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IPOB in Enugu

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By Gabriel Amalu

The recent stirrings, in Emene, near Enugu, by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), unfortunately turned fatal, as two officials of the Department of State Security and some members of the group were reportedly killed when the DSS confronted the group. The once serene suburb was turned into a war zone and some residents have vowed to move out of the area for fear of future confrontation between security agencies and the group.

Since that tragic event, residents now see Emene, as a subdued war front, awash with undercover security agents and some defiant members of the IPOB group. For the ordinary folks, both groups have become dangerous, and even more lethal as an admixture. The story of what happened varies, depending on the sympathy of the person telling the story, but the bottom line is that citizens have unnecessarily lost their lives. So sad.

This column supports the rights of citizens (including groups of persons) to express their opinion in a peaceful assembly, because that is the hallmark of democracy. But unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, members of IPOB, haven been proscribed, have lost that privilege of free citizens, once they gather in that name. The legal battle to de-proscribe the group appears to have fizzled out, so the security agencies consider their meetings as illegal, and would enforce it.

Again regrettably for the group, they are perceived as gathering for an unlawful purpose. Call it a double whammy, if you like. The constitution which guarantees them the right of peaceful assembly in section 40 of the 1999 (constitution as amended), also provides in sections 1 & 2 that Nigeria shall be one indivisible country and no group can take control, except as provided by the constitution. So, their gathering to preach the division of the country, for the authorities is treasonable.

Another related challenge IPOB has is that the Nigeria security apparatchik is in a war footing, across many theatres. So, governmental authorities would do everything possible to suppress any stirrings that could lead to a new theatre. The other related angle to this is that those leading the IPOB movement may not have read any books on the pacification of the lower Niger, during the early years of colonisation. Historically, the Igbo are difficult to pacify, so the authorities apply maximum force, to end any potential uprising.

Furthermore, the IPOB group lacks the sympathy of the Igbo elite, who rejects their proposition that fighting for a Biafra nation, is the intelligent response to the challenges of nationhood Nigeria faces. So, while the elites are disconsolate with the state of affairs, they reject a potential civil war as the answer. But for the IPOB members, who are mainly the hoi polloi, the reactionary measure of the IPOB leadership resonates with them.

To make matters worse for IPOB, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has become like Janus, the two faced god of Roman mythology, in dealing with Igbo interests. It is ironical that while the Igbos have legitimately complained about marginalisation by Buhari’s government, the regime is also building the major infrastructure landmarks in the zone, including the upgrading of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, which was getting ready for commissioning while the IPOB stirrings were afoot.

So, majority of the Igbo political elites would not join in the pursuit of IPOB’s pie in the sky, which they see chasing the Biafra dream as, instead of contending for political power and influence, which gives them the leverage to access their share of the proverbial nation’s cake. So, while the IPOB’s rhetoric stirs the hot bloodedness amongst the hoi polloi, in the eyes of the political elite, they constitute a nuisance which should be crushed.

Another challenge for IPOB is their poor strategy or absence of any. Those who have listened to Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, see him as a rabble rouser, who boasts about things that he cannot do, and as such cannot be taken seriously. Just like his predecessor in conceit, Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of Movement for the Independent State of Biafra (MASSOB), he is seen by them as an opportunist, who is trading on the misery and sufferings of Igbo people, in a failing Nigerian state.

They recall that when MASSOB was at its height, in influence, they even gave a date for the independence of Biafra, and some stragglers were starving to fund the movement. Unfortunately, the only surviving tale from their effort is that their leader is allegedly one of the richest land owners in some states in the zone. Of course, those who can read between the lines, make a connection that down the line, the leaders of IPOB would abandon the cause, after heavily taking care of themselves.

There is also the story that in some arrears where they are dominant, they demand taxes and rates, and sell totems, as if they are the sovereign in those places. In fact, the governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, reportedly claimed that Abia State has been neglected by the federal government in the siting of amenities, because of the activities of IPOB. The swagger of the members of the group, around their leader’s place in Abia State, before he ran into exile, shows that the members do not apply discretion and wisdom in their activities.

So, when members of IPOB met to push their agenda in Emene, which the authorities can interpret to mean meeting to plan a forceful overthrow of those who are in charge, as elected leaders, they were inviting trouble. When, they make comparisons and claim that they are peaceful, that would never save the official repercussion, and especially at the hands of those their actions are undermining their official responsibility. Yes, a few elite may agree to their cause, but they will not be allowed to arouse the level of excitement that they crave.

Most Nigerians agree that the Nigerian nation as presently configured is not working. Indeed, in the northeast, it is the desire for a different type of country that is fuelling the Boko Haram insurgency. Again there is the fear that Islamic insurgents from across the West Africa are angling to make Nigeria a different country from the one we currently operate. Peoples from other regions of our country are also demanding for a change.

Like other Nigerians, the Igbos legitimately want a better type of country, from the one we currently operate. Indeed, this column fears for the survival of the country, if the rapacious elite continue their mismanagement of our common resources. But should IPOB be allowed to lure security agencies into the region, for the likely mindless killings? No.

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