The violence that heralded the marking of ‘Biafra Day’ by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was most condemnable and government should address its root causes in order to prevent a recurrence. The agitators claimed to be marking ‘Biafra Day’ in memory of the late Ikemba Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who in 1967 led the Eastern region of the country in a failed secession bid, and plunged the country into a 30 month long costly civil war. Under this guise, thousands of youths took to the streets in seven states of Abia, Anambra, Delta, Cross River, Ebonyi and Enugu demanding to be granted freedom to establish an independent ‘Biafra’ state. In some places the agitators were resisted by local youths who said their states wanted no part in a secessionist ‘Biafra.’
Police account has it that several protesters died along with two police officers. The protesters claim that the casualty figure was much higher. They also tried to attach an ethnic hue to their claim by citing the involvement of strange “terrorists” on the side of the security forces to attack them. In his response, Inspector General of Police Mr Solomon Arase ordered police formations in Anambra and Delta States, areas where the use of firearms against the police was reported, to arrest and disarm with immediate effect the members of IPOB and MASSOB. According to Arase, a situation where police personnel who are performing their statutory duty are attacked and killed shows that the group that is orchestrating the insurrection has “crossed the threshold and tested the common will of the nation.”
Arase could not have captured the mood of the nation better. For some time the agitators for the creation of “Biafra” have been busy launching sporadic activities in stoking the embers of disunity by reviving the very unhelpful sentiments that spawned the Nigeria Civil War. That war lasted from 1967 to 1970 and claimed millions of lives as well as unquantifiable losses in property and dislocation of livelihoods. Their penchant to engage in acts of lawlessness has also not helped matters. For instance the recent protests along with several others in the past were held without any consideration for the sensitivities of other Nigerians. The present agitations evoke unpleasant memories of the pains of the past with not a few stakeholders praying that a repeat of that dispensation never returns to the country.
While the pro-Biafra agitators may have the right of protest over any matter, the fact remains that their objective, which is to split the country, has been expressed banned by the 1999 Constitution which declared Nigeria to be an indivisible and indissoluble republic. In the present democratic dispensation, the area the agitators seek to carve out has a full complement of elected Governors, Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and other leaders who should pursue the just cause of their constituents. The silence of these leaders is a warning to the agitators that there is no strategic interest for the Igbo in the “Biafran” cause, which died and was buried by its original sponsors at the end of the Civil War in 1970. The new found restiveness over a dead cause is therefore an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
While any Nigerian or group of Nigerians may romanticize on the restructuring of the federation, the resort to anomie and violence to achieve such aims is not an option. Just as well, it also behoves the government to see agitators not as enemies of the country but as citizens who are entitled to attention and understanding. However, they must do their agitation peacefully while government has a duty to listen to their legitimate grievances and aspirations, if they have any. The National Assembly and indeed the Council of State ought to intervene in this matter and properly address it before matters get out of hand. (Daily Trust)
* The opinion expressed in the editorial is entirely that of the Northern Nigeria newspaper and does not represent the opinion of The Easterner