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25 Sep 2016
How To Quell Biafran Agitation – By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
President Muhammadu Buhari has sent out stern warnings to all groups and individuals agitating for the secession of their various ethnic groups to perish the thought. The President was particularly worried about those agitating for the secession of the Southeastern part of the country and warned that the continued unity of the country under his watch is sacrosanct. The President stated this while playing host to members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) from the Southeast serving in Katsina State who paid him a visit in his Daura home during the Sallah holiday. In his words “Tell your colleagues who want Biafra to forget about it, Nigeria is big enough for all of us and potentially big in resources for everybody.”
This is not the first time the President is voicing his unreserved non-tolerance for any talk or action that points to the secession of any of the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Already, a leader of one of the newest groups agitating for the sovereign State of Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu has been in prison for some months now, while the Nigerian Police, DSS and other security personnel seem to be working under some strict orders to ensure that any form of exhibition, public or private that has to do with Biafran agitation is crushed.
Having being a commanding officer of the Nigerian Army during the ill-fated Nigerian civil war, a former military Governor and a former military head of State before his second coming as a civilian Head of State, President Buhari has more facts about the Biafran agitation than most people, even among the frontline agitators. One of the things the President knows about the Biafran struggle is that it is actually something that can be settled and a lot of those campaigning for it assuaged with very little conciliations here and there. The President should also know that force is the last thing that will work in the bid to quell this struggle. For a people who have survived a war, a genocide, one of the most unthinkable economic victimizations and an almost recurring religious persecution, force will do little to dissuade them from pursuing what may be rightly tagged a forced desire to secede.
Unless the President makes concerted effort to address all or some of the most pressing reasons for which majority of the Igbos feel that they are not or no longer welcomed in the Nigerian union, there will continue to be these “colleagues” of the NYSC members who will keep fighting for the breakaway of the Igbo people from Nigeria.
Like I have argued in an earlier output; most of these agitators, if not all of them are not really agitating for the breakaway of the Igbo people from Nigeria, but they are agitating for a more equitable deal from successive Nigerian governments. The government of Nigeria must treat the Igbos fairly in order to get the best from them and also enjoy peace within its shores. No country of the world has ever experienced enviable progress while in crisis. The Biafran agitation, more than any other agitation in the country at present deserves the most immediate attention as its resolution holds the key to Nigeria’s freedom.
The high level compliance recorded during the sit-at-home protest declared by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, otherwise known as IPOB should send a warning signal to the authorities, especially to President Muhammadu Buhari that the Biafran agitation cannot be quelled by yelling out orders from Daura or even Aso Rock, neither can all the military personnel in Africa stop the people of Igboland from talking about Biafra, even though a good number of them, including yours sincerely is not really interested in abandoning our Nigerian identity. However, my own Biafraness is a demand for justice and equity for my Igbo people, especially and all the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria in general.
Solving the Biafran problem is one of the easiest things to do and it is one solution that will usher in more solutions to the varied problems confronting our dear nation. The demand of the Biafran agitation is very simple, even though it sounds too radical and some people are being incarcerated because the government and some of its agencies feel that it also sounds felonious, but just one word summarizes the demand of the Biafrans from 1967 when they had to defend themselves against Federal Government’s invasion of their land till now when Nnamdi Kanu had to deploy a guerrilla radio station to broadcast his message of freedom, the demand has being one and simple; EQUITY. It is because of the genuineness of this demand that as acerbic as Nnamdi Kanu’s messages sound they have been able to awaken millions of Igbo people and Nigerians to the need to demand justice from the government.
The Southeast region is the only geo-political zone in the entire country that has just five States. This imbalance has put us in a politically disadvantaged position, as we have less number of governors, less number of legislators and less number of all political and even civil service appointments made in the country. This situation also makes the Southeast zone one State poorer when it comes to revenue allocation. The President would have taken a big step forward in his bid to quell the Biafran secession struggle if he could use the advantage of his Party’s majority in the House to fastrack the amendment of our Constitution to ensure that an extra State is created in the Southeast in order to bring it at par with other zones of the Federatio.
Igbo people are predominantly business people and their businesses will grow faster if critical infrastructures in the Southeast region are given the necessary attention by the federal government. The Second Niger-Bridge is one project that is very close to the hearts of the people of this region. While successive governments have played politics with this project, the Godluck Jonathan administration did a lot in ensuring that the project was took off. The Buhari presidency will in a very big way deplete the ranks of the IPOB members if it can guarantee the completion of this project and also remove the idea of having commuters pay toll on this bridge. The Southeast region is the worst hit when it comes to terrible condition of federal roads across Nigeria. Seeing the poor state of Enugu-Onitsha, Akokwa-Arondizuogu-Okigwe, Owerri-Port-Harcourt, Aba-Port-Harcourt, Akokwa-Uga-Oba and other federal roads in the Southeast will provide more than enough spur for the people of this region to demand for freedom from the Nigerian State. Also, sinking the Onitsha and Osemmotor seaports (As suggested by former Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim)or just one of them for a start will go a long way in dissuading the pro-Biafra activists from continuing on their demand for secession.
It is also important that the Nigerian Federal Government guarantees adequate security to Igbo people whether in their homes or outside. Checking the activities of the Fulani terrorists parading as herdsmen will go a long way in restoring the confidence of the Igbo people in the readiness of the Federal Government to protect them as citizens of this country. The reality that many communities in Igbo hinterlands have been attacked by these rampaging terrorists yet no serious onslaught has been recorded against them by the Federal Government is enough reason for the Biafran secessionists to increase in their ranks.
The President’s utterances as it relates to how he views the Igbos is one of the reasons why a lot of people who would not have, in normal circumstances talked about the secession are now at the forefront of the struggle for the actualization of Biafran independence. Appointments made by the President since he took over power in 2015 are obviously tilted against the Igbo people and this is understood by critics as an indication that the President really meant business when he classified some sections of the country as 5% while the others are 97%. Appointing more Igbo politicians, especially those who are of the APC will go a long way in quelling the protests by the pro-Biafra activists.
The president has to admit that the Federal Government has succeeded in making huge and well celebrated hero out of Nnamdi Kanu and his continued incarceration will continue to stoke more anger among his followers. Releasing Nnamdi Kanu is a first and most crucial step towards resolving this impasse between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Biafram activists. The longer Nnamdi Kanu stays in prison, the more the anger of his followers is stoked and there cannot be any guarantees as to what maybe the extent of their reactions in the nearest future.
Justice is easy to give, but very expensive when denied. The Biafran agitation will never die down, as long the Igbos of Nigeria are treated like second class citizens in their own country.