By Adekunle Ade-Adeleyeon
A few years back, this column warned that the federal government was mismanaging restiveness in the Southeast, particularly the increasingly fiery protests by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). The government, the column suggested, was applying old, ignorant and jaded tactics to deal with what is evidently a manifestation of deep-seated socio-economic problems and political alienation. Alas, the government has persisted heedlessly in its set ways, and the problem, alarmingly, is worsening. Not only has there been no effort to understand the seeds of the budding revolt, a revolt that is fast and worrisomely acquiring a momentum of its own, no highly placed government official has declaimed on the subject or shown a willingness to pay attention to it in any way.
Friends of the Buhari government should counsel the president to seek better ways of managing this problem. Unlike other crises that seem to respond to the government’s do-nothing approach, this new revolt, as unpopular as it may seem now, is gradually assuming currency. Ignoring this kind of crisis will not resolve it. It is also urgent for the government to anticipate new ones, rather than just reacting, for often, as the Boko Haram revolt has shown, the problem may be left for too late.
In the case of MASSOB, apart from instituting state police, which is long overdue, it is time to reassess the fundamentals of Nigerian unity and take bold decisions to forestall ominous and more unmanageable crises. MASSOB problem will not go away simply because the police and other security organisations adopt strong-arm tactics, or hope that it is a passing fad. Contrary to the impression created by former head of state Yakubu Gowon that MASSOB may not really threaten national security, it does; and all it takes to tip everybody over the cliff is perhaps one scandalous act or an outrageous killing by the country’s antiquated law enforcement agencies.
It is also time the Buhari presidency gave leadership to the security agencies in this and other national disputes and conflicts. The government must design an intelligent, holistic and far-reaching policy to take care of the MASSOB challenge. It is this policy that the security agencies will cue into. Not the other way round. Sadly, such a policy does not at the moment exist, thus indicating why the security agencies have been hurling ineffective and unimaginative panaceas at the crisis. (The Nation)