The Gathering Cloud in Igboland

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POLSCOPE  

By Eddy Odivwri; eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com 08053069356

I have been somewhat confused about the recent developments in the South East region of the country occupied by people of Igbo descent. My confusion arises from how to balance the actions of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu and the reaction from the military.
I have been worried about how the IPOB leader has been carrying on since he was released from prison on bail. He has literally broken all the bail conditions given him, prompting the federal government to head back to court seeking the revocation of the bail.
Matters were not helped with the arrant nonsense of the disgruntled Arewa Youths who issued a quit notice to Igbo people residing in the north, to quit the northern states latest by October 1.

IPOB had latched on to that action to raise the bar of its agitation for a country of their own, called Biafra. That was what led to the avalanche of hate speeches that have defined the nation’s conversation in recent times.
But while the nation awaits the verdict of the court, whether indeed Kanu has breached the bail conditions or not, and decide whether to revoke it or not, the soldiers, under the command of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai were deployed to the entire south-east, according to them (soldiers) to contain the crimes of kidnapping, armed robbery and secessionist agitation. I believe the last reason is the driving motivation for the deployment of the soldiers in an operation code named Operation Egwu Eke (Operation Python Dance1). The symbol of a python is acutely predatory. The python is a dangerously wicked snake that does not spare its target.

I do not understand the provocation that led to the deployment of soldiers to the south-east to exhibit “pythonic” (permit the inflection) attacks.
In my own “bloody civilian” thinking, I would have thought that with the coming of October 1, the army, in pursuit of the territorial integrity of the nation, should have launched Operation Egwu Agwu (operation Lion Dance) in the northern states, where the Arewa Youths had triggered a needless national tension. The soldiers should have ensured the arrest of the Arewa youths who issued the threat, as promised by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai.

It smells suspicious to launch Operation Egwu Eke in a zone with no overt security threat, and launch no operation whatsoever (or at best Operation Lafiya Dole—Peace by force) in a zone that had issued time-bound threat to fellow Nigerians.
Rather, the soldiers have literally descended on the IPOB youths with maximum hit. An unconfirmed video clip that went viral during the week showed how soldiers were dehumanising some arrested IPOB members, forcing them to lie down in dirty muddy water, stripped of their shirts. Surely a disturbing video footage which the army authorities have promised to investigate.
This unevenness in federal reaction to the disquiet in the nation is what triggered the tension both in Aba, the commercial city of Abia State and in Port Harcourt, almost a stone’s throw from Aba.
The arising clashes between IPOB members and the Nigerian army led to three deaths in Port Harcourt (including that of a Police sergeant) and several injuries both in Port Harcourt and in Aba on Tuesday. Three days earlier, IPOB had claimed five of its members were killed when the army invaded the home of Kanu. The soldiers who denied ever killing anybody, argued that the IPOB members not only blocked the road, but also pelted them with stones and broken bottles, forcing them to fire “warning shots” during their “show of force patrol” in the town. Accusations and counter accusations!
This is the same Aba city. A traditional battle ground. The town where in 1929, the women folk launched a mass protest against British oppressive policies in the famous Aba Women riot.

However, whatever the argument of the pro-Biafra supporters is, it amounts to an affront to either block the road against soldiers and worse still, pelt them with broken bottles and stones. It is a naked invitation to chaos. Have the IPOB boys forgotten so soon the travails of the Shiite members in Zaria, December 2015? Is it not great folly to confront armed soldiers? Did the late Zik of Africa not say it is foolishness to argue with a man carrying guns?
What is certain is that the South East in general is losing its peace.
The clearest evidence of that was the declaration of a three-day curfew by the Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu last Tuesday, just as reports indicate that Kanu’s residence is under the siege of the military. Curfew was later extended beyond three days. Some reports said that Kanu is under house arrest with armoured tanks surrounding his house.
Surely, but slowly, the storm is gathering in the south-east. This is needless! The brazen show of force by the military is rather uncalled for as it could lead to escalated clashes between the IPOB members and the Nigerian army, with all the concomitant consequences. All these are avoidable.

With the terrorist affliction in the North-east and the growing tension in the south-east, the nation’s leaders must do more than staple governance model to redeem the nation from the grip of avoidable upheavals.
The IPOB Secessionist group had been craving for a break-up of the Nigerian federation. It is a sad throwback to the events that led to the Nigerian Civil War in 1967.
Before IPOB, was MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra), led by Ralph Uwazurike. Although MASSOB was more like a pressure group, IPOB elevated the agitation to the form of a secessionist/self-determination group. And ever since IPOB debuted, the region had lost lot of its peace.
For good or for ill, Kanu has become a major factor in the socio-political calculation in the South-east region.

Although the majority of the Igbo elite and intelligentsia have not quite identified with the IPOB philosophy and demand, the politicians led by the five state governors, a forthnight ago, held a consultative meeting with Nnamdi Kanu over the latter’s quest for a referendum. The IPOB group had declared that the November 18 election in Anambra State would not hold unless the referendum is conducted.
Kanu, seemingly drunk with his IPOB ideologies, nearly regards all Igbos who do not support his idea either as renegades or traitors.
In more ways than one, the IPOB leader has raised the spectre of confrontation against the Nigerian state, including the floating of an unregistered radio station broadcasting from offshore, disseminating information that clearly challenge the sovereignty of the Nigerian state, not forgetting the affront of flying the Biafran flag within the Nigerian territorial space.

In all, the Commander-in-Chief must, nonetheless, apply expediency and wisdom in handling the IPOB menace. It is like a tse-tse fly perching atop a man’s scrotum. A careless slam in order to kill the tse-tse fly could land the fellow in ICU ward in the hospital. The gathering cloud must be made to melt away. We cannot afford another such rain. Wisdom is a better part of valour.
On his part, Kanu and his IPOB ideologies must take a deep breath in. The solutions to the problems of Nigeria do not lie in breaking up.
The late Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu who led the first attempt realised the futility therein and declared that a second attempt is not necessary. Nigeria is bigger and better as one. What should be demanded is justice and equality. No ethnic group is superior to the other. We all have equal stakes in the Nigerian project. Kanu must rein in and disband his rag-tag militia and join hands with other nationals to advance the Nigerian brand, as every and any attempt to fractionalise Nigeria will not work, at least not now.

Imo 2019: Opara Activates Guber Plans Again
Politicians have a special kind of hope. The type that buoys their belief in their capacity to do the extra-ordinary. They are blessed with kilowatts of mega vision that enable them see what many others don’t see or see hazily. All you need do to confirm this is to listen to them, especially if they have an eye on a political office. I recently had one such encounter with Robert Opara, a traditional chief of Mbaise kingdom. For about 90 minutes he reeled out a four-year blow-by-blow activity schedule. He speaks with so much confidence and conviction of his belief and programmes.

“Governments exist to save lives”, he says, adding that, “as for me, the paramount desire will be to make Imo State work again”. That simply implies that the present Imo State is not working. “Imo has been in a coma because nothing is moving in the state, as there is no social contract between the government and the governed”, he affirms.
Chief Robert Opara wants to govern Imo State come 2019. He had had a shot at the office in 2011, without occupying Douglas House.
This time, Opara seems poised to make it into the governor’s seat; and he says he will turn Imo State into a production mill.
His brain seems to be brewing many ideas ranging from establishing breweries, to shoe factories, beverage factories, and resuscitating the famous Ada Palms and the Paints factory established by the late Sam Mbakwe, the second republic governor of old Imo State.

According to him, “I will get the private sector to drive the industrial initiative of the state and we will work towards establishing at least a factory in each of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state”.
Opara who believes that the factories will not only stimulate massive commercial activities in the state but also grow the revenue potential of the state, by meaningfully engaging the youth which will in turn depopulate the labour market and thus radically drive down the crime index in the state.
Even those who cannot be accommodated in the factories, Opara says, will be assisted through the SME platforms, just as women and youths will have separate and active empowerment programmes, even as he would introduce social security “no matter how small” to the vulnerable of the society.

Lamenting the worrisome state of insecurity in the state, the Mbaise chief noted that under his leadership, there will be collaboration between the security agencies and the local communities, even though he does not believe in state police. His aversion to state police stems from the fear that obnoxious politicians could use it (state police) to intimidate and emasculate their opponents.
Launching into the political arithmetic of his Owerri zone being the most appropriate to produce the next governor of the state, Opara argues that the Orlu zone had produced Achike Udenwa and Rochas Okorocha while Owerri zone (which he belongs) had produced the late Gov Evan Enwerem, for just two years.

He reasons that it is high time Owerri zone (with nine LGAs) collaborated with Okigwe zone (with six LGAs) in order to neutralise the Orlu electoral demography from 12 LGAs.
He condemns, in strong terms, the alleged scheme by Governor Rochas Okorocha to hand over the governorship to his in-law, a serving commissioner, who is also from the same Orlu zone like the sitting governor.
Opara who believes that the 2019 election will determine the political direction of Imo State, warns that any other mistake on the part of the electorate “will be catastrophic”.
However, Opara has one major river to cross. He is a believer and an advocate of independent candidacy. “I strongly support the idea of independent candidacy”, he says, noting that “the Senate is already working on that amendment of the Electoral Act and I hope to be a beneficiary”.

What if the plan for independent candidacy does not sail through? “Then I will kick myself into a political party and work within the system”, Opara announced.
Opara who is latching on to his rich experience in the private sector and media industry, like an athlete, is warming up seriously for the contest.