Tuesday, June 27, 2017 7:55 pm
By New Independenc Group
On the 30th of May, 2017, the The Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Biafran Independence Movement (BIM) issued a stay at home directive to all Nigerians of igbo extraction. The directive, according to reports, was issued on three inter-related grounds. It was meant to mark the struggle for the Sovereign State of Biafra, which the late Military Governor of Eastern Region, Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu,
declared on May 30, 1967. Also, it was issued to honour the heroes of the Biafra and other slain activists, especially those who died during the war. Lastly, as the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu observed, it was a symbolic referendum to gauge the preparedness of the people of the region for an independent Biafra.
The directive, evidently, was very successful, as roads were deserted, schools and businesses closed, and vehicular movement almost totally absent, particularly in the five South-Eastern geopolitical states of Nigeria.The development did not go down well with a coalition of northern youth groups, who issued an ultimatum expiring on the 30th September 2017, for fellow Nigerians of Igbo extraction residents in all of the three geopolical zones of Northern Nigeria,made up of North-East, North-West and North-Central to vacate the zone made up, majorly of Nigerians of Hausa/Fulani extraction. The coalition comprise Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students Forum, Northern Emancipation Network and 11 other northern youth groups. Not surprisingly, the ultimatum generated serious reaction of various dimensions- adding adverse effects to a polity already on edge, due largely to the restful situation in the South-South geopolical zone of Nigeria and terrorists activities of Boko Haram and other groups in the North-East zone of the country
Whereas the sit at home order by IPOB is a peaceful form of protest recognized world over as a means of expressing grievances by any group, the Northern group considers its success more as one instigated not by fear of reprisals for non-compliance, particularly for non-igbo residents in the East. Yet, we at the NIG cannot but be very clear that the counter-directive to igbos in the North would end being a threat to the lives and peaceful existence of the igbos in the North, and tô other ethnic-nationality groups,outside of the Hausa-Fulani stock, which has no commendable precedent anywhere in the world. It equally violates the fundamental rights of the threatened people as enshrined in the 1999 constitution to legally reside and do business in any part of the country unmolested.
We are of the view, however, that this dangerous development has more to do with the general approach of IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to the issue of secession, than the particular sit at home order. Mr Kanu’s method of mobilization has been the use of inflammatory and divisive languages against the Nigerian State and other sections of it. In some audio and video recordings he has been heard and seen calling for the killing of other Nigerians solely on the ground that they belong to different ethnic stock than the igbo. We are equally of the opinion that such reckless utterances stretch the meaning of freedom of expression beyond reasonable limits, just as it constitute danger to all Nigerians, those of igbo extraction inclusive. While we believe fully in the right of a group of people to seek self-determination, it is important that several peaceful, conventional options of attaining same are explored instead of resorting to hate speeches and ethnic profiling.
From a holistic point of view, we see the dangerous state of affairs as one of the contradictions of a dysfunctional State. That the likes of Kanu, with the often illogical string of ideas, laced with venom, and without any apparent strategic approach to the stated goal, has been able to sustain a significant followership, reflects more the failure of the Nigerian State to address the misgivings of an important part of it, rather than his own effectiveness. There is a fascination by a people who perceive themselves as marginalized and unwanted, for an El Dorado in a place they can truly call their own. While the general malaise of corruption and inefficient leadership that has rendered Nigeria prostrate are not peculiar to the Igbos of the South-East region of Nigeria alone, it is equally important to note that the helplessness of any group of people, as well as series of social injustice, as perceived and expressed, are largely attributable to the nation’s structural imbalance. With too much power at the centre, and an overbloated political system, the people feel emasculated, and are eager to place the blame for their deplorable situation at the feet of those who seemingly benefit from the faulty structure.
The rate of ethno-nationality tension in the country is at an alarmingly high level. The rising level of discontent as evidenced in divisive rhetorics and hate campaigns is likely to result in a serious crisis, if not properly managed. While we commend the diplomatic shuttles that the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has embarked upon to douse rising tensions, we encourage him, and indeed the ruling party as well as the entirety of the political class to see it as an effort to buy time for the needed reforms. For good or ill, it is time to devolve more powers to the people, through the lower levels of government, and allow them have a greater say in how they are governed. One guaranteed benefit of doing this is the deescalation of inter-ethnic tensions and mutual suspicions across different groups, which constitutes a major threat to the sustenance of Nigeria as a peaceful, united entity.
Those in power should equally refrain from taking political correctness to ridiculous heights by claiming that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. Right from Berlin, in 1884/1885, the history of Africa and its Postcolonial fragments has been a product of negotiations, even between those who plundered it. It is only when all stakeholders appreciate that every federating unit has the capacity to invoke the right to self-determination that concerted efforts can be made through bargaining and negotiations for a more equitable and just union. It is our belief at NIG that a restructured Nigeria is the surest antidote to echoes of secession, ejection and mutual destruction that looms large in the horizon, as the contradictions of the nation-state make themselves more manifest. Any attempt to ignore the dangers of a nation at the precipice of a possible disintegration may be just an assurance for the inevitable,as it should obvious that Nigeria, in its present contraption, is a graphic situation of ‘One Minute to Midnight’. But the ONE MiINUTE remaining, before darkness descends on a nation which manifest destiny is begging for actualization, is and should be enough to prevent a conflagration
Statement signed for NIG by: Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde as its Convener