THE ALTERNATIVE with Reno Omokri
While Buhari’s ‘dot in a circle’ comment was a mean-spirited dig at the Southeast and its people, it also shows how isolated the region is in terms of access to ports, sufficient fresh water, and enough arable land to agriculturally sustain its population, without dependence on others.
Borno state alone is two and a half times the land mass of the entire Southeast, and Kano alone has a population that is at least equal, and possibly more than Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo combined.
So, perhaps more than some other regions, the Southeast needs cooperation with her neighbours.
But that is very difficult due to the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra, which has raised the political temperature in the region to the extent that it is almost a necessity to have troops stationed there, like the British had in Northern Ireland.
Of course, Buhari has not helped matters by arresting Nnamdi Kanu. Before his arrest, Mr. Kanu was not known globally, or even nationally. He was pretty much circulating amongst fringe elements in the Southeast, who felt left out of the scheme of things in the region and in the nation.
But his arrest gave him a status, and a voice that reverberated beyond his initial captive audience. He became rather like a demigod.
Due to the president’s tactless handling of the IPOB problem, Mr. Kanu has benefited from the Modi effect.
Narendra Modi was little known outside India, and even within India, he was considered a Hindu irredentist. He was accused by the West of inspiring religious killings in India and placed on a very public visa ban by the United Kingdom and the United States.
The result of that action showed how naive the West still is about India. Because, rather than minimise him, he became an anti-imperialist hero in his country, and a groundswell of support grew and he was swept into office, and is now the Prime Minister of India.
And now, the very nations which visa banned him, were themselves forced to receive him, because you cannot ignore the leader of a nation whose population is more than that of the entire Western hemisphere, and which produces much of the goods and services they consume.
By arresting Nnamdi Kanu, Buhari made him the most popular individual in the Southeast. Popular, I said. Not famous. Nnamdi Kanu is both well-known and well liked in the Southeast, in a way that nobody has been since Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
But now he is in jail, having been rearrested. And those who succeeded him in IPOB have made life very difficult indeed in the Southeast.
You have the most commercially active people being forced to observe a sit-at-home on the most commercially significant day of the week (Monday). Add to this mix, the Eastern Security Network and its activities. Then you have ‘unknown gunmen’. And the infighting and power struggle within IPOB has led to orders and counter orders to the populace.
And the end result is that the lot of the Southeast is not anymore better today than it was before Buhari.
In fact, it is now worse. Much worse.
The Enugu International Airport, which was meant to boost aviation in the region, has suffered, because aviation is averse to where there is insecurity.
Interstate commerce within the region has reduced, because people fear being caught by unknown gunmen, Ebube agu, or facing harassment at the many roadblocks that have sadly had to be set up all over the region.
Politically, the region had also seen regression, as the general insecurity has meant that it has not been able to increase its registered voters in the quantum that neighbouring regions have been able to.
And nothing appears to be changing. So much fear in the region has meant that its philosophers are wary of philosophising. And on and on it goes.
But is there not a better way? I think there is. I think there is.
Instead of destroying offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, perhaps IPOB may want to study the Sinn Féin model of Northern Ireland. They are already popular in the Southeast. Why not metamorphose into a political party. Democratically seize control of all Southeastern states, and make them a model of good governance in Nigeria?
And then from there, expand your political influence to other zones, and when you have substantial representation in the National Assembly, you use that influence to amend Nigeria’s constitution to your advantage, and block or promote appointments requiring Senate approval that do not favour your agenda. It is not every time you fight. Fighting and violence are a last resort. Utilising party politics to achieve your aims does not mean you are cowards. It shows you are smart.
Look at Northern Ireland. In less than four years of politicking, Sinn Féin achieved more than 80 years of violence by the Irish Republican Army. Cooperation is always better than confrontation. IPOB may achieve more for the Southeast in one year as a political party than in 100 years as a secessionist group.
And just as Buhari was able to find his way into the Villa by finding a Southern bride, a future IPOB political party can produce a President, if such a person is able to work with political forces in other regions, even if it means a power-sharing arrangement.
Some people may point to what Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and his associates did with the All Progressives Grand Alliance, but that is not quite the same thing.
What I am about to say next may upset some people. Truth is often bitter. That is why it can be upsetting.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance was created as a vehicle to contest elections. It was not created as the logical result of a groundswell of support in the Southeast as a vehicle to assert their own agenda. Big difference.
As proof, I will quote from a press conference Chekwas Okorie, the founder of APGA gave in 2017:
“On the 24th of December 2002, he (Ojukwu) agreed to become a member of APGA after I had consented to propose him as our presidential candidate for the 2003 presidential election.”
What I am counselling IPOB to do is to metamorphose into a genuine grassroots movement, not a contraption so bohemian that its Presidential ticket can be negotiated away commercially.
The point I am trying to make here is that the hard way is not the only way. There is time for nzobu nzobu eyimba eyi, and there is time for ebeano. As long as it helps you attain your political goals, it should not matter what strategy you use.
Only a mad man fights because he likes fighting. Rational men fight for their interests.
What interests will secession from Nigeria serve, that cannot be better served by remaining in Nigeria and influencing the direction of the country?
The Indigenous People of Biafra have a lot to learn from Government Ekpemupolo, AKA Tompolo, and his Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
From being a wanted Niger-Delta militant warlord, and heading a movement that fought the Nigerian state, Tompolo has now transformed into a political godfather, who provides mutually beneficial services to the Nigerian state, which has enabled him achieve through politics what years of Niger-Delta militancy did not achieve.
Tompolo and someone like Asari Dokubo have demonstrated that cooperation is better than confrontation. And by taking a more pragmatic approach to meeting theirs and their people’s long-term goals, one of them has become a billionaire oil and gas tycoon, while the other is a billionaire oil Sheikh with his own government recognised stool in Rivers state.
Let us learn from Deng Xiaoping, who after a lifetime of almost militant communism, became China’s leader in 1976, and then abandoned his belief in Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, replacing it with the “one country, two systems” policy which permitted communism and capitalism to coexist in China.
When tasked with justifying his volte face, Mr. Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”.
In the same vein, IPOB may want to consider that it does not matter if the means is violence or politics, as long as it yields results. And as the violence is yielding retrogression, perhaps politics will bring progress.
People don’t need to know your weaknesses, plans, or sins. Keep them secret. Those are things people can use against you when they turn against you. You can be friends today and fiends tomorrow. Don’t tell them what can be used to bring you down, or make you drown! There is a very thin line between love and hate, and an even leaner one between friendship and enmity. Even in heaven, former angels turned to formal demons. That is why you should not be an open book, even to your friends. When people know your weakness, they can become your sickness! Don’t be the eagle killed by an arrow made from its feathers.