By Joseph Edgar
The quest for the actualization of Biafra is a shame on the leaders of Ndigbo. It is a shame foretold and its inevitability comes as no surprise, especially with the level of poor governance and public odium this has created amongst a fiercely proud and intellectually strong people as the Igbo people. It could be argued that what the country is witnessing at the moment could become child’s play if concerted effort is not put in place to ensure the enthronement of an inclusive good governance in the region.
Today, the Defence Ministry has labelled IPOB, the platform Nnamdi Kanu has been using to spread his message, as a terrorist group and gone ahead to caution parents and guardians to advise their wards to stay clear of the group. Also, the Southeastern governors who, up until now, have been wonderfully soft on the issue have also proscribed the group, asking all Igbos with legitimate concerns to channel their grievances through appropriate quarters as established by the constitution of the country.
In the last few days, there have been reports of skirmishes between the military and suspected members of IPOB. In this era of social media, nay citizen journalism, one would have to be very slow in assimilating some reports because of the level of false and fake news being bandied about by people from all divides.
But sifting through the reports, what is clear is that the military authorities, under the guise of a military exercise which they had funnily code-named Operation Python Dance, have taken strategic positions in and around Abia state, especial Aba, the major commercial centre and Umahia the home town of Kanu. One story talks about civilians blocking their advance and even attacking with broken bottles and all sort of non-military type weapons.
Depending on what side ones sentiments lay, one can choose to accept the official response of the military or the position of IPOB and its sympathizers who have claimed gross human rights violation, even pushing out a video showing purported Nigerian soldiers torturing civilians by the side of the road. That video would seem the height of technological manipulation, simply because of the fact that the camera man and the person rendering the voice over were both so close to the soldiers who did not seem to notice or mind their ‘’coverage’’ and commentary.
Today, Ndigbo are awake, rueing their lot in Nigeria. Tears and regret appear to be their companion as the leaders struggle to understand the unfolding drama. The question is, did they leave it too late? Are we beginning to see another suppression of the will of the igbo man due to the continued irrationality of one young man who may not have even been born during the last debacle that claimed over six million lives.
The tragedy of the Igbo man today is the shameful generation of leaders that has led them ever since the end of the civil war. Much as one is forced to adopt a middle of the road course, one cannot but in good conscience query the person of Kanu, his mission and his vision.
He has shown a crass lack of understanding of the dynamics that make up Nigeria and the very strategic role the Igbo man is playing. He failed to see the increasing presence of the Igbo man economically in the last two decades, the growing economic hubs spread and littered all over the country from Lagos to Kano to Port Harcourt but, instead, tapped on the dislocations that poverty and poor governance has thrown up, not only in Igbo land, to create a sea of misguided youths to believe in a Biafran Eldorado where he would be the sole emperor and where Biafrans will finally be living in heavenly splendour. His inexperience and mental state has been called to question by many serious watchers of the developments.
This week, after patiently hoping that some sense would come into the equation, the Federal Government seems to have woken up to its responsibility of keeping the country together as a strong entity. Kanu had taunted the government and people of Nigeria for too long. He had rubbished the bail conditions, purportedly set up a secret service, amongst other paraphernalia of a nation within a nation. It became increasingly clear that no responsible government would sit down and see its country pushed to the point of a devastating and horrible ethnic war.
Nigeria sits on so many fault lines, mostly ethno-religious and Kanu’s antics continue to push the fragile cord that keeps us together with impunity, drawing and redrawing maps, taking advantage of the deep penetrative effects of social media to keep his message of hate and division in the front burner while ignoring the voice of reason.
But let’s hazard a guess as to the factors that may have led to the emergence of this person. The Igbo man, despite his legendary reputation as a first class businessman and trader, and with his fiercely independent nature appears a total failure when it comes to political leadership. The long held belief of ‘Igbo have no kings’ has led to a lack of cohesion in political ledership leading to the emergence of characters and charlatans as leaders who have blessed the region with a rash of some of the most incompetent leadership ever seen by this generation.
Arguably, the Igbo man has the most inefficient and vacuous leadership in the nation. This has led to the dearth of infrastructure, mass illiteracy, the enthronement of poverty which, in turn, has grown frustration and a detachment by a large number of the people, thereby giving, first, the MASSOB and now IPOB the grounds to plant the seeds of separation not along any ideological leanings but along an effusive mass appeal to emotions and nostalgia based on myths and grandfather stories about the heroics of biafran soldiers during the civil war.
Today, the South east, despite its wealth, remains one of the least developed in the country. We now have governors who would rather destroy markets instead of putting in place policies that would lead to the betterment of the people. Crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery and ritual killings have become rife and the governors, like the fool that was Emperor Nero who danced while Rome burnt, continue in their macabre dance of evil.
The issue today is that of leadership, no more no less. Regrettably, Kanu has shown more passion for his ill-fated cause, more single minded purpose, more compassion for his cause than true Igbo leaders who seem to dance and prefabricate along selfish and personality-driven cults. Today, Igboland appears cursed, a land of scorpions, a shame to the great sons that led it in its glory days. Today, Mbonu Ejike, the legendary Nnamdi Azikiwe, Akanu Ibiam and Ozumba Mbadiwe, would all be so sad and ashamed of what their efforts have amounted to in Igbo land. Even Odumegwu Ojukwu, were he alive, would smirk, cringe and die again from shame.
The shame is not on Kanu. The shame are the leaders who have squandered trillions of Naira in federal government allocation since the end of the civil war. The shame is on the leaders who hold positions in the centre without using that for the betterment of Ndigbo but instead line their pockets with ill-gotten wealth. Kanu is not the one who is being disgraced but the leaders who continue to feast on the carcass of their kits and kin while living the life. They are the ones who have allowed Kanu to take advantage of the situation and thrown the country into needless confusion and chaos.
General Yakubu Gowon at the end of the civil war had said, ‘no victor, no vanquished’ as he hugged Philip Effiong who was surrendering on behalf of the Biafrans. It is those same words that should be thrown at the Federal Government. The people that make up IPOB remain our brothers and as such, in dealing with them, their human rights must continuously be guarded.
Due process and international ethos of military engagement must always guide any operations. The Defense Spokesman, from what has been reported, claimed that broken bottles, stones and sticks were used to attack the Army. If this is all that was used and had been used since this madness started, then IPOB in all fairness, cannot and should not be branded a terrorist organisation in the mould of ISIS or Boko Haram.
At best, this is a rag tag army of misguided juveniles. The main task should aim at debriefing and re-educating them and getting them to go back into civil society and be the vanguards of better governance and responsible leadership.
To the government, it must be said that this cannot be a war. This cannot be an opportunity to use force and the butt of a gun to hammer peace into place, otherwise we will win the battle and lose the war. We must, as a nation, address very quickly the issue of poor leadership that is the bane of not only the Southeastern region but that of the nation as a whole. If we fail, the shame of Ndigbo will continually be the shame of our nation.