Attacks on Public Officials Abroad


The violent campaigns against public officials in foreign land are pointless

A few months ago, former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu was physically assaulted in Nuremberg, Germany while attending the second annual cultural festival and convention of Ndi-Igbo. Early this month, it was the turn of the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to be similarly assaulted. “I was attacked by a few misguided Nigerians while on national assignment at a climate change event in Madrid, Spain,” said Amaechi, adding, “They were quickly repelled by the Spanish police before they could do any harm.”

Like the earlier attack on Ekweremadu, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) claimed responsibility for the unruly act against the two-term former governor of Rivers State. Indeed, one Emmanuel Powerful, said to be the spokesman of IPOB, stated that the incident was in line with a standing order from their leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu. He vowed that the group would continue to trail Nigerian leaders in foreign countries with the aim of assaulting and embarrassing them before the entire world.

While we condemn this recourse to barbarism that puts a dent on the image of our country, we must also put the madness in context. In the aftermath of the attack on Ekweremadu earlier in the year, IPOB had accused him of instigating ‘Operation Python Dance’, a controversial 2017 military operation in the South-east. They had also accused other South-east leaders of masterminding the proscription of IPOB by the federal government and not doing enough to address the challenge of insecurity in the region. While the group is free to hold positions on national issues, it cannot be allowed to take the law unto its own hands.

Founded in 2012 by Kanu, the proscribed group was pressing for an independent state of Biafra for the people of old Eastern Region of Nigeria through a referendum. And the group thereafter branded all politicians who do not support their stance as saboteurs or sell-out that must be assaulted and destroyed. Meanwhile, Kanu fled the country in 2017 while on bail. From his hidden abode abroad, he and some of his fans in the diaspora have repeatedly raised their voices, sometimes violently in futile efforts at instituting change at home. But there can be no justification for the uncivilised disposition of some hoodlums to continue to put at risk the lives of Nigerian public officials abroad.

In this day and age, it is obvious that violence cannot be a successful weapon for seeking political goals and those behind IPOB must realise this, whatever they may claim to be fighting for. While the latest attack on both Ekweremadu and Amaechi follows a trend, it is particularly troublesome. Such targeted violence against Nigerian officials abroad by a group promoting a sectional agenda is dangerous, against a backdrop of rising polarisation in the country. If, for instance, the trend continues and officials from other parts of the country are attacked, it could trigger reprisal actions that could further expose our delicate fault-lines.

Unfortunately, because gross violations of human rights are hardly censored in our country, a culture of impunity is fast becoming the order of the day. And for that reason, many Nigerians do not see anything wrong in what these hoodlums are doing to our public officials. But whatever may be the allegations against some of our officials, we cannot prescribe for them jungle justice in foreign land. No sane society would encourage that. Remnants of the banned body must therefore realise the futility of their actions.

The federal government must also send a strong message by liaising with its counterparts abroad to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and dealt with according to the law. That will help to deter others with similar motives in future. Top government officials cannot be composed and effective on assignment abroad if they have to be constantly screening crowds of Nigerians for hidden hazards.

Such targeted violence against Nigerian officials abroad by a group promoting a sectional agenda is dangerous, against a backdrop of rising polarisation in the country