Why IPOB sit-at-home order is counter-productive, by Azuka Onwuka


Azuka Onwuka

Some weeks ago, the Indigenous People of Biafra announced that there would be a sit-at-home in the South-East every Monday until its leader, Maazi Nnamdi Kanu, regains his freedom. The Federal Government had announced that Kanu was arrested in June in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria. However, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, who made the announcement refused to answer questions on the issue, fuelling speculations that due process was not followed in bringing Kanu back.

When the sit-at-home order was announced by IPOB, it was opposed by many Igbo people, leading to a reversal. Sadly, since the announcement of the reversal of that order over a month ago, the sit-at-home has continued to hold because of fear. Some people who tried to go about their businesses were attacked, making others to stay indoors for fear. Offices and markets have remained closed too. Therefore, both those who want to observe the sit-at-home and those who don’t want to do so stay at home.

The argument of those who support the sit-at-home order is that it will put pressure on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to release Kanu. Others say that it will bring the attention of the international community to the Biafran agitation. This does not seem to be the case.

On a weekly basis, Boko Haram, terrorists, bandits and herdsmen kill dozens of people in Borno, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Katsina, Plateau, etc, but Nigerians are not outraged. It sounds like regular news. People continue with their daily activities. The leadership of Nigeria does not show that it is worried. Foreign news channels don’t even report these stories. Even when they do, they report them as nothing unusual.

However, if a tenth of the killings taking place in the Northern states were to occur in Lagos or Abuja, the reaction would be completely different. The local media would raise hell. The foreign media would discuss it ad nauseum. Influential people and organisations in the world would condemn it. The Presidency would take immediate action.

Any sit-at-home in the states of the South-East, South-South, South-West, North-East, North-Central, or North-West has no effect on a President like Buhari. If lives don’t matter to Nigerian leaders, a sit-at-home order will look like a joke to them. Even Buhari’s home state, Katsina, is unsafe but that does not rattle him.

The areas that get the attention of Nigeria (and especially an aloof leader like Buhari) are Lagos, Abuja, and the oil facilities, especially in the Niger Delta, because they are the nerve centres of Nigeria. If you lock down the South-East for one year nonstop, Buhari will not care and will not be moved. The foreign countries you hope to notice will not be bothered as long as their embassies or companies in Nigeria are not affected or threatened. And their embassies and companies are all located in Lagos and Abuja.

The only group that has ever been offered an amnesty despite using bombs and guns on Nigeria is the Niger Delta militants. The reason was that their actions were affecting Nigeria’s key lifeline: crude oil. Unfortunately for Nigeria, the Niger Delta terrain is difficult to navigate for the security operatives; so the Niger Delta militants had the upper hand. On the contrary, the South-East terrain is easy to navigate. It is open and densely populated. There is no place to hide in it. There are houses and businesses that can easily be destroyed in any altercation with the security operatives who actually pray that an opportunity be offered them to destroy the region again. If you live in a glass house, you must refuse to engage in a fight that involves stones.

In addition, even though Buhari was elected as a civilian, he has little regard for the law. He has disobeyed court orders repeatedly. All signs point to the fact that he will not release Nnamdi Kanu until his tenure is over in 2023, no matter what the courts rule.

The way to have avoided this scenario was for Kanu not to have given them the opportunity to abduct him in the first place. The second option was that if Kanu had some people with him in Kenya when he was abducted, they would have raised an alarm like was done in the case of Sunday Igboho, which would have made Nigeria and Kenya to follow the legal means of repatriation, which takes years to achieve and may not be achieved in the end. Now that Kanu is in the custody of Buhari, the only option is to follow the legal process (which is sadly slow).

However, IPOB should have a diversified structure that will make it run seamlessly whether Kanu is there or not. IPOB needs deputy leaders, one of whom can function in the absence of Kanu. After all, if the abductors of Kanu had quietly eliminated him in those eight days they had him in Kenya but his whereabouts were unknown, would IPOB not continue to run? Kanu has said repeatedly that arresting him or killing him cannot affect the quest for Biafra. Why then is IPOB acting as if without Kanu, it is doomed?

The group also needs a Supreme Council which is above any individual and takes the final decisions concerning it, so that any action it presents is thoroughly debated, thoroughly analysed and jointly agreed upon for the good of the members and followers. If IPOB cancels a sit-at-home but some individuals attack those who come out, it should fish out the culprits and punish them as a deterrent to others, to avoid the creation of lawlessness. That is how serious and people-oriented organisations operate. It is not enough to say that those who burnt people’s goods are not IPOB members. That is a lame response.

Let nobody be deceived by the sweet talk that the United Nations will soon offer IPOB a referendum, thereby granting Biafra independence. The struggle for separation is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes decades of planning and consistency. Most times, those who started it don’t even live to see its actualisation.

In addition, as long as you are still part of Nigeria and say you are non-violent, you can only fight for justice or separation from a polity as a political player within Nigeria, using the instrumentality of the law. Note that IPOB has been issuing sit-at-home orders in the South-East for over a month without getting any attention from the Federal Government, but Rivers State Government got a High Court judgement to start collecting VAT, and the Federal Government was rattled. The United Nations and other countries of the world can only recognise you if you have won an election and are the official leaders of your people. If there is any country in the world where some people are asking for a referendum for separation but are not part of the political process of their area, someone should please mention that country.

Furthermore, regular observation of the sit-at-home order in the South-East is not a sacrifice for the actualisation of Biafra. It is a direct way of killing the businesses in the region. Soon, big and small businesses will consider the South-East region unsafe and migrate to other zones. A sacrifice is something you suffer to achieve something bigger. Sit-at-home orders will not make Biafra nearer. It won’t affect Nigeria and won’t attract the outside world. If the hundreds of Igbo killed at Nkpor, Emene, Aba, Owerri, etc, did not draw the attention of the outside world, a sit-at-home order that affects only the South-East will not attract the attention of the outside world.

Those who live outside Nigeria or outside the South-East region and don’t sacrifice even an hour of their work hours in solidarity should stop the hypocrisy and selfishness of encouraging the stifling of people’s means of livelihood and destruction of the economy of the South-East.

Those who love the South-East should not take any action that will hurt it.

Copyright PUNCH.

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