Possibly the latest threat to Nigeria’s peace and unity is the emergence of a new, more determined brand of agitators in the South East demanding for the secession of ‘Biafra.’
The Indigenous People of Biafra and their demands aren’t new per se. They just seem to have evolved rapidly in the last few years till date, recurring in the limelight as a cause for worry, with Nnamdi Kanu at the forefront. These past 2 years coinciding with Buhari’s administration seem to have been particularly thick with inter-tribal tension that has led to where we are today.
On 14th September, a disturbing eyewitness video was in circulation showing members of the Nigerian army violently abusing a group of alleged IPOB members. This, along with accounts of indiscriminate killings of civilians in the state raises important questions once again about the role of the Nigerian military in internal security issues and the value the State places on civilian life.
According to the Constitution, the job of the army is to defend Nigeria from external attacks, maintain territorial integrity and to aid civil authorities to restore order in times of chaos. So why is it then, that our armed forces are too often mixed up in civilian issues, and end up misusing their power and taking the lives of innocent citizens?
On Sunday, as we are led to believe, a group of IPOB members in Aba started an attack on Northerners in the region, leading to public outrage. We saw videos of militants stopping and searching buses, looking for fleeing Northerners to attack and possibly kill. If at all as a Nation we have learnt anything from the past, it’s that such acts are a close precursor to full-blown warfare and we all expected the police to step in and restore peace and justice.
Following the deployment of the Nigerian army and their documented acts of unwarranted abuse in the region, now it’s hard to believe that restoring peace was the agenda at all. Already, public response has been a backlash – from civil rights groups to military authorities – including talk of military presence being removed from the state, but the growing seed of discord and agitation has already been watered by their actions.
Previously, the majority acknowledged Nnamdi Kanu as an extremist but this agitation has served to gain new sympathizers to his cause from among the already alienated ndi igbo who are rightfully embittered by the military’s actions. Another sore point is the lackadaisical attitude of the government and security forces when Fulani herdsmen earlier this year were slaughtering people of the South East. Where was this swift response from the armed forces in the area then?
This conflict is coming when tensions are already high after a group of northerners issued a warning for all Igbos in the North to vacate or face acts of violence. Even though this happened while Mr President was away on one of his ‘sick leaves’, we already know his take on the issue. In his return address to Nigerians, PMB made it clear that no group would be allowed to threaten the unity of the nation.
Let’s remember that not too long before now, Amnesty International had already accused the Nigerian army of massacring about 150 IPOB members in 2016, which the President is yet to address directly. Indeed, this new incident is only a reopening of that scar.
It would do us well to look closely at other countries in crisis today, or even at our own past experience. They all started a similar way. Do we really want to go down that road? I speak for myself and many of Nigeria’s youth that we are uninterested in the bigotry and ethnic divisiveness our predecessors have so tried to pass down to us and that continues to hamper the progress of the country.
We are not stupid and we can see clearly that in most cases, influential men push such narratives for political agenda while impressionable youth and our less privileged kinsmen suffer the most. When will we refuse to play along in the schemes wicked leaders?