Without prejudice to ongoing operations by the police and other security formations to; “restore peace in the Southeast”, I want to outline the following political ways, not as substitutes, but as some kind of amplifiers to hasten the desired outcome from the security strategies already put in place by the authorities for the restoration of peace in the Southeast.
These suggestions are subject to more expertly reviews and improvements, as I will neither claim expertise on security nor on politics, but as someone genuinely disturbed about, not just the current state of security in the Southeast, but potential escalation of the situation if not intelligently handled, I feel that some of these commonsensical propositions may go a long way in bringing some level of stability in the Southeast.
Being convinced that the root cause of the raging crisis in the State is the mismanagement of political leadership by successive political leaders, which has made those that should normally be seen as criminals and terrorists by the ordinary people, become heroes in the sight of a frightening number of Ndigbo, I feel that beyond the ongoing “show of force” by security operatives, a show of responsibility by our current political leaders and a genuine show of remorse by past political leaders will go a long way in assuaging the anger of majority of Ndigbo who genuinely feel that they have long being taken for granted by the Igbo nay Nigerian political class.
It is hardly arguable that the Muhammadu Buhari presidency is the worst in the mismanagement of our diversity as a nation, and this has contributed more than any other thing to the heightened sense of rebellion even among the historically temperate and long-suffering nationalities in the country. While this is a tough call, President Buhari needs to immediately review his strategies, especially, as it concerns the geopolitical composition of his cabinet and the civil service. The sense of political alienation being felt by Ndigbo, especially, the intelligentsia and political class is a major reason why most of them may have chosen to look the other way while these youths set the Southeast ablaze. The President needs to take back his word on rewarding those who gave him 97% votes more than those who gave him 5% of votes.
This is the first time since independence that the Igbo are not holding any commanding political position in the Federal Executive Council, the ruling Party’s NEC, the federal civil service, the security architecture and even unofficial circle of power brokers. Those who are close to the President should make him understand that the few of us who are struggling to condemn the ongoing agitation are seen as efulefus or sellouts, not just by IPOB sympathizers but by majority of Ndigbo. We do what we do out of our love for Nigeria and in clear appreciation of the fact that these crises will further damage our self-built industries and opportunities across the East.
Governors of the Southeast must stop playing to the gallery and take needed actions to ameliorate the sufferings of Igbo youths across the Southeast. They should introduce programs and policies that directly benefit and empower Igbo youths, not the insult of giving out rabbits to young graduates, while their own children are working in some of the biggest multinationals and top public corporations and agencies. Igbo governors should stop the grandstanding of holding irrelevant meetings and embark on regional projects that shall further open up economic opportunities to investors and entrepreneurs in the Southeast, thereby creating more jobs and opportunities for wealth for our youths. If our youths are more productively engaged, the unknown gunmen or whatever alias they choose to be called will have their ranks drastically deserted.
Prominent political leaders from the Southeast who had held one position or the other in the past should stop hiding in the wings, waiting to make political capital out of the unfortunate situation. They should invest in the Southeast, they should embark on empowerment drives that will ensure that the best of our youths are given the breaks they deserve. It is unfortunate that while this crisis is raging in the Southeast, most of them are hiding away abroad or in Abuja and looking for ways to make political capital out of the situation. These politicians have a role to play, because if these youths’ protest against bad governance is justified, then, they all contributed to it.
The President needs to make a strong statement against the excesses of some murderous Fulani herdsmen who have been destroying people’s farms, raping women across the middle belt and the Southeast and seemingly getting away with such atrocities. The statements by the President’s appointees justifying these criminal trespasses on people’s private farms and properties are reprehensible, and the President must rise beyond the attraction of Fulani irredentism and repudiate the criminal activities of his kinsmen. The President must understand and make it known to his staff and aides that cattle rearing is a private business venture and those who cannot afford to read their cattle without destroying the businesses and lives of others should be barred from rearing cattle.
I do not subscribe to the convocation of any national conference, be it a sovereign national conference or national dialogue or whatever name they choose to call it. We should rather make efforts to improve our electoral system, so that our national assembly will become the Congress of the people, not a cabal of executive bootlickers. If our electoral process improves appreciably, then, the people will have the chance to elect those whom they believe in their ability to provide good leadership at different levels. A transparent electoral system also ensures that elected officials owe their allegiance more to the people than any group of godfathers and would work hard to impress majority of the people through people oriented legislations and those in the executive branch would try their best to improve the lot of the ordinary people through the implementation of good programs and policies. A people’s legislature made possible by a transparent electoral system will have the mandate of the people to discuss the agitations of the people and introduce laws to resolve some of the most pressing issues affecting the people.
One of the reasons why it seems that some ordinary citizens seem indifferent at attacks on security personnel and infrastructure could be as a result of the abusive tendencies of some unscrupulous security operatives over the years. Relevant authorities must ensure that the police and other security personnel operate within the limits of professional ethos, especially, at this very critical time. Officers found to have brutalized innocent civilians should be penalized and the processes of their punishment should be made public, so that the people will not go on with the belief that police authorities shield their officers who brutalize innocent citizens.
Obviously, the morale of our security operatives is very low at the moment. Improving the welfare of these long-suffering patriots will go a long way in motivating them to put in their best into the job. It will also drastically reduce incidents of abuse, extrajudicial killing and corruption within the armed forces. If a policeman or woman is paid good salary and given good welfare and insurance packages, he or she will be in a better state of mind to give their best at work.
Also, beyond the bravado of mounting road blocks and the reactionary strategies of the police, more investments should be made towards improving intelligence gathering. It is embarrassing that a 21st century police hardly has surveillance cameras even at our various police commands. It is unbelievable that more than one month after the attack on Imo Police and prison headquarters, we are yet to see any videos from surveillance cameras. Intelligence based policing with the appropriate surveillance infrastructures will do a lot to save our police the embarrassment of having to unnecessarily harass innocent citizens.
The Federal Government should design a program to reintegrate repentant militants from the Southeast. The program should be similar to the amnesty program which Niger-Delta militants and thousands of Boko Haram fighters and Northern bandits are currently benefiting from. One of the narratives with which the IPOB promoters have swayed the sympathy of a number of Ndigbo to their side is the fact that many Boko Haram terrorists have been integrated into the Nigerian Army, while others have had houses built for them by the FG. Such amnesty programs for the southeast militants will go a long way in not only disarming many of the militants but also convince their sympathizers that the FG is doing its bit towards finding peaceful ways to resolve the crisis.
Finally, traditional rulers and other community leaders in the Southeast should be adequately carried along in the execution of some security operations, as their intelligent assistance will be very vital in routing out criminal elements in their various communities.
MAY ALA IGBO HEAL! MAY NIGERIA PREVAIL!
BY ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES
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