Was I surprised that the Federal Government (FG) declared the unarmed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist organisation? No! I am only surprised that many Nigerians were surprised.
For those who were surprised, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, cleared their surprises. He said: “All I know is that IPOB has engaged in terrorist activities, viz: clashing with the national army and attempting to seize rifles from soldiers, using weapons such as machetes, Molotov cocktails and sticks, and mounting roadblocks to extort money from people, among others”.
On the other hand, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, lectured Nigerians on difference between a criminal activity and a terrorist activity.
“Yes, some Fulani herdsmen are a criminal gang. But IPOB, like Boko Haram, has a territory they have carved out to themselves. They have shown the willingness to invade other neighbouring states. They have raised concerns in neighbouring Kogi and Benue states (more than the Fulani herdsmen)”, he said.
Can we now see why Fulani militant herdsmen, who invade and feast on people’s farmlands and livelihood; who sack communities, burn down their houses, kill natives in their thousands, and occupy their ancestral lands with audacity will continue to get away with it jollily for a long time to come? Then, a government, which made security of the country its prime campaign promise gleefully tells us that these are foreign Fulani herdsmen- as if that is not the more reason they should dealt with as terrorists.
We now know why the Fulani herdsmen brazenly display deadly weapons like AK47 riffles in broad daylight. After all, even the Presidency just told us that IPOB’s sticks, stones, and machetes are far more deadly than those riffles.
We now know why the FG mobilises the firepower of the Nigerian Army and Air Force to bombard cattle rustlers in parts of the north, while not bothering to contain herdsmen, who kill at the drop of a hat. In fact, it took the Presidency almost eternity to condemn the massive genocide in Southern Kaduna, which the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan put at 808 lives in 53 villages as at December 30, 2016.
IPOB? Oh! What a hopeless set of terrorists. That was exactly why President Muhammadu Buhari regaled the 72nd United Nations General Assembly with the need to get the government of Myanmar to halt what he called “a state-backed programme of brutal depopulation of the (Muslim) Rohingya inhabited areas in Myanmar on the bases of ethnicity and religion”, but saw the military invasion and reported atrocities in Abia and South East as state-backed population boosting and infrastructural development exercise. He emphasised dialogue in handling the North Korea nuclear threat, but unleashed brute military python dance and show of force on the South East.
In branding IPOB a terrorist group after its night raid that has left the whereabouts of Kanu and his parents unknown, it appears the FG might have unwittingly driven the IPOB underground in a way that could radicalise and transform them into another faceless monster.
In proscribing IPOB, I am afraid also the FG has only addressed the symptoms, leaving the disease to fester. Even if IPOB does not transform into something sinister; even if the name dies today, what is the guarantee that the group will not simply melt into the pro-IPOB faction of the Movement for Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) or a myriad of other pro-Biafra agitators or simply change its name?
Importantly, should it not bother the FG that an overwhelming bulk of pro-Biafra agitators is people whose parents probably did not even witness the war? Yes, just 15 to 20 years. Shouldn’t the FG be worried about the level of frustration as well as indignation and bitterness towards their fatherland that propels such young people to confront armoured tanks and machine guns with stones and machetes?
The truth remains that a man denied justice and equity will never be interested in peace. If he is not asking for justice yet, then he is only buying time.
Samuel Adakole writes from Benue.