The Military Show of Force in South East Nigeria: Another Major Faux Pas

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Two badly mismanaged issues stirred up the ghost of the Biafran revolution that had been quietly begging, in the last 5o years, to be appeased in order to rest permanently in peace. The first was the blunt response of President Buhari to the allegations of exclusion of the South East zone in the governance process in Nigeria. The President stunned his audience when he declared that he could not treat sections that gave him 5% support equally with those that gave him 97% support. Aside from the fact that the misspeak negated the Commander in Chief’s avowed commitment and constitutional responsibility to serve as President for all Nigerians, it portrayed the South East zone as being deliberately punished for the decision to vote for, the now opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). A right they exercised in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended. 

The second was the arrest of Nnamdi Kalu, which thrust a relatively unknown person into political and national limelight. I must admit and a good number of Nigerians will agree that before the October, 2015, arrest of the self-proclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) very little was known of him and his radio Biafra. Many also had not heard his inflammatory speeches against the government or proclamations for a Biafra nation. 

All that changed with his arrest, incarceration and the highhandedness of the security agencies while dealing with the agitations that followed his arrest. The Federal Government helped immensely in the transformation of Nnamdi Kalu including giving him the stature and followership he now enjoys. Strangely but true, the actions of government also helped in providing the platform for his message to resonate nationally. 

Another Major Faux Pas 

The Federal Government against the backdrop of these aforementioned missteps, has embarked this time through the activities of the Nigerian Army operating under the code name Egwu Eke II (Python Dance II), on a major faux pas that portends no good for the South East zone in particular and the Nigerian nation in general. The only outcome of this military show of force is bloodshed and more bloodshed and the attendant deepening of distrust and animosity amongst the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria. 

A few weeks ago, the nation seemed set to erupt into an ethnic conflagration of epic proportions as hate speeches and songs spewed across the nation’s social media space. Although, the Northern Youths have since suspended the Quit Notice, the deployment of the Nigerian Army in the guise of operation Python Dance II, seems to fast track, as it were, the ultimatum of the radical Northern youths to the Igbos. The difference in the plot is that the timing is no longer 1st Oct 2017 and the killing field is now in the South East zone. The disingenuous use of the military to decimate the legitimate political agitations in the South East zone is inappropriate and condemnable.

It is worth stressing that the IPOB agitation is not an armed insurrection and should not be equated, let alone treated, as one. It has remained a non-violent agitation. The gory video clips of the activities of the Nigerian Army in the South East shows an army at war and not one with the mandate to restore peace and order as the originators of the Python Dance II would have us believe. Not even at the height of the military campaign against the Boko Haram terrorist did the Nigerian Army show such level of brutality and disregard for human lives. 

The IPOB agitators and their supreme leader Nnamdi Kalu have not only been criminalized but have also become targets of possible jungle justice. This can be adduced from the fact that the same urgency and decisive action have not been visited on the herdsman who have continued to unleash terror and mayhem as they traverse the country. It must be underscored that the killing rampages of the herdsmen have more consequences for national security and integrity than that posed by the IPOB agitators for self-determination. 

Although the South East zone may be presently overwhelmed by the marauding presence of the Nigerian army and other security agencies in the guise of operation Egwu Eke II, the truth is that the Nigerian democratic process is also under military siege. The core essence and underpinning of our fledgling democratic institutions – the rule of law and respect for human rights – are under assault and are being gradually asphyxiated. The victims are not only the Igbos of the South Eastern states but all the citizens of Nigeria. 

The Killing and Mayhem Must Stop

Nigeria cannot afford to continue on this dangerous and treacherous path. Now is the time to call on all those in leadership positions in Nigeria to live up to the responsibilities and oath of their offices. The immediate responsibility for de-escalation of this tension lies with the South Eastern Governors who must as a matter of urgency demand for the withdrawal and return of the military to their barracks. Operation Egwu Eke II must be discontinued to stop the wanton killing of innocent and unarmed civilian lives. It is equally imperative that a democratic process of dialogue and negotiations must be instituted to engage those who feel excluded from and marginalized by the current political process of governance. President Buhari as much as admitted it in his speech on Monday 21st August, 2017 shortly on his return from his medical vacation that there are legitimate grievances in the country and that these need to be addressed. The agitations of IPOB is derived from the legitimate grievances of the South East zone. Military action cannot be substituted for the much needed dialogue in resolving these legitimate grievances.

The World Will be Indicted

The attention of the international has long been drawn to the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria and the implications for regional peace and security. The current spate of killings and the heightening of tensions suggest very clearly that this is indeed the beginning of the much dreaded round of ethnic conflagration in Nigeria. 

The world will surely be indicted if it turns a blind eye, especially on the eve of the 72nd session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), as the Nigerian Army armed with sophisticated weapons is unleased against a defenseless civilian population whose only crime is the wish of a segment of its people to exercise their freedom to self-determination. A right that is universally acclaimed and enshrined in the charter of the United Nations. The world has always stood up for justice, equity and fair play and that indeed is the issue at the heart of the IPOB agitation. History beckons on the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly to hear the passionate plea of the defenseless citizens of the South Eastern states of Nigeria and to act decisively to stop the carnage and killing going on there.

Nigeria, a potentially great country, stands at a crossroad, hobbled by internal dissent from many fronts and unable to live up to the expectations of its citizens and the international community. A stable, peaceful and progressive Nigeria is an asset to the global community and this can be achieved by rekindling the federalist spirit that allowed its diversity to be the strength of the nation rather than its weakness. A return to the Federalist Constitution of 1960/1963 provide the path to this greatness. 

The international community and friends of Nigeria are enjoined to urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to institute, as a matter of great urgency, the process of national political dialogue. This process will allow the nation harness its huge human and material resources, take advantage of its diversity to rebuild the Nigerian nation. Very importantly, it will renew the patriotic fervour in the citizens and rekindle the dimmed dream of a country where though tribe and tongue may differ, the unity of the country would be anchored on justice, equality and fairness. 

PS

I have just learnt that the Nigerian Military has declared the Indigenous People of Biafra a terrorist organization. That this pronouncement is coming from the Nigerian Army further confirms my views that the democratic institutions and processes in Nigeria are under serious assault. 

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