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Opinion: Why Is South East On Fire?

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By Caleb Mbah In 2018 I came back to the Southeast and met a new region. I noticed that every evening, men went about with their resistor radio close to their ears. The Youths listened using their phones, the beer parlours had their radio on, listening to the same voice. House after house it was the same voice. It was the voice of Nnamdi Kanu.

I have never supported the agitation for Biafra. Basically, because I am yet to be convinced that Biafra would bring solutions to our economic and political problems. So, my first response to this situation was to discourage anyone that could listen from believing Nnamdi Kanu. But only few persons listened to me.

Initially, I thought the Biafran and marginalisation talk was for the poor. But soon I discovered that even the rich and highly educated ones in the region either supported Kanu totally or were sympathetic to most of his views.

Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous of Biafra (IPOB), through his Radio Biafra, educated and interpreted the policies of Buhari’s government, convincing the South East that these policies were made to marginalise them and keep the North as leaders.

But the big questions which continued to disturb me are,  “Why did Igbo believe Nnamdi Kanu ?” and “Why was it easy for him to convince the Southeast on this theory of being marginalised by Buhari led government?” I soon found the answer. The Federal government led by President Buhari was unknowingly providing evidences to support Kanu’s marginalisation theory, thereby giving the Igbo reasons to believe Nnamdi Kanu.

As Kanu told the world about fulanisation agenda of Buhari, his led government continued to appoint more northerners into government positions, neglecting the south. It became a known fact that whenever a government official from the South retires or is sacked, the president would replace him with a northerner.

READ ALSO: Insecurity: Dialogue with ESN, Imeobi Igbo Forum, Cleric tell S’East govs As Kanu spoke about Buhari ‘s hatred for the south, the president hurriedly proscribed IPOB (which only held peaceful protest as at then), but publicly pampered Fulani herdsmen who killed, raped and burnt farmland and houses of thousands of Nigerians from the north central to the Southeast.

President Buhari publicly condemned IPOB for their peaceful protests, but ignored the activities of Fulani herdsmen, advising Nigerians to be their brothers keeper by accepting Fulani herdsmen even as they continued to kill other Nigerians. And when some Nigerians, like the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom raised alarm, they were seen as enemies of government.

It is therefore clear that when Igbo watched the actions of government daily and noticed a similarity between these actions and policies and Kanu’s warning of marginalisation by the north, they simply believed Kanu. Even those who had never supported Biafra struggle became sympathetic to the struggle.

Unfortunately, and most terribly, they did not just end in believing. Soon the young men in East got so angry. They had watched herdsmen invade Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra etc., and Kanu had told them that this was a move to wipe out the Igbo race. So having lost trust in federal government security agencies, they had no other choice than to look for alternative mechanism to protect themselves. In fact, the recent establishment of regional security outfit by South East governors is a testimony to the fact that the region does not trust federal government to protect them from Fulani herdsmen anymore.

It is note worthy that these young men who are aggreived are now the enemies of Nigerian security agencies.The Nigerian police has continued to insist that these men were responsible for the several attacks on police stations and prison breaks in the south East.

Armed men had invaded more than four police stations in the region, killed police men and carted away ammunition.

The Nigerian army had been involved in a gun battle with Eastern Security Network (ESN), a security outfit loyal to Kanu, who are insisting that Fulani herdsmen must leave the region.

So why is the south east on fire?

Many have argued that Mazi Kanu, who is believed to be in far away Israel has misled young Igbo through his numerous speeches and set the Igbo land on fire. But I do not share this view. I believe that President Buhari’s failure to give the Igbo reasons to disbelieve Kanu is the reason for the current security challenges in the South East.

The President had failed to recognise the multi -ethnic peculiarity of Nigeria. His “body language ” has always given the south reasons to feel marginalised. While Fulani herdsmen freely killed and destroyed houses in various communities, the president continually spoke softly of them. The leader of Miyetti Allah (a union of Fulani herdsmen ) proudly spoke on national television, threatening communities that have ordered herdsmen to leave due to the persistent killings.

The president has however, treated IPOB as a more serious security issue, even when there was no evidence of killings by IPOB as against Fulani herdsmen.

Moreover, President Buhari has kept his promise of not treating those that gave him much vote (The north), same as those that generally refused to vote for him (The South). He has made sure vital government appointments went to the north, leaving the south east feeling more marginalised.

The Igbo literally pleaded to have the Inspector General of Police, when the last police boss retired, it went back to the north.These divisive actions of the federal government motivated the youths to take up arms more than Nnamdi Kanu’s speeches. Government actions gave life to Kanu’s arguments and thus fueled the current security challenges.

Finally, the Igbo must understand that they stand to gain nothing if they make their land a security flash point. It is a known fact that Igbo are great businessmen/women.But if the present security challenges continue, investors will flee the area ,and Igbo, not federal government will bear the consequences.

It is therefore needful for productive Igbo sons and daughters to come together and think of ways to develop and secure the south. I strongly believe that Igbo, with their creative and productive ability can transform the region without much assistance from the federal government.

Also, the Federal government must take heed and resist the temptation of making the south east a war zone. The government must understand that the current security challenges cannot be resolved through gun battles.

Buhari led government should review her policies and take actions that shows equality of all Nigerians. If soldiers are sent to fight ESN, soldiers must also go after Fulani herdsmen. President Buhari must be fair in his appointments. The north and south must be given equal opportunities if Nigeria truly belongs to us all.

Truthfully, if the federal government fails to handle the current security situation wisely, it will surely escalate into more deadly Security situations, not just in the south East but to the south south and perhaps the middle belt .

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