Pythons need not dance in south-east
Although there is a myriad of indicators of the failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, there is one that sticks out like a sore thumb. It is the inability of the government to effectively grapple with the challenge of making right choices in a manner that negates the social imagination that it is incapable of listening and ever doing what is appropriate. This incapacity has found expression in a brazen defiance of good proposals from the citizens to set governance on an even keel.
Or how do we explain the fact that despite the warnings from prominent citizens, the Federal Government has made good its threat to crush agitators in the south-east? But the government must not fantasize about its triumph over an already oppressed people. It should rather stop its troops in their tracks since the outcome of their misguided expedition in that part of the country would not only conflict with genuine efforts to bring peace to the region, it would aggravate the mutual distrust among people of different parts of the country.
On Sunday, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) raised the alarm that his home was invaded by soldiers acting under the auspices of Operation Python Dance II. He said that he only escaped being mowed down with armoured personnel carriers and other weapons deployed by the army because his supporters used themselves to form a shield around his home. But when the soldiers attempted to break this shield by shooting into the supporters, some of them allegedly died while others were injured. The army was quick to dismiss the allegation of IPOB as a figment of the corrupt imagination of its members. It insisted that the soldiers only embarked on their professional exercise that had nothing to do with Kanu and any other member of IPOB. The army remonstrated that it was IPOB members who attacked soldiers without any provocation.
These accusations and counter-accusations made it difficult to really appreciate what was happening. No one was sure whether it was the army or IPOB that was lying. But by Tuesday, it became difficult to accept the army’s claims to innocence. Even though the army insisted that it did not lay siege to Kanu’s home, it seemed easier to be persuaded by the version of IPOB on the developments in Abia State. If the army did not target Kanu the first time the allegation was made by IPOB on Sunday, it should have ordered its soldiers to steer clear of his home. They have enough room for their exercise in any other part of Abia. Instead, by Tuesday, IPOB members and other people in the south-east, including the apex group of Igbo leaders, Ohanaeze, had no doubt that the sole objective of the deployment of the soldiers in Abia was to force Kanu and others to stop their agitations against their marginalisation. The deployment of troops in the region is not justifiable. But if the deployment must be justified by the presumed inevitability of the army embarking on its professional exercise, it ought not to have been done close to Kanu’s home. No matter the genuine intention behind the deployment, it is tragically insensitive to the mood of the south-east, especially the pro-Biafra agitators. Again, if the soldiers had done nothing wrong, why were they hell-bent on stopping journalists from telling the world, especially through photographs, the alleged lies against them by IPOB? Why did they unleash violence on journalists who were covering the events as they unfolded in Abia?
Clearly, the rhetoric of Kanu’s quest to right the wrongs against him and his people reeks of violence that should not be brooked by all who cherish the oneness of the federation. But by deploying troops in a bid to intimidate him into submission or worse still, to brutally eliminate him, the government has taken the laws into its own hands. For, the fact is that since the government is bent on incarcerating Kanu again over the allegation that he has breached his bail conditions, it should have waited for a law court to order his re-arrest. Even this request to the court has been justifiably condemned, and the deployment of soldiers to intimidate Kanu is much more condemnable.
The government is wasting human and material resources moving soldiers, armoured tanks and other weapons to the south-east when nothing warrants this. Indeed, the agitation in the south-east which the government considers a serious crisis that could only be resolved through the deployment of violence could easily be resolved if only the government would adhere to the advice of the citizens. The first step to ensuring enduring peace in the south-east is for the government to withdraw its troops. Since dance is Buhari’s euphemism for war, his pythons should be deployed to dance in the north-east where Boko Haram are still on the prowl despite the claim of the government that they have been defeated. They can also be deployed to check herdsmen who are raping, maiming and killing innocent farmers in different parts of the country. The government should not think that it can stop agitations through force. In this regard, it should take the path of negotiating with the agitators. If the government were sincere, it should not be afraid of negotiating with the agitators. The government cannot consider the idea of dialoguing with the agitators far-fetched after negotiating with Boko Haram members who have done so much damage to life and property in the north-east. The citizens are now paying billions to bring life to the south-east after the Boko Haram’s havoc that was inspired by religious bigotry and political machinations.
The government must come to terms with the reality that it is not only the south-east where there are agitations. Agitations everywhere have become a regular fallout of the inequality in the polity. What the government should do to stop them instead of using soldiers is to acknowledge the inevitability of the restructuring of the country. After all, with people like Prof. Wole Soyinka who propped up the Buhari government now rating his performance low and vigorously canvassing restructuring, the government must realise that agitations would continue until at least there is the assurance to tackle the injustice that has made some citizens to be superior to others.
The government has not only demonstrated its disposition to be heedless by not accepting the call for restructuring. It has also shown a shocking unwillingness to change from its fixation on skewed appointments in favour of the northern part of the country that Buhari comes from. This is sufficiently borne out by the appointments of northerners as the new managers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while brazenly marginalising other parts of the country, including even where the oil resources come from.
With this misguided deployment of soldiers in the south-east, Buhari cannot easily discharge himself of the allegation that his objective of making only northerners to head security agencies in the country is to eliminate any opposition to his pre-mediated conquest of other parts of the country. Far removed from the ordeals of the marginalised, the heads and other personnel of the security bodies could easily be disposed to think that by attacking agitators in other parts of the country, they are faithfully serving their country and protecting the president with whom they share ethnic and religious affiliations.
It is sad that Buhari has forgotten so soon his warning during his August broadcast against the prospect of some people starting a war only for them to flee abroad with their families while allowing innocent people to suffer. Now, it is Buhari who is provoking a war in the south-east. When it happens, like those he attacked for fleeing the battle they triggered, Buhari would be cocooned in Aso Rock, while the lives and property of innocent citizens bear the brunt of his misguided action. By his deployment of soldiers in the south-east and his opposition to restructuring, Buhari is heating up the polity ahead of the October 1 deadline given by northern youths for the Igbo to quit their region. For the sake of the unity of the nation, it is high time he sought introspection and rethought his self-serving positions.