Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet.
The recent rearrest of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was greeted with a loud sigh of relief and celebration in some sections of the country. It also elicited congratulatory messages to the federal government of Nigeria which appears overwhelmed by the intractable security challenges and in dire need of any redeeming act. This is clearly an exaggeration of the security threat Nnamdi Kanu and indeed IPOB pose to our nation’s security and unity.
It is quite strange and disturbing that the federal government is according undue attention to the threats of separatist movements in contrast to the more daunting ones posed by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the North West, some parts of North Central and North East.
Activities of those criminals have resulted in the evacuation of over 20% of the villages in NW and NE. Hundreds are being murdered and maimed every week. Many more are kidnapped for ransom. Millions have been rendered internally displaced, facing disease and starvation. Over one thousand school children were abducted in the past 8 months with over 300 still in the hands of the bandits and kidnappers demanding humongous ransom payments. Rape of women and young girls has become a daily occurrence. Most economic activities,particularly farming, which is the mainstay of the people in these areas, are now all but impossible.
Government’s earlier claim of having technically defeated the Boko Haram insurgency in the NE has turned out to be empty propaganda. Contrary to this claim,the enemy has morphed into a more determined and deadly force, threatening to overrun the whole of the NE.
For the average Northerner living in these zones, who is barely aware of the activities of separatists, banditry, kidnappings and insurgency are of greater threat and concern to him.
The arrest of Nnamdi Kanu is of no serious consequence, since it does nothing to ameliorate his harsh and brutal condition.
In recognizing or reasserting the right of every citizen or groups to express their desire for self determination, one does not support or condone the use of violence for such purpose. IPOB and its leader may well be responsible for some of the violence, including the murder of security personnel, arson and destruction of public and private properties for which they should be held to account. We must however be honest enough to identify the cause of the current growing restiveness in the South East. By all means Government needs to deploy nonviolent means in addressing the problem. It is self-evident that justice, fairness and equity are the best means of building a united and virile nation, particularly one as diverse and fragile as Nigeria.
It is my long held that Nigeria is more beneficial to all the federating units, if only because it provides a security umbrella to all its units. None of them will fare better in a balkanized Nigeria due to their similar diversities. The recognition of Nigeria as the giant of Africa is not on account of its huge oil wealth but its size, diversity as well as other potentials. These not withstanding, the nation can only remain united and prosperous when all its citizens and the component parts feel a true sense of belonging. Without it, the nation’s unity will be in serious jeopardy similar to what Nigeria is currently experiencing.
Truth be told, the Buhari administration has, so far, exhibited poor skills in its management of our diversity. Yet it has the benefit of great examples by past administrations and statesmen which should guide it.
After our bitter civil war, July 1967-Jan 1970, the then Head of the Federal Military Government, General Yakubu Gowon, declared a no victor, no vanquished reconciliation and reintegration policy. Its implementation may not have been perfect but it produced a guiding vision which served as a template for the reintegration of the nation.
In 1978, eight years after the civil war, the NPN presidential candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (from the North West), a former federal Commissioner of Finance in the Gowon government, picked his running mate, Dr Alex Ekwueme from the South East. They won the 1979 Presidential election and enjoyed an enviable brotherly relationship as President and Vice President. They won a second term in 1983. President Shagari’s government pardoned the former Biafra secessionist leader, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, which permitted him to return from exile in 1982. He went on to contest a senatorial seat under the NPN.
These are in sharp contrast to the declaration of President Buhari after his election in 2015 in which he promised not to treat, on equal terms, those who gave him only 5% of their votes with those who gave him over 97% of theirs. This may account for his Government’s refusal to appoint an Ibo as Head of any of the Security services. A review of this ill-advised policy will go a long way to neutralise the growing influence of IPOB among Ndigbo, both at home and in diaspora.
The federal government of Nigeria must go beyond the arrest of Kanu and pay greater attention to the more serious security challenges threatening to cripple the country completely. The apparent failure of our security forces to deal decisively, as the President so often commands them to do, with these security threats is obviously due to the acute shortage of manpower and equipment.
These deficiencies have resulted in the thin spread of our forces and lack of timely rotation in areas of conflict. Government must massively increase security manpower and equipment. As we have seen, mere change of Service chiefs would appear far from being the solution.