IPOB as a political problem
The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, was right to have frowned, as it recently did, at President Muhammadu Buhari’s call on the International Community especially the United States of America and United Kingdom to declare the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group. The President’s request chases shadows rather than substance; he will be conserving much needed energy if he stays focused on the real problems of the country, which is that of insecurity occasioned by herdsmen and bandits infiltrating the country in droves and threatening to displace indigenous Nigerians going about their normal duties. Basically, failure of Buhari’s government to address the issue squarely and sincerely is at the root of agitations, including those canvassed by IPOB. And the president cannot continue to believe all insinuations that IPOB is responsible for every criminality taking place in the South East parts of the country. Without doubt, criminally destructive elements have hijacked parts of IPOB’s causes; a matter that should not be simplified or glossed over by the country’s security agencies.
President Buhari, the other day, during an interview with Bloomberg and while commenting on the rising trend of insecurity in the country, called for a global declaration of IPOB as terrorist group. He further called for additional step to block the group from the international financial network. The leadership of the IPOB, according to the president, “enjoys safe haven in the West, broadcasting hate speech into Nigeria from London, spending millions lobbying members of the U.S. Congress, and freely using international financial networks to arm agitators on the ground.”
There is no doubt that the South-East zone has been witnessing pockets of insecurity peculiar to that part of the country, as violent attacks are often unleashed on government personnel, structures and amenities. There have also been regular declarations urging people to sit at home during the trial of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Attacks have been carried out in states like Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi and Imo by operators who are usually labeled as unknown gunmen. Although government and security agencies alleged that IPOB is behind these attacks and even went ahead to proscribe the organisation, brandishing it as a terrorist organisation, the recognised leadership of IPOB has often denied the allegation and challenged government to prove it. Days ago, it tasked government to “show us the pipelines we vandalised in Niger Delta.”
Failure of government to explore amicable resolution of the case of Kanu, who is being tried for treasonable felony among other grave offences, clearly is heightening rather than lowering tension in the South East. Yet, all indications point to the matter being political rather than criminal. Besides, it is confounding to many Nigerians that while government treats the Kanu case, as well as that of his South west counterpart agitating for Yoruba nation Sunday ‘Igboho’ Adeyemo with official brutality, it has comparatively treated with soft gloves foreign and local bandits killing hapless Nigerians in large numbers in their communities. Is IPOB responsible for the killings in other parts of the country? Until recently, the groups and people that have turned the North Central and North West into killing fields were pampered and referred to as insurgents for a long time. Even after succumbing to pressure and pronouncing Boko Haram, ISWAP and bandits as terrorist groups, government continues to drag its feet in unleashing full military might against them.
Over the years, various groups and sections of the country have complained of marginalisation arising from poor treatment and disproportionate representation of their members in government, a phenomenon that has become terribly institutionalised under the Buhari government. Before now, IPOB had canvassed the cause of Ndigbo in this respect through peaceful protests, seminars, Biafra Radio and other socio-media platforms; and while some of their tactics are not acceptable in a democracy, government cannot continue to ignore them as irritants, or dismiss their complaints. To do so, as the Buhari government has done so far, is to invite heightened agitations.
Ohanaeze through the National Secretary, Alex Ogbonna, explained that IPOB’s position is that Nigerian federation is unjust and unworkable and therefore, in urgent need for restructuring. The refusal of government to recognise and address these core issues has driven the agitation of IPOB into various forms of vanguardism. Ohanaeze simplified IPOB’s position as saying: ‘‘treat us as partners in the Nigerian Project or allow us to go…”
Ohanaeze’s statement reads in part: “It is most expedient to enlighten the general public that what IPOB is asking for is the parting words of a Nigerian titan: the Maitama Sule imperative to President Buhari when he led the Northern leader’s forum to congratulate Mr. President shortly after his victory in 2015. Alhaji Maitama Sule of blessed memory in congratulating Mr. President admonished that ‘justice is key to good governance.’
“That Mr. President should extend justice to all and sundry, irrespective of religion or tribe. Sule reminded Mr. President that an infidel with good conscience and equity can govern successfully, far better than a believer devoid of a sense of justice. Sule added that the solution to Nigeria’s problems could never be achieved by force, nor by fear, nor by power but by equity and justice to all.
“The prophetic Sule urged him to do justice to all parts of the country because, according to him, peace and stability are a product of justice and equity. He added that in the absence of justice and equity, there can never be peace and development. Mr. President knows he ignored the eternal advice from the Nigerian foremost patriot, democrat and diplomat.”
Buhari should, in the interest of Nigeria and the good legacy he desires to leave when he vacates the presidency next year, explore political solution to the IPOB matter; stop the unrestrained influx of mercenaries or bandits into the country and empower as well as support the states to confront frontally killers hiding in the country’s forests under any guise.