Monday, 4th December 2023

Restraint and wisdom

By AbduRafiu
21 July 2023   |   3:39 am
In a situation that a man’s life is considered as cheap as that of a fowl which can be taken when it is least expected, it is hardly possible to distinguish between a criminally motivated attack and a politically driven one in the times we are today.

Nnamdi Kanu

In a situation that a man’s life is considered as cheap as that of a fowl which can be taken when it is least expected, it is hardly possible to distinguish between a criminally motivated attack and a politically driven one in the times we are today. This is the blurred picture the IPOB campaign of terror sometimes presents. IPOB is in the struggle to excise five states that constitute the South-East Zone from Nigeria. It will undoubtedly require the expertise of our security agencies to tell the colouration of one attack from the other. All we hear is a man has been shot dead by unknown gunmen. A traditional ruler was killed in his palace only on Monday in Imo State.

Whenever the issue of insecurity in the country as a whole is mentioned, it sends cold shivers down our spine. And we can’t but ask: Where do we go from here? Where is our land headed? How, for example, does one explain the horror Peter Obi, Labour Party flagbearer in the February elections, reported in statement on the occasion of his 62nd birthday on Wednesday? In the statement he reeled out chilling figures of death in parts of the country in this month alone. He said 327 were killed this month in Plateau and Benue states. The figure is higher when what took place in some other states is taken into account. Mr. Obi said it would be inappropriate for him to be celebrating in an atmosphere overcast with “much insecurity, violence and bloodshed.” “This month alone”, he said, over 200 lives have been lost to sustained violent attacks in Mangu Council in Plateau. Similarly, in Benue, over 100 lives have been lost in recent times, the latest being 27 persons killed in Adogo Ugbaam, Akpuuna, and Diom communities in Ukum LGA.”

All the attacks are heinous. An attack is an attack and death is death. Even then it is imperative to study each case and pattern closely. One is in furtherance of the pursuit of a political agenda; it is in pursuit of carving out a Republic of Biafra. The other is in quest of territorial seizure and expansionism through conquest. Over-run the land and take it would seem to be their charge! The point that calls for reflection is the prevalence of forces sweeping through the land, one seeking excision and the other land seizure through violence in the 21st century in the guise of banditry or plain “unknown gunmen” atrocities.

As I said last week, in the South East the situation can be said to be drifting towards Thomas Hobbes’ world in which life is nasty, brutish and short. The traditional ruler killed on Monday when gunmen broke into his palace was Eze Nnamdi Mmirioma. The dare-devil incident occurred about 3 p.m. On Tuesday, a set of gunmen demanding the release of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, attacked a divisional police station at Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State. They carted away arms and ammunition. In the attack that was launched in the wee hours of the night put at 2 a.m. one officer was shot, but there were no deaths. The officer is in hospital. In Lagos, a container load of guns headed for the South- East was intercepted by a combined team of the Customs, the Police, Department of State Security (DSS) and the National Drug Law Enforcement and Administration (NDLEA). The container was intercepted at Ports & Terminal Multi-Services Ltd and Tin-Can Island Ports.

What is worrying about these developments in the South-East is that the five governors in the zone appear to be losing authority over the Biafran campaigners, and by extension grip on the security of their land. The governor of Enugu State, Mr. Peter Mbah has stepped out courageously to embolden his people to henceforth defy the Monday Sit-at-home order issued by the IPOB boys. On Monday, he went round markets and shopping malls to check if his people were heeding his ban on the IPOB order. He was pleased to see that his people heeded his plea to open their markets and the major malls and banks. He said adequate security arrangement had been put in place and repeated his threat that those who sit at home on the order of IPOB “risk losing their shops to serious-minded businessmen.”

Addressing business owners, traders, shoppers and civil servants at the State Secretariat, Governor Mbah said: “It should never be heard that we were cowed because of the threat of violence by these criminals.” He explained to his audience that the poverty that would befall them sitting at home would kill them even faster. “We are losing over N10 billion every Monday that we sit at home. Enough is enough. This foolishness must end and must end now. We cannot be marginalising ourselves and still complain of marginalisation.”

“So, we must say no to sit-at-home because what it means is that we are destroying our employment, our economy, and our GDP. We must erase it from our memories. We should see it as our shameful past, which we do not want to remember. We must put it behind us and forge ahead, ensuring that we work every working day of the week.” The governor said when he goes round again next Monday, he is resolved to go with officials of Enugu Capital Territory Authority who would seal off any shop found locked “because of the illegal sit-at-home. We will take it that you are not ready to do business. We are going to revoke your licence to operate. We will revoke your shop title and reallocate it to someone else who is ready to do business.” He has pledged to put bite to his pronouncements from next Monday.

The governor has spoken well, and courageously. For how long are people to continue to live in fear and torn between state and non-state actors? However, a matter of this nature requires very careful handling. There is something intrinsic in life man pursues that is beyond bread and butter. It is something tangible, yet intangible that man could hold in his palms. It is felt to the depth of the soul. It is a matter we must now take very seriously. If it were an issue of bread and butter, Melinda Gates would not have quit the opulence of her marriage, a union in which everything was at her bell and call! She could put a call through to NASA without second thoughts and book for the next flight to the moon!

There are several separatist movements in different parts of the world. In Eritrea, for example, there are Democratic Movement for the liberation of the Eritrean Kunama and Saho People’s Democratic Movement. In Equatorial Guinea, there is Movement for the Self-Determination of Bioko Island. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is the group known as Bundu dia Kongo pressing for Kingdom of Kongo. The Anglophone areas of former Southern Cameroon are fighting for Federal Republic of Ambazonia.

In the United Kingdom, there has been referendum twice to determine whether Scotland should continue to be part of Great Britain or not. The Scottish National Party led until recently by the First Minister, Miss Nicola Sturgeon was in the front line of the struggle. It was such that the parties pushing for independence of Scotland –Scottish National party and the Scottish Green Party–won a slim majority seats in the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2016.While the Scottish National Party wanted the Queen to continue as head of the Realm as she was in Australia and Canada, the Scottish Socialist Party, predictably, would accept no such arrangement. In the end the referendum did not scale through. Who can easily forget Sinn Fein of Northern Island? Wales has had a long-drawn battle for an Independent Sovereign State. The struggle was to manifest in both Scotland and Northern Island voting to remain in the European Union (EU), contrary to the position of the rest of Great Britain.

All kinds of reasons are given as the trigger of the pressure to quit a union, be it an association, a society and indeed a marriage union. As in most cases, there can be no mergers, but only unions. We may not know enough about a union drifting apart and in the end disintegrating. This is because, there are beyond-the-earthly connections governing the affairs man and his community. Those pressing to cut the umbilical cord may not know the forces driving them, nor do those resisting hardly go beyond scratching the surface.

Ignorance is the bane of world’s societies today. There is the Law of Movement; there is the Law of Balance and there is the Law of Homogeneity. All of these govern human relationships. Then there is the timing and there is the methodology? Given the complexities of our land and the tension this cannot be the right time to put another iron in the fire. There is the need for deep knowledge of the purpose of life of earth. How does killing your own people with glee advance the cause of your exit? How does wading through slaughter to the throne advance your cause? How does burning police stations and shooting police officers, wreaking maximum damage on people and properties advance your cause when at the end of the day, being properties of the state, tax payers would be called upon to rebuild them?

Writing in his enrapturing book, “Building Future Societies,” Dr. Stephen Lampe says: “Indeed, a successful and political system is one in which all units (states, regions, provinces, or republics) are convinced that they are better off in it than they would be outside it.”

What then is our way out of this conundrum moving forward? Our leaders already recognise the diversities of our country and from time to time eulogise the inherent strength and beauty in the plurality. What remains is how we enhance the diversities to make a great country.

Our founding fathers Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello were acutely aware of the heterogeneous nature of our country when at various conferences in Nigeria and London they expressed their people’s wishes for a loose federation, and this formed the basis for the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. These constitutions gave each region the right to have its own regional anthem, its own police, its own anthem, its own flag and send its own representatives abroad as ambassadors. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe opted for a strong centre. Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were proven right from the experiences we have all gone through.

When Tinubu Administration settles down he will need to quickly move the country back to what is generally called true federalism in which like the fingers of one hand, all units will work collaboratively, swing separately, yet be in the same country. This will certainly move the South-East pressure fighters close to a national structure of their dreams and help some of the die-hard separatists to ease part of the burden they may have heaped upon themselves from which they feel compelled to be free and make progress in their longing for spiritual ascent. I am saying this because all of us are living our yesterday today and constructing our tomorrow through what we think, say and do today, the harvesting of which is true and certain, awaiting our tomorrow. Adamantine is the law. Everyone is placed where he requires in consequence of his past and for opportunity of his better tomorrow! Tinubu may also wish to seriously consider a plebiscite in the South East internationally run and supervised with minimum or no Nigerian Government involvement. The way things are going, the South-Easterners cannot solve their problem on their own. They will not trust Nigeria to solve it for them without being partial.

A country or a state is not a creation of Mother Nature. The natural nation is one that is spiritually, culturally and linguistically homogenous and bound by Nature. Lord Lugard and colonial Britain out of blissful ignorance threw away these cautions which we can now re-fix. The Law of Homogeneity prescribes that birds of the same feather should flock together. Salmons and tilapia are fishes, they live separately in the bed of the sea. Lions and hyenas are carnivorous animals, but each species roam the forest separately. Whether animals or man, they are governed by the same Law of Homogeneity.

Because Nigeria has gone too far in the forced union, and because of the heavy price dissociation will extract from all the units, what common sense dictates is to elect the next level which is loosened Federal union. If we embrace the plebiscite option, proponents for or against a Biafran State should be given an equal opportunity to canvass their positions. If the pro-Biafran group wins, so be it. In most countries race and ethnic issues pose serious and destabilising concerns. It does not make sense to pretend that they do not exist or that they can be wished away.

Dr. Stephen Lampe further states: “We cannot run away from ethical principles in the conduct of human affairs; to do so is to invite instability, chaos and eventual collapse. All units in an association, indeed, all parties to any association must reckon with the fact that to take lies in giving. And that it is more blessed to give than to take. Where there is genuine love and regard for justice, the right balance between giving and taking evolves automatically.” Quoting a former President of the World Bank, Barber Conable, he states: “There is no strength in diversity without the cement of commonly-held values.” And this is where the role of good leadership comes in.

The leadership, even where level of homogeneity is low is expected to be even handed and to inspire the various units in the union to a high level of mutual appreciation and respect, as well as commitment to higher values.

Tinubu has great tasks awaiting his attention as soon as he properly settles down. In the meantime, the IPOB campaigners should sheathe their swords while preparing room for exhaustive debate and dialogue.