By Okoye Chinekwu Paul
“If I’m re-arrested, this country will burn, I assure you”. That was Nnamdi Kanu’s statement during an exclusive interview with Okey Sampson of The sun newspaper, published on Sept 2, 2017.
I have always had a soft spot for Biafra and what it stands for. Having learnt all about the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) while growing up from a father whose love for Biafra knows no bound. He was and is still very much Biafra centric.
And since History as a subject was not in our curriculum, I simply grew with a single story of the events surrounding the events of 1967-1970. I was made to believe that the rest of Nigeria ganged up against my people and nearly sent them into extinction. That was after a massive pogrom was carried out against us. I was taught that we are being marginalized and hated by all, except those of our kind.
I can still remember how enraged I usually was when I was told tales of how Nigerian troops invaded Biafra land and the smiles that crossed my lips when the stories changed to victories recorded by the under-armed Biafran army which had civilians as its core.
I can also remember vividly how I fantasized about becoming like General Ojukwu, the super hero who tried to take his people out of their Egypt. To me then, Ojukwu was simply Moses, Nigeria was pharaoh and I am definitely going to be Joshua. I am going to take my people out of Egypt into the promise land.
Many years after, most of the views I held then have changed, not drastically though, maybe I should say my views have now been modified. I have read extensively and have heard various accounts of what happened and of course, I can see how things have been going on.
I have made friends with those from other ethnic extractions and I must say, they are not actually the devil I was meant to believe they were. In fact, two of my best friends in school are both of Yoruba and Hausa extraction, and they have been nothing but good friends turned brothers to me, and every passing day, I bless the day I met them.
I for one have never been a fan of Nnamdi Kanu’s way of running IPOB, but sometimes the government of the day makes me want to give them kudos. In fact I started off hating anything that had to do with IPOB; I saw them as miscreants and as an assembly of low-lives. But over time, I have come to admire their courage and the tenacity with which they pursue what they believe in.
Now I see IPOB as a necessary spark that will trigger off other chains of reaction, which hopefully will usher in a new Nigeria or a divided one. The way the government have handled their agitations so far isn’t helping issues either.
However, Kanu and his IPOB members must learn how to embrace tolerance; they must not castigate or attack those who are not of the same view with them, especially their fellow Igbos. Even Jesus Christ never had the loyalty of the 12. They must also learn to cut down on their hate speeches and inflammatory remarks.
There are procedures to be employed if you want self-determination, they should also remember that reprisal attacks will not help it will only escalate issues and also expose millions of Igbos living outside the South-East in Nigeria to reprisals too.
Scotland and Catalonia amongst other states struggling for self-determination didn’t get the goodwill of the international community behaving like IPOB. The earlier they learn to coordinate themselves in a more civil way the better.
As for the Nigerian government, refusing Kanu bail on several occasions even after courts of competent jurisdictions have ruled to that effect is highly condemnable. The rather weird decision of not arresting those that issued a quit notice to the Igbos is outrageous.
Deploying soldiers to a security threat free zone to shoot and maim at unarmed civilians in the guise of operation python dance is even more outrageous. Invading the secretariat of the Nigerian union of journalists and harassing/manhandling men and women of the fourth estate of the realm is simply disheartening.
I believe the federal government should look into the claims of these people and address them accordingly. Its either the country is restructured or they allow for a referendum.
Social media is not even helping issues, with inflammatory and all forms of unprintable words and threats making the rounds these days on the cyber space. The social media is slowly but surely radicalizing people.
Nnamdi Kanu may have said the country will burn if he is re-arrested, but I dare to say that the country is already burning. The fire though is still at an infant stage, it is now left for us to fuel it or put it out.
Nigeria today, is in a precarious state, tempers are flaring, hate speeches are flying around, physical confrontations are already being recorded, but before you join in fanning the embers of war into flames, online or in-person, do kindly note that when it starts burning we will all be consumed in the inferno that follows.
Okoye is a final year student at the university of Nigeria, Nsukka
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Oriental Times