Time to Put MASSOB, IPOB Separatists in Their Place
By: Uche Madu John
Successive elections in Nigeria, like a handful of other countries expose a travesty. Only a fraction of the population votes to produce outcomes that the rest of the population must live with until the next election circle.
This is however fortunate when looked at against the background that election circles are less than seven years in most countries so if the population awake from slumber they can correct their error, at least the aspect that is still up for remediation.
It is a different ball game when a fraction of the population, from experience a negligible but vocal minority, is allowed to goad an entire country into disaster. It has happened in Southern Sudan where a clique talked the people into breaking away from Sudan only to turn on themselves when their goal appeared to have been achieved. In Libya, a handful of aspiring warlords exploited the popular Arab Spring revolt to sink the country. Syria is an ongoing disaster that began when few reactionaries misled the people into an insurrection that was promptly hijacked as the Islamic State.
An even narrower minority is using the agitation for Biafra as a cover for such outcome here in Nigeria. As raucous as their campaign for secession is, they are a negligible population that would have made ni impression but for their frequent resort to harassment, intimidation and violence. If the Igbo nation were to commission a study into these gangs that operate as Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, it would be discovered that in addition to being very few they also represent that fraction of Igbo population that has shunned enterprise, industry and gainful employment. Beyond the rabble rousing they have no other achievement they can point to like the average ingenious Igbo. Their animated efforts to cause chaos may therefore not be unconnected with attempts to disguise their failure among a people who are known to always acknowledge and celebrate success.
No one should be taken in by the argument of these separatists that they have the backing and support of the sane population. If they possess such support they would have mobilized it to take power at the ballot and then have the Southeast states speak and act as one to legitimately address whatever grievances they currently speak of. But these are elements that cannot win one councillorship seat in the entire Igboland even if they all come together. Their reaction to this is therefore to become strident and verbally abusive to a point of drowning out the voice of reason.
These separatists are therefore nothing but deliberate saboteurs who are trying to distort the set-up of the south east for their selfish gains. A stumbling block in the nation’s defence forces is however blocking their agenda from materialising. The response to this obstacle is to commit more crimes and cry human right abuse when operations are launched to contain their excesses. They whip up sentiments to emotionally blackmail the remaining and larger Igbo population to back them up without admitting that their activities as separatists is hurting the growth potentials of the entire geopolitical zone.
Their activities, funded in part with proceeds of banditry and kidnap for ransom, have upended the industrial growth of Igboland. One would have then expected that the kind of business and economic potentials that places like Onitsha and Aba have one would be begging the security agencies to stay. Which raises the other question of in whose interest is the unrest in the southeast? Obviously, only criminals benefit. The insurgency had in mind by MASSOB and IPOB, apparently is not headed anywhere productive, and is even wreaking havoc already.
First, it is killing the southeast as an economic hub. Igbos continue to invest in other parts of the country cursory survey of property ownership and market in major cities indicate this even though no one among the separatists has been able to categorically say something about the catastrophic fate that awaits these investors if their dismemberment agenda sails through. But why would Nigerians from other geopolitical zones bring their investment into an area whose vocal minority are stuck like a broken record in singing the refrain for the dismemberment of the country.
Secondly, while they are far in between, there is a growing generation of Igbo youths that have allowed themselves to become damaged goods from being fed a steady diet of hate. It is bad enough for some that they would only pick up appointment with a company when they can identify it as Igbo owned, should they as much as sense majority shareholding by other ethnic groups they will walk away. How then can people willingly disenfranchise themselves economically as a way of protesting perceived marginalization?
Furthermore, and more dangerously too, the hatred being sown by this separatists has not only yielded fruits that have grown into a wasteland of toxic emotion, the windblown seeds from this is spreading as a backlash. Contrary to expectations that there is something to be gained from teaching hatred to the upcoming generations, the contrived animosity is now in a blowback mode with other ethnic nationalities being exceptionally cautious around persons from the southeast. One only needs to think of that moment of discovering that the person one relates with as a neighbour, colleague or contemporary openly calls one an animal on forum threads and comment sections of news stories. If he can call one an animal (living in a zoo called Nigeria) then one cannot expect to be treated better than an animal by such person. Yet, this is not the true Igbo attitude; it is the work of the separatists poisoning minds by degrees.
These are the very people out to criminalize other Igbos and make them a pariah on the continent in the long run. The larger Igbo population must rise up to undo this damage. They must reassure the rest of us that separatists in MASSOB, BIM, IPOB and the others do not speak for them. It is a pressing task that can no longer be delayed to ensure that not just the southeast but the entire Nigeria is saved from the travesty of suffering for the indiscretion of a few thousand rabble rousers.
So demagogues should not deceive anyone that only Biafra holds the key to Igbo prosperity. We need good schools, good roads and so on and these are the things that everyone should agitate for and not the noisy tunes of a Biafra agitation that only service the pocket of a few individual.
The true Igbo sons and daughters should be no less circumspect of the international consultants recruited by the separatists. The sponsored altercations in the region where not random but actively promoted by these consultants like Amnesty International, which had convinced their clients that casualties from clashes with defence and security forces would be pivotal to getting United Nations and the International Criminal Court intervention. If these consultants truly love the south east like they make it appear they would canvass for improved economic and social infrastructure in that area and not mobilizing its youths to commit suicide on the streets. These troublemakers who derive pleasure in pitching citizens against the military should be told in clear terms that the people of the southeast are now wiser.
It is this new found wisdom that must be impressed on the separatists that the days when they held sway as a vocal minority are over. It is now an era when the majority Igbo voice will demand fairness and equity like other groups are doing and without calling for hell to rain down on the country.
Uche writes from the Badagry Good Governance Institute, Epe, Lagos, Nigeria.