005 or so.
To cut a long story short, the Nigerian state seemed to have succeeded in breaking Uwazuruike’s spirit such that he lost the vigour which got the validation of the late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, upon whose death, the younger man was named his successor and crowned Ezeigbo. But has the idea of the secession and sovereignty of Eastern Nigeria which he preached diminished in anyway? The answer is of course, no.
Even though MASSOB has now taken a back seat in the pursuit of the goal they set for themselves, it has an offspring, which has pushed the frontiers of the campaign a little bit further.
And this is what I think a country gets when, rather than face issues squarely and address them once and for all, it pushes them under the carpet or devices authoritarian strategies to suppress dissent and stifle conversation.
I hope the steps taken by the authorities over the weekend fulfills their desire or that they, at least have a plausible follow-up plan which will engender conversations around the issues that elicit disaffection amongst Nigerians.
What I know for sure is that Nigeria needs peace now like it has never needed it and our leaders must be ready to pay any price for peace.