By Uche Ahubelem
I had, from the very beginning of this menace, come to the conclusion that the Indigenous People Of Biafra’s (IPOB) movement would be mismanaged by both sides of the divide. The claims of the movement and the federal military force’s response gave the impression that if we were not careful, the crisis would snowball into unimaginable chaos.
We were almost there a few weeks ago and we may still get there if we rebuke good counsel.
As a matter of fact, I believe in unity in diversity. The world would be a boring place if there were no differences. When our differences come together it brings a wonderful harmony and Nigeria will be a safe place. Whether we appreciate it or not, this is one of the things that makes Nigeria one of the greatest countries in the world.
First, I have issues with the IPOB agitation. The way IPOB and its minders are going about leaves much to be desired. I’m not against anybody agitating peacefully for anything since it’s people’s fundamental human rights. But I have issues with the manner in which it is being done by the IPOB. Also, I’m not against the man Nnamdi Kanu. He has the right to react when he feels shortchanged or intimidated. The Igbo nation has the right to react when the people feel marginalised, which is one of the reasons Nigerians are calling for restructuring. But I have issues with the way they are going about the agitation. If IPOB is going about this agitation peacefully the way other civilised societies do it, I don’t think there would have been any problem.
They need to re-assess their strategy and also some of the hate speeches that we always hear from Nnamdi Kanu. The way he speaks to other people and insult Nigerians is reprehensible. He must cultivate respect for the leadership of the nation. Regardless of what may have happened, we need to respect people in authority. We may have the right to speak our minds but we don’t have the right to call people unprintable names. Neither do we have the right to incite people to violence, which is one of the things Kanu has been doing. The reason for the agitation is right but the method is wrong.
By the same token, I have issues with the attitude of the Federal Government. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has unnecessarily made an idol out of Nnamdi Kanu. I say this because not every fly buzzing around you demands your attention. The government has to imbibe the culture of ignoring distractions. This is not limited to IPOB alone. Moreso, IPOB is not a violent group as such. Its members have not had any record of carrying guns to kill people like Fulani herdsmen or even the Boko-Haram insurgents. Therefore, I have an issue with tagging IPOB a terrorist group. Government was too much in a hurry and the procedure was wrong.
The way the Federal Government clamped down on Nnamdi Kanu and his supporters can be deemed primitive. IPOB is not doing anything new, other than crying out for what people all over the world are demanding.
Instead of learning from history, the presidency opted for a military approach, which was unnecessary.
This administration has deified Nnamdi Kanu. Now, he is more popular than he has ever been. He was nobody yesterday and nobody knew anything about a mere radio presenter and Biafra promoter. After returning from prison with the associated dramas that ensued, he became an iconic figure amongst his people, including those who should know better. Even now, the entire world wants to know who Kanu is and what he stands for.
When you respond automatically to inconsequential issues, you confer consequence on such issues and make people want to know why you are responding. You only dignify some people’s accusation by responding in the first place.
I want to believe that what Nnamdi Kanu really wants is publicity and relevance, which he has got in full measure, courtesy of the presidency. He also wanted the government to fight him the way he is fighting them. He kept pushing the government to do it through his incendiary words and the government fell for the bait, thus falling into disrepute in the eyes of international community.
The government should have ignored him because ignoring him would practically have killed his objectives. The government should have been busy facing more pressing issues than looking at somebody like Nnamdi Kanu.
One the part of those who follow Kanu or share his IPOB ideals, there are better ways to agitate for freedom without the violent approach in words and in deeds. IPOB could have continued to seek amendments to the 1999 Constitution to accommodate a referendum on self-determination or other issues.
The trouble with the government is its tactics and strategy on tackling issues. It should have given him a listening ear. This is something that should have been discussed on the table. Just as the biggest war in history ended on a table, this war too if fought will end on a table for discussion. The puzzle is: why go to war when people could sit on a table now and agree to resolve all issues?
Both IPOB and the government are, therefore, wrong in their approaches.
Nigeria once fought a bitter, costly and unnecessary civil war. Nothing can be gained in war. Dialogue is the only solution to all issues especially among people of diverse origins and inclinations who have been compelled to live together. A united, prosperous and inviolable Nigeria is only possible where peace reigns. Injustice, economic imbalances ethnocentrism, greed and religious bigotry can only be banished from a country where all units have genuine respect for each other.
• Uche, an industrialist, wrote from Lagos.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Oriental Times