By Ocherome Nnanna
Make no mistake about it, the Igbo nation is embroiled in a struggle for freedom.
Any Igbo person who does not feel this mood is living in a bubble or a fool’s paradise.
As an Igbo who has lived my 60-plus years exclusively in Nigeria, I know where the Nigerian shoe pinches me.
There is no Nigerian who is not feeling the Nigerian pinch.
No one is happy or fulfilled, oppressor and oppressed alike.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari and his family who are enjoying the power, glory, opulence and unlimited access to public funds.
You saw how his son, Yusuf, was kicking at a heap of currencies of all denominations showered on him by government freeloaders during his wedding recently.
That family is still not happy. Otherwise, what is Aisha Buhari doing in Dubai when she should be in Aso Villa as the First Lady? How can they be happy when their native Katsina State remains among the most terrorised in the country right under their father’s watch!
As an Igbo man, the Nigerian shoe pinches me in a special way.
Fifty-one years ago, when we left the bushes of Biafra to rejoin “One Nigeria”, it was not in anyone’s wildest dream that Nigeria would by now have fallen back to the 19th Century, the era of the Fulani jihads in the North.
The resumed jihad is now brought to our doorsteps. That is exactly what this regime’s plots to grab indigenous people’s lands throughout Nigeria for pastoralists, even in the “dot in a circle”, is all about.
It is a two-pronged armed assault. Fulani militants called “herdsmen” are killing people all over country, occupying communities and forests and threatening to take over the ancestral patrimonies of indigenous peoples.
The Federal Government, on its part, is busy exploring every avenue – grazing routes, grazing reserves, farm estates, RUGA, cattle colonies, National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP; water resources and so on – to forcefully implant Fulani all over the country with federal might and money.
If other Nigerians feel fine with this, that is for them. They probably have enough land to spare.
But Igbo people have too little land for too many people.
In the next 50 years, the entire South East could become a single city-state! They cannot afford to give up an inch for the settlement of (or share with) violent, invasive and predatory aliens.
The freedom project is alive and well in the heart of every true Igbo person.
Freedom can be in Nigeria or outside of it.
If Nigeria is restructured to allow the various geopolitical regions to run their affairs within a loose Nigerian Commonwealth, that is good enough freedom.
If the Igbo nation, not being accepted by the rest of the country, is allowed to go on their own, that is a better freedom. Either of these is okay by me. But how do we go about it?
The nonviolent option remains the best and most feasible. I say no to violence of any sort, except in self-defence.
But I strongly believe in self-defence against armed invaders. I am 100 per cent against the Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda.
But the agitation for Biafra must remain nonviolent and democratic.
The objective should be to gain the support of the rest of the country and the world for the restructuring of Nigeria or the bid for independence where that fails.
Nigeria cannot produce any meaningful result in its current form.
The initial use of peaceful protests by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to garner support for an independence referendum had to be suspended when security agents massacred thousands of Igbo youth.
Some were buried in mass graves, as an Amnesty International report indicated.
The IPOB opted for sit-at-home strikes. Following the rearrest of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB Directorate of State, DOS, ordered sit-at-home throughout the South East every Monday.
However, they listened to the voices of reason and prudently adjusted the directive: it will now take place when ordered.
However, some radical elements in the lower hierarchy of the IPOB group operating in the South East Ground Zero insisted that the so-called Ghost Mondays must continue.
Their argument is that the rest of the population must give up every Monday to show they have not abandoned MNK.
The DOS knew where to draw the line, but the lower rungs are not interested. That is a very big blunder.
So far, the Igbo youth in the South East have projected strength and resolve in this struggle.
For it to continue to hold together, they must be disciplined and wise.
The indiscriminate impositions of sit-at-home and its armed enforcement do not reflect wisdom.
It is even a deviation from the nonviolent policy of the struggle. It is the levying of violence on our own people.
That is not okay by me. Ghost Mondays are depriving people of their means of livelihood.
With indiscriminate market closures, billions of naira are lost every day. Daily-paid labourers (which is the bulk of the population) are denied their livelihood.
Also, the children’s right to education is curtailed, thus threatening the South East’s preeminence over the rest of the country in education.
That is certainly not okay by me! When you attack education, people will lump you together with Boko Haram and “Bandits”.
Also, the people are asked not to vote in elections. Is that not a wholesale abdication of power to those seen as the “enemies”? Election boycott, to me, is unwitting sabotage of the Igbo struggle and interest.
My advice to these sit-at-home protest organisers is that they should refrain from tampering with the people’s economic, educational and political rights and levying violence on innocent folks.
It will lead to loss of popular support, and the struggle will collapse. If this struggle collapses, it will take another generation for it to gather steam again.
By then, the Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda might have succeeded, Tufiakwa! Always know where to draw the line.