Igbo, Biafra and the burden of truth

By irohin oodua

A new bloody drama has come up in the Igbo East, a region that, in 1967, fought Nigeria for 30 agonising months in a blood-soaked conflict. On Sunday, September 10, truckloads of heavily armed soldiers mobilized to the heart of Igboland. Mission was to disperse members of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB) led by a young man in his 40s, Mr Nnamdi Kanu. Few hours later, video clips of young men, stripped Unclad caught the world in awe.

Nigerian soldiers, with their guns, submerged the young boys in murky, disgusting odor filled liquid; they were not to look up, but coerced to drink and eat the muddy waters with its associated infections. Hundreds scurried across the bush paths, like 17th century slaves, striped and flogged several times, hit with guns. Some were shot dead. Nigerians may never have the full story. Eye witnesses are either too traumatised to speak or are presently kept in military or police barracks. 59 IPOB members will be tried for treason, according to the Nigerian state. In all, mothers have lost their children, young people have been killed without resort to the law court, civilian authority usurped and a military rule, even if momentarily, imposed on a part of Nigerian territory. Jolted and seized by fear of losing political grip, the South East Governors proclaimed IPOB banned in the five states. Igbo exist in large numbers in almost all of the 36 states, which limits the scope of IPOB ban in the 5 Igbo speaking states, an indication of the dangers of logic propelled by fleeting instinct.

The ban was without resort to the state houses of Assembly. A statement of elected individuals thus became “Act of Parliament.” In a martial show of force, the Army, via a media statement, proclaimed IPOB as a terrorist organization contrary to Section 2 of the 2013 Terrorism Prevention Act of the Nigerian parliament. The Section says only a High Court Judge can proclaim an organization as a Terrorist group through the advice of the Inspector General of Police, (IG) or the Attorney General of the Federation. A mere press release by a military official, also, in Nigeria, automatically became law.

No doubt, Mr Kanu has demonstrated infantile radicalism, lack of tack, recklessness and complete disrespect for revolutionary methods in his trade. He had singled out the major ethnic groups, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani for conscious attacks foreclosing the prospect of alliances in a terrain that requires lots of caution and wisdom. His group also appeared to have undermined the rage of the usually tempestuous regime, when IPOB was linked, without open denial, with a Secret Police said to have been established by the group. Mr Kanu disdains Nigerian political economy and his proclamation of Biafra Republic done bare-chest. Within the shortest period, IPOB become the nectar, drawing, like a swarm of bees, young and frustrated men and women into its fold. It became a mass movement far ahead the expectation of its founders and assumed a life of its own. Other factors propelled the movement: Nigeria is run by a notorious ring of corrupt and criminal politicians, known for their villainous contempt for the people. The country is nurtured by corruption and ineptitude.

The system appears hopeless, self-serving, suffocates and maliciously impoverishes the masses. President Mohammadu Buhari regime has also kept many Igbo from the corridors of power, while the sudden collapse of the value of naira in the international market, following the fall in oil prices, crashed the hope of many Igbo, the ethnic group that dominates the import sector. This has been undermined by critics who claim Igbo are not marginalized and that what matters is the “unity of the country.” This people speak for themselves and from the comfort of their ethnic groups. For one thing, irrespective of the shortcomings of Mr Kanu, military justice is the least expected from an elected government. The soldiers invaded without resort to any Court Order. The invasion came at a time the Federal High Court was prosecuting Kanu.

The danger is the precedence of the Army being the judge and the prosecutor in a democratic setting that requires functions of the police and the judiciary. Given its ethnic configuration, the action of the Army has the potential of polarizing its formations along primordial lines and putting its entire martial spirit in mutiny mode. The Army has seized the license to proclaim who is a terrorist or not. Nigeria has a tradition of having truth viewed from the prism of ethnic colours. The contest for power in Nigeria's atomic society sees truth as the first casualty. Mr Buhari’s supporters have been largely ethnic faithful, fueled by blind patriotism, political vengeance and rabid zeal to protect the pecks and goodies of office rather than reason and common sense.

This gang also has a retinue of hangers-on, political mercenaries, paid and commissioned agents who have seized the social media space with half-truths, innuendoes and self-serving but cheap propaganda. There is another coterie of fraudulent academic harlots and position-seeking agents who will defend all atrocities for individual gains. In their furious defense of a string of illegalities, they consistently trample on international laws to make their claims and constantly turn logic upside down. The other fanatical category are the Fulani North, who presently control state apparatus and who derive privileges from the battalion mentality of the state, where power is over concentrated in the hands of a few to the eternal disadvantage of the masses. In this whole shameful conduct, democracy is destroyed and reason vanquished. All sorts of arguments are being invented, created and garnished one of which is the theory of “Restructuring of the Mind” a vague abstract proposition which spurs the ridiculous hope that deep contradictions that can plunge the country into war and chaos, will be resolved if only people change the way they think, as if millions of people impoverished by corruption and waste will be automatically rich if only they apply mood change, or that the indigenous communities whose natural resources are appropriated by the state will be better off if only they think so.

It is unfortunate that the Nigerian government has failed to appreciate international laws and the laws of creation trampled upon. Nigeria has decided to carve its own caliph against God's creation and global best practices. The issue of self-determination has long been resolved since 1948 by the United Nations, (UN). The President says Nigeria’s unity is “Not Negotiable,” whereas, negotiation is the first rule of democracy. The currently spokesperson for the State, Mr Lai Mohammed actually advocated dialogue with violent group, Boko Haram in 2014. Now his regime wants to keep her citizens together by force and at gun point. Like slaves whose lips were locked, Nigerians cannot debate their political future. This is the worst lid any country can impose on her people. Yes. Mr Kanu has incited against Nigeria. But the case is already in court. The Judiciary should be allowed to run its course. If every Nigerian that calls for war from the bedroom is to be killed, perhaps Nigeria will be a graveyard. By driving IPOB underground, the country threw away a platform that she desperately needs to gauge the mood of her foes. An underground movement will be more fatal and likely to see many innocent casualties in the desperation of the state to profile an entire nationality as primary enemy. Mr Buhari needs to hear the truth. This is the only thing that can set him free. That is the way he can succeed. Nigeria is hemorrhaging from internal contradictions that needed to be resolved in a honest, dispassionate and brutally frank manner.

There is no guarantee for peace when the goose that lays the golden egg has to be the sacrificial buffet. The nationality crisis is real. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is an old tradition that people of shared history and fears, always wish to seek common political territory. State and Local government creation were done in fascist fashion. There is the need to deconstruct the stifling political space. The constitution is faulty and not people-oriented. The unity of the country has to be discussed. It cannot be imposed by force, armoured tanks or with the fraudulent expectation that 170 million people will “restructure” their mind in just one midnight.

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